A shortage of lumber is affecting the North American construction industry in what's usually its busiest time of the year.
Both big construction companies and smaller contractors are feeling the supply crunch, which began with the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic caused a big decrease in supply, as well as an increase in demand - likely spurred by homeowners opting to renovate while they're stuck at home.
Nova Scotia-based Rooftight Construction president Scott Smith told MSN that his company has been much busier than usual over the past few months, but a lumber shortage is causing a bottleneck. Pressure-treated lumber is especially hard to come by, he said.
U.S. firm Bulldog Fence said it has had to delay several of its customers' projects, as it has been unable to find pressure-treated wood. The Florida company said the local Home Depot and Lowe's have bare shelves.
Rhode Island lumber business Coventry Lumber is seeing extreme demand for its pressure-treated wood. Demand began rising early April, the same time the pandemic really took hold. The company is doing whatever it can to fill the need. It said in late March demand was very low, and the company even pulled back on production.
Prices are also continuing to rise. They've risen two months in a row - up 15 percent in both April and May. Many analysts had expected demand to decrease.
"Prices were nudged up every day as sawmills sold out of stock with ease, and at higher levels," writes Madison's Lumber Reporter. "Customers throughout the market were very underbought, and field inventories remained low even as many buyers abandoned their caution and tried to secure volume. Sawmill order files were into the weeks of June 15th and 22nd. Bread-and-butter sizes continued to garner consistently strong demand, while sales of 2x8 and 2x10 were also really hot."
Supply cuts and curtailments have certainly played a role. Many of the continent's biggest lumber producers, including Canfor, West Fraser, Interfor, Conifex, and PotlatchDeltic, have significantly lowered output during the pandemic. Hundreds of employees have been laid off.