As lumber prices remain sky high, home-building activities continue to suffer across all aspects of the industry — including remodeling projects. Home owners have had an opportunity while sheltering in place to examine their homes and identify key areas in need of repair. But many have been apprehensive to tackle these projects because of the uncertain costs and availability of project materials.
"When talking to prospective clients about projects, lumber pricing is now always part of the discussion, as they are aware of the issue, and are all concerned about how that may impact the cost of their projects," shared Kenneth Kostecki, a contractor/remodeler from Virginia.
"Availability of other materials — such as windows, doors, appliances, plumbing fixtures, tiles, etc., — have also been in very short supply and/or with extended lead times," he added. "This has led to additional project delays, which has impacted both cash flow and the overall project schedule, meaning that home owners are left in the middle of a construction project with their house torn apart and unfinished for a longer period of time."
Such an uncomfortable and unsafe living environment for a prolonged period of time is a deterrent not just for general updates, but for critical repairs as well, which many home owners are forgoing or having to find creative workarounds to help ensure their home is safe and functional.
"Twice this year I have had to put plywood over a customers' patio door to prevent them from falling out of the back of their home. Why? Because their deck was unsafe and needed to be demolished, but there wasn't enough new material available to rebuild it within the value of their home improvement loan when material prices escalated," stated Jarrett Kravitz, a builder/remodeler from Connecticut.
"Due to rising lumber cost and shortages, we have had to put many projects on hold. This greatly impacts our customers, especially those still attempting to get hurricane repairs done," shared Gabrielle Pumphery, a builder from Florida. "Insurance companies paid out too many of these customers six to 18 months ago at a rate that was current at the time. This has created a huge difference in money received versus current costs today. A repair project we have had on the list for a year would now cost us almost three times as much to do compared to a year ago."
Home Owners Feel the Impact
Cost increases have had an impact on home owners across the board, from those in need of critical assistance to those who have been planning projects for years.
"I had a home owner that was a disabled vet that couldn't afford a wheelchair ramp due to the rising cost in lumber," stated Dennis Sweet, a builder in Michigan.
"We partner with charitable community organizations that provide housing repairs for lower-income families," noted Chris Winters, a remodeler from Washington. "These are volunteer organizations that rely on donations to purchase needed materials. With the increase in lumber prices, the charitable donations are not able to accomplish as much."
"We've been saving for quite a while to finish our basement and finally reached the point a few weeks ago that we felt comfortable to do it," Jaime Patterson, a home owner in Pennsylvania, explained. "We had anticipated $35,000 to $40,000 to finish and furnish our basement. We were told that, with the price of lumber going up so much, we were looking at $35,000 to $40,000 just
to finish it."
"We are beyond disappointed after having saved up for so long, only to find out that we still can't afford to do what we'd like to do," she added. "We weren't looking for anything extravagant — just more living space. Now we can't even have that."
For many of these home owners, these projects are stalled for the immediate future at least — if they ever get started at all.
"Since our last hurricane, I have been in the process of repairing damages around my property, including fences, storage buildings, etc. — all of which are not covered by hurricane insurance," shared Robert Quint, a home owner in Florida, who is retired and on a limited budget. "The other day I decided to repair a section of fence and went to Home Depot to get pressure treated 2x4s, and I couldn't believe the price — almost $9 each."
"Needless to say, my fence project never took off," he added. "The cost of other lumber I would need for other repairs is ridiculous. I guess things won't get fixed for a while."
Share Your Lumber Story
NAHB would like to hear how rising lumber prices, and the limited availability of lumber, are affecting your business and the impact on housing affordability. For example, missed closing opportunities, increased costs, buyers being priced out of the market, etc. This will help us further illustrate to the Biden administration and Congress why a plan to address the lumber crisis is urgently needed. Share your story here.