Lumber prices skyrocket, driving construction costs up

PITTSBURGH — If you’ve been looking for lumber over the last year, you may have been disappointed by both the availability and price.

“I’ve had people coming an hour, two hours away, just because we had lumber and other companies didn’t have any in stock,” said Tiffany Finley, general manager at the Busy Beaver in Washington.

Fortunately for Finley, they’ve managed to have a steady supply of lumber amid reports of a nationwide shortage, spurred by the pandemic.

“It all stemmed, I believe, from last year, when businesses got shut down,” Finley said. “When everyone’s stuck at home from the pandemic, building new decks, restaurants are having to build decks on to stay open.”

National news outlets report the demand for new housing also played a role. According to Bloomberg, worker shortages at lumber yards and depleted inventories have made it hard for supply to keep up with “skyrocketing demand.”  

Channel 11 contacted two local builders, who said they’ve had no trouble obtaining lumber as of late, but the prices have significantly increased. Finley told us that a 2 x 4 cost less than $3 in early 2020, and now they’re running about $10.

That means, for consumers, building a home or other major construction could cost thousands more than it would have prior to the pandemic.

“From what we’re seeing now, lumber is readily available, but the cost has gone up 300 percent,” said Bryan Bercik, co-owner of Hemlock Home Building.

Adam Longshore, owner of Milestone Custom Homes, is also seeing the sharp price increase. Both builders told Channel 11 that the cost of other materials is climbing, too.

“It’s spiraling now,” Bercik said.

“We can’t put a thumb on it,” Longshore said. “One week it’s this, the next week it’s something else. It’s a lumber shortage, and then Texas had its freeze and that affected cellulose for insulation, it affected drywall mud, it affected latex for paint. So we just stay on top of our toes to try to give all our clients a really good heads up. We’re facing delays, some of them are super unexpected.”

He isn’t so sure prices will drop anytime soon.

“Nobody has a crystal ball,” he said, but suspects the decrease won’t be immediate.

“I think once suppliers know they can get a certain amount for something, it’s gonna be there for a little bit,” Longshore said.

Bercik notes he believes we may see prices decrease once the demand does. But, it’s unclear when that might be.

“We’ve seen quite an escalation in demand over the last 18 months for sure,” Bercik said, citing the hot local residential housing market as a reason.

Channel 11 has reported that low interest rates, coupled with low inventory, have resulted in intense bidding wars all across the Pittsburgh region.