In 2020, just as a whole lot of bored consumers decided to remodel their homes, a complex combination of factors led lumber prices to hit an all-time high. Though the supply of raw materials remained steady, the pandemic forced many mills to close or slow production, leading to a veritable logjam in the supply chain. By May 2021, the price per 1000 board feet was up 549% from pre-COVID-19 prices in March 2020. Remodeling costs soared, pushing the cost of building a new home up by an average of $36,000. But since May, prices have fallen almost 71%, and according to a new study, homeowners who delayed projects due to high lumber prices are ready to pick up their hammers and get to work.
Expertise.com surveyed 810 homeowners who either started or considered starting projects earlier this year to find out how lumber prices have affected their plans. They found that nearly two-thirds of those who delayed projects are now going to restart them.
Among the key findings in the report:
77% of home improvement projects started in 2021 ended up costing more than expected due to the price of lumber.
Of home improvement projects that cost more than expected due to lumber prices, the average increase was 205% and the median cost increase was 40%.
68% of those who started a home improvement project but saw the cost increase ended up delaying the project. When factoring in the projects that didn’t increase in cost, 55% of all home improvement projects were pushed back due to high costs.
65% of those who delayed projects due to the high cost of lumber are restarting them soon now that lumber prices have dropped.
“We started seeing lumber prices fall quickly at hardware stores at the beginning of August,” says general contractor Ryan Dubois, as quoted in the report. “We are now scheduling most large jobs for about 5 months from now, after the holidays.”
And while 76% of respondents reported feeling worried about having a home improvement professional inside their home with the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading, 64% of respondents would let the projects proceed anyway.
Demand for softwood lumber in the United States will grow at a record-breaking annual rate of 2.3 percent through the year 2030, according to a new study by ForestEdge and Wood Resources International. While lumber consumed by the residential housing sector will continue to account for nearly 70% of the end-use market, non-residential construction will grow at the fastest rate, boosting its usage of total softwood lumber from roughly 11% in 2016 to nearly 14% by 2030.
“The study constructs a US softwood lumber supply curve for 2016 using actual supply statistics and estimated delivered softwood lumber costs for the key supplying regions. The study then evaluates how supply could change under alternative Demand Scenarios, based on regional projections of log costs, softwood lumber production, and likely US exports, to identify the most likely suppliers to the US market in 2025 and 2030.”
Abundant softwood lumber from the U.S. South will help meet a lot of that demand, especially as Canadian lumber producers’ share of the U.S. market continues to decrease between 2017 and 2025. Harvest levels in some of Canada’s major lumber-producing regions like British Columbia will fall substantially over the next decade. Meanwhile, overseas suppliers of lumber to the United States – like Brazil, Chile and Nordic nations – will grab more of the market share up until 2025, after which they’re expected to see a decline.
Sales of Eastern White Pine lumber from NeLMA mills hit record highs during the first half of 2016, maintaining a steady rate that’s well above previous numbers reported over the last decade. The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association notes that a total of 471.7 million board feet of lumber was shipped out to the marketplace between January and June, including 220.4 million board feet of Eastern White Pine. 2015 represented the previous high, and Eastern White Pine bested itself with an increase of 8.4%.
This news comes on the heels of promising predictions for the building industry overall, as well as growth in Maine’s forest products industry despite the closure of paper mills. Demand for timber is on the upswing, and the outlook is good for sawmills and other businesses working in the wood industry.
Not only is wood a naturally sustainable, renewable material – it can actually help the fight against climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide, while concrete manufacturing pumps the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry confirmed that switching to wood construction is a boon for the environment in several different ways, stressing that sustainable forest management creates jobs and reduces the risk of forest fires, too. And as a matter of fact, increasing wood harvests could actually lead to greater benefits.
“The 3.4 billion cubic meters of wood harvested each year accounts for only 20% of new annual growth,” reads the study. “Increasing the wood harvest to 34% or more would have several profound and positive effects. Emissions amounting to 14-31% of global CO2 would be avoided by creating less steel and concrete, and by storing CO2 in the cell structure of wood products. A further 12-19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved, including savings from burning scrap wood and unsellable materials for energy.”
The study was undertaken by scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment. The results make it clear that using wood to build large-scale architectural and infrastructure projects, from skyscrapers to bridges, is an essential step to sustainably meeting demand for new construction as economic development surges, especially in places like Asia, Africa and South America.
Meanwhile, new construction techniques are making wood even stronger and more versatile, especially cross-laminated timber, which is at the center of all the new record-breaking multi-story wood buildings that are currently being built or planned around the world. While most of that development is happening in Europe, Portland, Oregon is currently the center of wood construction innovation in the United States, according to Newsweek. The tallest wood-framed buildings in the country are currently in progress there as local timber product manufacturers make CLT from regionally produced wood.
Top image: A new 12-story mixed-use wooden building planed for Portland, Oregon by Lever Architecture.
The lumber industry is bouncing back from the 2008 recession at a slow and steady pace that has experts hopeful of a full recovery within the next couple years. Many mill owners and lumber retailers are reporting increasing sales, feeling cautiously optimistic about the potential for regaining the business that was lost when the economy crashed. It’ll probably take a while to get back to the historical highs the industry reached in 2004-2006, but in the meantime, growth seems particularly notable in the DIY sector.
According to fresh figures from the Institute for Supply Management, makers of wood products are among the top performers in a swath of industries that expanded in February 2016, suggesting that manufacturers are gaining economic traction across the board.
Low lumber prices mean tight margins for producers right now, but they’re leading to a spike in interest in wood-centric construction projects. While the price of lumber has risen over the last two years, it’s still phenomenally low, encouraging many consumers to choose wood instead of steel or concrete when building their own projects. Slow housing recovery is projected to cap domestic lumber markets this year, predicts Forest2Market, a wood supply chain management firm, but it’s only a matter of time before lower unemployment levels lead to a boost in demand for housing.
Meanwhile, officials around the world are adjusting building codes to allow for taller wood buildings, opening the door to a whole new era of wood construction. Experts are calling it ‘the dawning of the timber age,’ predicting that wood will overtake steal and concrete in new construction, especially in urban centers where wooden high-rises are seen as the sustainable, renewable, aesthetically superior wave of the future.
The possibilities of wood as a primary material for all sorts of applications is explored in a project called ‘Hello Wood,’ an annual event in the fields of Hungary that invites students to create unusual outdoor installations. This year’s theme was ‘playing with balance,’ exploring the interaction of opposite forces. The results are pretty incredible, from an elevated walkway made of criss-crossing lumber to a set of wooden games for kids and adults alike.
‘Cornwalk’ (pictured top) is a ramp that rises above a cornfield to face the point where the sun sets, offering an ideal vantage point. It makes use of a simple repeating A-frame gradually increasing in height. The playground by Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop uses simple wooden objects to create new games, often requiring improvisation on the part of participants.
A project by András Cseh of CZITA Architects makes tongue-in-cheek reference to the opposites of low-tech materials and high-tech concepts by building a ‘wooden spaceship.’
The flexibility of thin strips of wood is put on display with the Mochi installation led by Pep Tornabell of CODA, creating lightweight but self-supporting structures. See all of the entries over at ArchDaily.