Most Home Remodels Delayed by High Lumber Prices Have Resumed

Lumber prices home remodel

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. 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. 

Check out the full results of the study at

Image via Brock Builders / Flickr CC 2.0

Coming Soon to Mainstream Fashion: Wood-Fiber Clothing

The world is embracing wood as one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Soon, we’ll even start seeing wood-based clothing on the racks at mainstream retailers like H&M. Suzano SA, the world’s largest wood pulp maker, is collaborating with Finnish startup Spinnova to build a commercial-scale facility producing a new wood fiber that could compete with cotton. H&M joins Chanel and other fashion brands to participate in the development of the material in exchange for the honor of being among the first to offer it to consumers.

Suzano, based in Brazil, is primarily known for providing wood pulp used to make paper cups and tissues to companies across the globe, and currently has a team of nearly 100 scientists researching new applications that could replace environmentally harmful products like plastics. 

“It is not a niche market for us,” Vinicius Nonino, Suzano’s new business director, said in an interview. “We want to be a relevant player. We will compete with cotton with sustainability advantages and also with price.”

Business of Fashion notes that the pulp provided by Suzano to create this new wood fiber has one major difference from an existing wood pulp textile fiber known as viscose: it’s processed without chemicals. To make viscose, cellulose is treated with caustic soda and carbon disulfide, then dumped into a chemical bath of sulfuric acid. This is an energy-, water- and chemically-intensive process that’s also highly polluting. The new Spinnova material will be mechanically processed instead using a technology that’s been in development for 15 years.

“As well as bridging the cellulose gap, the Spinnova fibre also helps fight climate change,” says Spinnova. “Created with minimal water and emissions, it offers a solution to other huge megatrends challenging our planet and worsening the climate crisis; fresh water shortage and CO2 emissions.”

Top 2021 Trends in Timber Construction

CLT building in Boston

A new Think Wood survey (pdf) gives us a peek into what kinds of wood-related building projects we’ll see a lot more of this year. The industry group surveyed 775 U.S. architects, contractors, developers and industry experts to build a list of the top trends in timber construction, and how much they’ll likely continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While 38% of respondents expect to see some delays this year, 28% expect no impact at all, and another 28% say they think it’ll all depend on factors like vaccination and reopening schedules in various states. Interestingly, many said their projects have been altered to prioritize good ventilation and lots of space for occupants to remain apart from each other, a trend likely to continue at least a few years into the future. 

The report offers five major predictions about the future: more focus on climate change, greater use of mass timber, widespread adoption of prefab and modular construction techniques, higher interest in hybrid construction and higher demand for affordable housing.

Trend 1: Focus on Climate Change

Industry experts say they expect low-to-zero-carbon and green building to be the biggest trend in 2021, driven in large part by industry, government and individual companies’ energy and carbon reduction targets. The market for non-residential green buildings reached about $80 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic, and is expected to reach $103 billion by 2023. Wood products are considered the number one best way to meet these goals, since they require less energy to manufacture and store carbon throughout the useful life of the building or project.

Trend 2: More Mass Timber

Breakthroughs in mass timber technology have made super-tall wooden buildings possible, and this material will continue to rise in adoption and popularity this year. Many mass timber projects are underway in the U.S. right now, and 18% of survey respondents expected to work on at least one.

“Mass timber isn’t simply a green building fad, it’s a resurgence of one of the oldest building materials used by man. The desire to use wood in commercial buildings will increase not only because it’s the more sustainable choice, but because building occupants and tenants will prefer it.” — Andrew Tsay Jacobs, Director of Building Technology Lab, AIA, EIT | Perkins&Will

Trend 3: A Boost in Prefab & Modular

Prefabrication and modular construction cut costs, reduce waste, are much faster to build and rate higher for quality and safety performance than conventional construction. Survey respondents believe that as the building industry adopts tech like 3D modeling tools and CNC machines, these methods will become a lot more common. Wood, of course, remains a popular material for prefab and modular building systems.

“I am now focusing exclusively on prefabricated hybrid residential design and construction solutions that prioritize energy efficiency, low carbon footprints and occupant health and well-being.” — Timber Trends Survey Respondent

Trend 4: Hybrid Construction

We’ll see a lot more wood (especially in the form of mass timber) being integrated into projects that once would have relied primarily on materials like steel and concrete. This “hybrid construction” type of building incorporates several types of structural materials to enhance sustainability and help with budget control. 

Trend 5: An Abundance of Affordable Housing

Even before the pandemic, 30.2 percent of American households spent more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing. We need more affordable housing just about everywhere, and survey respondents believe many affordable multi-family developments are coming this year. Timber plays an important role in affordable housing by improving access to living spaces that are economical, comfortable and sustainable, Timber Trends notes, and adding stories to existing buildings is more feasible with timber because of its lighter weight. 

Everybody’s Going to be DIY Remodeling in 2021

Image by TWP Inc. via Flickr CC 2.0

In 2020, the wood products industry was one of the few industries to escape COVID-19 with profits not just intact, but rising, thanks in part to home remodeling projects. Consumers spending more time at home focused mostly on outdoor projects this year, including decks, pergolas and porches, along with additions to add square footage to their residences. Houzz, the online home remodeling platform, reported a 58% annual increase in project leads for home professionals in June.

The year ahead is looking promising for the industry, too, as consumers start to plan indoor remodeling projects for spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. With more people working, cooking and eating at home, these spaces are more important than ever to family life. Plus, home prices continue to gain despite the economic downturn, boosting homeowners’ equity, which many are using to fund their projects. In a recent survey by remodeling platform, more than three-quarters of respondents reported planning a remodeling project in 2021.

Many people are planning a DIY approach. Members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association are anticipating an increase in activity in 2021, which could further drive demand for lumber, plywood, OSB and engineered wood products. Lumber prices are heading back toward equilibrium after rising precipitously in 2020 due to a COVID-19-induced drop in supply just as demand was rising.

While prices are usually between $420 and $600 per 1000 board feet, this September they rose to $948, a peak that was always going to be unsustainable. As of October, they were back to about $580. Third quarter sales for mill owners, however, will likely set records, setting them up for a very strong finish to the year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The supply chain is beginning to rebalance, which is good news for consumers. Lumber producers will catch up to demand over the winter, when projects usually slow down, making prices on the shelves at places like Home Depot more like what they were a year ago. Barring any major catastrophe, like extended shutdowns, remodeling projects large and small should take off again in early 2021. Check out the market forecasts for the year ahead and in the longer term, which are also looking good.

Trend Watch: Floor-to-Ceiling Cabinets Help Drive Demand for Wood

Floor to Ceiling Cabinets by Tamar Barnoon via Remodelista

There’s a new kitchen trend helping to drive demand for wood in home renovations: elegant, practical floor-to-ceiling cabinetry. Not only is this style picking up momentum among interior design enthusiasts all over the world, the new Global Cabinets Market 2018 – 2022 report notes that demand will likely continue to rise, and that’s good news for cabinet manufacturers, independent woodworkers and lumber in general. The majority of these cabinets are made of softwoods like pine.

Condo renovation by Mark Gerwing in Boulder, Colorado via Houzz
Condo renovation by Mark Gerwing in Boulder, Colorado via Houzz

French chateau-style country kitchen by Jack Rosen via Houzz
French chateau-style country kitchen by Jack Rosen via Houzz

Floor-to-ceiling cabinets dramatically expand storage capacity while keeping clutter to a minimum, and the result is a clean, sleek look that visually expands the room to make the ceilings seem higher than they are. Some might have a simple modern look free of hardware, making use of wide expanses of knotty plywood, while others are more traditional.

Floor to ceiling cabinets by Plain English
Floor to ceiling cabinets by Plain English

A beautiful kitchen by UK design firm Plain English shows off how they can be adapted for the understated elegance of a farmhouse, for example, including the addition of a library ladder.

Floor to Ceiling Cabinets by Annie Ritz and Daniel Rabin via Remodelista
Floor to Ceiling Cabinets by Annie Ritz and Daniel Rabin via Remodelista

In Los Angeles, architects Annie Ritz and Daniel Rabin made a blank wall far more functional with the installation of pale pink cabinetry accented with rose gold hardware.

Traditional entry in Chicago by Randall Architects via Houzz
Traditional entry in Chicago by Randall Architects via Houzz

Over at Houzz, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry shows up everywhere from glossy modern apartments in Knightsbridge, London to lakeside homes in Vermont, and demonstrates how they can be used outside the kitchen, too. Check out this dramatic entryway in Chicago by Randall Architects, painted a deep spruce green.

Handy enough to give it a go yourself? Check out a guide to DIY floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinets at Woodshop Diaries.

Wooden Skyscraper City! New Stockholm Proposal Reaches for the Skies

Wooden Skyscraper City

Why shouldn’t we have entire cities made of wood – including skyscrapers? As ultra-tall timber towers are completed around the world – with many more in the planning stages – the creation of entire wood-based developments is a natural next step. Stockholm, Sweden could be the first to realize this dream with a new proposal from Anders Berensson Architects, a conceptual housing development on the waterfront containing a whopping 31 individual cross-laminated timber towers.

Wooden Skyscraper City 2

This proposal isn’t just a bunch of fantastical concept drawings destined to grab some internet attention and then disappear. The architects were commissioned by the Stockholm Center Party to design a masterplan for a new sustainable district in Stockholm as part of a larger vision for a greener, more prosperous future. The development would bring 5,000 new residences to the central docklands area of Masthamnen, for which the project is named.

Wooden Skyscraper City 3

Anders Berensson Architects has been commissioned by the Stockholm Center Party to designed Stockholm’s highest, densest and most environmentally friendly new neighborhood in the cities central dock area Masthamnen by building one wooden city on top of another. In the lower city we want to build blocks with homes, offices and shops surrounded by streets, squares and a living dockside. On top of this city we want to build a city of narrow wooden skyscrapers in a public parkland that connects the new area with the surrounding hills and city parts.

The new district can be divided into three main parts. The lower block city that is built on today’s dock level. The narrow wooden skyscraper city that is built on top of the lower city and the landscape of roofs and bridges that is connected with the surrounding heights.

The lower block city consists of 19 new city blocks with 6-10 floors and contain 2500 apartments, 60000 m2 of office space and about 90 shops & restaurants. The neighborhood connects to the few existing streets that surrounds the area. To the west, the area is connected to Folkungagatan and Stadsgårdskajen by continuing these streets into the new area. To the south, the area is connected to the new residential district Persikan and Norra Hammarbyhammnen via new buildings. To the east the area connects to Saltsjökvarn via an openable walking and cycling bridge. The existing ferry terminal is planned to be kept with some adjustments to its new central location. Office spaces are planned to the noisiest parts of the terminal and the neighborhoods are designed so that all apartments either look over the boats or get a good second view when the cruising ships are moored.

Wooden Skyscraper City 4

The firm previously created a proposal for a wooden skyscraper covered in numbers, called Trätoppen, for the Stockhom Center Party. These architects are well-versed in wood, and their preference to work with it comes down to its beauty, sustainability and the fact that it releases the least carbon dioxide compared to other top construction materials in common usage today.

The widespread use of wood in urban developments could transform cities as we know them, not just in terms of their environmental friendliness but in appearance as well. Imagine how much warmer and more welcoming urban buildings would feel if they were made of wood instead of so much steel and glass. With all trends pointing to skyrocketing demand for wood in the near future, we might not have to imagine for long.