Building and reno industry feels COVID-19 backlog
LONDON, ONT. -- If you were thinking about getting some construction or renovation work done at your home this year you may already be too late.
A pandemic-related backlog has created a situation of high demand and low supplies for building materials, particularly cement and lumber.
Just ask do-it-yourselfer Arnas Bajramovic. The Farnham Crescent resident is busy installing a new concrete driveway, after having just completed a backyard fence.
“Some stuff like pressure-treated lumber for sure. It’s high in demand and supplies are low,” he said.
Bajramovic added that he was surprised he found enough supplies to even get the job done. “It was a few batches, you know. Driving around from store to store, this is how we did (it).”
Homeowner and do-it-yourselfer Arnas Bajramovic works on his driveway in London, Ont. is seen Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Bryan Bicknell / CTV News)
The supply problem couldn’t be more evident when you look at the lumber yard at Moffat and Powell Rona on Hyde Park Road in London. It’s barren, save for a couple small piles of pressure-treated lumber, where there would normally be rows and rows of the product, five or six lifts high.
According to Inventory Manager Kevin Brownlee, sales of pressure-treated lumber and other building supplies hit record highs over the spring and summer, all while suppliers were scaling back production because of the pandemic.
And, he said it all happened at a time when people actually had time to tackle home projects.
“Just like everybody else in the industry thought, for the most part, through the beginning of the COVID thing the economy would falter and what we actually saw two to three weeks in, was that sales were actually increasing, particularly pressure treated. People were taking the money that they had saved for their vacations and trips and putting it into their backyard.”
He said it’s also had an impact on pricing, with the price of plywood panels up by 80 to 90 per cent, and the price of pressure-treated lumber up by 70 to 80 per cent.
He said even now, suppliers are still only operating at 65 to 70 per cent capacity because of pandemic protocols.
It’s had a trickle-down effect throughout the building industry.
Contractor Greg Braam, of London-based Greg Braam Construction said he has as much work as he can manage. If only he could actually get to it.
“There’s no answer to when we’re going to get wood. It’s very frustrating because you know we have mountains of work out there and we can’t do it. Customers are getting frustrated, we’re getting frustrated. And really, the retailers don’t have answers and there’s no end in sight.”
Braam said he expects the backlog to continue well into next year.