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Expect to pay more for lumber: material prices take sharp increase

If you have some building projects on your to-do list, be prepared to shell out more for those materials. Lumber prices have seen a significant increase and now steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the U.S., threaten to make a bad situation - worse. Caley Bedore has more on what's to blame and who is paying the price.

Lumber has become a hot commodity. “This year the consumer is paying about 20 per cent more than they were last year,” said Drew Merrett, the owner of Merrett Home Hardware Building Centre in Peterborough, ON.

That number is a look at costs overall. He said softwood tariffs imposed by the United States, last year’s devastating wildfire season in Western Canada, as well as a backlog in rail cars, have all affected the availability and accessibility of the commodity.

“It’s a perfect storm for high, high prices,” Merrett said. “We are all trying to get as much lumber as we can on the ground here because it takes a month to two months to get now.”

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It used to take about a week and a half.

READ MORE: CN Rail taps Hamilton’s National Steel Car for new lumber cars

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Across town at a Mortlock Construction site, similar concern. But the increase hasn’t only applied to lumber.

“In general, in construction we are seeing a large increase in costs of metals particularly,” said Craig Mortlock, vice president of Mortlock Construction Inc. “We are having a hard time as a contractor locking in prices to our clients and subcontractors,” he added.

Now, the U.S. is slapping Canada with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. Those foreign imports would see fees of 25 and 10 per cent respectively.

READ MORE: What the U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs mean for Canadians – and their wallets

Merrett said certain prices may decline in November and December, but others are likely to climb and ultimately it is the consumer that is footing the bill.