Home project boom causing lumber shortages across Alberta

Click to play video: 'Shortage of pressed lumber, chicken wire during national home renovation surge' Shortage of pressed lumber, chicken wire during national home renovation surge
At first it was toilet paper, and now.. it's lumber. As many Canadians across the country take up home renovating during their spare time, hardware stores are scrambling to keep up with the demand on supplies. Noor Ibrahim has more on the shortage of building materials – Jul 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be the perfect time to knock off home renovations with more people staying at home, but if you’ve had trouble finding the materials to get projects done, you’re not alone.

“It’s a DIY boom like I’ve never seen in my life,” TimberTown manager Chris Dupont said.

Read more: Calgarians turning to home renos to relieve stress during COVID-19 pandemic: ‘It helps a lot’

During any other year, his Calgary lumberyard would be packed full of inventory but a spike in demand and decreased lumber production in parts of Canada has suppliers feeling the crunch.

“Normally we’d get two to three semis (of product) a week and we’re lucky to get half a semi a week now,” Dupont added. “The prices are crazy — softwood lumber is the highest its ever been in history and it’s starting to reflect in treated (lumber).”

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With more Albertans staying at home to tackle home renovations and backyard projects, cedar, composite and treated lumber are flying off the shelves.

Read more: Calgary interior design duo has tips to help take home renovations to the next level

It’s a double-edged sword for contractors like Darwin Bond.

He’s so busy he’s looking at hiring more workers — but he’s also wary about taking on jobs no one can finish.

“We’re so busy I’m basically booked for the rest of the year and turning business away,” the 20-year veteran of the industry said.

“In June or so it started to get difficult to find certain things, and it’s been getting progressively worse to the point where last week we drove to four or five different stores to find enough of everything we needed to complete a job.”

The Alberta Forest Products Association says Alberta mills have actually done a very good job of weathering the storm of the pandemic, largely because they were declared an essential service.

“We’re actually going gangbusters,” Executive Director Jason Krips said. “All of Alberta production is really strong on the lumber front and because of the demand both on the rental side as well as housing starts in the United States are actually still fairly strong. As a result, we are seeing those near record highs, which is actually really good news for the 40,000 Albertans that work in the forest sector.”

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For suppliers, some products like cedar, which is produced in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, are harder to come by.

“The mill started last Saturday going 24/7 — obviously with COVID regulations in place,” Dupont noted. “I’m hoping by September we’re going to see some more wood and alleviation to this problem.”

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