Canadian lumber shortage puts strain on building industry

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Canadian lumber shortage puts strain on building industry
WATCH ABOVE: Anyone looking to renovate their home is likely to face supply shortages and delays. Contractors across the country are warning of a lumber shortage. Albert Delitala reports – Aug 28, 2020

A shortage in pressure-treated lumber is causing delays and higher costs for home renovation projects, a situation one industry group says is unlikely to improve for months.

“Fence boards right now are pretty much gold,” said Pat Racioppo, a contractor in Toronto, after unloading a pile of lumber he spotted at a nearby hardware store.

“They’re so sparse to find. If you find them anywhere, you grab them.”

The limited supply has meant a longer timeline for projects, he explained.

“We might have to come, do a couple days of work, wait until we get more supplies, come back (and) do another couple days,” he said.

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Arie Dunnink, the assistant general manager at Central Fairbank Lumber, said he has had to turn customers away since March because of the shortage.

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“We used to get a truck a day rolling,” he said.

“We’re very fortunate to get a truck a month at this point. In 30 years of doing this, I haven’t seen the prices where they are, I haven’t seen the supply issues where they are.”

Liz Kovach, president of the Western Retail Lumber Association, told Global News there is a significant shortage of pressure-treated and other lumber products due to a “perfect storm” of issues.

There is less forest to harvest due to the mountain pine beetle and fires, she said, which are partly responsible. As well, lumber mills have had to shut down at times due to the pandemic, with an ongoing transportation backlog adding to delays.

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“In the past the stress and the pressure on price and availability would last four to six weeks,” Kovach said.

“We’re now 21 weeks into this and any material that is ordered today will take about two-and-a-half to three months to be delivered.”

Spiking demand for home renovation is further depleting supply, she said, a point reinforced by Dunnink at Central Fairbank Lumber.

“It’s all the renovations and the do-it-your-selfers not going on the trip they wanted,” he said. “They want to spend money at home and the treated (lumber) really took a kick.”

For Racioppo, with multiple projects on the go, he says all he can do for now is make the most of it.

“What are you going to do? You have to play with the cards you’re dealt, right?”

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