Bangor-based independent contractor Shaun Crockett, the summer big money maker, is building new decks for his clients. Last year was one of his most profitable years of all time, and this year is already developing into that success.
This is despite the fact that Crockett, along with contractors and home improvement workers across the country, is grappling with the price of lumber and other materials, which has skyrocketed over the past year, as well as the scarcity of many products.
“Everyone is working hard to get what they need from this business and this supplier,” said Crockett. “In the past it took a week or two to get supplies. Now it can take up to six weeks. And it costs twice as much. We’ve had some people downsizing their projects just because the price was astronomical. That definitely made things very different for us. “
Timber prices are specifically due to the roof. In February, prices hit an all-time high of just over $ 1,000 per 1,000 square feet of board foot – that’s twice as much as in November 2020. Other raw materials such as sheet rock, plywood, steel and roofing are also expensive and can sometimes be in short supply. because the demand remains unusually high.
The pressure can be felt in both large construction projects and small residential projects. In Maine, projects ranging from a major upgrade to a ski resort in Piscataquis County to installing a new pedestrian bridge in downtown Bangor have encountered delays or budget increases due to rising costs and supply problems.
For the average homeowner, this can mean the difference between getting what you want, downsizing or rethinking what you can afford. That new 16-foot back deck could be a 12-foot deck – or you could forego the use of lumber and forego a composite material, which is usually much more expensive than lumber but is now very competitively priced, according to Crockett.
David Flanagan, President of Viking Lumber, said he and his colleagues have never before seen a number of factors that contribute to the generally inflated commodity prices.
“It was kind of a perfect storm of factors,” said Flanagan, who and his family run 11 timber and construction supply yards in mid-coast and east Maine.
First, sawmills and other manufacturing facilities had to be temporarily shut down when COVID-19 hit, causing a sudden drop in production. The August and September hurricane season then led to an increase in prices for yellow pine harvested in the southern United States, a relatively common phenomenon at this time of year, depending on the severity of the hurricane.
One of the worst forest fire seasons in the west ensued, with the Pacific Northwest – home to the country’s most productive forest and logging mills – particularly hard hit.
Finally, at one point during the pandemic, many people were confined to their homes with very little time to spend their income as they see fit. Some inevitably opted for new kitchen cabinets or a new deck or patio.
“When you sit at home, you see things that you want to fix around the house,” Flanagan said. “Our do-it-yourself marketplace has really exploded. We’re a semi-pro lumber yard, but turned into a Home Depot style retail yard almost overnight. We had many, many, many more small sales and not that many large sales. It was a big change. “
Flanagan said the Maine pandemic real estate boom also contributed to a banner year for his company, regardless of how much more material costs at the time.
“We’ve had people buying houses unseen in Maine and then when they’re up here they see something in the house that they don’t want and they start renovating,” he said. “The demand for everything is much higher across the board.”
Although high prices can change the size of some projects for homebuyers of different incomes, Crockett said his company, Your Space Home Improvement, is still busier than ever.
“We’re already booked direct for most of the summer, which is weeks earlier than we normally would all be booked,” said Crockett. “I hear the same things from a lot of other contractors. It’s a crazy time. “
While high prices have no immediate end, Flanagan believes things could change as the year progresses.
“I think this inflation trend will gradually level itself out and we’ll see a better balance between supply and demand, especially now that the pandemic is getting a little better,” Flanagan said. “But a lot of it will depend on Mother Nature and whether or not we will see terrible fires and hurricanes, as we did last year. 2020 was a wild ride. “