Why is Lumber So Damn Expensive Right now?
I was at my local lumber yard over the weekend to buy some 2"x4"s and plywood to finish up a greenhouse that I've been building for my wife and I was shocked...no flabbergasted by the prices of lumber right now. A 2"x4" that last year cost $3.69 was almost $9.00 and a sheet of plywood cost almost $70. Those are ridiculous prices.
I was planning on building some Adirondack chairs to put around our firepit, but with lumber prices what they are each chair will cost about $150 each. That's crazy.
So what's going on that's driving lumber costs so high?
According to the National Association of Home Builders, lumber prices have risen by 130% since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone from home builders to Home Depots has to pass that cost increase on to consumers.
If you're building a new house right now that's an increase of $36,000 to the price of new house construction.
So, how did we get here with lumber that seems to be more valuable than gold? It breaks down to simple economics of supply and demand. Demand is high right now and supply is low so that forces prices to rise. The pandemic was a factor too. Some mills had to shut down for a while and they haven't been able to catch up, even while working at capacity. Also, home improvement, in general, saw a huge boom during the early days of the pandemic. People figured if I'm going to be spending more time at home these days I might as well take care of those home projects I've been putting off.
So what should we do in the meantime while lumber costs are so high?
- Strategy #1: Use reclaimed lumber. I've bought lumber on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, which was someone's leftovers from a project or just materials from an old barn.
Strategy #2: Use wooden pallets. You can get wood pallets worldwide, and most businesses will get them to you for free. Plus, most wood pallets are a mix of hard and softwood.
Strategy #3: Consider alternative materials. Do you have to use wood? Maybe a synthetic deck material would work or even metal studs instead of wood.
Strategy #4: Avoid wasting lumber. This is a big one for me. If I'm going to cut pieces from a sheet of plywood I lay everything out to get the least amount of waste possible.