Material delays throughout home construction persist

The major supply disruption in 2021 will last well into winter for the building materials industry, and limited supply and variety in certain key items frustrates builders and homeowners. It is very easy to lump all material disturbances together, but as with most things in life, there are ups and downs. Some items have grown in abundance while others continue to deteriorate.

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To help buyers of building materials what to expect when construction projects begin, I’ll go over some of the basic items used in most Lake and Sumter Counties homes and tell you their current supply status in the market. As with most issues since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, things can suddenly change, so this is a current snapshot at the start of winter.

Base metal and rebar remain in limited supply, with some shortages at dealerships. The prices remain very high and hardly any drastic price adjustments are expected in the short term. Concrete was available, but with longer lead times. The concrete price has remained relatively stable since the summer.

Concrete blocks, on the other hand, are much harder to buy and builders continue to see delays and higher prices. Congressional approval of the Infrastructure Act, coupled with increasing demand for commercial projects, will continue to put concrete, block and steel prices under pressure in 2022.

The electrical, plumbing, and HVAC for the home have improved, but the utility is still a bit spotty. Prices have risen in all aspects of the home’s mechanical systems and there are few expectations that prices will come down. The availability of standard items has improved, but specialty items and replacement parts are still difficult to find. HVAC systems are still in short supply for many builders.

Lumber has improved with the scarcity of early summer. Although lead times are longer than normal, most timber merchants have added inventory to accommodate these longer lead times. The markets for wood raw materials and cladding bottomed out in mid-August and have risen solidly since then.

While the record-breaking early summer price declines are not expected, markets will remain high and likely only show a temporary decline around the holidays. Don’t expect these markets to drop again in 2022.

Roof trusses remain a huge problem as production is hampered by controlled stockpiling of metal plates, labor shortages, and a demand equation that exceeds capacity. Three month lead times are common in the state, and many timber framing firms are not taking on new business. Until there is more sheet metal and manpower, these huge backlogs and lead times will persist.

Right now, windows, doors and garage doors are the biggest problems in the supply chain. Lack of raw materials, labor, and overwhelming demand mean that window lead times are 12 to 40 weeks, exterior doors 4 to 12 weeks, and garage doors are currently more than 12 weeks. There is a lot of residue and missing parts when orders are shipped.

Plus, prices continue to rise as manufacturers try to cut lead times by discouraging new business. The best advice for any project owner is to buy standard size items in these categories and avoid custom sizes at all costs.

Roof shingles have improved in some basic colors, but specialty types and colors remain a major delivery problem. Take another look at what your local supplier has in stock as prices have kept increasing. The supply of drywall has improved in recent months, but prices remain much higher than last year. Although the insulation remains tight, the supply has improved, but at much higher prices.

Resin-based products such as PVC wood, vinyl siding, and sealants are still hard to find with prices soaring. In addition, anything made of steel like steel frame bolts, garage door springs, and metal components in windows is hard to come by. Most of the products that use a lot of steel or resin in their manufacturing process have come under the most pressure recently.

When winter begins and the backlogs extend into spring and early summer, homeowners and builders looking to start a project will find little relief from delivery problems or pricing.

Supply problems could worsen in the spring when the United States finally defeats COVID-19 and opens the economy fully, creating a lot of catching up to do. In short, expect the supply chain disruptions to continue but spread to other areas as the build cycle progresses.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. and the host of the Around the House show, which can be seen on AroundtheHouse.TV.

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