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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Material Delays Throughout Home Construction Persist

The Great 2021 Supply Disruption continues into the winter for the building material industry, and limited supply and variety in certain key items are frustrating builders and homeowners. It is very easy to lump all material disruptions together, but like most things in life, there are ebbs and flows. Some items have become more plentiful while others continue to worsen.

To assist building material buyers in what can be expected when construction projects are started, this week I am going to go through some of the basic items used in most homes in Lake and Sumter County and provide you their current supply status in the market. As with most issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, things can change suddenly, so this is a current snapshot as we enter into winter.

Foundation metal and rebar remain in tight supply with some shortages from dealers. Pricing remains very high with few expectations of drastic price moderations in the near term. Concrete has been available, but with longer lead times. The price of concrete has stayed somewhat stable since summer. Concrete blocks, on the other hand, are much harder to purchase, and builders are continuing to see delays as well as higher pricing. Congressional approval of the Infrastructure Bill, along with increasing demand in commercial projects, will continue to pressure concrete, block, and steel pricing throughout 2022.

Electrical, plumbing, and HVAC for the home have improved but the supply is still somewhat spotty. Pricing in all aspects of the home’s mechanical systems is up, and there are few expectations of prices dropping. Standard items have improved in availability, but specialty items and replacement parts are still hard to find. HVAC units remain in short supply for many builders.

Framing lumber has improved from the shortages of early summer. While lead times are longer than normal, most lumber dealers have beefed up inventory to allow for these longer lead times. The wood commodity and sheathings markets bottomed out in mid-August, and they have been on a solid rise since. While the record high pricing declines of early summer are not anticipated, the markets will remain high, and will probably only have a temporary drop around the holidays. Don’t expect a further collapse in these markets for 2022.

Roof trusses remain a huge problem as manufacturing is inhibited by controlled inventory allocations of metal plates, labor shortages, and a demand equation which is out-stripping capacity. Three-month lead times are commonplace in the state, and many truss companies are not taking on new business. Until metal plates and labor become more plentiful, these huge backlogs and lead times will persist.

Currently, windows, doors, and garage doors are the biggest problems in the supply chain. Shortages in raw material, labor, and overwhelming demand are driving window lead times from 12 to 40 weeks, exterior doors from 4 to 12 weeks, and garage doors are 12 weeks plus. There are a lot of backorders and missing pieces when orders are shipped. Also, prices are rising unabated as manufacturers try to thin lead times by discouraging new business. The best advice for any project owner is to buy standard size items in these categories and avoid special sizes at all costs.

Roofing shingles have improved in some basic colors, but specialty types and colors remain a huge supply problem. Once again, see what your local supplier has in stock, as pricing has consistently gone up. Drywall supply has improved over the last few months, but pricing remains much higher than last year. Although insulation continues to remain tight, supply has improved, but at much higher pricing.

Resin based products like PVC wood, vinyl siding, and caulks remain hard to find with escalating prices. Additionally, anything made with steel such as steel framing studs, garage door springs, and metal components in windows are tough to get. Most products which require a lot of steel or resin in their manufacturing process have seen the most pressure lately.

As winter begins and backlogs for supply are already stretching into spring and early summer, homeowners and builders that want to start a project will find little relief in supply headaches or pricing. Supply issues could get worse in the spring if the United States finally beats COVID-19, and the economy completely opens, which would unleash a lot of pent-up demand. In short, expect supply chain disruptions to continue, but move into other areas as the building cycle progresses.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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