At the Home Hardware Building Center in Witless Bay, just south of St. John’s, owner Art Hicks is breathless.
Every day, he has to tell clients what it will cost to fix their patio, fix their fence or even build a house.
âIt’s very depressing. It’s been 12, 13 months since I’ve been telling people, listen, the material keeps on increasing,â Hicks said. “It’s not nice. It gives a different feeling.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the price of wood has increased significantly. In most cases, Hicks says, current costs are three to four times what they were before lumber prices started to climb in 2020.
âAnd it’s increasing constantly, constantly. Every week we get new numbers, and it keeps increasing. â Even though his business depends on lumber sales, Hicks says he advises people to postpone construction projects where they can. But he says some people can’t afford do not to build.
WATCH | Art Hicks explains how the price of lumber has skyrocketed, and some of the reasons why:
âWe want to tell people not to build, but people have to do it,â he said. âPeople need their fences fixed, people need to build a house, people need shingles, they need to make repairs. It’s going to cost them a lot more money. I feel fair for them.
How much is that plywood in the window?
Looking around his lumber yard, Hicks can cite huge price changes on almost any item he sells.
âLast year the customer was paying $ 3.39 retail for a pre-cut two-by-four piece. And if we increase inventory, it’ll probably be over $ 13 per die-cut. Locally cut in Newfoundland.
Then there is the OSB, or oriented strand board, imported from another province. “This went from $ 13 last year [to] $ 62 a week ago. “
Plywood has tripled from $ 21 to $ 65 – if you can get it. “Probably three months for delivery, if we can get it. Pressure processing [lumber] is very difficult to obtain, and these numbers have also increased dramatically. “
Customers with must-do tasks have little choice but to complain and swallow the high costs.
Trevor Poole, for example, arrived at the store to pick up a single sheet of plywood for some repairs on his boat. He says the registry price was $ 73.
“Extreme, right? I wouldn’t want to build a house.” said Poole. “I need to have it, so whatever the price, you have to pay to have it. I guess that’s the way it is.”
Pandemic Driving Award
Like many of the big changes from the past year, Hicks said there was a big factor behind the price spike.
âThe pandemic is after fueling it due to the labor shortage,â he said. “People just can’t go to work, because the buildings, their staff are reduced due to social distancing in areas that have been affected by COVID. And that just puts pressure on everyone.”
Hicks says retailers have no choice but to pass the increased costs on to their customers. He said some people have taken his advice and delayed construction projects. But it feels bad for those who can’t.
“The young couples who have to build are just going to pay a lot more money. And I just pity them, because it won’t help these people at all. The younger generation? It just costs them more money.”
Hicks doesn’t think high lumber prices will be cut anytime soon.
“I think we’re having a tough year this year, and maybe even next year before it’s all settled. And it could be even longer than that.”
Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador