Anyone building a house or taking on a home renovation project knows the cold hard truth about lumber
It’s expensive, with no signs the costs are going drop anytime soon.
The price of 2 X 4 stud for an eight-foot wall climbed to nearly $8 over the summer and that was like a hammer hitting a thumb for homeowners.
Prices have leveled somewhat this winter with fewer people outside in the cold-weather months building garages or fences but the cost of lumber, drywall, wire and tubing rose substantially in 2020.
Spurred by the pandemic, people are sticking close to home and they’re taking on renovation projects using money they would normally set aside for vacations not happening because of the travel bans in place.
Worries about the virus have radically changed the function of the family home. People have ditched their workplace offices and many work from their homes, which have also been turned into remote-learning schoolrooms. With theatres closed and the concert scene dead our entertainment centres are our homes and people are spending their time and money fixing them up.
Demand from the United States for Canadian lumber that comes from largely from B.C. forests and sawmills remains high and that drives up costs.
“There’s just been a fundamental change in the U.S. market,” said Ken Shields, president of Conifex Timber Inc. “There’s an exodus out of rental apartments in metropolitan cities to the suburbs, because people work from home to a much greater degree, so this has spurted house-building. In the short run the supply of lumber is pretty constant and we’ve got very robust and anticipated strong demand.”
Monday in Prince George, the price of an eight-foot stud ranged from $5.70 at Home Depot to $6.89 at Home Building Centre to $7.10 at Rona Capital Building Supplies.
A typical new single family home requires between 13,000 and 15,000 board feet of lumber to build and for every $100 change in the benchmark price of 1,000 board feet that will add $1,300-1,500 to the cost. According to Madison’s Softwood Lumber report on April 24, 2020 the average price (for spruce, pine and fir) at the Prince George Inland Terminal was $380 US. The benchmark price is now $900 U.S.
“The price of lumber has gone up $500 for 1,000 board feet,” said Shields, a former Prince George resident who now lives in Vancouver. “It’s more than doubled the 10-year average.”
Shields is confident there are enough trees being planted in B.C. forests to guarantee future generations will continue to buy locally-produced lumber.
“In the Interior region of B.C. we’ve had to cope with the mountain pine beetle devastation and all I can tell you is that in our company we are planting way more trees each year than we harvest,” said Shields.
“Sustainability is key and British Columbia is in a very favourable position. We’ve got very stringent rules to make sure that we only harvest at rates that ensure that the future harvest can be sustained.”
Shields is monitoring a spruce beetle outbreak that’s been attacking trees in the Prince George area for six or seven years. He’s flown over the affected area in a helicopter and says the corridor along the Hart Highway on the west side of the highway between McLeod Lake and Summit Lake appears to be the worst affected.