Lumber prices are rising across the United States despite any coronavirus pandemic–related interruptions to construction. The Wall Street Journal reported that the price of lumber reached a record high of $641.60 per thousand board feet.
Construction Dive broke down the data to explain what’s behind the price hike. Part of what’s fueling the rise is increased demand resulting from a boom in small-scale residential and commercial projects that are adapting spaces to the social distancing demands of the pandemic. Homeowners are building decks and other outdoor spaces, and restaurants and hospitality spaces are building spaces for outdoor seating. Low mortgage rates are also fueling larger construction projects and new home building. Many of these projects could have also been on hold while timber mills were closed during the first months of the pandemic, and now a glut of previously postponed projects are eating up timber supplies faster than mills could have anticipated.
Earlier in the summer, overall construction costs had been falling potentially because the industry had slowed and underworked contractors were lowering the cost of their labor to win whatever work was available. An increase in crude petroleum costs raised material costs, but not enough to counteract the falling cost of labor.