During the global pandemic the construction industry saw unprecedented inflation in the cost of building supplies as a result of a myriad of issues. On May 7, 2021, lumber prices hit a record high at $1,670.50 per thousand board feet. This was more than six times their pandemic low in April 2020. This significant price spike was related to closure of sawmills during the height of the pandemic, low supply, soaring demand to expand existing homes or purchase new construction, the western U.S. wildfires and tariffs.
More recently, lumber prices have fallen but they are still up nearly 100% from spring 2020. Some experts believe that the recent wildfires in the western United States and upcoming hurricane season will cause prices to jump back up in the upcoming months.
Additionally, since March 2020, steel prices are up roughly 200%. The increase in steel prices is a result of many of the same factors causing lumber pricing spikes. Many steel mills shut down production or drastically reduced production during the early days of the pandemic expecting a deep recession and/or to comply with restrictive government mandates. Despite these industry expectations, demand for steel -elated products like grills and home appliances soared. These household demands for steel-based products impacted the price of steel for construction projects. Prior to the pandemic, hot-rolled steel traded between $500 and 800 per ton but hit an all-time high of $1,825 per ton in early July 2021.
Reprinted courtesy of Nick Stewart, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.