As you get ready to start DIY home projects this summer, prepare for record-breaking lumber prices. Over the past year, the cost of lumber has increased 430%—from $259 per 1,000 board feet of lumber to over $1,300, according to Fixr, a home remodeling resource. The latest numbers from Nasdaq show lumber prices at $1,500 for 1,000 board feet. DIY projects have more elements to them than lumber, so budget where you can to offset the cost.
What is driving up the price of lumber?
Wood demand shot up in the summer of pandemic. Many homeowners were stuck at home, unable to vacation. With time and money on their hands, they headed to the local building supplies dealer for the materials to build decks, playhouses, she-sheds and even additional rooms.
In the autumn of 2020, homebuilders cranked up their construction. By December, single family housing starts hit their highest level since 2006. This activity was driven by cheap mortgages.
Covid-19 outbreaks among production workers have disrupted production at existing mills and they are now having difficulty hiring new workers.
Truck drivers are in short supply across the economy. On top of the direct labor challenges, truck drivers are vital to production, starting with moving logs from forests to mills and then getting finished products to distribution centers and lumber yards.
Glue shortages, caused by the storm-related shutdown of petrochemical plants in Texas, also lowered plywood production, but that’s a temporary problem.
Lumber and plywood prices typically rise in the spring and drop by the end of fall, by about five percent. This year look for not a decline but a leveling off. Prices will remain high for another two or three years, then drop back to more normal levels.
Here Are 4 Ways To Save on Your DIY Project
1. Plan ahead.
Before you start your project, come up with a detailed plan. If lumber will be a big part of your project, carefully mark and measure the lumber you will need so it doesn't go to waste.
2. Change the focus of your project.
Lumber costs are not expected to come down to their pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. So instead of canceling lumber-heavy projects on your list, like new cabinets or flooring, try refocusing. Graham suggests using paint to upgrade an area in your home that could use a little refresh. Other material upgrades, like backsplashes or countertops in a kitchen, may be a more affordable option this year.
3. Use alternative materials.
Recycled wood used to be considered a premium material, but now that lumber prices are so high, it's much more affordable, and there are plenty of great uses for reclaimed wood. Bamboo is a great quick-growth option that can work for flooring. Explore cork, and Trex, which is a type of alternative lumber made from recycled plastic for your new deck.
Second Chance in Baltimore is a great resource for reclaimed wood flooring, railings, beams and barn wood.
4. Shop around.
Check out local reclaimed wood stores in your area to save money on your DIY project. You can even shop for reclaimed and recycled wood on eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy. You can also shop Overstock or Wayfair — where you can often find the same materials there for 50% less than bigger retailers.
Sources: Better Homes & Gardens, Forbes