Zone not exempt from soaring timber prices

Mark Penfield built his first garage in Greenfield with his brother at the age of 12. Douglas Hamshaw has been in the lumber business since 1967. And Evan Jones is the ninth generation owner of Cowls Building Supply in Amherst. And these three men say they have never seen anything like what has happened in their industry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cost of lumber has skyrocketed, with prices doubling or tripling from a year ago. National experts attribute the spike to a variety of factors, including the shutdown of production, catastrophic weather conditions in parts of the country and more people building or remodeling structures while stuck at home during the health crisis. public.

On Wednesday morning, Penfield said a 2-by-4-by-8 costs $ 8.76, having “been $ 3 for years.” He explained that the price of half-inch plywood has tripled to $ 60 and that a sheet of three-quarter-inch AdvanTech tongue-and-groove subfloor has risen to $ 78 a sheet as it was previously $ 30 to $ 35.

Penfield, whose father founded RG Penfield & Sons Inc. in Greenfield in 1970, mentioned other factors, including the February ice storm that swept through Texas, as well as continued unemployment benefits.

“A lot of people don’t want to go back to work,” he said, although this has been refuted by some economists. “So it’s a domino effect.”

Penfield also said interest rates were low, with people able to get a 15-year loan at 2.6% interest to complete a project, which increased demand for lumber.

Jones said the price of virtually all building materials is rising more than normal, although lumber and structural plywood are the hardest hit and hardest to acquire.

“It was a hell of a trick,” he said. “Historically, the lumber market hasn’t seen a steady rise in prices for over 30 years, so we were late for something like that.”

Jones said he hasn’t had many suspended or scaled-down projects during the pandemic, but the most negative effect has been the added level of stress placed on his team. He said a “perfect storm of events” has included wildfires in parts of the country and a spillover effect in the supply chain after the flow from the Suez Canal into Egypt – one of the busiest trade routes in the world – was blocked by Panama. Japan-owned Ever Given container ship for six days in March.

Additionally, Jones said demand is on the rise because people have been given stimulus money.

“The bottom line is our free market system and the laws of supply and demand are in full force,” he said. “The economy is strong, interest rates are low, and many people think now is the perfect time to build or renovate, add a patio or install a swimming pool.”

Although Business Insider said on Wednesday that lumber prices fell for the eighth day in a row, Reuters reported single-family home construction rates in the United States fell more than expected in April.

These costs frustrate Americans like Richard DiGeorge, a resident of Bernardston. DiGeorge said he was excited to build a tool shed on his property until he found out about the “sky-high” price of lumber. He said he was told the rise was caused by the pandemic, but he believes corporate greed is also a factor, comparing timber to the oil industry.

“It really irritates me what’s going on in our country. Greed is going to kill this country, ”said DiGeorge, whose son and grandson work as carpenters. “There must be checks and balances.

Douglas Hamshaw, who owns the Hamshaw Lumber & Ace Hardware sites in Keene, NH and Orange, said any increase in profits goes almost exclusively to sawmills – forest land owners, loggers, carriers, retailers and builders.

“The demand is greater than the supply,” he said. “It has been insatiable.”

Hamshaw said wood consumption fell sharply in the first few weeks of the pandemic and factories responded by laying off crews and cutting production, only to learn soon that demand would explode. Producers have been catching up for a year and there is no end in sight, he said.

“There is nothing in the next few months that would indicate that we are going to see a drop in prices,” added Hamshaw.

Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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