How to manage the lumber crisis in America
The lumber crisis
Lumber, Lumber lumber who could have guessed that lumber would have been a casualty of the pandemic. The Coronavirus keeps us guessing as to which product will be out of stock next. Remember the TP crisis of spring 2020? Now we can add a chlorine shortage for pools as of this writing (May 2021)
The years of 2020 and 2021 have certainly had their impact on the building trades as well, with the do-it-yourself sector suffering too.
Not only have lumber prices soared in the past year it is also scarce. In addition, the lumber your find is usually close to unusable. Even in early summer 2020 we could not source enough 2x lumber or decking for a small 6′ x 6′ deck/landing. Fortunately we had a backup.
The good news is some experts say lumber prices will likely start to fall towards the end of 2021, which should be accompanied by an increase in availability. In the meantime, projects have had to be put on hold. Many shed, decks and home renovations are looking like abandoned property. Some kitchen supply companies have suffered as well. It seems like any company relying on international sourcing and shipping have been impacted, and the plug up in the Suez Canal didn’t help either.
So, there are only a few options to obtain the precious lumber and materials to complete your project:
Seek out reclaimed/used material
This is what saved our deck project. We had a friend who dismantled a wheelchair ramp. They saved all of the lumber and screws. There were plenty of deck boards, albeit short pieces, to complete our small project. The donation also sourced enough 2×4 and 2×6 lumber to get it done. A little salvage, sanding and coating, and we had a tidy little completed project. Look around for salvaged lumber, and do your take off to make sure you can get what you need before you break ground or wall.
Reuse your own lumber
If you tearing down a wall or old shed or garage, likely not all of the material is bad. Maybe just what has been exposed to moisture of multiple fasteners such as nails and screws. Try to salvage studs and joists where possible. This might require finding a place to store lumber while you collect enough to get it done, but another potential resource.
Check for private stock
Some people are selling their surplus. With sites like Craigslist and Offer Up, you might be able to score some that way too. You may be able to get some less desirable pieces from a local sawmill. Again you may need space for storage as you acquire stock.
Yes this last option is the hardest and least likely option, but it might be the least amount of headaches. As mentioned at the outset things should normalize if you could just hold on.
In the end, it is about getting the project done while you have the time and money. For many that has been during the pandemic shutdown. Try one of the above ways to make your project a success.