The skyrocketing price of lumber during the pandemic building boom has started to crash back down as experts say shortages in other building materials are forcing jobs to sit stagnant.
West Jepson said he’s never seen anything like this, in his 35 years selling lumber.
“This year no… I went grey this year,” said Jepson, assistant manager at Windsor Plywood in Nanaimo.
After the pandemic’s building boom set lumber prices skyrocketing over 300 per cent in 2020 and 2021, prices have crashed back down quickly as lumber stacks up at sawmills, unsold.
According to experts, shortages of building materials like steel, trusses and flooring are holding up many building projects and partly responsible for the drop in lumber prices.
“In June they were selling it for $2,100 U.S. (per thousand card feet), now they’re selling it for $650 U.S. (per thousand board feet). So yes the numbers have dropped substantially,” said Jepson.
The rollercoaster in prices has been just as stressful for his brother, Ty Jepson, a home builder in Nanaimo. His small company priced jobs and signed contracts that had costs locked in, as lumber prices swung wildly.
“It makes it really difficult because we can’t put our price up, we can’t pass that on to the customer so we’re caught in the middle with it,” said Jepson.
According to experts the future price of lumber won’t be passed on to customers for a while since lumber yards had to buy their current stock at the record high price from sawmills. The material mills are now turning out for a lower price won’t hit yards for weeks or months yet.
“We have to wait for the end of July for 50 per cent and the end of September for 150 per cent,” said West Jepson.
But as prices drop, another even bigger problem has presented itself: B.C.’s wildfires. With so many active wildfires, builders are concerned about waiting to take advantage of the dropping prices, in fear there won’t be supply.
“It puts the fear into me, you know, with the province on fire it’s very difficult. So if you don’t buy now you may not be able to get any wood for August to help your customers but if you buy now you could also lose half a million dollars on one day of purchasing,” said West Jepson.
It’s a gamble that neither of the Jepson brothers is confident how to play.