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Lumber shortages, skyrocketing costs leave companies and homeowners in a bind

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 11:35 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A nationwide lumber shortage is driving up the price of wood, as pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions led to limited quantities at the same time more Americans started home improvement projects while spending more time at home.

In eastern Iowa, the number of people making repairs from the August 10 derecho has made that shortage even more challenging. D&N Fence Co. in Cedar Rapids took more than 8,000 calls after the derecho, according to owner Douglas Ayers.

“We’re totally swamped,” Ayers said. “If you called today for a new fence, it would be — we’re into November already for residential.”

Ayers said his company’s materials costs keep rising at the same time. The price of steel is up about 80% from last year, while PVC has risen about 15%, with orders from their supplier about four months behind, Ayers said. The cost of wood has jumped, too, if he can get his hands on it.

“The wood is just, almost impossible to find,” Ayers said.

It’s not just limited to one shop, either.

“It’s hectic, trying to find materials and try to explain to people why they cost so much,” Tim Gordon, the owner of Gordon Lumber Company in Mount Vernon, said.

Gordon said the price of wood is triple what it was before the pandemic and is only getting costlier.

“It’s a difficult thing, like when we try to give a price to somebody, it’s only good for so long because it’s just going to climb again the following week,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the pandemic caused “a perfect storm” of havoc on the lumber supply chain.

“When everybody else was staying home, it was just a huge demand for do-it-yourself projects, and just dwindling the supply down to where, now, the mills are back up and trying to operate at a certain capacity and just can’t keep up with the demand,” Gordon said.

Both companies said they don’t know when it will slow down or when prices will get back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We didn’t start the business to have people upset with us, but there’s nothing we can do,” Ayers said. “We’re so far behind.”

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