'We need some stability in the market': Lumber prices continue to rise

Throughout the pandemic, lumber prices have continued to rise to historical highs and experts say the end is not yet in sight.

The past year was a tumultuous one for many industries, including the lumber industry. Supply has been dwindling while demand has not been.

“We’ve seen our cost of inventory has tripled in some cases,” Don Clement, the general manager of Mission Building Supplies, said.

People have been spending more time at home and the demand for renovations is up.

“We end up with difficulties where we’ll commit to a price level with a builder for a certain period of time and in the meantime the cost is going up 30 per cent in 30 days,” Clement explained.

According to Clement, prices are fluctuating wildly, more than ever before.

“Commodities are always fluctuating, we’re used to seeing small fluctuations that could be two or three per cent… the past 12 months, we’ve seen 150 per cent increase on some products.”

“On top of that we’ve got shortages of labour in lumber mills, which has now reduced the supply,” Clement said. “We’re now seeing a large shortage in the fibres, the actual logs.”

The unpredictable market is causing problems for buyers and builders, who are having trouble quoting customers.

“Lumber is higher than it has ever been historically, it’s a struggle to get the buy-in from the customer in the market,” Nick Northup, president of Premier Built Garages, said.

The increase in prices is being driven from “a perfect storm” of issues, including COVID-19, western pine beetle and American housing starts, according to Northup. The uncoming wildfire season is also expected to have an effect on prices.

“March 2020, a sheet of oriented strand board cost somewhere between $12 and $13, right now they’re $60. We’re talking big, big increases here that happen… 10 to 15 per cent, every month lumber’s going up.”

Norhtup said the current forecasters don’t expect there to be stabilization until Q3 of 2021, and a return to normalcy isn’t expected until 2022.

“Everybody’s settled into the opinion that (prices) aren’t going down anytime soon,” Northup said. “Homebuilders, lumber suppliers, companies like mine, that’s all we really want.

“We need some stability in the market.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri