British Columbia

Lumber prices high across B.C. as mills struggle to meet demand

Marie Kohlman and her husband Stan have run Kimberley Building Supplies for more than 28 years. And in all that time, they've never seen lumber prices as high as they are today.

Industry experts say it's a perfect example of too much demand and a lack of supply

Marie Kohlman, owner of Kimberley Building Supplies, says many of her longtime customers have simply decided not to work on their projects due to the high price of lumber. (Submitted by Marie Kohlman)

Marie Kohlman and her husband Stan have run Kimberley Building Supplies, in Kimberley, B.C., for more than 28 years. And in all that time, they've never seen lumber prices as high as they are today.

In some cases, she says products have tripled or quadrupled in price compared to how much they normally cost.

"It's really high. These are not normal times. It's astronomical," said Kohlman.

Increased demand and a lack of supply have sent lumber prices soaring across the province, while lumber mills work at full speed to catch up.

As of mid-September, a basic SPF (spruce, pine, fir) two-by-four cost $960 US per thousand board feet, while the annual average in 2019 was $372, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development's weekly forest product price tracking.

Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, says lumber mills across the province, the country and the continent closed down earlier this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to substantial pressure on supply.

Despite the pandemic, the house construction industry is still going strong and, with people spending more time at their residences, there's been an increase in the repair and remodelling sector. All of which has led to increased demand for product from an industry that was already running behind.

"It's going to take a while for inventories to refill," said Yurkovich.

But she says there's always a seasonal fall off in demand as the province heads into the winter season, where the supply should, hopefully, be able to catch up. 

Marie Kohlman says she's been unable to order sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) and no shipments are expected until December. (Submitted by Marie Kolhman)

With lumber selling at higher prices, those costs are passed onto customers. Kohlman says, right now, a basic two-by-four costs upwards of $9 at her store.

"For the average consumer, it's quite an eye-opener when they come in and ask the price," said Kohlman, adding that many have simply put side projects like sheds and garages on hold in the hopes that lumber prices will soon return to normal.

There's such a backlog that Kohlman says she's unable to even order sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) from her suppliers, adding wait-times for certain products stretch way into December.

"If I had that crystal ball, I would've bought some property and filled it full of plywood and OSB last year," she said with a tinge of sarcasm in her voice.

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