Wildfires help push plywood costs higher in Metro Vancouver

The size of the B.C. wildfires and the length of the evacuation orders are having a big impact on plywood prices throughout the province, say those in the lumber industry.

The drawn-out winter also affected prices, which have doubled in some cases

Residents of Williams Lake, B.C., will be returning to a very different-looking landscape due to recent wildfires in the region. B.C.'s wildfires have been blamed, in part, for rising plywood costs. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The size of the B.C. wildfires and the length of the evacuation orders are having a big impact on plywood prices throughout the province, say those in the lumber industry.

In some cases, the price of plywood has doubled because mill and supply routes have shut down for extended periods of time and there was a slower start to the season because of the longer-than-usual winter.

"We have operations having to shut down due to fire risk out in the bush, and log production being curtailed and helicopters who could be helicopter logging off fighting fires," said John Iacoviello, a manager with wholesale lumber supplier Probyn Export.

"We're passing on the whole bill to the customer at this point and it's obviously sticker shock to them," said Guy Taylor of Averra Developments. 

Taylor said he hasn't seen costs this high in 18 years of being in the industry.

"They're not aware of this increase as much as we are so we have to pre-warn them and already with building costs at an all time high, this is driving them even higher." 

It means builders have to order their plywood farther in advance than usual, causing more delays, which result in extra costs.

"When you're building for a client, and you've got a timeline to meet, and you can't meet a timeline because the lumber is not there, that's something we've never had to deal with before," said Taylor. 

Bob De Wit, CEO with the Great Vancouver Home Builders' Association, said the delays and higher plywood costs have already caused a slowdown in housing starts in the Lower Mainland.  

"Condo developers will be re-tendering projects because they can't make quotes they're getting [from suppliers] work economically," he said.

"It's leading to delays in larger developments, and it's leading to homeowners who are building their own homes with a builder, to go out and look for more quotes."