New Brunswick

Supplies dwindle in midst of COVID deck building craze

An overwhelming demand for building materials this spring and summer caught everyone completely off guard. Contractors and do-it-yourselfers are scrounging to find things like plywood and pressure treated lumber.

'The numbers were off the record," Brian Boudreau, Hampton Home Hardware

Canadians are using money they didn't spend on winter vacations to do home projects. Sales of treated lumber have skyrocketed. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

 

When the COVID-19 emergency declaration was issued in March, vacation travel ground to a halt and many New Brunswickers were sent home to work.

No one quite knew what to expect in terms of the impact on the economy, but the forecasts were not good.

So an overwhelming demand for building materials this spring and summer caught everyone completely off guard.

Contractors and do-it-yourselfers are scrounging to find things like plywood and pressure treated lumber.

"It certainly is unusual," said Mike O'Donnell, president of Marwood, a Tracyville, NB manufacturer of pressure treated wood. "Nobody knew how to react to the virus and everybody was thinking the opposite."

O'Donnell says lead times to supply his customers, building supply stores, have been pushed out 'a week or two' but trucks are heading out every day to try to meet the demand.

"It's just unfortunate that we have so many people wanting it all at once," he said.

Mike O'Donnell, president of Marwood in Tracyville, NB: 'It's unfortunate we have so many people wanting it all at once.' ( Nicolas Steinbach, Radio-Canada )

At Hampton Home Hardware, store manager Brian Boudreau said demand for treated lumber for decks and other backyard projects is up five times what it would be in a normal year.

"It's unbelievable to be honest because I've been doing this a long time," said Boudreau. "The numbers that I saw at this particular store were tremendous, I've never seen it before. I think that if you ask the same question at any other building store they would say the same thing. The numbers were off the record."

Boudreau said his store currently does have treated lumber available.

Like Marwood's O'Donnell, Boudreau also attributes the boom to families saving money on winter travel and spending so much time at their homes.

"They had nowhere else to go," he said.

Rheal Guimond of Guimond Builders Ltd in Rothesay said it is a struggle to find material he needs for his new construction and renovation work, which is making it hard to price jobs for customers.

The news, he said, is the same whenever he stops at the building supply stores.

"The guys in the yard tell me they're running out and there's nobody delivering [to the stores] anymore."

Plywood also in demand

An email obtained by CBC Nova Scotia advised sales staff at Kent Building Supply stores about the lack of availability of wood products like plywood and treated lumber.

"The huge sales increase has completely stripped the supply chain," said the message last week from Tim Liengme, Kent's district sales manager.

Liengme noted there is no plywood supply available to stores in the Atlantic region and replacement supplies from Western Canada will take five to six weeks.

Kent Building Supplies' parent company, JD Irving Ltd. does not manufacture plywood or pressure treated lumber.

"We are working to resolve the supply issue of plywood and pressure treated lumber as soon as possible and appreciate the patience of our local consumers and contractors," said JDI spokesperson Mary Keith. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

With files from Paul Palmeter

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