Supply & Demand

Treated lumber shortage leaves customers waiting to finish projects

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As the waiting list for deck projects stretches into jacket weather season, one of Mat Haworth’s employees spends the day calling suppliers, placing orders for whatever 2-by-4’s or 4-by-4’s haven’t already been snatched up.

The nationwide shortage in treated lumber has left lumber companies and hardware stores with empty shelves as homeowners tackle home improvement projects in a time of social distancing.

“Most of our customers are being very patient, knowing that they can’t go anywhere else and get it, either,” said Haworth, owner of Secure Fence and Deck in Darlington.

For contractors, the situation means it’s taking longer to install wood fences and decks. Some homeowners are spending more for aluminum, vinyl or chain-link materials, which come double the cost of wood. The company recently built a deck with composite decking on a treated wood frame.

Projects are scheduled through late September, well past the typical six-week time frame.

“People are able to enjoy their yards being stuck at home, and they want new fences and decks, for sure,” Haworth said.

At Town & Country Homecenter, the lumber counter began selling more treated wood in May, said president Jack Whitecotton. By June, the lumber was harder to come by. Sales of treated lumber have jumped by 143% this summer, Whitecotton said. The store has sold out of 4-by-4’s.

The cost for the wood is also surging, up as much as 45% from before the surge.

Hardware stores are waiting up to several weeks for new shipments, “where usually it’s three days,” Whitecotton said. Shortages of colored vinyl have been also been reported and shipments of composite material are taking longer.

After the last treated deck bed went out the door at Hillsboro Hardware, Lumber and Farm Supply, employees began substituting with 2-by-6’s. Customers have driven from Danville, Illinois, and Crawfordsville hunting for lumber.

One customer went to Chicago for the rest of the wood needed to finish a deck around a swimming pool, said employee Kristen Hoagland.

Suppliers can’t promise when the next shipment will arrive.

“They don’t even say, ‘Hopefully soon,’” Hoagland said. “Now they say, ‘I have no idea.’”

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