Lumber shortage means planning ahead on reno projects

By Alex Gallacher

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to a nationwide quarantine, it left many people home with extra time on their hands.  While some took the opportunity to catch up on their favourite Netflix series, others headed out to the local hardware and building supply stores to finally start those long-awaited renovation projects.

Many people were surprised when they found out that there was a lumber shortage stretching across the province, bringing unexpected delays to their renovations plans. Now that around six months have gone by, what does the landscape look like as many in Haliburton County prepare for their fall renos?

In short, the shortages are still around. A lot of factors have come into play that have led to this shortage, not just COVID-19 as some may assume.

“This is a Canada-wide issue, not just a Haliburton issue,” said Kim Emmerson of Emmerson Lumber. “While people were home sitting around wondering what to do, a lot of people decided to undertake various projects to fix up their homes, especially things like decks. That coupled with the mills shutting down, workers being sent home, the forest fires starting, transportation issues with the railway and the pine beetle infestation have all led to this shortage.”

Additionally, due to the home renovation boom during the summer, other home improvement must-haves such as garden hoses, irrigation systems and certain types of fasteners are also low in supply.

The overwhelming demand for things such as building and framing lumber, matched with low supply has led to an increase in prices in a classic supply and demand scenario. While this might be a deterrent to some, a price increase is necessary for some stores to continue getting the supplies residents need.

“With the mills, the ability to produce the same amount of material is different in a COVID-19 environment,” Greg Scheffee of Haliburton Timber Mart explained. “Supply has been reduced and that coupled with the high demand, price levels of lumber have increased significantly.”

Shortages are being reported in both Muskoka and the Kawarthas, which means it is unlikely anyone can travel long distances to find a secret oasis of lumber somewhere else. Lumber is continuing to be produced albeit at a reduced rate, creating an added challenge for the average person wanting to start their project. Despite all these factors, it does not mean that fall renos are impossible.

With the need for lumber not going away any time soon, the local lumber suppliers have devised a way for residents to complete their projects in a reasonable manner.

“Under these conditions it’s even more important to plan ahead,” advises Emmerson. “And part of that process must be to ensure that there will be enough supply of the items you need, generally speaking we can get you through it but planning and communication with your supplier is paramount even more so now.”

With uncertainty in these unprecedented times, it is unclear when the lumber stock will return to normal. “With the recent surge of COVID numbers that Ontario has seen,” Scheffee added, “I have to believe that the course we’re on right now is probably going to look like this for at least the near future.”  As such, lumber suppliers continue to encourage people to complete renovations, however they strongly suggest you contact your building centre first to provide your supply list first so they may source your materials.

Alex Gallacher is a contributing writer.