Which building materials are in short supply?

In recent times, the construction industry has faced significant challenges due to shortages in key building materials. This situation has been influenced by various factors such as supply chain disruptions, increased demand, and logistical delays. Among the materials most commonly in short supply are lumber, steel, and PVC piping. Lumber has seen a notable price increase and scarcity due to heightened demand and production slowdowns. Steel, essential for structural components and reinforcements, has also been in limited supply, impacting numerous construction projects. Additionally, PVC piping, widely used in plumbing, has faced shortages due to high demand and production issues. These shortages have led to delays in construction projects and increased costs. For instance, if you were looking to renovate or build and required heating solutions, you might encounter delays or higher costs, even when working with a leading gas boiler installation company in Glasgow. This example underscores how widespread the impact of material shortages can be, affecting various aspects of construction and renovation projects across different regions and specialties.

More than 90% of builders reported shortages of appliances, frame wood, and a type of engineered wood known as oriented fiberboard, according to a May survey by the National Association of Home Builders. Another 90% said they faced a shortage of plywood, and 87% cited shortages of windows and doors. Supply problems continued to affect a number of materials, including bricks, roof tiles, steel lintels and certain sealants, coatings and paints. 71% of contractors surveyed face at least one material shortage, according to report.

Sawn timber was the most cited material shortage (31%), followed by steel or electrical supplies other than copper wire (11%) and lighting supplies (10%). Imported wood was one of the materials most affected by the supply crisis, but, after unprecedented imports, the situation has returned to more normal levels and prices have fallen from last summer's highs. The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) said last week that “stability” had returned to the market and that stocks had been replenished. Roofing products are still hard to come by.

According to a survey by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) and industry crawler Glenigan, 92 percent reported rising prices and 77 percent of roofing companies reported deteriorating availability. The CLC reported this week that delivery times averaged 24 weeks and increased to 41 weeks for some profiles. In addition, clay roof tiles are subject to price increases, due to rising energy costs. As for builders, a recent survey by the Federation of Homebuilders revealed that 78 percent of homebuilders said that the supply and cost of materials such as bricks, wood and cement posed a big problem.

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Building materials

supplier Jewsons January update reveals manufacturers continue to raise prices due to “unprecedented global demand”, as well as rising transportation costs and operating procedures, such as social distancing. However, litigation arising from shortages is not limited to consumer contracts, as shortages make it difficult for contractors and builders to find materials in the first instance, let alone find materials they can afford. April's BEIS Monthly Statistics of Building Materials and Components (opens in new tab) report warned that annual material price inflation rose to more than 24% in March for various materials.

Therefore, while domestic production should improve and provide relief, companies that rely on foreign components may continue to struggle to source materials. Other missing materials included everything from HVAC equipment and roofing materials to steel, concrete bricks and plumbing fixtures. With high demand and low supplies, prices for some construction materials have increased by up to 97% in the UK in the past year. Fuel, copper, steel and aluminum have seen modest price increases, while the price of concrete has fallen slightly, according to Atillo Rivetti, vice president of Turner Construction, who collects the company's construction cost index.

With existing home prices largely out of reach, many have shifted to building new housing in more rural areas, increasing pressure on global material shortages. RIBA's most recent Future Trends report reveals that cost inflation, along with shortages of materials and people, is causing project delays and making bidding increasingly difficult. Stocks increased slightly during the quieter winter months, but as the market accelerates in the spring, it will be essential for self-builders to plan ahead and work with manufacturers to ensure availability deadlines. As for the shortage of construction workers, London Mayor Sadiq Khan last week called on the government to create a temporary visa plan, as vacancies in the industry reached a 20-year high.

Labor shortages have also played a role, such as the lack of heavy vehicle drivers and the shortage of construction workers. The recent shortage of construction materials first appeared when COVID-19 hit and factories around the world were forced to close. In its Builder Merchants Building Index (BMBI), the BMF indicates that demand for construction materials remains high but stable, but it also warns that price inflation is a critical issue, and that the rate of increase in energy and raw material costs could affect those working on self-construction projects, renovation and expansion. While supply chain problems will be corrected over time, labor shortages affecting the construction industry are expected to intensify.

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Arnold Kinsland
Arnold Kinsland

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