It’s very much in the news right now – lumber costs and all building material costs for that matter have been rising and are in high demand. At Sullivan’s, we wanted to address the current building issues and what we’re doing to mitigate them.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH LUMBER?
There are a number of factors affecting the availability and price of lumber. Clearly, everyone is still blaming Covid-19 as lumber yards shut down production last year. For hardwoods, that’s still largely the reason - that and the overwhelming demand. Most of our hardwoods come out of Canada, which still has some of the strictest lockdown measures in place. However, Covid-19 is only one factor.
Here are a few more:
High Demand – This is by far the largest and most overarching factor. During 2020 with all of America spending more time in their homes, suddenly we all had time for projects – either DIY or hiring a remodel. This made for a mad rush for materials for decks, kitchen & bath remodels, etc. Add in the number of people deciding to move out of the city and into new construction, and you have a major gap in supply and demand.
Tariffs - From 2017 to late 2020, the U.S. raised tariffs on Canadian lumber. This along with the pandemic created a problematic scenario in the wood industry. However, some tariffs were reduced from 20% to 9% in December 2020, which will hopefully provide relief and stabilization of prices.
Wildfires in 2020 – These devastating wildfires not only obliterated thousands of acres of timberland, but also caused a spike in demand as many people scrambled to rebuild.
Everything from sheet goods, hardwoods, and hardware are hard to get. And we all know that when supply is low, prices go up.
MDF is increasingly hard to find. The majority of the resin used for MDF is manufactured in Germany. Vietnam had also recently began manufacturing it as well. Again, Covid-19 lockdowns created a supply chain issue with the resin. Since MDF isn’t as readily available, people started looking for cost-effective alternatives, which in turn is driving up the cost of those alternatives. We’ve also seen the price of poplar wood double in the past couple of months.
Everyone is feeling this across the industry, and again, if you’re in the middle of a remodel, you’ve probably seen or heard similar stories. A boom in construction has created a trickle-down effect for everything from appliances to plumbing fixtures and tile are experiencing the same issues. At Sullivan’s, we almost exclusively use Blum brand hardware because we believe it’s one of the best on the market (Read more about our hardware here.) While Blum hardware is assembled in North Carolina, it is an Austrian company, and many sub-parts are built overseas.
Due to high demand & the strain on supply, our distributors are using an “allocation” system. In fact, they are also being given allocations from the manufacturers. What does that mean? It means they’re only allotted so many units for every shipment, and then they divide that allocation between their customers. To use a very basic example, let’s say our distributor is allocated 1000 hinges per shipment. They then allow us, as the customer, to receive 200 of those hinges.
In addition, many manufacturers will completely close to new orders so they can catch-up with their existing orders. For example, in March 2021, Roseburg - one of the largest lumber mills in Canada - stopped accepting orders for 8 weeks to catch up on existing orders.
Our lead times generally run 3-5 weeks for unfinished cabinetry and 8-10 weeks for prefinished cabinets. However, due to current demand and the many reasons listed above, our lead times could be increased.
THE GOOD NEWS
We’re doing our very best to stay ahead of demand with lumber and hardware. We’re in daily communication with our suppliers to stay aware of current supply chains and adjust our purchasing accordingly. We’ve also hired 5 new team members to help manage production, and our team is working overtime to keep us on schedule. Our shop is packed to the brim trying to keep up with demand!
If you’ve been doing a remodel or new build, you have experienced these issues first hand. Hang in there and stay the course! As you know, quality and craftsmanship are key to cabinetry being a worthwhile investment in your home both for the long haul and for resell value. The final product will be worth it!