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January 19, 2022

Got wood? Tech is ensuring we never suffer another lumber shortage

The pandemic has been marked by brief periods of shortage worldwide (remember the great toilet paper rush of 2020?). We’ve temporarily run out of everything from gym equipment to condoms and even aluminum cans, and now a lumber shortage has hit close to home, raising concern among DIY enthusiasts and potential house owners around the world.

The scarcity of lumber brought prices to an all-time high of $1,686 per thousand board feet in May, a 400 percent peak from pre-pandemic levels when prices shuffled between $350 to $500. In August, there was some good news as wood fell to $399 per thousand board feet. But that didn’t last too long as lumber shot back up by 50 percent a few weeks later.

For consumers, this means that it’s gotten even more expensive to build, buy, or remodel your house. Meanwhile businesses could be facing increasing construction costs.

Analysts say that this ongoing surge isn’t expected to re-enter the thousand-dollar territory, but it could go on well into early 2022. At this point you might be asking, where did all the lumber go? We’ll explain what’s behind the shortage and rising costs and how tech could secure the industry for the future.

Where did all the lumber go?

The spike was prompted by several factors, the least of them being a shortage of trees. At the start of the pandemic, there was low demand for lumber and sawmill inventories were equally low, thanks to labor cuts and health restrictions.

Then the lockdown happened, leading to an uptick in DIY home improvement, building, and buying of new homes; projects that ordinarily require a lot of woodwork. Basically, when increased demand for lumber meets supply setbacks related to a labor crisis, you get a global shortage.

Like every other industry affected by the pandemic, lumber production facilities had to make adjustments to their operations, which initially slowed down production and resulted in less supply. But even now as the sawmills are up and running once again, reports show that workers’ concerns over low wages and risky working conditions have created an employment gap in the industry, and this just puts more pressure on the lumber supply chain.

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