Thinking of using the remaining weeks of summer to do some home renovations? That might be harder than expected.
Several area businesses have reported a shortage on lumber — treated lumber in particular, which is often the kind used for outdoor decks and other similar projects. The shortage is a two-fold issue, caused by both an increased interest in home renovation by people stuck at home and by disruptions to the lumber supply line caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Curtis McDunn, an employee at Ace Contractor Center on Perry Highway, said many lumber mills were shut down in the spring to help contain COVID-19 infections. These mills, he explained, usually use the spring to make treated lumber that’s used throughout the rest of the summer.
“They’re never going to catch up this year,” he said.
Bill Wilson, a co-owner of Wilson Building Supplies on Cussewago Road, echoed the sentiments.
“The way it’s going, if it keeps going like this, I don’t think you’re going to see anything until the end of the year,” he said.
Shortages started becoming apparent at Wilson Building Supplies around four or five weeks ago, in Wilson’s estimation. Now the treated lumber supplies are “pretty much all gone.”
While Wilson said he could order more lumber, it likely wouldn’t reach the store for six or seven weeks, well past the peak summer season for renovation and construction projects.
Employees at the Meadville Home Depot and at Carter Lumber at Conneaut Lake reported similar shortages.
Fortunately in some businesses, the lack of treated lumber has not spelled a major financial hit. McDunn said spending has picked up in other areas that has made up for the low supply of lumber.
“We saw (an increase of interest) in the gardening section too, just because they’re home and they’ve got nowhere to go and they’ve got money to spend,” he said.
Wilson Building Supplies is having a similar experience.
“Renovations has picked up more,” Wilson said. “Actually it’s been a pretty good year even though we’re losing sales in the treated lumber.”
However, the shortage has been harsher on some stores than others. Hobbs Lumber & Hardware Inc. in Edinboro initially saw shortages on treated lumber, said employee Phil Siders, but it expanded from there.
“Well it started with treated lumber and it has trickled its way down to regular building lumber and plywoods,” he said.
That has forced the business to get creative in some circumstances. Siders cited a recent example when a customer needed a 12-inch piece of lumber, which the store didn’t have in stock. Instead, Siders took a 14-inch piece and cut it down to the appropriate size.
With the increased interest in renovation projects, Siders encouraged customers to keep calling back, as they may just reach the store on a day when their particular item is in stock. He did warn, however, that it might be a while before supplies are back to normal, even with businesses opening back up more.
“They’re actually telling us this may not actually clear up until December, January-ish,” he said.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at [email protected].