Is there a lumber shortage in the U.S.?

I went to the local lumber store today, to buy some wood to make signs for a craft show.

I was shocked when the lumber guy told me that the cheapest sheets of wood (particle wood) was $23.99 each.

Whan I asked why it was so much, he told me that we were having a lumber shortage because all of the wood was going to Iraq.

I don’t go to that store often because they are usually overpriced, but is he telling me the truth ?

Yes, this is generally accepted as true. Lumber prices fluctuate frequently and feel direct impacts on how things are going day to day. At least two news outlets just covered this story.

Note: Hurricanes in the East greatly added to the shortage, since it was a massive/quick hit on supplies, agravated by the Iraq situation

General consensus is that it’s true.

He speaks what is likely true, or at least true to what his suppliers have told him. Lumber is like Gas, only much greater price swings. If you price a job in December, to start in the spring, when you purchase your materials you’ll be very short on cash. Natural and manmade disasters make the price go up.


Here in Canada we’d be happy to sell you lumber at a reduced price if only your government would lift the crippling duties levied on our lumber in the last two years.

How much has the price of lumber increased, and is there anywhere on the web you can check historical prices?

I’m thinking of building about a 3000 square foot house, roughly what percentage of the cost would be lumber?

This is not the time to be building. OSB and plywood has nearly doubled, with Iraq as the given reason. Don’t I wish that we could buy Canadian lumber. You could probably buy Russian plywood, the top grades of which are similar in quality, but there’s that pesky import nonsense.

You can normally figure on about 40% of the cost being lumber for a house without a lot of custom work. The price hike for lumber is going to be temporary, but I would wait until prices drop.

Thanks Chefguy. How would I check on OSB and lumber prices? Can I just go to Lowes or some building supply store and ask? Or do you have to ask for a whole house quote? Could you suggest what a reasonable price would be. Sorry for all the questions but this is one area where I’m completely ignorant.

A contractor will get a contractor’s discount by showing his license. Obviously, more quantity equals lower prices, normally, but if there is a shortage, the seller has no incentive to move merchandise.

OSB is now going locally for about $18 a sheet, up from about $11 (depending on thickness, of course). Lowes will tell you just about anything you want to know. Ask them what the contractor’s price is and if there is a quantity discount for building a house. That’s not really a large quantity in lumber terms, by the way, so it will depend on whether or not the contractor is building multiple houses.

NPR had a report on this a few weeks ago. There was some debate as to there being a real shortage but the report said one possible cause of the dramatic price rise was due to an enormous order for plywood tent floors for use in Iraq.

Must.resist.obvious.joke. Must.think.of. board.tone. Must.resist.obvious.joke. Must.think.of. board.tone.

Here’s two news articles about it:

Lumber Shortage
“Perfect Storm” for lumber prices