More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global economy, the prices of many construction materials are still elevated. Inflation, high gasoline prices, a lack of shipping containers and the labor shortage are all contributing factors.
According to construction industry experts, steel, concrete and wood currently are among the most sought-after materials.
Ray Brosnan, construction expert with Brosnan Property Solutions, said there are sharp cost increases across the board, but glass, cement and steel are affected somewhat more than other essential construction materials.
“The ongoing energy crisis is the root cause as all of these materials are quite energy intensive to produce,” Brosnan said. “With these, there won’t necessarily be a shortage, but rather a lot of contractors and builders will simply choose to look for alternatives until the price begins to normalize somewhat.”
Steel vulnerable in the US
Steel has been particularly vulnerable in the US in recent months, as Ukraine and Russia were two of the biggest steel exporters in the world. Now, with the two countries mired in conflict, which has prompted economic sanctions on Russia and destroyed much of the natural resources in Ukraine, supplies are suffering.
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The demand for steel, meanwhile, has rapidly increased in recent years because of a rise in skyscraper construction. A composite material made from iron and carbon, steel is an essential component for high-rise buildings due to its functionality and strength, said Andrew Johnson, CEO of Prime Seamless Gutters & Roofing.
Global sanctions impact timber
Similarly, timber has also been affected. Over the past 18 months, there have been global timber shortages, but around December 2021 to January 2022 things appeared to have stabilized, with the price of wood now near a 17-year low. However, Brosnan said global sanctions placed on Belarus and Russia have seriously impacted birch plywood, OBS and pallet supplies. Although this is one element, it has a knock-on effect that will probably affect things like concrete, insulation and plastic products in the near future, he added.
Recycled concrete used now
Johnson said another factor that has recently come to light is that concrete can be recycled and reused. As most organizations are shifting toward a more environmentally friendly approach, they have started using recycled concrete, he said.
Bamboo and cork flooring not easily obtained
Ralph Severson, owner of Flooring Masters, said the most in-demand materials for his company are always tile and laminate. “When we have customers who are mindful of sustainable, ecofriendly materials, we have had some problems,” he said. “Bamboo and cork flooring have not been as easily obtained this year.”
Severson added he keeps having to reschedule installation for those customers as he gets bad news from suppliers. One thing that has worked to overcome this: the company allows customers to source their own materials, and it found bamboo readily available elsewhere.