Tradies to plan ahead as timber issues worsen

27/05/2021

A shortage of timber and building products is continuing to threaten Australia’s current construction boom, according to a report by the Goulburn Post.

Builder, Lewis Reardon said in the report that there was “definitely a shortage of all sorts of timber”.

“People have trouble getting frames and trusses, some companies will not even provide a quote unless they know they will get the job,” Mr Reardon said.

Currently, Mr Reardon, from Goulburn in NSW’s Southern Tablelands, has a lot of materials but he put this down to orders being placed early.

He stated Federal Government incentives, such as the HomeBuilder plan, contributed to demand. The scheme offers grants of up to $25,000 for new builds or renovations for eligible owner-occupiers.

“The whole industry is going crazy, there is a boom in Goulburn. Sydney buyers come in and buy 20 to 30 blocks at a time. It is good for the town in a lot of ways, but in other ways it makes it hard,” he said.

If shortages proceed, tradies will certainly need to consider other options, he said.

Mr Reardon said steel structures were an alternative but they increased prices by 30 per cent across the whole job.

“If we get really short we might have to opt for hand cut frames, but that could create difficulties with ordering. If it gets to that point we will take it day by day,” Mr Reardon.

Mitre 10 Goulburn Operations Manager, Matthew Lawler, put the timber shortage down to COVID, international tariffs and the ongoing impact of the 2019/20 bushfires.

“The bushfires completely stripped supplies,” he claimed.

Mr Lawler explained in the report that burnt product meant suppliers went through blades quicker which made manufacturing difficult.

He said the construction boom in Goulburn was nothing new.

“Goulburn has actually been on the up and also up for the past seven years I’ve been functioning here.”

Mr Lawler stated that while Mitre 10 had an excellent partnership with current suppliers and was “one of the priorities” they were searching for alternative solutions.

He prompted tradespersons to “plan ahead”.

“You need to know all your materials and alternatives just in case. Otherwise, we will get to the point where there will be half-finished jobs everywhere.”

He stated options included a Laminated Veneer Lumber item (LVL) that could be utilised for frames and trusses. Although, this product was also in short supply and manufactured in Europe and also Russia.

Steel was another choice but Mr Lawler said supply was “drained” as a result of present demand. He said builders were also finding it tough to acquire metal reinforcing mesh for concrete.

Custom Built Frames and Trusses owner, Greg Dobson claimed there was a general shortage of building materials across the world.

He stated in the report the Braemar business did not run for two days due to the fact that there was insufficient wood product.

“We do not have enough material to make what we need to make,” Mr Dobson said.

He stated the normal five to six week preparation was now between 10 and 12 weeks.

“We don’t have the wood to produce frames and trusses, so we don’t have the opportunity to hire new people.

“It’s slowing production down, and if the timber supply changes at any time it could push it back further.”

Mr Dobson stated COVID-19 was the driver behind the scarcities, but “it’s not just one thing”.

“The whole building supply chain is under pressure. Everything took off faster than expected, the whole supply chain has not recovered,” he said.

The business-owner stated wood fibre product was diverted to China or Singapore and delaying import.

“No one can really say when it is going to improve,” he said.

By Christine Bannister.