Lumber price triples

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

A lot of people are talking about the high price of lumber these days. It’s caused, apparently, by a pent-up demand for building products. People can’t do a lot of other things, so they are building.

According to Ken Vanderwell of Vanderwell Contractors, building in the United States – as always – is the main factor in the price surge.

“Wholesale prices are currently three times higher than the spring of 2020,” he says. “Like other commodities such as oil, lumber prices are largely set in the USA marketplace, and the built-up shortage of housing has continued to drive prices to these levels.”

As a result, Vanderwell’s lumber mill in the Mitsue Industrial Park is running “flat-out” and adding extra shifts where it can. Vanderwell says, and “making machinery and equipment upgrades to increase production.”

The winter log haul went well. Vanderwell says it resulted in above 98 per cent of the logs getting into the yard. Activity in the bush is now suspended, but will resume in May, with 4.5 million seedlings to be planted this season.

Wood manufacturers aren’t the only ones cashing in; Vanderwell says timber dues paid to the provincial government “have hit all-time highs, since they are based on the selling price of lumber.”

As you might expect, the price of a sheet of OSB is very high as well. In fact it’s got so high lately, one local store isn’t ordering it.
“I won’t even stock it,” says Terry Triskle, the manager of Home Hardware in Slave Lake. “I can sell you plywood cheaper!”

A sheet of 7/16 OSB was up to $50 last week when we spoke to Triskle. The equivalent plywood was $40, he said.

Triskle says he’s heard the cost of the resin used in OSB production is a factor. The storm earlier this winter that shut down factories on the Texas coast is to blame for that.

As for local demand, Triskle says it’s been steady throughout the winter months, which is unusual.

“It never slowed down,” he says. “It’s really contradictory.”

Triskle may not be stocking OSB board, but plenty of other outlets are howling for it – hence the high price.

“OSB is definitely following the larger trend for building products,” says Tolko mill manager Trevor Brander, who adds “things are going well at the plant.”

It’s the same story over at West Fraser’s Slave Lake Veneer mill, which produces the stuff plywood is made out of. Mill manager Kevin Albrecht says the price and demand for the product is at record highs. The mill is at full production – “a big change from last year at this time.”

Albrecht says West Fraser plans to plant nine million seedlings in the area this spring and summer, starting in May.

Hot stuff….high demand is pushing lumber and panelboard prices up.

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