Supply shortages that have carried on since well before the holidays continue to plague the market as all sectors of the supply chain, near and far, have been suffering miserably with the effects of Covid and a lack of resources. From the mill line to the road, employers have had a terrible time keeping their already shorthanded operations running and their goods rolling as, day to day, outbreaks, quarantines and a lack of available drivers and trucks (and now railcars) have created nothing but interruptions. Not helping matters is that it is normally difficult getting material this time of year due to generally poor weather conditions (which has been delivered in spades so far across the country). The end result has been a market that cannot be satiated and so pricing has continued to ratchet higher as buyers on the wholesale and retail levels battle to get the material they need for the sake of keeping sales going which, incidentally, appear to be doing just fine despite the effects of Mother Nature. As with what commonly occurs during a heated market, there is an excitement in which buyers are prone to order more than they really want to for the fear of not being able to get stock when they really need it (aka “The Toilet Paper Phenomenon”). Experience has taught us that it’s a classic set-up for a market run-down: inevitably, employees recover, weather abates, orders reach their destinations, and the worry of obtaining material shifts to selling it off before prices deflate. However, it appears that the excitement this time around may not be as frenetic as it usually is, as traders have remarked that there has been a modicum of restraint clearly felt but rarely seen as buyers, who may have bought blindly in the past, are now doing so with one eye open. No doubt that this can be attributed to the memory of 2021’s rally (with its epic run-up and colossal collapse) which stuck dealers with high priced lumber for months. If this is the case, the hand-to-mouth strategy will likely push any significant correction farther down the calendar. In the meantime, weather conditions have slowed the upward trajectory of increases but, until this latest Covid outbreak subsides and weather and transportation methods improve, we anticipate prices will continue to climb in February as the market is very strong and firm based upon a narrow supply channel.
With the high prices and scarcity of so many building products today, it’s more important than ever that extra care is taken on the job site to keep material safe, secure, and protected from some of the harshest elements we experience throughout the year.
Wood products in particular must be given extra attention so that they stay dry, ventilated, and free from excessive moisture as water is the #1 enemy when it comes to maintaining its stability and appearance. This is easier said than done, as our high humidity climate, extreme weather conditions, and wild temperature swings can make moisture management very difficult on Cape Cod. Typically, lumber has been kiln dried to 8-12% moisture content at the mill as a method of stabilizing the board. A larger moisture content would make the board more susceptible to expansion and contractions issues which inevitably lead to splitting, cracking, twisting, cupping, and warping. However, kiln drying wood is only a best-preventative measure as it is still very vulnerable to the effects of moisture. Our “Cape Cod Winters” often have a lot of rain and snow that go through freeze-thaw cycles and coupled with sunny days and brisk winds, the absorption and evaporation cycle can quickly turn a perfectly nice board into one well-suited for a canoe.
Considering the current high costs, labor shortage, and difficulty in getting stock, the loss of the quality and value of the board is bad enough but made even worse when you have to spend extra time to make do with what you have or wait for replacement stock.
If you visit our yard, you will see that we have invested in many buildings designed for the covered storage of these products. What isn’t directly under a structured cover is covered in breathable lumber wrappers to ensure that any exposure to weather is kept to a minimum. We also make a practice of ensuring that every delivery we make is made with the utmost care in giving your material its best chance in staying clean and dry up until the moment you need it. Of critical importance, because most units can only be wrapped five sides, we place “stickers” under the units (which are perpendicular, sacrificial boards meant to prevent the order from sitting directly on the ground), which provide an airspace for ventilation, critical as lumber can wick up moisture from the ground. Once on site, it is well worth the effort to ensure that your material is high, dry, and re-covered for the night (to protect as well as to dissuade potential theft) or when anticipating inclement weather. When it comes to saving the “Benjamin’s”, take heed from Benjamin (Franklin) himself: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
2022 is off to a roaring start, despite the old challenges we are facing. With almost two years of experience with the pandemic and all of its ill effects and uncertainty, we can say that this latest round of issues, although not welcome, are familiar and so our behaviors and strategies towards being your number one source on Cape Cod for building materials have been well-honed. Planning ahead is still the best strategy that you can employ, so we ask you to please contact us if you have any issues or concerns on current or upcoming projects. Thank you for your business!