Posted on Monday, May 10th, 2021

The perfect COVID-19 storm is brewing, driving up the price of mainstay construction materials by up to 300 per cent with no real end in sight.

The pandemic is being blamed for much of the supply chain and delivery problems while demand is being driven by home-bound individuals spending vacation dollars on home construction over-heating the low-interest general construction market in both the U.S. and Canada. 

At the same time, governments have been pumping billions into infrastructure recovery programs.

Flying high are wood product values with Western spruce-pine-fir (SPF) dimensional lumber prices tripling, cedar landscaping product prices doubling, and plywood per sheet prices tripling in three months.

Steel has also been slammed.

During the first quarter of 2021, rebar prices have almost doubled, said Anoop Khosla, managing director of Midvalley Rebar, as rebar shot up from $500 to $900.

“It is ridiculous,” said Khosla.

Structural steel has risen from US$550 per ton to close to US$1,000 per ton. Khosla said the steel prices are hitting Western Canada’s construction industry hard because Western Canada has only one mill able to supply 20 per cent of what is required. Shipping by rail from Eastern Canada mills is cost prohibitive while importing is subject to federal tariff duties.  

Currently, Khosla said, suppliers are on allocation from U.S. steel producers.

We have an all-time record high benchmark…and this more than three times the 20-year average,

— Joel Neuheimer
Forest Products Association of Canada

Khosla said the demand for rebar and structural steel is also coming from the U.S. which is going through a building boom.  

Adding fuel to the hot market is government infrastructure spending as a COVID economic recovery plan and new projects are further squeezing supply. 

The high steel prices are expected to trickle down into pricing of new construction equipment and parts. “We have not had any increases yet,” said Hayco Industries owner Brian Butzelaar, who handles long-reach equipment sales, but it is expected.

Butzelaar, who has worked in the industry for 30 years, said what is being seen are delays in shipping. “We have ordered some parts from Korea,” he said, adding the estimated time of arrival is double normal delivery.  

President of the Electrical Contractors Association of British Columbia (ECABC) Deborah Cahill said via email, “ECABC’s membership is ­­experiencing both increased prices and a supply shortage. Cost increases vary depending on the material or equipment, but they are happening regularly and are reportedly more than 30 per cent cumulatively. “

Cahill said the supply chain appears to be severely disrupted by a number of factors such as COVID-19, the Texas winter storms and shipping container delays.

“Members are varying degrees of optimistic whether or not the unpredictable pricing and availability of materials will end in the near future. Some warn that if there isn’t more stability soon, B.C.’s construction market could be adversely impacted, and we could potentially see projects delayed.”

Canada is seeing all-time price records for lumber.

“As of April 20, we have an all-time record high benchmark in Western spruce-pine-fir lumber of $1,285 per thousand board feet and this more than three times the 20-year average,” said Forest Products Association of Canada vice-president of international trade Joel Neuheimer. 

Southern yellow pine 2x4s also reached a record high of $1,080 per thousand board feet.

Neuheimer said the combined circumstances leading to the soaring prices was not predicted as big box stores actually cancelled orders last year anticipating a downturn in construction.

But instead employees at home with unspent vacation dollars began to renovate or expand their homes not just in Canada but the U.S.

Another factor was the mild winter that saw the construction season extended later in the U.S. and Canada starting earlier. 

As well, the latest 2016 lumber tariff dispute with the U.S. has also cased Canadian mills to close in past years, crimping production abilities while large forest fires and the mountain pine beetle have impacted the supply side.

Neuheimer does not see an end in sight but suggests prices could ease up this summer but much will depend upon how soon COVID is conquered and employees return to offices.  

CIBC forest products researcher and executive director Hamir Patel issued an update on engineered wood products based on figures from Random Lengths, a trade publication that tracks lumber prices. Oriented strand board rose to new heights in Western Canada to an all-time record of $1,355 per thousand square feet while in other regions it ranged from $960 to $1,090 per thousand square feet.

CIBC, which tracks U.S. and Canadian housing starts, both of which are surging, doesn’t see an end in sight soon.

“The industry seems incapable of bringing on additional capacity to rebuild inventories given long equipment vendor lead times for kilns, air permit constraints and challenges maintaining (let alone growing) staffing levels in mill towns. We do not anticipate a meaningful capacity response until 2022,” a CIBC issued investment report said.

Cedar product used in landscaping and decking also jumped.


To provide the best customer experience through innovation and consistent adaptation; to develop quality, environmentally-friendly homes while positively impacting our communities through supporting and giving back locally, one home at a time.


Salmon Arm, BC
1190 51 Street NE
Salmon Arm, BC

Kamloops, BC
7510 Dallas Drive
Kamloops, BC

Cranbrook, BC
2232 Cranbrook Street N.
Cranbrook, BC

Castlegar, BC
4430 Minto Road,
Castlegar, BC