The low supply of construction materials is driving prices through the roof

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 12:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lumber, wiring, appliances are either getting harder to find or a lot more expensive and that’s leading to tough decisions for construction firms and their clients.

According to Mark Schwinn, the President of Hawaii Lumber Products Association, it’s not just lumber that’s become expensive. The rising price for all building material could end up delaying a lot of construction jobs.

“I mean, the truth is, we just haven’t seen anything like this before if ever,” said Mark Schwinn.

Schwinn said there are several factors contributing to the shortage: COVID restrictions on production companies, wildfires on the mainland, and a harsh winter.

“The cost of plywood, for example, it’s up so high, that’s just going to make anyone kind of question if they want to do that project at home right now or they want to wait this out a little bit,” said Schwinn.

City Mill’s Merchant Eric Yamashita said it’s also because with people staying at home, they’re turning to DIY projects.

“A lot of this is all new territory for us,” said Yamashita.

The merchant said he is constantly checking prices.

“Not just myself, but the other merchants are also checking prices consistently, to see what the competition is doing because costs are just extremely high,” said Yamashita.

Senior Construction Manager at Graham Builders, Mike Crews said they build under contracts, with material costs locked in well in advance.

“And if the plywood keeps going, and the 2-by-4s, keep going, we can’t really pass that on,” said Crews.

“So that comes out of our pocket bottom line as of right now, so that’s not a good thing.” Crews said they’re booked with projects for the rest of the year. Most of their clientele are working people.

It’s unclear how long the shortage will last, but Crews says they may eventually have to raise their prices for future projects.

“Our guys are struggling to make the ends meet, the interest rate stays low so it’s good for us,” said Crews. “But the interest rate goes back up, then we’ll have some effect.”

Schwinn advises waiting and seeing what happens especially for small projects that aren’t time sensitive.

Experts say there’s no real telling as to how long the materials shortage will last but they hope that as more people get vaccinated, work on production can ramp back up.

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