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Home Improvement Tips During a Lumber Shortage

February 22, 2022
Blended photo of wood framing and a completed kitchen

If there is one thing the current supply chain disruptions have taught us, it’s that materials like lumber won’t always be available when you need them. A lumber shortage could affect your home improvement plans. You may be eager to update cabinets or replace old flooring, but production problems, wildfires, and a home improvement craze can crop up to affect the availability of lumber.

A shortage usually means that lumber is in low supply and more expensive. As demand increases, prices can skyrocket. But with a little forethought and some creative thinking, you can take advantage of wood substitute products and workarounds to keep your projects moving forward.

Use these five home improvement tips to help you navigate a lumber shortage now and in the future.

1. Make a Thorough Plan

It can sometimes be hard to plan ahead on home remodeling project plans. You can’t foresee every bump in the road. But you can create a reasonable timeline and plan for your project that takes a lumber shortage into account. Drawing up a project plan will give you a sense of the duration and cost of the project and the required steps as you proceed.

To create a basic project plan:

  • Divide your project into the number of steps involved.
  • Assign a tentative date to each step.
  • Estimate the amount of lumber and other materials needed during each step.
  • Visit your lumber provider and price out the amount required.
  • Adjust the scope of your project according to your budget and desired timeframe.

Be sure to inquire with your builder or supplier about the availability of lumber for your project. This will allow you to either move forward as planned or adjust your expectations to account for possible delays.

2. Replace Lumber with Alternative Materials

In dealing with a lumber shortage, it may be helpful to think of alternative materials to use. Are there wood substitute products? From floors to cabinets and wall framing, many projects lend themselves well to materials other than wood.

Insulated concrete forms can be used in place of lumber when building walls. This system of interlocking blocks is filled with concrete and encased in foam, providing walls with sound, lumber-free support.

For other projects, like cabinets, flooring and doors, consider unique materials like bamboo, concrete and metal. If you like a wood-look floor, but not the maintenance, tile, vinyl, cork and laminate options are available.

Reclaimed wood is another option, especially for cosmetic upgrades. Check with your builder or supplier to explore which alternatives will work for your project.

3. Check with Other Suppliers

When a home remodeling project absolutely requires wood during a shortage, it’s time to shop around. Check your regional resources to learn where lumber might be available in your area and at what cost.

Explore these lumber resources:

  • Lumber yards
  • Home improvement stores
  • Local contractors
  • Building companies
  • Hardware stores

Even local hardware stores can have their finger on the pulse during a lumber shortage. Check with all area businesses that deal in materials to build a list of potential suppliers. You will get to know your local resources and benefit from understanding which materials they have to offer and when supplies will be available.

4. Change Your Priorities

If lumber doesn’t seem to be available anywhere you check, see if you can change the focus of your home remodeling project plan. A material shortage is a good time to switch to other projects.

Wood can come at a premium while pipes, faucets, and electric wiring materials may be available in abundance. Without lumber availability, you might pivot from rehabbing your kitchen cabinets or wood flooring to upgrading an outdated bathroom. Replace a backsplash or countertops. Or use this time to move along upgrades like plumbing, tiling, and light fixtures.

5. Put on the Brakes

You can also use the time during the shortage to rethink and plan out your project. When it comes to house projects, an unexpected slow-down can offer extra time that actually benefits you in the long run.

Putting the brakes on a home improvement project gives you time to:

  • Gather your thoughts and decide what you really want. Planning a project may be the most time-consuming portion. Use your downtime to examine your space and think creatively about the upgrades you’d like to make. You may find you have given yourself time to change your mind about the details.
  • Save for current upgrades or more costly upgrades. It never hurts to have extra money to put toward a future home remodeling project. More time to save may even boost your budget, allowing you to do more than you originally planned.
  • Assess the market as it changes. Prices will always fluctuate based on supply and demand and the price of lumber won’t climb forever. Give the market time to adjust and your project may become more affordable.

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