Cost and lead time of supplies as well as lack of workers create obstacles
By Ethan Weinstein
Here in southern Vermont, contractors are finding themselves busier than ever while lacking the resources they need to complete projects.
This spring, lumber prices soared as production declined and demand for construction increased. The price of lumber has fallen in recent weeks to roughly half of its May 2021 peak, yet many construction products — lumber included — are difficult to source quickly.
“Regarding the lumber shortage, and subsequent drastic pricing increases, it has begun to move back to normal. We’re in the very early stages of the correction, however. I expect it to take several months to fully correct,” said Nate Maslowski, who works for Savelberg Construction in Woodstock.
“We are extremely busy. The lumber issues and material price increases have not slowed business down for us at all,” Maslowski said, but that may not be the case for all contractors. “I have heard smaller contractors that have had jobs get postponed due to material prices.”
Across the country, sawmills have returned to operating at full capacity. Some mill owners have opened new locations to seize on the increased demand.
“I’m booked until summer of next year,” said contractor Greg Jenne of Jenne Construction Inc. in Bridgewater Corners. That said, lumber prices have scared a few of his customers to postpone their projects, he said.
Rather than issues with lumber prices, contractors are now struggling with increased lead times. “For products like engineered lumber, trusses, lead time is usually 4-6 weeks. Now, it’s 10-12,” said Jenne.
Rick Moore, who runs Moore Construction out of Killington, has had two-month lead times on products that usually take a week to receive. “I still don’t know when I’m going to get shingles,” he added.
While not a new issue, a lack of workers has been exacerbated by increased demand for construction. In addition to a dearth of subcontractors like plumbers and electricians, Moore is struggling to find — and keep — his construction teams. “I had people try to take my crew by offering them more money and benefits, so I had to increase my pay,” he said.
All area contractors are trying to make the most of the construction boom as long as it lasts.
“It’s great we’re super busy. It adds more stress, but in the meantime, the company’s growing,” Jenne said. “It’s surreal.”