Why Is Timber So Expensive Now?

There has been a ‘perfect storm’ in the world timber market over the last couple of years, which has had a significant impact on the price of timber. This includes the logs that we use in our log home kits, and the wood used in the manufacture of the windows and doors. It’s now far more difficult to estimate prices, and when an estimate is given it may well only be applicable for the week that it is given.

So what’s been happening?

Pests

Over recent years, large areas of forest in European countries including Germany and France, and also in North America, have been affected by spruce bark beetles. These can kill the trees, making them useless for construction.

It’s possible that climate change is contributing to the spread of such pests, as long, hot and dry summers affect tree health. Once the trees have died, they are more susceptible to fire – in Europe in 2021, about half a million hectares of forest burned down.

Forest on fire by Matt Howard on Unsplash

Pandemic

Production shutdowns in the early months of the global pandemic caused sawmills to close. This resulted in an imbalance of supply and demand – and as soon as the demand for materials increased again, prices started to rise. With worldwide demand higher, sawmills in the Nordic countries have been supplying those willing to pay higher prices first. Production in Finnish sawmills has increased but can’t keep up with the demand, which is forecast to continue to increase for several years yet. 

Sawmills in North America are starting to expand capacity again, so hopefully the regional demand for timber will be satisfied locally over the coming months. 

Putin

The war between Russia and Ukraine has caused untold suffering for tens of thousands of people. It seems churlish to comment on the impact of this on other things, but this has dealt another blow to the timber industry, just when things were starting to improve. This has stopped the supply of timber from Russia and Belarus, and also made it hard to source timber from the Ukraine – and all these countries are suppliers of timber to the global market. 

Although our log home kits are usually manufactured from slow grown trees sourced from within sustainable forests in Finland, wholesale prices have again been adversely affected.

So what might the impact be on your project? We usually advise people to focus on what they can afford to spend on a project, and work backwards from that to see what they might be able to build. Whatever build route you choose for your home, it’s likely that the overall cost is likely to be broadly similar if you’re paying others to manage the project and build your house for you. All material costs have increased significantly over the last couple of years, not just timber, and the advantages of a log home kit still apply. 

A log home is relatively quick to construct, involves very little wet trades, and will be highly energy efficient. All things considered, timber is still an excellent choice for your self build project. 

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