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Helena-area construction industry grapples with lumber shortages, high prices

Helena-area construction industry grapples with lumber shortages, high prices
Posted at 4:37 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 15:53:39-04

Lumber prices are on the rise across the country, and those soaring costs hit the Helena area in the middle of a housing boom. New construction—both residential and commercial—is not an unusual site around the city.

For area builders, high demand plus high costs have created challenges.

“It’s definitely a challenge that we have to navigate through, and it’s different every day,” Golden Eagle Construction president Adam Senechal said. “It feels like every project can be different.”

At the heart of the issue lie materials. Lumber shortages are driving prices up and pushing out delivery dates. Even basic necessities like I-joists for flooring, oriented strand board and plywood are hard to come by.

“Something that is normally a two-week lead time is 12 weeks out, or unavailable,” Senechal said.

The available material is expensive. According to a letter to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo signed by the National Association of Home Builders—and 38 other housing and construction-related organizations—lumber prices had nearly tripled since last spring, and the price of OSB has gone up more than 250%.

“It just won’t stop, and I don’t know where the peak is,” Myg Inc. owner Jeremy Mygland said.

Mygland has been in the construction industry for more than two decades, and he said he has never seen anything like the current situation.

“It’s unprecedented, it’s never happened,” Mygland said. “I don’t care how long you’ve been around, this has never happened, ever, it’s unprecedented.”

Part of the unprecedented situation is the continued high demand for new homes.

Senechal and Mygland have both made adjustments over the past year to continue meeting demand.

“I think it will change the industry forever,” Senechal said. “There are always lessons learned during hard times.”

Senechal said he and his team have adjusted by working with customers on new design ideas, like using engineered floor trusses instead of I-joists. He said planning ahead is also critical to address longer delivery times for materials.

Mygland said advanced planning has been key for him and his company too.

“I’ve been mitigating this since December,” Mygland said. “I’ve been buying what I can find since December in order to have wood on the ground so I was able to give a price to people.”

While there is no certain end to the shortages and rising costs of lumber, both Mygland and Senechal said they will continue to adjust in order to get projects built.