The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) for March increased a strong 5.5 percent to $482.12 per thousand and that is on top of the 11.1 percent increase from the prior month. Inflation in the wood commodity markets has been unabated since December and that is even with a very cold and snowy winter in the Midwest and northeast. Increased costs in manufacturing and labor as well as the specter of higher tariffs have fueled these increases as housing demand while solid is not booming.
Since last month, the dimensional lumber portion of the Index has increased 4.3 percent to $533.42 per thousand. Depending on the width and length, price increases varied from 1.9 to 7.8 percent in spruce. Wide width pine added 4 to 7 percent while treated 2x4 pine jumped 8.2 percent. 2x6 spruce was the only item in the Index to decline and it dropped 1.8 percent or $10 per thousand. Since mid-December, the dimensional portion of the Index has increased a whopping 18.1 percent.
The sheathing portion of the Wood Commodity Index has shown no letup in price increases. Over the last 30 days, the sheathing is up 6.7 percent to $443.80 per thousand. The average sheet of OSB and CDX just over the last month has increased 89 cents. The average sheathing price increase for the first part of the year is nothing short of unbelievable, especially given the harsh winter weather. Prices for CDX and OSB have increased on average $95.95 per thousand or $2.97 per sheet, which is 26.5 percent.
The overall Wood Commodity Index is up 22.3 percent since mid-December and that is too much too fast. Emotions about tariffs and supply issues are heightening, which appears to be the primary market movers because overall housing demand does not support these types of increases in this short period. It is also indicative of a supply chain that remains in tatters since the Great Recession.
While wood pricing has settled over the last week or so, there are no indications that prices are going to drop suddenly, especially as the northern areas thaw. These problems could persist to early summer and builders should prepare by implementing a price protection clause in their agreements and updating prices on long-term projects. No builder can cover these types of increases and remain in business.
Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida (www.romaclumber.com), and he is a former President of the Southeast Mississippi Home Builders Association, and past Associate Vice President of the Home Builders Association of Lake County. To contact Magruder, email him at
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) for February increased a whopping 11.1 percent to $456.83 per thousand as wood prices rose in all species and sizes. It is unclear if this runup in price is a precursor to much higher springtime pricing driven by demand or it is a reaction to trade, trucking and labor concerns. This increase added to the 4.4 percent increase from the prior month suggests the market may be getting ahead of itself.
The dimensional lumber portion of the Index increased 7.4 percent adding on average $36 per thousand. 2x12 #2 pine incurred brutal increases of $78 to $83 per thousand while spruce dimensional ranged from $32 to $43. This week, the spike in lumber prices seemed to lose some steam and it is way too early to determine if this is the first sign of stabilization or just a breather before the next run.
The wood sheathing portion of the Index increased 14.7 percent to $416.08 as the average price of both CDX and OSB added $53.42 per thousand or $1.71 per sheet. Those are heavy increases for this time of year and the markets will be hard pressed to continue this pace without some help from the weather. Plus, sheathing prices are not exactly priced at the low-end of the market.
Too much, too fast may be the best description of the market. However, builders can afford to speculate—so you must assume the prices will stick and go higher if you are bidding projects for later in the spring. Housing starts in the next month or so will really determine how much strength is buried in these markets. Stay close on prices and know what you are bidding in the future.
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) for mid-January increased 4.4 percent to $411.25 per thousand, and this reverses two months of nearly 10 percent decreases. This may be the first flashpoint of a year with significant inflation in the supply chain if housing grows as some predict. The Trump administration’s position on Canadian lumber bolstered the most recent increase in commodity pricing as final duties of 20 percent plus were slapped on two Canadian producers for anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
The dimensional lumber portion of the Index increased 5.4% to $451.29 per thousand as Canadian spruce increased in all widths and lengths. Dimensional 2x4 spruce was up $10 to $50 while stud pricing held back only adding $2 to $12 per thousand. 2x4 pine lumber was up 4.6 percent while wide-width pine was flat to a plus 2.5 percent increase. Overall, the direction of the dimensional wood market was up.
The upward direction is the same motion for the sheathing portion of the Index. CDX plywood added $30 per thousand (or almost $1 per sheet) while OSB sheathing only added $5 per thousand. Freight issues on all commodity prices are pushing up numbers as mills must struggle to find trucks and pay more to have loads hauled. Don’t expect the trucking issue to resolve itself this year.
Pricing going up the first couple of weeks in January amid a major cold snap is not a good sign. If housing demand continues to improve as does the weather, expect sharp price increases in the next few weeks. Builders should anticipate higher pricing on jobs being costed for March and April as suppliers will probably struggle to hold any pricing.
Expect higher prices and anticipate them now.
The Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. Wood Commodity Index (Index) for mid-December dropped 10.4 percent over the last 30 days, and this is on top of a 9.2 percent decline from the previous month. The decision by the United States Trade Commission in the continuing United States and Canadian Softwood Trade dispute favored the United States and reduced duties a little, but it also added some degree of pricing uncertainty. This issue is not resolved, but it did weigh down the spruce markets. Winter weather and the seasonal slowdown is also having a negative effect on the markets. If you are wondering why your profit margins on projects you built this year have declined, consider this. Since January 2017, the Index is up 36.8 percent with lumber increasing an ungodly 50.8 percent while sheathings added 25.7 percent. To make matters worse, these prices in December are off the highs of September and October. As builders and suppliers, many of us did not do a good job getting ahead of these prices and, in many cases, tried to not accept them. This may be trite but something everyone in the supply chain must realize. Unless you are a mill or timber owner, you don’t own the timber and you don’t cut the lumber. Spend your energy managing and anticipating your cost increases instead of being in denial. These types of increases must be passed to the end user. I expect pricing to be higher in 2018 for two big reasons—labor and trucking, which are expected to continue to escalate. Trucking is especially tough in Florida as carriers have limited access to hauling goods out of the state given the collapse of the citrus industry. In addition, there is an extra push of post-hurricane rebuilding in South Florida and the islands. Wood commodity prices could easily see $5-$10 upcharges on trucking. The dimensional lumber portion of the Index dropped to $451.79 per thousand (or 6.1 percent) as spruce gave back increases across the board. 2x4-16 #2 western spruce dropped 7.0 percent while 2x6-16 spruce gave back 5.6 percent. 2x4-16 #2 treated pine jumped 9.9 percent as truss plants and treaters continue to feel the hangover from Hurricane Irma demands. Wide width pine was flat. The sheathing portion of the Index dropped a whopping 14.2 percent as OSB sheathing continued its downward spiral from the hurricane highs of September. Over the last 30 days, OSB dropped $70 per thousand (or $2.24 per sheet) while CDX pine gave back $30 per thousand (or $0.96 per sheet). Oddly, the only price increase was 3/4” CDX, which added $45 and that is probably due to the mix and supply issue from the mills. If the winter weather continues to ice the north as it is doing now, expect prices to stay down for the next few weeks. In late January to mid-February, builders should probably expect the higher cost of freight to begin pushing numbers back up as well as the suppliers getting prepared for the spring selling season. This forecast is contingent upon no huge national event or political upheaval taking place, which could quickly change the fortunes of housing. My best advice to builders is simple—do not use December’s pricing to bid projects in the spring. Other building material suppliers, such as window and door manufacturers, drywall products and shingle companies are already announcing spring price increases. Your local suppliers will not be able to hold prices because the price increases will be so across the board. Builders should have price escalation clauses in their contracts. I would like to thank the builders, remodelers and subcontractors for supporting Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply. On behalf of our staff, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Enjoy your holidays—you deserve a break. Don Magruder is the Chief Executive Officer of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc. in Central Florida (www.romaclumber.com), and he is a former President of the Southeast Mississippi Home Builders Association, and past Associate Vice President of the Home Builders Association of Lake County. To contact Magruder, email him at
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