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COVID-19 pandemic causing construction costs to skyrocket



James Burnett, owner of Mid South Lumber & Supply (photo courtesy Mollie Burnett).

No one in this part of the world understands the ebbs and flows of the building trades industry quite like James Burnett. At age 85, the owner of Mid South Lumber & Supply has more than 50 years experience in supplying building materials and has navigated economic conditions from building booms to recessions.

The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly the root source of skyrocketing price increases in building supplies, Burnett indicated.

“I told a gentleman Friday, ‘I’m almost embarrassed to quote some of these prices’,” he said.

“The demand has been about normal,” he added. “It’s the supply that is forcing the costs up. When the pandemic started, lumber mills and factories closed down. When they reopened, social distancing decreased production, and the trickle down was in the huge price increases.”

The National Home Builders Association says framing lumber has more than doubled in some areas. Burnett says locally the increase is about 60%; however, wafer board is at a premium. One customer recently purchased wafer board at $10.28 per sheet. When he returned the unused portion, the price was up to $24.92 per sheet. Burnett says other materials such as PVC pipe have seen an uptick as well.

Mid South is competitive with the big corporate stores in price and specialty services, such as custom cutting for rafters and insulation installation, keeping the store a primary supplier for area builders.

Burnett remains optimistic that prices will level out at some point. Unfortunately, it may be a long time, if ever, before prices come down for many items.

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