Deck builders say lumber prices are acting like stock market, hurting bottom line

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Tim Workman has been in the deck building business most of his adult life. He can’t believe what he is seeing right now.

“It is beyond crazy. The price of the wood has gone sky high,” Workman said.

Up at least 50% in some places, and in others — double. The current cost to build an average sized deck is much more.

“Pricewise, they’ve gone up another $1,200 to $2,000,” Workman said.

What a change from a year ago, when Channel 2 talked to contractor Jonathan Farrell. He said lumber prices were reasonable back then. The trouble was you couldn’t get any.

“I just told customers straight up. There’s no lumber,” Farrell said.

The pandemic was blamed for the shortage. Americans stuck at home took their stimulus checks to the big hardware stores and bought up all the boards.

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COVID-19 closed many of the sawmills, so new shipments fell behind.

Experts say a drop in production is still an issue, but last summer’s forest fires in the Pacific Northwest made things much worse.

But Workman hasn’t noticed any supply problems. Only price problems.

“Everybody says it’s because of COVID. It’s not because of COVID. They’re just taking advantage because there ‘is’ COVID. They still cut the trees the same way. They still mill the trees the same way,” Workman said.

Contractor Kenneth Branch is equally frustrated. He gives a customer a quote on a new deck one day, but when he goes to buy the boards the next day, the price has spiked again.

He thinks prices should have leveled out by now.

“It’s staying up in the high range to where it’s actually like the stock market,” Branch said.