How to avoid skyrocketing lumber costs for building and renovating

lumber prices climbYou just had to know there would be a downside to any recovery in the housing market -- even the beginnings of one. And, sure enough, there is: the price of lumber is going through the roof, up some 65% in just the past year.

"Prices are going up and they will continue to go up, and it's going to be a problem in the next few years trying to control that, builder Brett Griffen tells Wisconsin ABC-TV affiliate WBAY.

According to, "The cost of 1,000 board feet of framing lumber was about $208 a year ago. Now it is $343."

There is apparently an acute shortage of supply brought about by the housing bubble burst which caused mills in both the United States and Canada to greatly slash production, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now, with an uptick in demand in some parts of the country, mills are pretty much free to raise their prices as much as the market will tolerate.

Obviously, the greatly increased cost of lumber doesn't just impact home building, it also makes renovations to existing properties a lot more expensive.

But experts will tell you there are ways to buy lumber, good quality lumber, at cheaper than lumber yard prices.

One of the best ways is at auction. You can often learn about local lumber auctions through the auction section of your town newspaper (you remember those?) and the prices can be as much as 80% lower than what you'd pay at a lumber yard.

According to, you can often even get free lumber by visiting construction site dumpsters, though you should always get permission first before going onto a construction site.

If you are not the dumpster type, you may want to try reading woodworking forums, says the Web site, where "there's always someone who's got a line on some cheap wood at a great price." If all you need is a small amount of lumber, you may try visiting a junk store or even flea market where you just might get your hands on some handsome oak or mahogany.

Getting back to the rising cost of building a home from scratch, if you are wondering just how much more expensive it has become in just a short amount of time, consider this: according to builder Brett Griffin, interviewed by WBAY, " a person building a home who bought lumber four months ago saved $20,000" over prices for lumber now.

And, lumber prices are likely to continue to rise in the months ahead because it will take some time before lumber mills can get back up to speed after operating in slow motion for so many months on end.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.
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