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Lumber prices are down from their pandemic peak, but the cost is still 'asinine,' local builder says

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 24, 2021

CLEVELAND — For the last year, homeowners and builders have been watching the price of lumber soar.

"I used to buy OSB (oriented strand board) for $12 a sheet," said Joe Gromofsky. "Now it's over $48 ... I mean it's terrible. It jumped four times. 400%."

"This surge in lumber has added more than $24,000 to the price of an average new single-family home" Robert Dietz, the National Association of Home Builders’ chief economist, told the Associated Press.

Some companies are struggling to keep up with demand during the pandemic building boom.

Gromofsky was getting lumber for a decking project from the Cleveland Lumber Company on Wednesday.

"I'm busy. I'm just so busy," he said.

"This breaks all the economics as far as I'm concerned," said Kevin Arnold, an employee at the lumber yard who works directly with customers calling about quotes for projects.

Industry analysts say the price of lumber is dropping from the pandemic high. Last week, the price per thousand board feet fell $211. However, Gromofsky said he isn't seeing it yet.

"They're still going to have sticker shock because even if it has come down, it's very little," Arnold said. "$40 a foot -- that's a lot of money."

Once the lumber leaves the yard and goes to a project, the cost is felt there too.

"For the last year and a half, I've been operating literally breaking even or getting paid in hugs and tacos," said Chad Stone, who owns an Akron-based construction and remodeling business. "The only thing that's not going up is the haircut I just got."

Stone said the high prices for supplies are shrinking his profit margins.

"When the price is up a thousand percent and it drops 20%, it's still outrageously too much in every way."

Lumber futures are falling too, about 47%, but that's not enough for Stone.

"When I got current numbers, it was just like, what? What is going on? I mean, it's asinine where the cost of stuff is right now," he said.

He said someone is benefiting from the prices.

"I don't think it's Vince at the lumber desk," Gromofsky said.

Both men think it is a bigger issue.

"I wouldn't be pressed to say it's a national emergency," Stone said. "I'm sorry, because if they can't be controlled in some capacity on what they're charging they're just going to keep raising prices (until) it just gets so insane that no one of an average income is going to afford to do anything to their house or build a house."

The Biden Administration has created a task force to address supply chains to show that they are targeting some forces behind inflation. Part of the perceived inflationary pressure is rising wages, though, and the White House sees higher incomes as a positive. The Biden Administration also views some inflation as a byproduct of vaccinations increasing demand for workers, goods and services.

"I'm just saying — a loss for words," Stone said.

He conceded that prices could even out eventually but, "instead of through the roof or pre-COVID, it's going to be a happy medium, but that's still going to take another year and a half plus."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.