Supply and demand rules the market as construction material costs climb
MONTREAL -- Looking up at Jean-Michel Alie's two-story home perched on a small hill at the end of a long driveway in the Eastern Townships, it's easy to understand the joy he feels as he describes the process it took to build it.
With the help of friends and family, Alie dismantled a small bungalow that once stood on his property and built a new home with double the square footage. He estimates he recycled 80 per cent of the materials from the old bungalow into his new home.
"I took out all the nails from the old wood and cut them down and every time I put a piece of wood in (to the new house), I felt proud and innovative."
But all the wood from the old home is now used up and construction on Alie's home has stalled as demand for and price of materials rises across the province.
A Leger survey conducted last December of 1,000 people indicated that since last March, 65 per cent of homeowners have done renovations to their homes, mostly related to outside patio, terrace balcony and landscaping but also plumbing, electrical, roofing and insulation work.
"Because of that I haven't built my garage," Alie says, estimating the price of wood to have almost doubled since the start of the pandemic. "I almost bought a mill to chop down trees in my yard and make my own wood."
Another Leger survey among 750 entrepreneurs and construction and renovation companies said that since March 2020, 4 out of 5 have faced problems such as delivery times or suppliers being out of stock.
Alie works as a project consultant and manager of construction and renovation sites and says he has never seen such high prices and scarcity of materials in the 25 years he's been working in construction. He says windows, cupboards, doors and other manufactured products in particular are taking too long to order and receive. Other construction materials that are impossible to recycle, such as insulation or many parts involved in electrical or plumbing work, also have prices that have risen along with the demand.
"Manufacturers don't have enough employees to meet the demands," he says. "Everything is jammed from start to finish."
It's because of this that home improvement and construction chain Lowe's recently announced plans to hire more than 7,000 people for full and part-time positions, including nearly 2,150 in Quebec.
Jonathan Ferrara is the owner of Primcar, a company that installs custom cut natural stone for exterior use. He says his company serves high-end homes and that the pandemic hasn't changed much- they've always been busy.
"Rich people are always rich," he says.
Ferrara explains that his stone company is building a pool in Hamstead and while his stone company's prices haven't risen more than three per cent, "the contractor is losing his shirt; plywood and 2 x 4s have gone up 25 per cent while limestone has risen about seven per cent."
"Big suppliers of raw materials have no fear to raise the prices because demand is so high," he says.
It's these big suppliers, and not the specialty service providers such as Ferrara's stone installations, that are causing problems for most people doing renovation and construction on their homes.
Alie says an option not enough people are willing to consider is recycling older material while renovating their homes.
"Everyone is looking to renovate. Everyone is looking for materials. Repair, repaint and repurpose instead of worrying about having a brand-new kitchen."