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Rising Lumber Costs

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have experienced hardships that were foreign to us before last year. The resulting lockdown status of many states was necessary to curb the spread of the infection but as expected, brought some undesirable economic impacts into the picture. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to rising prices caused by COVID-19 is the over 250% increase in lumber prices.

While many people speculate that this has something to do with political alignment, the root of the cost increase can be attributed to two factors which boil down to a simple supply and demand discrepancy. Increasingly strict restrictions forced many lumber mills around the country to seize or substantially cut back on production. Simultaneously, many people decided to use their newfound time at home to undertake home improvement and building projects. This increase in demand and drop in supply is responsible for the massive increase in lumber costs. Fortunately for you, there are more alternatives for affordable building costs than ever before.

Sustainable Building Materials

The National Association of Homebuilders claims that the average cost increase of single-family homes built with stick lumber has increased by an estimated $24-$36,000 while an increase of $13,000 was seen for multi-family homes. One might think that the obvious conclusion here would be to hold off on building until the lumber prices dropped but what if we told you you didn’t need to? Here at PSE Consulting Engineers, we specialize in building with sustainable materials that are more affordable and more durable than traditional lumber, making now as good a time as ever to get building. Three of our most common alternatives to building with lumber are as follows:

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)

First patented in 1967, Insulated Concrete Forms have grown in popularity and offer benefits that lumber just doesn’t provide. ICF buildings are first formed by stacking polystyrene blocks together and securing them with rebar. These dense foam blocks are left hollow in the center and are later filled with concrete to give the building the durability necessary for a safe structure. Insulated concrete forms are far more advantageous than timber-framed buildings. Some of the main benefits of ICFs are:

  • Concrete is sustainable
  • High thermal mass and insulation rating
  • Unlimited design options
  • Durable
  • Resistant to moisture and pests that are damaging to lumber

Light Gauge Steel

Steel framing has been around for over a century but has mainly been used for commercial buildings and skyscrapers due to the increased durability and longevity over lumber. As lumber prices are expected to continue to increase there has never been a better time than right now to build with steel. Light gauge steel framing is comparable to lumber in price but far superior in performance.

  • 20x stronger than wood
  • Resists mold in damp conditions
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Resists damaging pests

Shipping Containers

Originally thought to be a passing fad, shipping container structures have continued to prove their worth and it looks like they are here to stay. Reusing shipping containers removes all of the production involved in producing other building materials. This makes them one of the greenest building materials available today. Geometrically friendly in their shape, these containers make building a simple series of stacking and inverting big blocks. A single container can be finished to make a tiny home or hundreds can be used for building massive structures. When it comes to building with shipping containers the possibilities are endless, and the benefits are plenty.

  • Stronger than wood
  • Cheaper than lumber
  • Low-maintenance
  • Environmentally friendly

Contact PSE Consulting Engineers 

Here at PSE Consulting Engineers, we’re in the business of designing structures for the future, today. By offering alternative building materials, we’re able to offer more sustainable and efficient structural engineering design among rising material costs. Contact PSE today for all of your structural and civil engineering, construction management, and custom home design needs.