Softwood lumber prices have doubled.

If you were planning to build a new wooden deck this year, you might want to grab a chair or maybe even lay down. That’s because lumber prices have more than doubled in the last year. That’s right — lumber costs have risen by more than 100%. The cost hike isn’t confined to a single area, either. Builders and homeowners all over the country are feeling the pain of higher lumber costs. So if you are planning to build a new deck using pressure-treated lumber, you can plan to spend twice as much for softwood lumber, or you could reduce the size of your new deck by 50%. Or you could look for alternative building materials.

Why is lumber so expensive?

Are lumber mills just trying to double their profits? Of course not. Several different factors are negatively affecting the price of softwood lumber.

Demand for single-family homes is up — a lot.

COVID can take some of the blame here. Homebuilders in most markets see strong demand for single-family dwellings. Since Americans couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, they spent a lot of time at home, and some of them decided they wanted new homes. In fact, housing starts are up 30% percent this year. And all those new homes are built with lumber.

Production was down.

Lumber mills and dealers miscalculated in 2020, thinking that an uncertain economy would mean more cautious consumers and less demand. So they scaled back on the amount of lumber they produced. Another factor limiting production? You guessed it, COVID-19. To maintain social distancing, mills couldn’t have as many workers in the same area at the same time, which severely limited production.

We’re stuck at home but still spending.

Blame COVID one more time. Because Americans are spending so much time at home, sales of furniture and large appliances are up, and those large, heavy items are shipped on pallets made of softwood lumber. And lots of homeowners want to remodel their homes — or add a deck.

What this means for your deck project.

If you want a new deck, you’re not alone. Homeowners all over the country are taking on home improvement projects. So we’re all competing for the same finite amount of lumber. But there is an upside to skyrocketing softwood lumber costs: other building materials are more price competitive. Actually, while softwood lumber might have a lower initial cost, it’s no bargain in the long-term. Alternatives, like composite decking or PVC decking, are an even better value. While these materials have seen some price increases, they’re nothing like what’s happening with softwood lumber.

If you’re putting new decking on an existing structure, you won’t feel the pinch of rising lumber cost as much. However, if you’re adding or replacing your foundation posts and joists, you can expect them to cost a lot more, assuming they’re in stock.

An alternative to softwood lumber.

At Armadillo, we make composite decking. We know the advantages and disadvantages of lumber, and there are plenty of reasons to avoid softwood lumber. It warps, it splits, and it cracks. It creates some horrific splinters. And it requires far more maintenance and upkeep than alternative decking materials. So if you were planning to do a new wooden deck, there’s good news: composite decking (like Armadillo Lifestyle) is looking better all the time.

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