Tradies urged to 'plan ahead' as timber troubles threaten building industry

CONSTRUCTION BOOM: Lewis Reardon [middle] pouring concrete at a job in Goulburn. Photo: Hannah Neale
CONSTRUCTION BOOM: Lewis Reardon [middle] pouring concrete at a job in Goulburn. Photo: Hannah Neale

A shortage of building supplies threatens to put a dampener on the construction boom.

Builder Lewis Reardon said there was "definitely a shortage of all sorts of timber".

"People have trouble getting frames and trusses, some companies won't even provide a quote unless they know they will get the job."

Currently, Mr Reardon, from Goulburn in NSW's Southern Tablelands, has plenty of supplies but he put this down to putting orders in early.

He said government incentives such as the HomeBuilder scheme contributed to demand. The scheme offers grants of up to $25,000 for new builds or renovations for eligible owner-occupiers.

"The whole industry is going crazy, there is a boom in Goulburn," he said.

"Sydney buyers come in and buy 20 to 30 blocks at a time. It's good for the town in a lot of ways, but in other ways it makes it hard."

FOOTINGS: Goulburn is experiencing a construction boom. Photo: Hannah Neale

FOOTINGS: Goulburn is experiencing a construction boom. Photo: Hannah Neale

If shortages continue, tradies will have to consider alternatives.

Mr Reardon said steel frames were an option but they increased costs by 30 per cent across the whole job.

"If we get really short we might have to opt for hand cut frames, but that could create difficulties with ordering."

"If it gets to that point we will take it day by day."

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Mitre 10 Goulburn operations manager Matthew Lawler put the timber shortage down to Covid-19, international tariffs and the ongoing impact of the 2019/20 bushfires.

"The bushfires totally stripped supplies," he said.

Mr Lawler explained that burnt material meant suppliers went through blades faster which made manufacturing difficult.

He said the construction boom in Goulburn was nothing new.

"Goulburn has been on the up and up for the past seven years I've been working here."

Mr Lawler said that while Mitre 10 had a good relationship with current suppliers and was "one of the priorities", they were searching for alternative solutions.

DEMAND: Matthew Lawler beside empty shelves at Goulburn Mitre 10. Photo: Hannah Neale

DEMAND: Matthew Lawler beside empty shelves at Goulburn Mitre 10. Photo: Hannah Neale

He urged tradesmen to "plan ahead".

"You need to know all your materials and alternatives just in case.

"Otherwise, we'll get to the point where there will be half-finished jobs everywhere."

He said alternatives included a laminated veneer lumber product (LVL) that could be used for frames and trusses. Although, this product was also in short supply and manufactured in Europe and Russia.

Steel was another option but Mr Lawler said supply was "drained" due to current demand. He said builders were also finding it difficult to get hold of metal reinforcing mesh for concrete.

Custom Built Frames and Trusses owner Greg Dobson said there was a general shortage of building supplies across the world.

He said last week the Braemar business didn't operate for two days because there was not enough wood product.

"We don't have enough material to make what we need to make," Mr Dobson said.

He said the usual five to six week lead time was now between 10 and 12 weeks.

"We don't have the wood to produce frames and trusses, so we don't have the opportunity to hire new people.

"It's slowing production down, and if the timber supply changes at any time it could push it back further."

Mr Dobson said COVID-19 was the driver behind the shortages, but "it's not just one thing".

"The whole building supply chain is under pressure," he said.

"Everything took off faster than expected, the whole supply chain hasn't recovered."

The business-owner said wood fibre product was being diverted to China or Singapore and delaying import.

"No one can really say when it's going to improve."

This story Tradies urged to 'plan ahead' as timber troubles threaten industry first appeared on Goulburn Post.