WASHINGTON — If you have been to Home Depot lately, you have probably been shocked at the price of wood. Across the country, a lack of lumber has caused building and home improvement costs to skyrocket.
In a pandemic, Electric Cool-Aid in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood has the perfect setup. All outdoor seating.
Arranged by socially distanced picnic tables. They still have capacity restrictions, but then came the good news.
“When we got the notice, I guess last week that the mayor was allowing us to have larger table sizes, we immediately looked to purchase lumber,” Angela DelBrocco, owner of Electric Cool-Aid said.
More people mean they have to build more picnic tables. Which is when Angela and her team ran into a problem: Where is all the wood?
“Not only was [the cost of wood] more than double what it was a year ago, the lead [waiting] times are so long to get enough lumber to build,” DelBrocco said.
What is behind the lumber shortage?
Andy Winkler, an economist with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Per Hong, a supply chains expert.
The pandemic shut down lumber production early on and it has caused major issues with the wood supply chain over the last year.
What We Found:
To trace the lumber shortage you have to start in March of 2020.
“When the pandemic started and shutdowns ensued, saw mills had to lay off temporarily,” Winkler said.
“They brought capacity down and we saw lumber, at that point, probably dropped by close to 30% to 40%,” Hong said.
While lumber production went down, home construction and renovation did the opposite.
“There was a surge in demand across the board that has led to prices really skyrocketing,” Winkler said.
Eventually consumers bought up the lumber inventory and the lumber companies haven’t been so quick to replenish the supply.
“We still have less operators in sawmills than we had pre-pandemic levels,” Hong said.
Both experts point out this is a classic case of demand outweighing supply. As a result, DelBrocco and Electric Cool-Aid have turned to other D.C. restaurants for help, rather than wait for wood.
“We actually went and borrowed two tables from some of those friends who were not going to be using them in their new setup,” DelBrocco said. “We've also talked with another beer garden, about actually swapping out our tables.”
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