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Lumber steady, but some materials at all-time high

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by Abigail Beggerly

SBJ Staff

Supply and demand. It's an age-old theme: where there's consumer demand for a product and a limited supply of that product, the product comes with a higher price tag.

However, while some prices are at record highs, others are remaining steady. As a result, for those looking to build a house, now is not a bad time to start, according to local busi-nesses that specialize in retailing building materials.

Cornelieus Datema, owner of Datema Building Supplies, said lumber prices are remaining steady, not too low and not too high. However exciting that may sound to those looking to do their own home carpentry, other items, such as plywood, wafer board and wallboard, have recently hit all-time highs within their markets.

Lumber prices change all the time, said a representative of Dyke Lumber Co. He added that lumber is down from where it had been, but plywood and wafer board are higher than earlier this year.

Tom Maher, manager of Meeks on East Sunshine, said natural occurrences such as the recent hurricane Bonnie, which hit on the East Coast, can help to raise the prices of panel goods, such as plywood and wafer board.

"We buy our panel goods from the south," Maher said. "There's speculation that, if it's bad weather and there's tremendous damage, then the priorities will change."

He added that the suppliers in the south will more likely send the panel goods to the damaged areas of the country where a lot of rebuilding is taking place.

Not only does the weather influence prices of panel goods, it affects lumber rates, as well, Maher said. Even with present prices at an average range for lumber, the lumber market is beginning to gather strength, Maher said.

Mother Nature may be able to influence lumber and panel goods, but prices on masonry products, such as concrete block and brick, are usually very stable, said Chuck Selly, vice president of Nattinger Materials Co.

"We probably don't raise prices but once every couple of years," Selly said. He added that his business in particular gets its raw materials for manufacturing concrete block from local companies.

For those in the concrete and cement business, the main factor in price increases is the cost of raw materials to develop the products. The concrete market's stability is relative to the business cycle, said David Karr of Increte of the Ozarks' marketing department.

"Our business

is seasonal," he said. "We only make price adjustments maybe every six months or once a year."

Cement companies have begun limiting the amount of cement they produce for purchase, which in turn has affected costs of raw materials and market prices, Karr said.

"In the past five years, just in general, the cement industry has been operating at near capacity. Particularly this year," Karr said.

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