Construction sector faces significant building materials shortages

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A chronic shortage of building materials, particularly roofing supplies and timber, is starting to cause issues for the construction sector, says the BMF

The BMF has received reports of August availability for some roofing products, while timber prices are rocketing by an average of 20%.

Factors including high demand, coupled with escalating prices for shipping and delays at some British ports, are all having a major impact on building materials.

‘The situation has only got worse’

John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Brexit Movement of Building Products and Materials Group, said: “We’ve had a report of a merchant being quoted as far ahead as August availability for some roofing products, particularly pitched roof tiles.

“We are also facing significant issues with timber supplies.

“Merchants have seen an exceptional demand for building materials since the first lockdown.

“In November we saw an average growth of 9% across our membership compared to the same time last year.

“Looking at December’s figures, we are predicting that growth could be double digits, and that’s unprecedented.

“We know a number of roof tile manufacturers are taking extensive steps to meet this exceptional demand.

“Through the Construction Leadership Council, we are also working together with Government to address the issues we face, but it’s a complex situation with many different factors leading us into this position.”

The BMF is also looking into the huge surge in costs of building materials shipped in containers from the Far East.

Newcomb added: “As we reported late last year, we continue to see issues with the availability of products imported in containers, mainly from the Far East, such as screws and fixings, tools, plumbing items, bathroom suites and shower enclosures.

“Since then, the situation has only got worse.

“Our members manufacture 76% of building products in the UK.

“However, we need to ensure access to these goods from around the world, to keep the industry running.”

‘Facing a perfect storm’

Sales and marketing director at Lakes Showering, Mike Tattam, commented: “We are facing a perfect storm caused by a number of factors, including a shortage of containers because of unprecedented demand, ships mothballed with their containers and crew, and carriers reluctant to take bookings for the UK because of the congestion at UK ports.

“The latest development is that we’ve found the shipping companies are not even quoting contract rates, it’s all based on spot pricing, where you get what’s available at a price, on that day.

“Currently we are looking at the cost for a container of around $15,000. This time last year it was $2,100.

“We’ve even heard reports of costs going to $30,000, and that’s untenable.

“It’s having a very serious impact and it’s a situation that’s getting rapidly worse.”

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