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Home Improvement Sticker Shock In Colorado: Lumber Shortage Drives Prices Up 180%

DENVER (CBS4) - For the past year, a lumber shortage across the country has increased the price of new homes and improvement projects. In Colorado, contractors say customers need to make quick decisions if they want to cut down on the cost of a new fence or deck.

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"Business is so far good as long as we can keep the material going," said Eric Pineda of Solid Fence, Service, LLC. "You just got to make sure you know what you're getting beforehand."

Pineda has been in this business for a decade, working on his own for the past two years. He often takes jobs where he has to remove and install fences, usually finishing jobs for two to three clients each week. But since the pandemic began, he noticed not only an increase in customers but also competition. Passing five other contractors in one day is a common occurrence, compared to a couple in one month before last year.

"Since everybody was a home, everybody started doing work on their yard, so everybody started noticing their fence," he told CBS4 on Tuesday while on site at a client's home. "Then everybody needed a fence, when everybody needed a fence, we ran out of material to build fences."

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Eric Pineda (credit: CBS)

The dramatic increase in the price has forced him to drive an hour outside of Denver some days to get a better rate for customers, even though it increases his gas expense. Comparing the prices of all sizes of lumber that he uses for fences, including a 1x4x6 or a 4x4x8, the price has gone up by $1-10 per piece in just a year.

"It's definitely a tough time for getting material, to get into some fence projects," he said.

The National Association of Home Builders estimates the price of lumber has gone up more than 180 percent since last spring. In some cases, that's adding another $24,000 to the price of a single-family home compared to April 2020. The NAHB says lumber producers need to ramp up production and the U.S. government needs to work with Canada for a new softwood lumber agreement.

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In other states, some in the industry has expressed frustration that the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions made it harder for producers to create lumber at the rate they did before 2020. Social distancing requirements slowed down the process. Pineda says he has heard of local suppliers holding onto lumber and keeping their product off the market because they know the demand will remain all year.

He advises potential customers to get multiple quotes and consider buying the lumber on your own as prices change weekly and the supply could be gone before your contractor starts. He says the consistency of price and supply usually maintained for one entire season of home improvement from spring past the summer.

"If you want a fence replaced, I would just jump on it right away, the sooner the better," he said.

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