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Single sheet of 4x8 plywood now costs more than $65

Lumber prices have more than doubled in the past year and are still rising, adding another layer of cost to B.C.’s skyrocketing house prices
Workers wrestle a sheet of plywood onto a roof replacement April 12. |Western Investor

As of April 9, a basic SPF (spruce, pine, fir) two-by-four cost a record high of $1,132 per thousand board feet, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development's weekly B.C. lumber price tracking.

This compares to an average of $532 a year ago and to $372 in pre-pandemic 2019. The price was up nearly $100 from a week earlier.

“A sheet of [4-foot by 8-foot] half-inch plywood costs $65 today. It was $51 a few days ago,” said contractor Brian Barker of Sunshine Coast Roofing Ltd. on April 12, as he prepped a roof for more than 50 sheets of plywood.

A standard eight-foot 2x4 is now more than $7 after tax, he added.

The price of standard plywood panels hit $1,223 per thousand board feet on April 9, up from $1076 a week earlier and twice the price from a year ago.

And there appears little relief in sight.

In a podcast hosted by Canadian Forest Industries, Keta Kosman, owner of Madison's Lumber Reporter, said she is expecting the pace to continue for as much as the next couple of years - and not just because the pandemic sparked a boom in the repair and remodeling market. In 2020, millennials made up the largest cohort of first-time buyers for the first time, Kosman notes.

"So, we're now having a large demographic entering the housing market that has nothing to do with the pandemic. So, it's very positive [for lumber producers]," she said. "Definitely through this year, there will not be a slowdown, and potentially also through 2022.”

Lumber prices are now at all-time highs in both Canada and the US, and builders estimate the rising wood costs would nail an extra $10,000 to $20,000 onto the price of a new house.

"We do expect the lumber prices to stay quite elevated for quite a period of time," said Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders' Association.