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Omaha feels pain of national lumber shortage

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 4:23 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:35 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - At home and across the country, customers are seeing some historic price increases in lumber.

The word from executives from Millard Lumber -- which has been in business in the metro since the 1940s -- is supply issues came on quickly. and executives there say supply issues came on fast.

6 News has learned several major lumber mills cut back on their production when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, while demand for new home construction and home repairs increased.

“People are just kind of hanging out at home and I think they’re taking their investment dollars that they were not spending and investing it in their home,” said Don Rowe, VP of sales with Millard Lumber.

Rowe has been in the business for decades. He said the increased demand for lumber and low production could only mean one thing.

“Lumber prices went up to historic highs this summer and we can’t really tell why they almost tripled. Maybe, in some cases, more than tripled,” Rowe said. “I think some of the lumber mills expected a decrease in demand with the onset of COVID and when in reality -- demand went up.”

With more people at home doing renovations, some working in the trades have more business than supply.

“We’re just seeing the availability -- hard to get what you need. We’ve had to cancel a couple of jobs because there wasn’t enough lumber to do them,” said John Thirtle of Any Color You Like Painting. “This is the strongest we’ve seen price increases, we’ve seen supply chain disruption -- but nothing to this magnitude.”

All of this is bad for people who need lumber for their projects at home. Some contractors say they’re seeing a 15 to 20 percent increase in the cost of supplies.

Rowe believes because of the pandemic suppliers are also having a hard time getting employees in the plants to build windows and cabinetry.

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