Every single industry on the planet has faced pandemic-related challenges, including our own.  Here in La Plata and Archuleta counties, home builders and associated professionals have been especially hit hard by the rising cost of lumber.

No matter what your role is in building in Southwest Colorado, it makes sense to keep in step with what’s happening today and an eye toward the future as well.  Chances are, you’re already familiar with tactics that ease materials costs in the short term, such as pre-ordering and escalation clauses.  You’ll want to extend your thinking to the long term also, as no one really expects lumber and other key materials to suddenly experience a significant and lasting price drop.

When an issue such as this one confronts the market, the National Association of Home Builders is all over it.  In this case, its independent subsidiary—the Home Innovation and Research Labs—may be able to help you with some strategies for dealing with lumber trends proactively.

Two Key Strategies

Late last year, Home Innovation’s director of market research discussed two leading options for saving on lumber costs in a videoconference.  If you’re an HBASC home builder in Durango or Pagosa Springs, you may have seen it.  The recommendations were:

1. Consider lumber alternatives

A few ways to cut lumber usage for some builds could include:

  • Using pre-fabricated trusses to construct the roof, and in some cases, the floor. Many builders do this as a matter of course, but not all.  If you’re not an expert, here’s a simple review of how trusses work.
  • Choosing Structured Insulated Panels, or SIPs, for walls and even floors and roofs. The manufactured panels can be cheaper than lumber, and they tend to go up faster and improve energy efficiency as well.
  • Proposing alternatives for decking—perhaps plastic or vinyl material.
  • Looking into whether steel framing for interior walls could make sense for some projects. Steel is increasingly cost competitive given what’s happening in the lumber industry.

If you’re a builder in Southwest Colorado, now may be the time to up your concrete game.  Investing in gaining more experience or partnering with an expert could allow you to utilize concrete for more above grade structures than you do now, and recommend gorgeous, innovative patios and porches instead of lumber-gobbling decks.  In our area, improved fire safety is another benefit.

2. Use “Advanced Framing” techniques

One building method that’s not new seems to be poised to gain popularity: Advanced Framing.  The idea sounds simple: use less lumber.  But the Home Innovation presentation stresses the need to have a thorough understanding of the techniques involved in order to deliver a completely sound structure that will support floors properly as well as finish materials.  A high level of expertise in framing is required, which is one reason Advanced Framing has not been widely adopted yet.

The Home Innovation Research Lab offers a report to assist builders in understanding Advanced Framing, also called Optimum Value Engineering (OVE).  You can download it here.

Looking Ahead

As you might expect, the organization anticipates seeing many of these options for home builders taking greater hold in the years to come.  Market share for steel framing and factory-built components are expected to make gains over lumber, and Advanced Framing methods should see increasing interest.

If you missed the videoconference, you can still see the presentation on the organization’s website.

Lean on the NAHB

When it comes to concerns about the high cost of lumber, there’s no better way to stay informed and add your voice to others in our industry than to take full advantage of your membership in the National Association of Home Builders.  You are automatically a member when you sign up to join us in the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado.

The Home Innovation and Research Labs is just one resource the NAHB has launched to assist you.  Lumber prices are fully in the sights of the NAHB, and you can access member surveys, articles covering advocacy efforts, webinars, and more to help you stay up-to-date, learn from your peers, and adopt the strategies that make sense for you and your clients.

Let us know if we can help!

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