By Da Lin

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Your next home-improvement project may well cost more due to a shortage of lumber and you can blame COVID-19 for it.

Industry experts said the shortage is affecting prices from small lumber yards to big-box stores across the country. Here in the Bay Area, many local contractors and homeowners are having a hard time finding certain types of lumber.

“I’ve been having trouble trying to find redwood and cedar — usually it’s always stocked up (at the Colma Home Depot) but the last couple of times that I’ve been here, it was completely sold out,” said Douglas Robbins, who’s building a fence. “Gone to Lowes — it’s sold out.”

Lumber yards are running low mostly on pressure-treated wood, redwood and engineered-wood panels. At Economy Lumber in Piedmont, they were out of the popular 1″ x 8″ x 6′ redwood used for fences. General manager Paul Rosky doesn’t know when the sawmills can fill his order.

“It used to be, on a Saturday, we would have all the homeowners in. Well today, for a lot of people, every day is Saturday,” Rosky said.

Industry experts say people are finally getting to the fence or deck project they’ve been putting off for years now that they’re stuck at home.

“You have money to go on vacation but you have nowhere to go. You have money to go to eat dinner but you can’t really go out and do that, right?” Rosky said.

“A lot of people are staying home and I think they’re finding a lot of projects to do around their house,” said Mike Desimoni Jr., owner of Channel Lumber in Richmond.

Large construction companies have been stocking up on wood and speeding up projects, fearing the governor will again shut down construction sites due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Experts said the sudden surge in lumber demand caught many sawmills off guard. In March and April, most sawmills in Washington and Oregon either shut down or scaled back their production.

“Prices are rising. We’re approaching, if we haven’t reached in some cases, historical highs,” said Rosky.

Consumers are noticing.

“I don’t like that they’re raising the price,” said Robbins.

Just like the hand sanitizer and toilet paper shortages, industry experts at Channel Lumber and Economy Lumber Piedmont said the sawmills should catch up and bring supplies back to normal around August or September.

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