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Construction Materials Shortage: Which Materials are Rising in Price?

Construction Materials Shortage update
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The construction materials shortage is leading to price rises, and this could impact self builders, renovators and DIYers.

Three national lockdowns within a year has led to supply chains being stretched, and the challenges facing materials producers are growing. The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) expects average price increases of 5-10% this year. 

There’s an ongoing plaster shortage, and dwindling supplies of key materials such as timber and roof tiles mean potentially longer lead times, while deliveries could also take longer than expected.

If you're beginning a self build project, renovating a house, or performing DIY during lockdown, read on to help plan ahead for your project, and learn which materials could be subject to price rises in 2021.

(MORE: Easy lockdown DIY projects)

Price Rises Triggered by Construction Materials Shortage

The construction materials shortage can in part be traced back to increased building and home improvement activity in 2020, particularly during the first lockdown.

What's more, there has reportedly been a slowdown in the production of materials from some factories in the EU because of Covid-19.

Builders expect prices to rise in 2021, and the recent Federation of Master Builders (FMB) State of Trade Survey showed 87% of builders had reported rising costs.

One reason for this is that producers of materials now face increased shipping costs because of a global shortage of empty containers. Additionally, the cost of transporting materials from China to Europe has risen in recent weeks.

“We are seeing price increases across the board, specifically in products categories in high demand like timber and roofing materials and imported products. We anticipate the level of prices increases this year to average out at between 5-10%,” said John Newcomb, CEO of the BMF.

These are some of the materials recently affected by price rises:

Materials Price Updates
TimberTimber prices are up by a fifth, as reported by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF).
PaintThe British Coating Federation warned in January that sharp price increases for epoxy resins and supply bottlenecks are adding to the difficulties of paint and coatings manufacturers in the UK and across Europe. Prices are expected to rise for consumers.
InsulationOne builders' merchant told us that it expects prices to increases in March
Power tools, screws and fixingsCompanies now face increased shipping costs because of a global shortage of empty containers.
Bathroom equipmentThe rising costs for producers to purchase container loads means importing bathroom equipment from China is more expensive, which could be passed onto consumers.

To help self builders, renovators and DIYers see where increases are most likely to affect their projects, Homebuilding & Renovating will be tracking the price of certain materials over the coming weeks:

Materials Price Tracker
RetailerMaterialProduct DatePrice
JewsonsTimberPEFC Whitewood Tongue and Groove, 22 x 125mm2 Feb 2020£3.30 p/m
Travis PerkinsTimberTravis Perkins Redwood Pine Tongue and Grooved Flooring, 25mm x 150mm2 Feb 2020£5.58 p/m
B&QFence panelsGoodHome Lemhi Contemporary Closeboard Venetian Fence Panel, 1.8m x 1.8m2 Feb 2020£68
WickesFence panelsForest Garden Pressure Treated Overlap Fence Panel - 6ft x 3ft2 Feb 2020£29
SelcoPlasterboardGTEC Standard Square Edge Plasterboard 2400 x 1200 x 12.5mm2 Feb 2020£5.99
WickesPlasterboardKnauf Plasterboard Tapered Edge - 12.5mm X 1.2m X 2.4m2 Feb 2020£7.90 (£2.74 per SQM)
HomebasePaintDulux Pure Brilliant White - Soft Sheen Emulsion Paint - 5L2 Feb 2020£19
B&QPaintGoodHome Durable Brilliant white Matt Emulsion paint 10L2 Feb 2020£28
ToolstationInsulationYBS General Purpose ThermaWrap Insulation 600mm x 7.5m2 Feb 2020£12.98
JewsonInsulationRecticel Eurothane GP Insulation Board, 2400 x 1200 x 25mm2 Feb 2020£26.29 per sheet

New Plan Designed to Halt Rises

But plans are in place to lessen the impact. To counter price increases, the BMF is leading the rollout of a digital classification of construction materials across the UK.

A group of 20 retailers and merchants including Travis Perkins have committed to fast-tracking the adoption of ETIM (European Technical Information Model), a standardised means of describing product specifications, designed to clarify requirements along the supply chain.

Rob Barbour, data and insights director at Travis Perkins, explained that ensuring consistent product data would “minimise errors and drive down costs and so significantly improve our supply chain efficiency".

Barbour also said this would “empower customers to make better buying decisions, drive better safety and technical performance, and lower emissions of construction output”.

Which Materials are Short in Supply?

Product Availability Index
Building MaterialProduct Availability
TimberThere has been a nationwide shortage of timber since the first lockdown. Volumes are likely to be available but on much longer lead times than in early 2020
Plaster and PlasterboardPlaster and plasterboard have been subject to shortages since last year, and builders’ merchants are still reporting supply issues
Roof TilesThere has been a shortage in roofing materials for several months*
InsulationThere were signs of restricted supply of insulation before the new year, particularly PIR insulation and wool fibre insulation**
LandscapingLandscaping materials such as fence panels, fence posts and paving is reportedly thin on the ground
PaintSupplies to the UK are restricted due to a global shortage of containers

* Build4Less reports that roof tiles from suppliers including Marley and Sandtoft are showing lead times of up to 6-8 weeks.

** Nick Lloyd, managing director of Urbane Eco, says that EU market supplies of insulation have picked up and this will help to tackle the backlog in demand from 2020. Currently, lead times can be expected to be between 2-4 weeks.

There are reportedly also shortages of: 

  • Power tools
  • Plumbing items
  • Bricks
  • Concrete products
  • Plastics
  • Screws, fixtures and fittings
  • Corrugated plastic roofing

The Impact of Lockdown

With many of us locked up indoors for the past year, Google searches for 'DIY and 'How-to' increased by more than 40% following the first lockdown in March 2020, according to My Tool Shed.

And amid a third lockdown, many of us will again try our hand at DIY now we're back indoors. The good news is that builders’ merchants remain open, and tradespeople are allowed to work in people’s homes. The bad news is that this has contributed to a shortage in supplies. 

(MORE: Your lockdown construction questions answered)

Shortages Also Impacted by Brexit Uncertainty

There’s also the issue of Brexit. Roughly 60% of imported materials used in UK construction projects comes from the EU, according to the Construction Leadership Council, and increased congestion reported at UK ports since the start of the year has caused delays.

The UK-EU trade deal eased Brexit construction fears once it was confirmed that no additional tariffs on imports or quotas would be added, but the impact of Brexit could lead to short or medium-term disruption.