Plaster and plasterboard shortages have restricted homebuilding projects for months, but the easing of lockdown has led to a return in supplies - and this is very good news for self builders and renovators.
Builders’ merchants and DIY stores have been open in some capacity for a number of weeks now, but plasterboard has proved elusive for many. Some suppliers including Buildershop have run out of stock, while others such as Jewson have only had limited stock for weeks.
The ongoing shortage has negatively impacted self build and renovation schedules, holding up other jobs on site. This can affect costs as well as project timelines.
Sarah Hamilton is in the midst of a renovation project. She told Homebuilding & Renovating earlier this month: “We are in the middle of a large renovation project, but while it's frustrating we are happy to wait. What is worse is that my husband is a self employed plasterer who is now 'allowed back to work', but can't due to this shortage.”
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) reported this month that 89% of builders are being hampered by building shortages. And as previously reported by builder Andy Stevens in Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, the plasterboard shortage is something that self builders and renovators have become familiar with.
Stevens wrote: “Plasterboard is one such product experiencing incredibly low stock levels across the country at the moment. But unlike the shortage of bricks and blocks not that long ago, which saw the big developers stockpiling, gypsum-based plaster products like multi-finish can’t be as they have a use-by date.”
Self builders aren’t out of the woods yet; supplies remain low in comparison to other building supplies. But with lockdown continuing to ease, production is increasing. In May the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) said that increased plaster production should see stock levels restored by the end of June.
Where Can You Buy Plasterboard?
For the widest supply of plasterboard, British Gypsum has significantly more products than this time one month ago, plus a healthy selection of plaster.
On 5 June, Matt Pullen, managing director of British Gypsum, said: “From the start of this week, all of our plasterboard and plaster plants are consistently operating at over 80% capability. We have further increased our despatches this week, which are now at more than 350 trade loads per day, being delivered to customers.”
If you’re looking to buy in bulk, B&Q is the place for you. This is because it is only selling in bulk delivery, however products remain limited.
Be Wary of Selling Sites
A consequence of the plasterboard storage has been an increase in profiteering on selling sites such as eBay. Bags of plaster are being sold for hundreds of pounds, when the normal retail price is around £6-8.
Depending on how urgently you need plaster or plasterboard, it can be tempting to part with more money to ensure your products arrive quickly. But here’s an important caveat, plaster has a shelf life. If you’re buying on eBay, it’s important to check this first.
Advice for Self Builders
Stevens recommends self builders and renovators take two important steps ahead of building work beginning on your site:
- Check stock levels with your suppliers
- Ask them what their lead times are for gypsum-based products
Taking these measures in advance can help you to plan alternative arrangements in the event that you may still be affected by the shortage.
“Not being able to dryline and plaster could have serious knock-on effects on your job,” Stevens said. “On a kitchen extension, for example, experiencing these delays would mean the kitchen couldn’t be fitted, no second fix electrics or plumbing could go ahead, no flooring, decorating, second fix carpentry, etc.
“So, I would err on the side of caution - if your supplier says there’s a month’s delay for these products, schedule delivery in for two then you won’t be left stranded and will potentially avoid lengthy delays and financial penalties on your build.”
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Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms.
He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.