How the Construction Industry Navigated the Rise and Fall of Lumber Prices

stack of mass timber glulam

When lumber prices hit a record high of $1,670 per thousand board feet on the commodities market in early May, both contractors and homebuyers began to prepare for the worst. The past two months have seen an even more pronounced fall in lumber futures, which closed at $521.40 on July 14, after declining 70 percent from their peak.

The volatility created stress for many builders, but contractors who specialize in mass timber argue that they benefited somewhat from lumber’s wild ride.

“The good part about it is that lumber pricing has never been anything that anybody paid attention to,” said Chris Evans, president of Swinerton’s Timberlab. “Every day, people are writing more articles on mass timber buildings, and on how to have more sustainable and renewable products in our buildings. It’s raising the level of awareness to society in general that wood is a viable product to use. You can use wood as interior finishes for stair systems, office building fit-out projects, you can use it to make complete structures. The rise and fall of the lumber pricing has made everyone more attuned to that.”

Inevitably, Timberlab — an arm of national contractor Swinerton that focuses on mass timber construction — has had to put some projects on hold.