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Rising cost of plywood is attributed to the pandemic

April 22, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Boarding up buildings before protests is the “real reason” plywood is more expensive.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Soaring plywood costs can be attributed to production issues during the pandemic, people buying and building houses and an enthusiasm for home improvement projects.

THE FACTS: Social media users are blaming protests for the rising price of plywood, but that is not the main driver of the cost increase.

A photo of a construction crew boarding up the windows of a Nordstrom Rack circulated widely on Instagram and Facebook this week with a caption that reads, “The real reason plywood is so expensive right now!” Photographer Carter Jones took the photo for the St. Paul Business Journal in May 2020 at the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis ahead of protests.

Securing windows with plywood during protests “could certainly count” as a factor making plywood more expensive, said Shawn Church, editor at Random Lengths, a publication that provides information on the forest products industry. But the primary reason for the rising cost of lumber stems from the pandemic.

“The industry really is trying to recover from the COVID pandemic,” Church explained. “A strong demand for single-family housing is probably the principal reason for the tightness in wood products and generally whether it be plywood or oriented strand board, which is the primary alternative to plywood, as well as framing lumber.

As of Tuesday, the Random Lengths framing lumber composite price “hit a new record” of $1,147 per thousand board feet, Church said. At this time a year ago, it was $350 per thousand board feet -- an increase of nearly 228 percent.

Church explained that the supply for lumber was cut at a time when people believed “the demand was going to take a real hit and it just didn’t.” In addition to pandemic-related production issues like labor shortages and lockdowns, the industry also saw a surge of new construction and do-it-yourself home improvement projects.

According to the American Wood Council, there’s been a demand for single-family homes during the pandemic --- an increase of over 16.6% since February 2020 -- due to low mortgage rates.

Building permits in the U.S. from April 30, 2020, to March 21, 2021, saw nearly a 66% increase, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“These issues, which manufacturers of all kinds are facing during the pandemic, have made it difficult to meet the renewed retailers’ and wholesalers’ demands,” AWC said in a statement last month.

Builders are struggling to find materials to adorn new houses at a time where demand has largely outpaced supply. “Bottlenecks are everywhere, not just in wood products, manufacturing,” Church said.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536