Construction Materials

Whether you work within the construction industry or have had work ongoing at home, you may have noticed a shortage in a huge variety of construction materials over the past year. Everything from timber and cement, to steel and roof tiles, have been in short supply due to issues with supply chains for months now, with expectations that this could last well into 2022 if measures aren’t taken to ease the burden. 

From a shortage of drivers to rises in energy costs, uncertainty surrounding Covid and changes to border controls following Brexit, construction companies and suppliers alike are having to plan months in advance for building projects in some cases. Here’s what we know about the shortages, and how this could affect the cost of construction, ability to work and more.

What Caused The Shortages?

The cause of shortages within the construction industry seems to boil down to not just one issue, but a handful of them. The first, and perhaps most well-known cause is a lack of lorry drivers in the passing months. While there has been an ongoing shortage for years now, this seemed to get worse in 2021 to the point where drivers couldn’t keep up with the increasing demand for material overall.

Labour rates have also been touted as a cause for shortages, due to a lack of labour for the current level of demand, often leading to businesses becoming quickly overwhelmed with work. Without the relevant level of labour to source and produce the materials in demand, these materials are limited and therefore, have longer wait times. Covid-19 has also had an effect on labour supply and driver shortages, with isolation periods and increasing covid numbers leading to more and more drivers and labourers having to be off of work at any one time.

Another key factor playing into shortages is Brexit and the uncertainty and confusion surrounding border changes. With around 60% of all materials used in UK construction coming from the EU, Brexit has caused issues with supply chains due to confusion with new border requirements and regulations, as well as uncertainty and new immigration rules making it more difficult to encourage workers from the EU to fill shortages and gaps in labour supply.

What Has Been Affected Most?

The shortages the UK has faced in the passing months have varied depending on demand at any one time, however, there are a few key materials that seem to still be experiencing incredibly long wait times: 

  • Bricks and Blocks – It’s expected that shortages of bricks and blocks will continue far in 2022. The Brick Development Association expects the demand will continue to be high year-long.
  • Roof Tiles – With lead times of around 20-24 weeks and sometimes even as long as 36 weeks, getting your order in for roof tiles for a project should probably be done far sooner than you expect.
  • Timber – Timber was particularly short in 2021 and while it has eased slightly, there is a significant possibility that we could see another shortage due to higher prices and reduced supplies in early 2022.
  • Cement – The production of cement dropped last year, causing a supply strain that was only heightened by issues with delivery and the supply chain as a whole. The industry is still recovering, which could mean further supply issues and higher prices in the coming year.

What’s Happening Now?

The shortages have ultimately caused issues with not only the supply chain itself but with the costs of materials. For construction workers and tradespeople, this means higher business costs for resources and materials, which usually get passed on to the customer. A Homebuilding & Renovating poll taken in December 2021 found that 96% of respondents were struggling to afford the costs of building materials in 2021, and the same is expected to continue throughout at least the early part of 2022. 

Prices for Timber alone have jumped almost 70% in the past 12 months, while prices for steel saw a 70.6% increase between October 2020 and October 2021. Paint, both trade level and consumer level have seen a price jump of about a third, while cement is still experiencing ongoing price rises due to rises in energy costs for production. 

The CLC (Construction Leadership Council) are advising builders to maintain communication with their suppliers and to ensure that they work closely with ongoing lead times to ensure that they, as well as their customers, are not left waiting. Building companies and construction workers should consider planning as far in advance as possible. 

We also suggest builders and construction companies ensure that they have the right builder’s insurance policies in place to protect them financially against any potential claims made by clients in the coming months. This will ensure that you have financial support in case of any damage, injury or illness caused by any work you complete, including any issues with materials later down the line such as quality that you weren’t aware of. For more information, the team at Ashburnham Insurance are on hand to help. Simply get in touch on freephone 0800 1696137 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.

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