Shortage of building materials puts a ceiling on construction industry

construction site

The construction industry is facing a damaging shortage of building materials including roof tiles and timber, one of the leading trade bodies has warned.

The supply chain is under pressure from a combination of high demand for materials caused by the booming housing market and disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic.

Timber prices have risen by an average of 20 per cent, while some roofing products are unavailable until August, according to members of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF).

The trade body, which represents 760 merchant and suppliers companies in Britain, said that high demand, escalating prices for shipping and delays at some British ports were all having a “major impact” on the supply chain.

John Newcomb, chief executive, said: “Merchants have seen an exceptional demand for building materials since the first lockdown. In November, we saw an average growth of 9 per cent across our membership compared to the same time last year. Looking at December’s figures, we are predicting that growth could be double digits, and that’s unprecedented.”

Housebuilders are racing to complete thousands of homes ahead of the deadlines for the government’s present Help to Buy scheme and stamp duty holiday in February and March.

Some of Britain’s biggest builders including Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey have reported record order books for the year ahead, as buyer demand shows no sign of abating.

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation, which represents housebuilders, said: “Demand remains strong and whilst builders are committed to completing homes and increasing supply some constraints have emerged. Shortages of certain products are being experienced, alongside Covid-related delays but it is hoped these will be short term.”

The BMF said there has been a surge in costs of building products shipped in containers from the Far East, which was already a concern at the end of last year.

Mr Newcomb said: “We continue to see issues with the availability of products imported in containers, mainly from the Far East, such as screws and fixings, tools, plumbing items, bathroom suites and shower enclosures.

“Since then, the situation has only got worse. Our members manufacture 76 per cent of building products in the UK. However, we need to ensure access to these goods from around the world, to keep the industry running.”

Lakes Showering Spaces, a Gloucestershire-based manufacturer and supplier of bathroom fittings, which imports to the UK from China, said it is being charged around $15,000 for a container, compared with $2,100 a year ago. Mike Tattam, sales and marketing director, said: “We are facing a perfect storm caused by a number of factors, including a shortage of containers because of unprecedented demand, ships mothballed with their containers and crew, and carriers reluctant to take bookings for the UK because of the congestion at UK ports.”