Building materials

Building materials are stacked near a construction site in Temple.

Editor’s note: Part two of a four-part series.

A housing boom and a material shortage — both describe the current situation many local home builders find themselves in.

With many needed supplies for homes currently in short supply due to issues with the global supply chain, both large and small Central Texas builders are trying to make do with what they have.

Marty Janczak with the Temple Area Builders Association said these global issues are causing increased prices and months-long delays for local construction. This issue has been amplified by the population growth in Texas, which has centered around the state’s population triangle of Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston.

Janczak said that, with between 1,200 and 2,000 people moving to Texas each day, new houses are in high demand everywhere.

“We are way behind,” Janczak said. “You can’t get the materials — it takes two months longer to build a house. It is not that you don’t want to do it, it is just not enough materials, not enough labor.”

Material shortages

Janczak said many key components in local construction have become hard to find, and often not in the quantities desired even when found.

For all forms of construction, finding PVC pipe, mainly used in plumping for homes, has become a problem.

Janczak said the reason behind the shortages comes from a lack of raw materials, mainly petrochemicals. He also pointed to a worldwide demand for the products, causing prices to elevate.

Another construction staple seeing increased costs has been oriented strand board plywood, mainly used for load-bearing applications in construction.

Prices for this type of plywood, Janczak said, have gone from about $8 a board a year ago to now anywhere between $50 and $60 a board. He said this higher price is only when buyers can find the product.

One odd shortage in Central Texas, Janczak said, is a lack of electric meter boxes used to bring electricity into homes.

“There is a shortage of those by a long way,” Janczak said. “In Central Texas there are about 1,200 houses, including the Austin area, that are completed and ready to be occupied but you can’t get the meter boxes. They are behind and they are not getting them out to the builders fast enough to do.”

Paul Malmin, general manager for Lengefeld Lumber Co. in Temple, said his company is seeing a shortage of all of their products right now, from screws to treated lumber.

One product Malmin said the company can’t get enough of right now is James Hardie fiber cement products, a durable material mainly used for the siding of homes.

This Hardie board, used in the construction of many homes, is the only one of its kind and has depleted its stocks quickly in recent months.

Malmin said he knows there is not much he and the company can do to combat the global issue. Despite this, Malmin and his staff have worked even harder to find the needed supplies where they can to supply their loyal customers.

“Manufacturing just can’t seem to keep up,” Malmin said. “For engineered lumber and Hardie siding, there is just not enough of it out there to supply the demand. I think the factories never fully recovered from COVID, and they are having a hard time getting help and getting workers.”

Local issues

Delays and shortages have not affected all local builders equally.

For many smaller home builders in the area, Janczak said, stocking up on needed supplies has been a challenge. He said this is due to many of these small builders mainly working on custom homes, with a need to order specific items custom made or in unique sizes.

Carol Fleck, who works at MF Construction in Belton, said some of the company’s practices have had to change due to constant shifts in the supply chain.

Before the shortages, Fleck said the company would put up the framing of a home and then allow the buyers to consider if they wanted windows to be larger or if they would like them moved. Now, the company needs to lock in buyers to their original decisions early on.

Fleck said this was due to the shipping time of windows, which now can take anywhere from six to 10 weeks to arrive, if not longer.

“Typically, we would pour a foundation, frame the walls and then order windows,” Fleck said. “Now we are breaking ground and ordering windows, hoping that they get to the job site by the time the framers are ready for them to be there.”

Costs of homes also have gone up, with some home builders unable to give their clients a fixed price at the start of construction.

Fleck said the company has had to reluctantly ask buyers to pay for some increased costs during the construction process since builders are unable to absorb all rising costs. She said this is hard for some buyers who get a loan for their new home, with not enough in their bank accounts to pay for the changes.

While these supply issues have caused problems, Fleck said it has only meant more work for the company to do the best job for their clients.

Janczak said the problems seen by Fleck are not isolated and only symptomatic of the larger supply chain issue.

Larger builders have had an easier time, Janczak said, with mass-produced homes being easier to do bulk orders for. He said this is due to many of the home styles sharing the same size windows or similar appliances, that can be ordered all at once and used interchangeably.

Despite this advantage, larger home builders in the area still have added about two months to the time it takes to build a home.