Kermans Blog

The Material World: How COVID-19 Has Affected the Flooring Industry

Published: July 13, 2021

Supply-chain shortages have increased delays in fulfilling orders for new flooring. Does that mean you should forget about renovating your home? Of course not, but it does mean that your order make take a bit longer to fulfill than it would have a year ago. A long list of factors has combined to produce this situation, and it’s easier to accommodate it if you understand its causes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, home-bound consumers took a good look around themselves – and many of them decided that home sweet home needed some more sweetening, in the form of renovations and upgrades. People were spending unprecedented amounts of time under their own roofs, using their living space to provide everything from classrooms for kids and office space for grownups to sanctuary in the kitchen, where many of us were baking our hearts out. Just as all that sourdough bread increased interest in high-end ranges and other appliances, many of us wanted to spruce up our living spaces to make them more enjoyable, too.

But that’s where the picture gets cloudy. At the same time that home-bound consumers racked up long lists of upgrades they wanted to pursue, the pandemic shut down, or at least curtailed, the production of just about everything. Supplies of common household staples dropped, along with the raw materials for many residential upgrades, including flooring. Although supplies have begun to increase, they remain at reduced volumes, and the result is a longer wait for new floors.

Take hardwood flooring for one example. Hardwood production already had dropped 8.2% in 2018-2019, which put some sawmills and lumberyards out of business and further reduced supply. Then the pandemic hammered these producers even more, driving down the output of raw materials. By March 2021, production had begun to increase substantially over the previous year, but increasing demand continues to outstrip diminished supply.

The costs of lumber climbed more than 80% during the first 5 months of 2021, and rose 340% over the previous year. This affects flooring as well as new residential construction, with an average $36,000 increase in the cost of a new single-family home. To make matters worse, in 2020, wildfires burnt up billions of board feet of lumber. In Oregon alone, wildfires destroyed enough lumber for construction of 1 million new homes. These shortages affect engineered wood products as well as regular lumber and hardwood flooring.

Meanwhile, flooring and raw-material production overseas continues to lag because as factories begin to reopen, manufacturers have had trouble staffing up and resuming output. Shipping restrictions and delays also have affected the availability of offshore goods, including flooring. In the U.S., a labor shortage in the trucking industry continues to slow the delivery of finished goods, while shortages in vehicle production make it difficult for trucking companies to upgrade their fleets. Even packaging materials are in short supply, increasing these costs more than 50% during the 12 months between April 2020 and April 2021.

Flooring and home-building experts know that current high lumber prices almost certainly represent a short-term problem, but exactly how long the problem will take to resolve depends on many factors. For example, the flooring industry competes with manufacturers of other types of products – bourbon distillers, for one – for access to the hardwood supply. Ultra-high demand also risks over-logging the forests that produce white oak and other desirable hardwoods, which can lead to additional supply-chain challenges in the future.

So yes, you may experience some delays in obtaining new flooring, but as flooring experts, all of us at Kermans are ready to help you find the right products for your home sweet home – as quickly as possible. If the products you choose come with some delivery delays, we’ll give you regular updates about their availability, and we’ll do everything in our power to make your experience as easy as it is rewarding. Contact a Kermans design consultant today for an appointment, and get started on your dream project.

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