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Availability of building materials improves

5 January 2023

Availability of building materials improves

The availability of some key construction materials continues to improve, according to the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group in its latest statement issued just before Christmas. 

Overall product availability is good and returning to pre-Covid levels, while some bricks, blocks, plasterboard and roofing products are occasionally still subject to disruption or allocation. Despite this, lead times for these products are now far lower than earlier in the year, according to John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, who are co-chairs of the working group

This is a far cry from the difficult situation reported on the blog this time last year.  

The availability of gas boilers and other products containing semi-conductors and electrical components remains the most problematic in terms of supply, as sub-component manufacturers operating in a highly competitive global market continue to experience restricted supply. 

In addition, the electro-technical sector has highlighted a new area of concern regarding the supply of solar and environmental products, with difficulty identifying those coming from Chinese manufacturers with the proper accreditation. This is a growing product area with increasing demand, so the UK construction industry is challenged to ensure such products are of the proper standard and quality.

Timber availability is good with further reductions in prices due to the large amount of stock already in the UK and reduced shipping costs. However, due to sanctions, birch plywood cannot be legally sourced from Russia and alternatives sources of supply might be needed.

Shipping lead times from the Far East are improving, though China is now experiencing rising Covid rates following the relaxation of their lockdown regulations which may lead to more bottlenecks. However, with a surplus of containers in China and container rates generally down by 80 per cent from their peak, the working group says this is a great improvement.

Looking ahead, rising energy and wage costs are expected to put significant upward pressure on prices in the New Year. Manufacturers of energy-intensive products such as bricks, cement, glass, insulation and plasterboard warn that, although many have been able to hedge energy costs through Q1 of 2023, energy prices in Q2 and Q3 are expected to be considerably above historical (pre-Ukraine war) levels without further Government support.  

Indeed, several plaster, plasterboard and insulation manufacturers have notified there will be double-digit inflationary increases in the year ahead, states the CLC.


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