The price of roofing batten has rocketed 50% in six months ©  FredFroese/Getty Images
The price of roofing batten has rocketed 50% in six months © FredFroese/Getty Images

Timber shortage puts 'enormous pressure on supply chains'

posted by Charlie Hart and Marino Donati
27 May 2021

A global shortage of timber and consequent rising prices is “putting enormous pressure on the house building supply chain”. 

Contractors including the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), Avonside Group, Marley and SR Timber said they had “grave concerns” about “extremely low” available stocks of European softwood, the raw material used to produce UK roofing battens.  

Eddie Stanton, chief executive of Avonside Group, said: “The price of roofing batten is rising on a monthly basis, already in excess of 50% over the past six months, and supply lead times are getting longer.

“This is putting enormous pressure on the house building supply chain, especially roofing contractors, in terms of what price increases they can absorb and what they have to pass on,” he warned.

James Talman, chief executive of the NFRC, said it was seeing “unprecedented shortages of roofing materials” such as timber.

“This is due to a whole host of different reasons, from Covid-19 restrictions to the impact of low US timber supplies.”

Talman said two-thirds of roofing contractors saw material availability deteriorate in the first quarter of the year, and 89% reported price rises, making it a bigger concern than Covid-19 and Brexit.

Talman said: “Timber battens were the second-highest material shortage after roof tiles with a third of contractors reporting shortages.

“While our supplier members are doing all they can to alleviate shortages, it will still be some time before we are back to steady levels of supply, and home builders therefore need to work collaboratively with roofing contractors to plan ahead, build in lead times, factor in price rises and ensure flexibility in contracts.”

Earlier this month, David Hopkins, chief executive of the Timber Trade Federation, urged users of timber to “work closely with suppliers on their purchasing strategies, and to take a forward-looking perspective on securing supplies”.

“This approach will remain important, as recent reports have shown we can expect demand to continue to be high, particularly for structural and other softwood materials,” he said. 

“We also know that traditionally sawmills in Europe normally enter a period of shutdown for repair, maintenance and holidays in June and July, and this will keep supply tight.”

Meanwhile, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) warned that building material shortages could have a drastic impact on SMEs. 

John Newcomb and Peter Caplehorn, co-chairs of the CLC’s product availability working group, said: “Previously reported issues relating to timber, steel, pitched roofing, plastics and paints/coatings continue. Growing areas of concern, however, include certain electronic components and bagged cement.”

SMEs are being impacted the most as larger firms that can buy large quantities in advance are having fewer problems, they added.

They said: “The surge in demand means some SME builders are not able to purchase essential materials, like timber, cement and roof tiles, as readily off the shelves. This not only impacts their ability to complete projects, but also the cash flow of their business.”

The CLC said the industry should collaborate to manage the “unprecedented” situation, including transparent and fair allocation systems and timely and accurate communications. It also warned against over ordering and said manufacturers should not over-promise on delivery.

Earlier this week, Kingfisher – owner of B&Q and Screwfix – said it expected supply chain challenges impacting raw materials to continue for at least six months.

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