Despite rising costs of lumber, Manitobans still doing outdoor renovations

Prices in lumber have doubled and tripled over the past year, but that’s not stopping Manitobans from building homes and completing outdoor renovations. 

According to Byron Rocke, who owns B. Rocke Landscaping, the company’s clientele has increased twofold since April last year — their projects have jumped from 30 to 60. 

It’s been so busy the company started its building season a month earlier. Instead of waiting till May, they started this month, he said. 

“Everybody wants a beautiful backyard space. They want patios. They want pergolas, they want all that — a private oasis is basically what they’re looking for,” Rocke said. 

Byron Rocke owns B. Rocke Landscaping in Winnipeg. Rocke said their projects have doubled this year due to the demand of outdoor renovations. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

Rocke said clients are spending anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 on their outdoor renovation projects. 

“It’s just been busy. All the work we’re doing this year is basically from last year, and a lot of the demand coming now, we’re trying to push it to the end of this season,” Rocke said. 

WATCH | Winnipeg contractor sees high demand for outdoor renovations:

Contractor Steve Warkentine said some customers have postponed their projects because of the high costs. While others have gone ahead anyway, willing to pay double the price. 0:54

teve Warkentine, construction contractor with Sigma Projects, said his business has boomed in the past year. 

“It’s absolutely crazy. I have more work than I can possibly do,” he said. 

Warkentine said there’s no shortage of people who want their decks done. Requests for projects have came from new houses, condos and commercial properties. 

Adjusting customers expectations 

Since 2018, prices for wood have doubled. In some provinces like B.C, the price has tripled. Experts have cited supply and demand for the jump: there have been strong housing markets and limited capacity to increase lumber production in North America

Warkentine has been building projects for 20 years. He said he used to pay $2.50 for a two-by-four piece of wood. Now, they cost about $8.00 per piece. 

He called the price increases “unfortunate,” and said that means projects like decks, house framing and garages can double in price. Some customers have delayed their projects and some are still keen to build despite the costs, he said. 

“Some people seem to have more disposable income because they haven’t traveled and so forth, so they end up paying it, knowing that it is too much,” said Warkentine.

With rising lumber prices, it’s been stressful for him to keep customers updated with their costs, as prices can change in a couple of months. 

Since 2018, prices for wood have doubled. In some provinces like B.C, the price has tripled. (John Einarson/CBC)

“Imagine a very basic kind of material going up four times … you better get your quote up to date because it can change, just at the turn of a dime,” Warkentine said. 

WATCH | Tips to avoid double cost of lumber for outdoor renovations:

Landscaper Byron Rocke said people can use alternative materials like concrete or downsize their projects if they’re worried about the skyrocketing prices in lumber. 0:41

He said for the most part, customers have been understanding and accepted prices are out of their control, but it “does put a little bit more stress.” 

“Trying to find that deal … it takes more time to research and find something appropriate,” he said. “But the lumber prices are fairly high straight across the board, no matter which lumber yard you go to.” 

Creative modifications 

Rocke said if lumber prices are discouraging people from renovating, there are creative ways they can adjust their projects.

For example, instead of building a deck, they can look at building a stone patio, he said. 

“Just spend the dollars where it’s going to make the most sense,” Rocke said. 

“Paving stone concrete, those options are all still affordable. Do minimal things with lumber if you can, and just wait for the prices to normalize or look at alternative products,” said Rocke. 

While the skyrocketing wood prices can make people rethink their projects, others have tried to safeguard themselves from ballooning costs by purchasing supplies earlier. 

Sandy Hopkins is the CEO Habitat for Humanity in Manitoba. Hopkins said luckily, they bought all the wood they needed last year. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Sandy Hopkins, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Manitoba, said the organization saw prices for lumber start to climb early last year. To safeguard costs for itself, Habitat for Humanity purchased all the wood it needs this summer during last spring. 

“The prices are higher than what we’re used to paying, but we’ve managed to hedge our bets by purchasing early and so we’ll be able to keep building,” Hopkins said. 

Hopkins said price increases could’ve added anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 for each house. 

WATCH | Safeguarding against the ballooning costs of lumber:

Sandy Hopkins, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Manitoba, says skyrocketing wood prices can add about $20,000 to each house they’re trying to build — a risk they’re not willing to take. The organization is building six homes for low-income families in Amber Trails. 0:35

Currently, the organization is building five side-by-side two storey units at 1466 Templeton Ave in Amber Trails for low-income families. The project, which begins this month, is expected to be completed by March 2022. 

“If we had not made those purchases early, we probably would’ve had to stop building. The costs would just be way too high to warrant continuing to build,” he said.