Builders keep an eye on post-Katrina prices

Monday, September 12, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:22 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Andy Ruprecht has been keeping a close eye on lumber prices lately, hoping that Hurricane Katrina won’t cause a significant increase in the cost of building materials.

His company, Breakthrough Construction in Columbia, uses a database to follow national averages on the prices of building supplies from Home Depot and Lowe’s stores.

“We definitely worry about it,” he said. “We saw a rise in prices during hurricane season last year.”

At this point, however, Katrina has had little effect on building supplies locally. At the Lowe’s in Columbia, prices for drywall, plywood and steel were the same Thursday afternoon as they were on Aug. 30, the day after Katrina came ashore.

Brad Eiffert of Boone County Lumber Co. said his business has a responsibility to be a “shock absorber” for its customers.

Despite a rise in the wholesale lumber market after Katrina made landfall, his prices have remained unchanged.

Eiffert said that although it is still too early to tell for sure, he thinks the hurricane’s effect on the retail cost of lumber in Columbia will be minimal.

He pointed to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange futures as proof that the lumber industry is rebounding from an initial surge in prices after the storm.

Random-length lumber on the November futures market closed at 289.7 points Friday, after a high of 307.60 on Tuesday. Each point represents 10 cents per 1,000 board feet of softwood lumber.

Rod Glidewell of Glidewell Construction in Columbia said he expects to see an increase in the price of certain products, such as Southern yellow pine and gypsum, which have plants in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

He said, however, that there will not be much new work along the Gulf Coast for a few months. By then it will be winter, when there is not much local demand for building supplies.

Glidewell said he didn’t think there would be much impact on a lumber industry that has been strong all summer.

“Lumber prices are almost on the low side right now,” he said.

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