Survey: Labor Shortages and Supply Chain Delays Shift Demand to Alternative Materials

Adobe Stock/Alexander Ivasenko

In addition to contributing to longer construction cycle times and increased construction costs, labor and supply chain issues have also led to a change in the choices of builders on home features, products and materials, according to the 2022 Survey of Builder Practices conducted by Home Innovation Research laboratories.

The pandemic has accelerated some trends, including the increased inclusion of outdoor living spaces in new homes. Conversely, some trends have reversed over the past year, with some builders adopting new products and materials, or reverting to old eves, when high prices and lack of availability slowed construction processes. .

As builders hunkered down and accepted delays and price hikes during a time of shortages and soaring lumber prices in 2021, Ed Hudson, director of market research for Home Innovation Research Labs, said the 2022 survey indicates that builders are changing their product choices for certain categories of building materials to alleviate price and availability issues.

Hudson says builders have started switching from plywood and OSB to other sheathing panels at a faster pace in 2021, with insulating fiberboard sheathing varieties and foam board gaining traction in the industry. . Additionally, the 2022 survey indicates that builders who previously used double layers of wall sheathing (OSB and foam board) have begun to eliminate the wood structural panel and use only foam board, incorporating alternative bracing methods to meet building codes.

The framing market has shifted in 2021 to use more locally produced materials, especially with lumber. While spruce, pine and fir lumber from the Northeast and Canada has historically been the most popular wall stud material in new homes across the United States, since the pandemic, southern yellow pine has become the most popular species of wall stud reported by builders, with Douglas Fir and Western woods also gaining share. Southern Yellow Pine grew from 26% market share to 34% nationally and increased its market share for wood floor joists to 45% in 2021 from 37%, according to Home Innovation Research Labs .

Due to delays in the supply of building components such as roof trusses and wall panels, both products have seen their market shares decline after nearly a decade of steady growth. Instead, many builders reported reverting to stick framing to alleviate extended lead times for panels and trusses for framing.

Work-related surrogates
As skilled labor shortages worsened during the pandemic, many builders turned to building materials that favored installation in fewer steps, with fewer workers, or with less experienced workers. . Solid hardwood tile and flooring lost market share in 2021 to luxury vinyl plank and tile and engineered wood flooring due to easier installation processes. Additionally, tiled shower and tub surrounds have declined in popularity while manufactured units and solid stone and polymer panel surrounds have grown in popularity, according to Home Innovation Research Labs.

Hudson says supply shortages of builder-grade products have led many builders to make substitutions with higher-quality products, contributing in part to rising construction costs. For example, many builders switched to interior solid-core doors due to the shortage of hollow-core doors and replaced acrylic bath fixtures with gel-coated fiberglass fixtures, according to the survey. manufacturer practices.

The Builder Practices Survey 2022 provides information on building products and the use of materials for new home construction, documenting the rise and fall in popularity of products and materials. The report is compiled from the results of a nationwide survey of home builders, documenting home sizes, designs, styles and materials.