Survey: 65% of Those Who Delayed Home Improvement Projects Due to Cost of Lumber Restarting Soon

The price of lumber reached an all-time high in May 2021 at $1,686 per 1000 board feet, up 92% from the beginning of the year and 549% from COVID-19 pandemic lows in March 2020.

As a result, remodeling costs soared and the average cost of building a new home increased by $36,000. The shortage in lumber and demand for new homes also set many home improvement projects back by months.

Since May, however, lumber prices have fallen by almost 71% to $494 per 1,000 board feet. While costs are still higher than pre-pandemic lows, homeowners can save significantly on home improvement projects as compared to a few months ago.

To find out how fluctuating lumber prices have affected homeowners’ plans for home improvement projects, we surveyed 810 homeowners who either started or considered starting projects earlier this year.

We found that most homeowners who started home improvement projects in 2021 saw the costs increase considerably, leading many to delay projects. Of those who did delay projects, nearly two-thirds are planning to restart them now that lumber prices have fallen.

Key Findings

  • 77% of home improvement projects started in 2021 ended up costing more than expected due to the price of lumber.
  • Of home improvement projects that cost more than expected due to lumber prices, the average increase was 205% and the median cost increase was 40%.
  • 68% of those who started a home improvement project but saw the cost increase ended up delaying the project. When factoring in the projects that didn’t increase in cost, 55% of all home improvement projects were pushed back due to high costs.
  • 65% of those who delayed projects due to the high cost of lumber are restarting them soon now that lumber prices have dropped.

77% of Home Improvement Projects Started in 2021 Cost More Than Expected Due to Price of Lumber

We started off by asking respondents whether or not they ended up starting a home improvement project in 2021. 52% indicated that they did with a home improvement professional, 36% went the DIY route, and 11% considered it but ended up not starting.

Our next question asked those who did start a project whether or not it ended up costing more than anticipated due to the high price of lumber and materials:

As shown in the graphic above, over three-quarters of respondents’ home improvement projects ended up costing more than anticipated due to the high price of lumber and materials.

Just by how much?

The average increase was 205% while the median was 40%.

Aside from lumber, the cost of many other materials used in home improvement projects also increased this year.

Of the group of respondents who never ended up starting their planned home improvement projects in 2021, 51% didn’t do so because of the increased price of lumber and materials. When asking this group how much the cost of their projects would have increased, the average amount was 220% and the median was 50%.

Ryan Dubois, a general contractor from Delaware, said that almost all of his jobs in 2021 increased in cost:

There was a minimum cost increase of 25% across the board due to the price of lumber and other materials, with most increasing by more. The price almost all materials increased by at least 50%, making jobs much more expensive for customers.

Homeowners that did start projects and then saw costs increase dramatically had a tough decision to make: pay up to get it done or delay it in hopes of saving money.

68% Who Started Home Improvement Projects & Saw Costs Increase Delayed Them

We next asked respondents who started projects in 2021 and saw costs increase whether or not they decided to delay the project:

As shown, 68% of respondents in this group ultimately delayed their home improvement projects due to the cost of lumber and materials. When factoring in the respondents who didn’t see the costs of their projects increase unexpectedly, 55% of all home improvement projects started in 2021 were pushed back due to increased prices of lumber and materials.

A project started in the first few months of the year, especially, would have gotten drastically more expensive as lumber costs skyrocketed. It seems that many consumers decided the renovations or other home improvement projects they had started weren’t worth finishing.

Ryan Dubois, the general contractor mentioned above, explained that he primarily saw jobs involving a lot of lumber get pushed back:

Most of my customers ended up moving forward with the jobs despite higher costs. I did see some jobs involving a lot of lumber, such as new decks, get pushed back. Other jobs were delayed due to a shortage in materials.

Now that lumber prices have fallen, it appears that many homeowners are ready to finish the projects they delayed earlier in the year.

65% Now Restarting Projects Now That Lumber Prices Have Dropped

As mentioned in the introduction, lumber prices have fallen by 71% from their all-time high in May. We were curious whether this drastic drop was leading to homeowners starting or restarting the home improvement projects they ended up deciding to delay:

As shown, 70% of respondents who started projects but pushed them back are restarting them now that the cost of lumber has fallen. Another 25% are still waiting on prices to fall even more.

Of the group of respondents that never ended up starting their home improvement projects, 22% are planning on starting it soon, 52% are waiting for prices to drop, and 26% don’t have any immediate plans to start it.

All together, 65% of consumers that delayed home improvement projects due to the high cost of lumber in 2021 are planning on restarting them soon now that the cost of lumber has fallen.

Dubois said the demand for renovations and remodeling is at an all-time high:

We started seeing lumber prices fall quickly at hardware stores in the beginning of August. We are now scheduling most large jobs for about 5 months from now, after the holidays.

76% Worried About Home Improvement Professionals Coming Into Their Homes Because of the COVID-19 Delta Variant

As the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads throughout the U.S., cases are rising in 42 states and deaths are rising in 43. What’s more, one study found the vaccines to be only 66% effective at stopping infection from the Delta variant as compared to 90% from the original disease.

While lumber prices are becoming more favorable for consumers, the pandemic has taken a turn for the worse.

Our final question asked all respondents whether or not they would be worried about a home improvement professional coming into their home with the Delta variant spreading:

Overall, 76% of respondents would be worried about having a home improvement professional come into their home. Over half of this group, however, indicated that they would allow one in.

The lack of recent testing data has made it difficult for the CDC and other health organizations to understand how the Delta variant is spreading. If homeowners do ultimately decide to let home improvement professionals in their homes, it would be wise to take precautions such as requiring masks for everyone in the home, checking to see if they are vaccinated, and keeping their distance whenever possible.

Full Survey Results

Have you started a home improvement project (kitchen or bathroom remodel, addition, etc.) in 2021?

  • Yes, with a home improvement professional – 52.5%
  • Yes, I started it by myself (DIY) – 36.4%
  • No, I considered starting a project but never did – 11.1%

Did the project schedule take longer than expected due to a shortage of materials? (Asked only to those who started a home improvement project in 2021.)

  • Yes – 75.8%
  • No – 24.2%

Did the project end up costing more than you anticipated due to the high cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who started a home improvement project in 2021.)

  • Yes – 77.4%
  • No – 22.6%

By what percent did your project’s cost increase due to the cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who started a project in 2021 that ended up costing more than expected.)

  • Median: 40.0% (25.0% when including those whose project cost did not increase)
  • Average: 205.5% (159.0% when including those whose project cost did not increase)

Did you decide to reduce the amount of work you got done because of the high cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who started a project in 2021 that ended up costing more than expected.)

  • Yes – 70.6%
  • No – 29.4%

Did you delay the project due to the high cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who started a project in 2021 that ended up costing more than expected.)

  • Yes – 68.4%
  • No – 29.44%

Are you considering restarting the project now that the cost of lumber has fallen? (Asked only to those who started projects in 2021 but ended up delaying them due to the high cost of lumber.)

  • Yes, I am restarting it soon – 70.1%
  • Yes, but I am waiting for prices of lumber to drop more – 24.9%
  • No, I have not considered restarting it yet – 5.0%

Would the project have taken longer than expected due to a shortage in materials? (Asked only to those who considered starting a home improvement project in 2021 but decided not to.)

  • Yes – 32.2%
  • No – 33.3%
  • Unsure – 34.4%

Did you not end up doing the home improvement project due to the high cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who considered starting a home improvement project in 2021 but decided not to.)

  • Yes – 51.1%
  • No – 48.9%

By what percent do you estimate that your project’s cost would have increased due to the cost of lumber and materials? (Asked only to those who considered starting a home improvement project in 2021 but decided not to because of the high cost of lumber.)

  • Median: 50.0% (6.5% when including those whose project cost did not increase)
  • Average: 220.2% (112.5% when including those whose project cost did not increase)

Are you considering starting the project now that the cost of lumber has fallen? (Asked only to those who considered starting a home improvement project in 2021 but decided not to because of the high cost of lumber.)

  • Yes, I am restarting it soon – 21.7%
  • Yes, but I am waiting for prices of lumber to drop more – 52.2%
  • No, I have not considered restarting it yet – 26.1%

What kind of home improvement project(s) did you do or consider doing in 2021? (Select all that apply)

  • Kitchen remodel – 52.0%
  • Bathroom remodel – 51.9%
  • Home office remodel – 37.2%
  • Finishing a previously unfinished room such as a basement or attic – 30.4%
  • Remodel of another room in my house – 29.5%
  • Building or remodeling other outdoor space – 27.3%
  • Building or remodeling a deck – 26.9%
  • Building an addition to my home – 17.0%
  • Other – 5.7%

Would you be worried about having a home improvement professional come into your home with the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading?

  • Yes, and I wouldn’t allow one in because of it – 35.8%
  • Yes, but I would allow one – 39.9%
  • No, I am not worried – 24.3%

Methodology

All data found within this report come from a survey commissioned by Expertise.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish on August 21, 2021. In total, 810 American homeowners who considered starting or did start a home improvement project in 2021 were surveyed. We used a screener question to ensure that all respondents fit these criteria.