Business as usual for construction suppliers

Colorado suppliers share insight on long-term coronavirus impact

Suppliers haven’t faced significant slowdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a panel presented by Construction Resource Group in late April.

“We haven’t run into a lot of restrictive practices on jobsites,” Joe Stein, market sales manager for Builders, said. Some builders have strict PPE requirements regarding COVID-19, he said, but “everybody’s already on it so it really hasn’t been anything new to any of our drivers.”

[Related: How home builders are tackling coronavirus]

He added that with the builders his company works with, “their guys on the site understand the importance of keeping it safe … and taking care of their people.”

The price of lumber and OSB dropped dramatically in April, Stein said, but he hasn’t seen any shortages impacting jobs.

He expects that lumber prices might see some slight decreases through the end of the summer, while OSB panels prices could go up, “but it looks like it’s fairly stable right now.”

Keith Callender, president of TriStar Drywall, noted that delivery scheduling has had to get tighter. Builders are “controlling access to jobsites a lot more,” he said. At an apartment build he’s working on, vehicles are being checked and unloaded at access gates, and drivers may have to answer some questions or get their temperatures checked.

“That’s the most stringent jobsite effect that we’ve had,” he said.

Prior to the pandemic, Callender said, a typical delivery window for smaller jobsites would be either in the morning or afternoon.

“That’s generally as tight as we ever get,” he said, with larger projects requiring a two- to four-hour window. Now, deliveries have to be made in a hard, two-hour time frame.

“They make sure the area is clear of other people, other trades,” Callender said. His own suppliers are doing the same thing, he said. “They’ll wait until the building is empty before they allow their people to start stocking the building.”

Kurt Winfield, builder sales and marketing for Front Range Window & Door, noted that bigger jobsites are more likely to have stricter restrictions.

“Smaller projects, the scrape projects, infills, there’s really been no difference from pre-COVID” practices, he said. He added that he’s seen more efficiency happening on the framers’ end of the job because “there’s a little more framer availability on the market as many builders have put multiple projects on hold.”

Zac Frank, director of showroom and builder for Ferguson BAC‘s Rocky Mountain region, acknowledged that social distancing has slowed down jobs a little since they’ve had to limit the number of trades working inside the home at a time.

“Scheduling has become much more on point,” Frank noted, as well as adherence to PPE guidelines.

“We’re not going to be the reason a jobsite gets shut down,” he said. “We are essential, and we want to remain essential as a business.”

He added that even though jobs are a little slower, it hasn’t had an inordinate effect on total job length.

Pandemic’s effect on housing demand

Stein expects fourth-quarter sales could be extremely busy.

“There’s still a lot of demand out there,” he said. Looking out over the next six months, he believes the Denver market especially has enough jobs in the pipeline that as economic confidence comes back, “you’re going to see a lot of that jam into the fourth quarter.”

[Related: Professional home builders are still needed and here’s why]

Frank said that because there was a shortage of homes going into the pandemic, many of his builders believe that shortage will continue after it, potentially giving a recovery a boost.

Danielle Andrus

Editor, Colorado Builder Magazine

Danielle Andrus has 284 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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