Huge plywood and steel price rises push up construction costs

Image: Dreamstime/Bernhard Lux

Construction prices rose by 14.7% in June 2021, compared with the same month a year before, according to the latest official figures.

Imported plywood shot up in price by 66%, while fabricated steel was up 53.3% and concrete reinforcing bars also showed one of the biggest increases, up by 51.9%.

The monthly statistics of building materials and components, produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed that there was a 3.6% increase in brick deliveries in June 2021, compared with February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic.

There was also a 4.2% increase in concrete block deliveries in June 2021, illustrating the recovery in construction since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

But imports of construction materials decreased by £294m in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the previous quarter – a fall of 6%. Exports of construction materials decreased by £157m, compared to the previous quarter, a decrease of 8.5%.

The top five most imported materials in 2020 were electrical wires (at a value of £1.85bn), lamps and fittings (£860m), sawn wood >6mm thick (£821m), linoleum floors and coverings (£553m), and air conditioning equipment (£546m).

The top five most exported items were electrical wires (£931m), paints and varnishes (£686m), plugs and sockets (£355m), air conditioning equipment (£331m) and lamps and fittings (£324m).

The UK imported £9.1bn worth of building materials and components from the EU in 2020 and £6.7bn from non-EU countries. It exported just under £4bn of materials and components to the EU and £2.9bn to non-EU countries.

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