Originally created 09/22/04

Building supplies, prices hold steady



ATLANTA - In spite of the vast damage inflicted on the Southeast by three devastating hurricanes, availability of construction materials remain adequate and prices are still stable.

"We had much more of a severe impact after Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, for example, and we had expected to see more of a problem than we have," said Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

Through a survey of suppliers, the Associated Builders & Contractors of Georgia found that construction materials have been adequately available despite hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan sweeping through the Southeast.

Mark Pratt, the owner of Pratt-Dudley Builders Supply Co. in Augusta, said he has seen no shortages of material and that wholesale lumber prices are "relatively stable."

"There was a slight run-up in plywood prices in late July," he said. "That might have been in preparation for the hurricanes."

Materials such as roofing shingles tend not to fluctuate, Mr. Pratt said.

Because recent housing construction has been so strong, Georgia-Pacific Corp. did not have enough plywood inventory on hand before the storms.

To meet the sudden demand, the paper and building products manufacturer has had facilities working around the clock, said Robin Keegan, the spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based company.

"We've shipped over three million sheets of plywood into Florida over the past four weeks - almost double the usual amount into Florida," she said. "We have frozen plywood and OSB (oriented strand board) prices at pre-storm levels in all counties that have been declared disaster areas."

Florida received the brunt of the hurricane damage, but related storm winds and rain from Ivan caused 14 counties in Georgia to be considered disaster areas.

Large home improvement retailers said the storm damage creates a demand for commodity items and reduces the demand for non-essential home products.

"Plywood, chain saws, gas cans, roofing shingles, things like that - we will see a financial bump on that, but it has to be measured up against what's not selling," said Don Harrison, a spokesman for Atlanta-based The Home Depot. "Nobody's buying lawn tractors. Nobody's having their kitchen redesigned. It does tend to balance out."

Spring and fall seasons are typically busy construction periods in Augusta because of the mild weather, Mr. Pratt said.

Another bump in activity could come from Georgia builders who manage to find room in the reconstruction projects, said Jeff Humphreys, an economist with the University of Georgia.

"I think most of these benefits are going to go to nonresidential contractors in Georgia that are going to be bidding on projects in Florida," he said. "The activity itself will take place in Florida, but some of those dollars will come back to Georgia because some of those firms are headquartered in the state."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 589-8424 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.



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