If you’ve been to Lowes or Home Depot lately, you’ve noticed something remarkable–exploding lumber prices! In the past year alone, lumber prices have gone up almost 400%! This article contains some terrific graphs that demonstrate just how fast the prices are rising: Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices. Only look if you’re ready for a true horror story. The simple fact is that the lumber in new stick-frame homes is costing four times more than it did a little over a year ago. Personally, I refuse to buy a twelve-dollar 2×4.
If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve heard me extoll the virtues of natural building, time and time again. This post will be no different. While finished lumber prices have skyrocketed, the dirt under your feet is as free as ever! The homes I build use only a small portion the lumber that a conventional stick-frame house requires. Take for example my tiny house–the entire wall is built out of earthbags filled with local dirt/earth from the building site. The roof is constructed of milled wood from a local sawmill. The last time I checked, that sawmill had the same prices as ever (a tip for those who absolutely must buy wood for a project).
If these finished lumber costs keep rising as they have been, working class and poor folks simply won’t be able to afford to have stick frame homes built. This might force them to begin looking into alternatives. It seems that now is as good a time as any for folks to learn about and to start considering natural building for their own homes! Depending on the particular climate and what’s locally available, cob, strawbale, adobe, rammed earth, hempcrete, earthbag, cordwood, bamboo, and stone, are all great options. One can also still build inexpensively with wood if you’re harvesting your own timbers. A log cabin with timbers from on site will be as inexpensive as ever. Another option is to hire someone with a mobile sawmill: my community mate did that and got all kinds of hardwood lumber for less than 50 cents a board foot (12″x12″x1″).
As always, there are multiple ways to beat “the man,” it just takes a bit of creativity and looking at things from different perspectives. Until you are aware of an option, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Once you know there are other ways of doing things, it opens up a universe of possibilities.