Timber battens have replaced concrete roof tiles as the hardest-to-obtain construction product, although the overall picture for products and materials is more positive than it has been in recent months.
That’s according to a statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group.
Newcomb and Caplehorn said the market was no longer experiencing the extremely high levels of demand seen earlier in the year, while UK manufacturers are still at full production capacity.
Despite the fact that demand is still outstripping supply, they said availability of most products had improved across most regions.
However, there are still challenges in the supply of bricks, blocks and roofing products, and timber battens have overtaken concrete roof tiles as the most difficult to obtain. Certain electrotechnical products are also in short supply.
Newcomb and Caplehorn reported that activity across the infrastructure, commercial and new housebuilding sectors continued unabated and was likely to remain so for the first half of 2022. However, there was a slight slowdown in the residential repair, maintenance and improvement market, thought to be partly as a consequence of delayed projects and increased costs and lead times, and partly due to seasonality.
Newcomb and Caplehorn advised builders to work with brickmakers to ensure they get the bricks they need early. In particular, if they are seeking non-stock bricks, they will have to work more closely with the brickmakers to ensure availability and to mitigate delays in delivery.
Demand from new housebuilding is also expected to put supply of blocks under pressure in early 2022 as manufacturers struggle to build up supplies.
Newcomb and Caplehorn also warned that supplies of timber would remain “uneven” into 2022, while prices also remain volatile.
In the electrotechnical sector, products with electronic components and those made from steel, such as cable trays, remain in short supply, while twin and earth cable has become more problematic. Product pricing continues to be challenge, particularly for medium sized contractors working on tight fixed price contracts.
Fortunately, problems relating to a shortage of HGV drivers have “lessened for the time being”, though the pre-Christmas period may cause further pressure. Imports, particularly from the Far East, continue to be affected by long lead times, delays at ports and high container costs.
Newcomb and Caplehorn added: “Uncertainty is now cited as a broad area of concern. Examples include the uncertainty around inflation and the pricing of products, particularly in relation to steel, cement, bricks, blocks, glass and ceramic tiles, which are all impacted by rising energy costs.
“Uncertainty around potential spikes in the number of covid cases over the winter is having an adverse effect on product availability. The impact of full border controls that come into force at the end of this year is a further unknown, as is the implementation of the new UK CA Mark and UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations.”