One unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is the heightened interest in outdoor activities. Americans looking for activities that could be done safely realized that going outdoors greatly reduced the risk of transmitting the virus. Millions of homeowners realized that their own front and back yards provided ideal spaces for hosting gatherings for family and friends and providing play areas for children who needed time outside. Thus, consumers increasingly looked to add decks, outdoor seating, gazebos, and play sets to their homes. However, many of these projects were delayed due to a shortage of a key building material: pressure-treated lumber.
Pressure-Treated Lumber: What Is It?
Pressure-treated lumber consists of softwood lumber that is treated with a chemical preservative and then subjected to high-pressure conditions to better promote the absorption of the preservative throughout the wood. The resulting product is much more resistant to moisture and insect attack compared to standard softwood lumber, making it ideal for use in outdoor building products. However, the sharp increase in demand for softwood lumber during the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the supply (and price) of pressure-treated lumber as homebuilders and other construction professionals purchased lumber for their own needs.
Decking to Continue to Dominate Demand, but Other End Uses to See Gains
Decking accounts for the largest share of pressure-treated lumber and will continue to do going forward. Many homeowners prefer the look of a natural wood deck, while contractors select the material because of their familiarity with it and its versatility – not only can deck boards be made from pressure-treated lumber, but so too can railings, stairs, and other features increasingly found on decks.
However, pressure-treated lumber will also be used in a wide range of other outdoor building products, such as:
- outdoor structures – gazebos, pergolas, and sheds – that are increasingly being added by homeowners to beautify their residences and add outdoor gathering places
- structural floors and foundations – in areas where subsurface moisture is a concern, water-resistant pressure-treated lumber can be a low-cost alternative to concrete supports
- fences – the millions of Americans who added pools during the pandemic will erect fences to meet building code requirements calling for the installation of fences around “attractive nuisances” to keep children safe from accidental drowning
For more information about the size and growth of the US pressure-treated lumber market, check out The Freedonia Group’s Pressure-Treated Lumber study.