Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Shortages in raw materials is causing concern across the construction industry, so what is the situation?

Sadly, the well-reported construction materials shortage appears to be set to continue, with prices expected to keep on rising.

There has been no improvement in the availability of key building materials this month, such as timber and steel, and suppliers’ delivery times have increased sharply as supply chains struggle to keep pace with demand. 

This is undoubtedly bad news for Housing Associations, housebuilders and those working within the field of retrofit. There’s more to a house than bricks and mortar!

To understand how the materials shortage is effecting the housing market, lets break down the shortage.

We must resist the urge to stockpile and ensure that materials are shared around equally

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of HA magazine

What are we short of?

Roof tiles

Nearly half of National Federation of Roofing Contractors members have reported a shortage of concrete roof tiles. Lead times for concrete tiles are between 20-36 weeks, on average, while lead times for clay times are between 4-8 weeks.


The timber supply chain in took a massive hit in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and a continuously shifting market. Unfortunately, shortages seem set to continue into 2021, exacerbated by high levels of demand for timber and wood products globally.


Whilst supplies of bagged cement have improved of late, it still isn’t back to the required levels. It is hoped that this will resolve itself over the next few months. (Watch this space!)


The British steel industry is in dire straits at the moment, in spite of soaring high demand. Shortages are expected to continue until the end of the year. The British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association said that a dramatic reduction in steel production in early 2020 had caused a worldwide shortage, while British Steel recently stopped taking orders on structural steel sections due to “extreme demand”.

Plaster and plasterboard

There was a chronic shortage of plaster at the start of 2021. Whilst supplies have improved slightly since, plasterboard has still been subject to extended lead times.

Electrical components

Shortages of certain electronic components, caused by a shortage of raw materials, are expected to extend into next year.

And there’s more!

There are also shortages of:

  • Paints and sealants
  • PIR insulation
  • Bricks and blocks
  • Aggregates
  • PE and PP plastics
  • Screws
  • Fixing
  • Plumbing items
  • Sanitaryware
  • Shower enclosures

Soaring prices

Lengthening lead times coupled with increased demand is making it tough for manufacturers and suppliers to build up stock levels. This is pushing up the prices of existing stock.

According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the price of materials rose 8.4% for all construction work in April compared to the previous year. This equates to a monthly increase of 2.6%.

British construction activity surged in May at the fastest rate in nearly seven years. As a result of this, IHS Markit reported record surges in the price of timber, bricks and steel in May.

The Federation of Master Builders' (FMB) State of Trade Survey stated that 93% of its members have reported material price increases in the first quarter of 2021.

General material cost inflation is forecast to rise by between 7% and 8% over the next year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Mitigating the effects

Those of us who are planning or in the middle of housebuilding/renovation work this summer would do well to plan as far as we can in advance to help minimise the impact of shortages and price rises on our projects.

This is particularly important as demand for DIY and landscaping products surges throughout the summer months, which may place an extra pressure on supplies.

Social and affordable housebuilders will need to work closely with their supply chain and agree their requirements early with suppliers, distributors and builders merchants. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, says “Product availability is proving to be a significant and prolonged issue for Britain’s builders, and consumers need to be aware that the cost of their building projects may change in the months ahead because of this pressure.

“However, I would caution against compromising quality and customer service, and defaulting to hire the builder with the cheapest quote.”

In summary

As we begin to make our way out of the pandemic, many industries are now enjoying healthy and much-needed growth in their field - the construction industry being no exception. 

However, with annual new builds, increased spending on infrastructure and commercial construction steadily on the rise; the materials shortage could stand to trip us up and hamper progress.

In order to make sure we limit its impact as much as possible, we must resist the urge to stockpile and ensure that materials are shared around equally.

Whilst we have little control over the material shortage, we can control our reaction to it. Therefore everybody with purchasing power within the industry has a duty not to panic buy and to stamp out the same patterns of behaviour in themselves that led us to run out of toilet roll back in March last year.

Don’t be greedy, share and share alike.

Keep calm and carry on!

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine