As we enter another week of staying home, the impacts of shutdowns are rippling through the contracting world. While some tradespeople—like plumbers and electricians—are considered essential, residential builders are not, and contracting companies are struggling with how to navigate this uncertain time. 

Last week, The Seattle Times published an editorial urging Governor Jay Inslee to allow residential construction to resume. Without residential construction, The Times warns, we could start to run low on other necessary supplies created from the offshoots of residential building—like toilet paper.

With construction halted, there’s no demand for lumber, which means many sawmills are reducing output and in danger of closing completely. If sawmills aren’t operating, there’s no sawdust or woodchip by-products, and that’s what paper products like toilet paper are made from. This could lead to a shortage of toilet paper, which is already in high demand.

“Adjustments are inevitable as more is learned about the intended and unintended consequences of public-safety orders,” reports The Times. “One such change should allow residential construction to resume, keep mills going—and prevent mayhem that will ensue if toilet paper becomes even more scarce.”

The Times also noted that many other states, such as Oregon and California, are allowing residential building to continue as long as proper social distancing measures are maintained.

ProSales Magazine, a professional builder publication, reported wood products manufacturer Boise Cascade is planning to reduce its plywood production by 25 to 35 percent and its engineered wood products production by 20 to 40 percent, depending on location. 

“We are operating from a strong financial position but are taking necessary actions to reduce our production levels and costs in other parts of the company in response to what we expect to be a significant decline in market demand over the next several months,” said Boise Cascade CEO Nate Jorgensen in a public statement.

We’re thankful to The Times and ProSales for recognizing the importance of contractors and the trades as a whole. Our focus—now and always—is to bring you the most up-to-date information we have so you can navigate your own building business as best practices change. For more information on how COVID-19 is affecting our community, see our post on how Irons Brothers Construction is dealing with the shutdown, as well as Dunn Lumber President Mike Dunn’s open letter about how we’re monitoring best practices. And be sure to read The Seattle Times’ full editorial on its website.