Right now, in this Great Land, there is a wallboard shortage. A year ago, you could order a big bunch of wallboard, and have it delivered within a day or two. These days, you can still order the stuff, but you might have to wait a month or longer for delivery.
For those of you who don’t know, wallboardalso known by the brand name, Drywallis the stuff we use to make interior walls and ceilings these days. It’s the stuff you drive nails into when you want to hang a picture. It’s the stuff you paint, the surface where you hang your wallpaper.
A builder or remodeler being out of wallboard is like a mama being out of milk and diapers. You’ve just got to have the stuff. With the exceptions of real enough three-coat plaster (which hasn’t been used much since WWII) and wood paneling (which these days means a matchbook-thin splinter-and-glue product best known as an accelerant in trailer fires), there are no other useful products out there that’ll cover up the house framing, wiring, and plumbing.
I know what y’all are thinking: We’ve heard this before. Oil shortage, coffee shortage, nurse shortage, Furby shortage. We’re being lied to again.
Well, I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but this wallboard shortage looks like the real thing. Chicago-based USG (which used to stand for U.S. Gypsum) is the country’s largest wallboard producer. USG was unable to expand production in the early ’90s because of restrictions imposed on the company as it emerged from bankruptcy oversight, according to the Journal of Light Construction.
Meanwhile, construction has been at a 20-year peak, and tornadoes have been wrecking buildings left and right. Demand for wallboard is huge. Even with all existing factories running at full capacity producing 27 billion square feet of wallboard annually, builders in many areas can’t get enough wallboard to finish their projects, says the New York Times. In some places, supply houses are rationing the stuff. Of course, this means higher prices. USG raised prices about 20 percent during the first quarter of this year. Homebuyers and homeowners are complaining to their builders, builders are complaining to their suppliers, and suppliers are complaining to the manufacturers.
I’m just glad that I don’t need any wallboard right now. The last time I bought a big load of wallboard was about 14 years ago, when wife Brenda and I were renovating our then-condemnable house. During previous renovation projects, we had learned that the surest way for us to fight was to work on the house together. Our worst fights would always came when we had to carry or hold something together. Wallboard comes in 4-by-8 sheets, and that means two-person carrying and holding.
So we hired a company to do the wallboard work. They sent over a pair of identical twins, who weren’t quite right. First, they couldn’t talk plain. Second, they cussed and fought like short-order cooks. Third, they had matching inch-thick calluses on their bald heads, which sprouted there because of the twins’ own weird work habits. Those boys set up their scaffolding so they could balance a piece of wallboard on their heads, then stand on their tiptoes and snug it up to the ceiling. Once they had the sheet snug, they’d drive in nail after nail, no doubt delivering hundreds of foot-pounds of energy through their head calluses directly into their frontal lobes. It’s a wonder they could talk at all. Even more a wonder that they could hit nails.
To this day, whenever I think my life isn’t going quite right, I just stop where I am and thank heaven I don’t have a job that gives me a big-ass head callus.
As the wallboard shortage drags on, some builders and supply houses have resorted to importing wallboard from Canada. Nothing against our Canadian neighbors, but when this country has to start importing stuff from Canada, something has gone terribly wrong. Right now, there’s a plumber in South Nashville smuggling commodes in from Canada to satisfy local demand for the 3.6-gallon flushersoutlawed in the U.Sthat’ll actually clear out the bowl without leaving skid marks, if you know what I mean.
I want to know how we ended up in the sorry state of having to get our wallboard and our better-quality commodes from Canada. The country that put 12 men on the moon and won the Cold War ought not to have to look northward for building materials.
The wallboard situation isn’t all bad news, though. USG, Lafarge Corp., and Georgia-Pacific all plan to bring new factories on line later this year. That should do the trick. A year from now, if supply houses are still telling you wallboard is back-ordered, then you can start thinking about conspiracies.
Visit Walter’s Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense. Or you can e-mail him at email@example.com.