How to get the products you need during a global building material shortage


As the UK has slowly opened back up after a year of lockdowns, the construction industry is seen to be at the forefront of the economic recovery and is literally booming. The knock-on effect though, has meant that some building materials are now in short supply. 

Here’s a quick summary of what’s been happening and what you can do to ensure you get the materials you need.

Why are building materials in short supply?

There are a number of factors that are causing building materials to be in such short supply. The unique combination of a global pandemic, Brexit and a massive surge in demand are the biggest contributors. Whilst the demand for building products is being seen globally, in the UK it is being driven by the increase in home improvements and the Government’s decision to invest unprecedented amounts in infrastructure, house building and green projects. 

The shortage of shipping containers is also having a massive impact on product supplies and prices as the cost of these have risen dramatically. For example, the cost of shipping a 40ft container from Asia to Northern Europe soared from £1,061 in summer 2020 to more than £5,873 by May 2021. Many UK manufacturers are reliant on these containers as a means to transport key ingredients for their products.

Shortages are being seen across a number of products but those hardest hit are reported to be plastic, timber, cement, steel and aggregates. At Cotterill Civils, we have seen this impact some of our plastic products as manufacturers have struggled to source the key ingredient – polymer.

In the case of polymer, this has also been impacted by freak weather. Texas is one of the biggest exporters of this material and when the state experienced sub-freezing temperatures for a sustained period in February, this led to its plants having to shut.

How to ensure you get the products you need?

The shortage of building materials is not expected to disappear anytime soon so it’s something UK builders will need to manage during 2021.

At Cotterill Civils, we’ve been working hard to ensure our customers get the products they need. We don’t rely on a single manufacturer, which means we can call on different suppliers for any one product at any time, minimising the impact of shortages. We also keep large stocks in our yard that we’re continually replenishing.

This is, however, a national issue that all merchants are experiencing so some of our products will have longer lead times. We’re keeping our customers well informed and we recommend, when you can, that you order in advance, whether purchasing from us or any other supplier.

It’s also worth considering using different materials for your products if you’re struggling to get them for a specific time. For example, you could use clay sewer pipe instead of plastic, galvanised steel culvert pipe instead of plastic or concrete rings rather than plastic. You get the gist!

At Cotterill Civils we supply a wide range of civils and drainage products – give us a call today on 0121 351 3230 to speak to one of our specialists. We’d be more than happy to advise.

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