TikTok sheds light on Australian timber supply crisis in construction industry
The huge problem of Australia’s supply problems has been highlighted in a video showing the dangers of timber shortages.
Australia’s construction industry is slowly being crushed under the enormous weight of the global supply crisis, with some builders forced to take shortcuts to stay afloat.
The devastating problem was highlighted in a viral video posted by a Melbourne carpenter this week that showed how a major timber shortage was affecting the construction of new homes.
Robbie Wright, who runs Wrightway Carpentry, filmed the framing inside a construction site and shared the footage on TikTok on Tuesday.
“Look at the timber crisis we have here in Australia,” he told viewers as he walked through the partially built house.
“Everyone starts to join [wall] studs with gang plates.
Wall studs are vertical pieces of wood or metal that help form the internal framework of a building.
The studs are usually made of single long pieces of wood, but the ones inside the house Mr. Wright filmed were separate pieces connected by gang plates, also called truss plates, which hold wooden trusses together using sharp galvanized steel teeth.
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Mr Wright said the technique had been used “all over the house”.
Speaking to news.com.au, he said he created the video to highlight that the construction industry continues to struggle through ‘difficult times’.
He added that although the use of single studs in the wall framing was preferred, the use of two studs connected by a link plate was generally still permitted, provided it was approved by a structural engineer.
“Something has to happen to help the industry, hopefully the new government will do something,” Mr Wright said.
The extreme shortage of materials has led to long delays in new construction, he said, with builders now having to wait up to four months for supplies that would previously have been delivered within days.
The implications of the supply delays meant that Mr Wright had to outsource work like never before, as jobs piled up while his company waited for crucial deliveries.
“There’s loads of work to do, but it’s just the delays in getting images to sites that’s holding us back,” he said.
Video highlights ‘real problem’
Australia’s only carpentry-specific organisation, Carpentry Australia, said the video highlighted a devastating problem facing the construction industry.
“The video highlights a real problem currently facing the construction industry. It hurts everyone involved, including carpenters, builders and consumers,” a spokesperson told news.com.au.
They said that while it could not be ruled out that builders sought permission to use the technique, it generally provided “a less desirable result”.
“Although the product may in fact be structurally suitable in this case…the method provides a less desirable result during construction, and is actually longer and more expensive to produce.”
The video did not necessarily suggest the building was structurally flawed, the spokesperson said, with builders able to obtain certificate approval before using the technique.
But the spokesperson said the issue was a cause for major concern, as it highlighted the far-reaching implications of Australia’s significant shortage of materials.
Builders could be penalized “if the product is judged by the building inspector to be unsuitable for use in this case”, they added.
They said it was possible the builder was faced with the decision of whether to pay more for the materials and keep the work, or put the work on hold and risk late penalties.
Many viewers of the TikTok video expressed concern for the future occupants of the house.
“They’re just cheap. Wood is available, just higher prices,” one wrote in a comment.
“I feel so bad for new build owners in these times of unstable homes and rising interest rates,” another said.
“So they stack dominoes and call it a house,” wrote a third.
Another respondent said the builder had “bundled pieces together when they should be complete parts.”
Dark reason for the supply crisis
Builders have been battered by material supply problems since the emergence of the Covid pandemic, which has now been made worse by Australia’s trade sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
The collapse of construction giant Probuild happened in February before materials from Russia and Belarus were marked as “conflict timber” on March 4, and the government agreed that goods shipped earlier would not be subject to the 35% import tariff.
However, the issue has put additional pressure on businesses in an already difficult environment.
Several other failures followed the fall of Probuild, including the collapse of Gold Coast-based Condev in March. Australia’s largest homebuilder, Metricon, also recently received a $30 million lifeline to keep its struggling business afloat.
Smaller operators have also succumbed, including Hotondo Homes Hobart, Home Innovation Builders and Sydney-based Next, while staff at Queensland builders Pivotal Homes were all made redundant on the spot last week. Over the weekend, Queensland construction company Solido Builders revealed it had appointed liquidators.