LUMBERYARDS

Remodeling activity up for 18th consecutive month

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Residential remodeling activity continued to rise across the United States, showing a 15% increase in April 2011 in year-over-year comparisons, according to an index compiled by BuildFax, which uses a national database of building permit data. 

The latest BuildFax Remodeling Index (BFRI) indicates that residential remodeling activity registered its eighteenth-straight month gain.

“April traditionally sets a baseline for the rest of the year in residential remodeling activity, and April 2011 is the best we’ve seen since the beginning of the index in April 2004,” said Joe Emison, VP research and development at BuildFax. “The BFRI is indexed to start at 100 in April 2004 and here we are seven years later, after significant drops in housing value, and the index is almost 110. That means there were almost 10% more residential remodels in April 2011 than in April 2004. Given the relatively pessimistic economic news that we heard about in April, including a slowing recovery, this is a nice surprise for the industry."

In April, all regions posted month-over-month gains, and only the Midwest posted a year-over-year loss. The West was up 18% year-over-year and up 5.3 points, or 5%, month-over-month. The Midwest was down 19% year-over-year and up 17% month-over-month, recovering slightly from a lower-than-average March. The Northeast was up 5% year-over-year and 14% month-over-month, and the South was up 11% year-over-year and 12% month-over-month.

Based in Austin, Texas, and Asheville, N.C., BuildFax bases its index on a proprietary property intelligence engine that contains building and permitting information from 4,000-plus cities and counties across the United States. 

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NAHB sees few bright spots in residential construction stats

BY HBSDealer Staff

After housing starts showed modest month-to-month improvement yesterday, rising in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) expressed concerned over the pace of economic growth.

"While the upward movement registered in today’s report is somewhat good news, housing production continues to bounce along the bottom near historic lows, and is only running at a level necessary to replace dilapidated or destroyed units," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the NAHB and a home builder from Reno, Nev. 

Single-family housing starts rose 3.7% to a rate of 419,000 units in May — their strongest pace since this January. Multi-family starts rose 2.9% to a 141,000-unit rate in May.

"Like consumers, builders remain very concerned about the pace of economic growth and are awaiting signs of improvement before moving forward with new projects," noted NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "The relative bright spot in new-home construction is on the multi-family side, where improving demand for rental apartments is spurring gains in that sector. However, access to construction credit remains a limiting factor for new building."

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Alabama mill slapped with $2 million fine

BY Brae Canlen

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced $1,939,000 in proposed penalties for Phenix Lumber Co., a sawmill in Phenix City, Ala., for safety violations that include exposing employees to amputation and fall hazards. 

Prior to the June 14 citations, Phenix Lumber had been cited 77 times by OSHA for serious safety and health violations since 2007, according to the OSHA announcement.

OSHA began an inspection on Dec. 15, 2010, in response to a complaint that employees working in the planer mill were exposed to amputation hazards, while maintaining, cleaning and clearing jams on pieces of machinery that did not have their energy sources locked out to prevent their unexpected startup. Two months later, OSHA received a second complaint that an employee had suffered a partial finger amputation while clearing a piece of machinery that had not been locked out. At the opening of an inspection following the second complaint, the compliance officer learned of another employee who had just suffered a severe hand injury while working on unguarded machinery. 

Phenix Lumber had been cited numerous times during the past four years for allowing employees to work on unguarded machinery while it was operating, OSHA said in its announcement. Copies of the citations can be viewed by clicking here and here.

Phenix Lumber and principal John Dudley have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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