Bricks and roofing tiles shortages to continue

By Leila Steed27 January 2022

worker laying building bricks ©Adobe Stock

Lead time delays for construction materials in the UK, including bricks and roofing tiles, are expected to continue into 2023, says the Construction Leadership Council (CLC).

According to a joint statement published by the co-chairs of the organisation’s Product Availability working group - John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association - while disruption to the supply chain has improved across the country, this is “largely due to a seasonal decline in activity”.

“While much has been done to ameliorate the issues seen earlier in the year, there remain challenges in relation to UK production capacity for some products, and in relation to the operation of the logistics and shipping sectors,” the CLC said.

Construction material shortages

Among the construction materials most likely to be affected by continuing delays are bricks and concrete blocks, which remain in short supply, and roof tiles - for which lead times currently average 24 weeks but rise to 41 weeks for some profiles.

“Supply challenges continue to affect bricks and aircrete blocks, roof tiles, steel lintels, manhole covers, plastic drainage products and certain sealants, coatings and paints,” said the organisation. 

On the positive side, the supply and price of many timber products has returned to more normal levels, although the CLC notes that tongue & groove remains in short supply.

With demand for construction sector services in the UK set to remain strong in 2022 - as a result of increased government infrastructure spending to combat the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the CLC said that imports may be necessary to a make up a shortfall in UK production until new production lines come on stream in 2023/24.

Impact of supply chain delays on small and medium-sized businesses

With the rising cost of energy also impacting manufacturers, the organisation added that “uncertainty around delivery and price has a disproportionate impact on SME builders”. 

Indeed, the latest trading statement from Forterra - the UK’s second biggest brick maker, has also now warned of further price hikes this year.

Forterra said it was reviewing costs before deciding whether to charge more following double-digit increases over the last few months due to higher energy costs.

Stephen Harrison, CEO at Forterra, said, “We remain watchful of further inflationary cost pressures, and we will apply further price increases as necessary.”

The CLC said, “Contractors working mainly on domestic repair, maintenance and improvement projects, where clients want price certainty before the project begins”. 

“It is, therefore, essential to maintain open lines of communication throughout the supply chain. We encourage all sectors to continue to work closely and collaboratively to manage challenges and plan future work,” it said.

International shipping delays

Although recent government initiatives to increase the number of HGV drivers will reduce construction sector logistics issues over the coming months, the CLC said, “Looking ahead, continuing congestion both here and at Scandinavian ports may lead to reduced supplies and higher prices in Q1 2022.

“Pressures on global shipping, including delays and volatile prices, look set to continue well into 2022.

“In addition to ongoing disruption stemming from China’s sustained ‘zero’ policy with regard to Covid-19 outbreaks, performance issues at Felixstowe have led some major shipping lines to divert vessels headed there from Asia to other, smaller ports in the UK.”

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