Adobe Stock/Alexandr Ivasenko

In addition to contributing to longer construction cycle times and rising construction costs, labor- and supply chain-related issues have also caused a shift in builder choices of home features, products, and materials, according to the 2022 Builder Practices Survey conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs.

The pandemic has accelerated some trends, including the increased inclusion of outdoor living areas in new homes. Conversely, some trends have reversed in the past year, with some builders adopting new products and materials, or going back to old standbys, when high prices and lack of availability slowed building processes.

While builders hunkered down and accepted delays and price hikes during the period of shortages and skyrocketing lumber prices in 2021, Ed Hudson, director of market research for Home Innovation Research Labs, says the 2022 survey indicates builders are making changes in product choices for some building material categories to mitigate pricing and availability challenges.

Hudson says builders began to switch from plywood and OSB to other sheathing panels at a higher rate in 2021, with insulating fiberboard sheathing varieties and foam board gaining ground in the sector. Additionally, the 2022 survey indicates builders who were previously using double layers of wall sheathing (OSB and foam board) began to eliminate the wood structural panel and use only a foam board, incorporating alternative bracing methods to meet building codes.

The framing market shifted in 2021 to use more regionally produced materials, particularly with lumber. While spruce-pine-fir lumber from the Northeast and Canada was historically the most popular wall stud material in new homes across the U.S., since the pandemic Southern yellow pine has become the most popular wall stud species reported by builders, with Douglas Fir and Western woods also gaining share. Southern yellow pine grew from 26% market share to 34% nationally, and increased its market share for lumber floor joists to 45% in 2021 from 37%, according to Home Innovation Research Labs.

Due to delays in the supply of building components such as roof trusses and wall panels, both products saw their market shares shrink after nearly a decade of steady growth. Instead, many builders reported they reverted back to stick framing to alleviate the extended delivery schedules of panels and trusses for framing.

Labor-Related Substitutes
As the skilled labor shortage worsened during the pandemic, many builders turned to building materials that promoted installation in fewer steps, with fewer workers, or with less experienced workers. Tile and solid hardwood floors lost market share in 2021 to luxury vinyl plank and tile and engineered wood flooring due to easier installation processes. Additionally, tiled shower and bath surrounds lost popularity while manufactured units and solid stone and polymer panel surrounds gained popularity, according to Home Innovation Research Labs.

Hudson says supply shortages in builder-grade products led many builders to make substitutions with higher-grade products, in part contributing to rising building costs. For example, many builders shifted to solid core interior doors due to hollow core door shortages and substituted acrylic bathing fixtures for gel-coated fiberglass fixtures, according the the Builder Practices Survey.

The 2022 Builder Practices Survey provides insights on building products and material usage for new-home construction, documenting the rise and decline of products’ and materials’ popularity. The report is compiled using results from a nationwide survey of home builders, documenting home sizes, designs, styles, and material selections.