A decorator recently came around to quote for some painting work on our house. He was pretty flexible about when he could do the job. “I’m coming to the end of two and a half years of boom time,” he said gloomily. “People were pouring money into home improvements because they couldn’t have holidays or go out during lockdown — but inflation is putting paid to that.”
There are clear indications that consumers are having to curtail their plans as household budgets are increasingly stretched. Nationwide’s monthly spending reports show that outlay on home improvements and do-it-yourself fell by 7 per cent in June and 8 per cent in July, compared with 12 months earlier.
But there are also powerful inflationary pressures at work in construction and home improvements, as labour costs rise and material prices rocket.
The government’s latest monthly round-up of the prices for Building Materials and Components shows the price of materials for repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) jobs increased by 26 per cent over the year to June 2022. Particularly hard hit were concrete reinforcing bars, up a jaw-dropping 58 per cent, and structural steel, up 46 per cent.
Jim Parlato, a director of Browns Builders Merchants in Derby, adds that over the past 12 months, the price of cement has risen by 28 per cent, plasterboard by 30 per cent, copper pipe by 15 per cent and timber by 15-20 per cent.
He explains: “On the whole, building material manufacturers are heavy energy users and thus massively affected by price hikes in energy, as well as raw material shortages and other supply chain issues such as transport costs.”
Such price increases are too big for small builders to absorb, says Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). “More than 18