Keystone Lintels comment: Q1 2018

Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels is BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels.

What a difference a year makes – comparing the first three months of 2018 with Q1 2017. In 2017 we saw ‘highs’ in volume due to bulk buying ahead of significant price increases driven by rising steel prices. In 2018 we have had ‘lows’ due to prolonged poor weather.

Housebuilders have reported up to 20 days lost on some sites and in reality that may be time that has been lost for the rest of the year. It is therefore extremely difficult to give a fair comparison between the two quarters. The joys of spring!

Now with the sunshine back, quarter two is getting off to a much improved start, and optimism is oozing back into the industry. When we review the quantity of enquiries received in the first quarter, it seems that some work will just be delayed. This is good news that the work is still there, even though we may not see all these recovered sales within calendar year 2018.

Once again the steel market is under strong pressure on pricing. US President, Donald Trump and his 25% levies are certainly unsettling the market in the short term, and possibly increasing prices in the long term. As always with steel, it’s not an easy commodity to second guess.

With the lost days on site during the spring, we hope all manufacturers have been able to build stock, assuming, of course, that staff were able to travel to work. Steel lintels, being within the fabric of the building structure, are affected by the overall supply chain of all heavy-side products required on site. Our concern is that in the longer term such key material shortages will force builders to review alternative ‘off site’ methods of construction that offer a greater confidence and surety in supply.

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Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.