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Prices of Building Materials 1916

Posted September 20, 2013 by admin with No Comments in Architecture


AMONG architects and others interested in the cost of building, the actual situation in the construction field is not always entirely understood, and at the present time particularly the percentages of increase in prices of materials that have taken place since the effect of the war in Europe has been felt in this country, are being quoted by architects to their clients in the most general terms, due apparently to a lack of definite and specific information.

“It is of interest to note that in spite of the fact that during the past year and a half, prices of building material have been steadily increasing, the plans filed for building operations indicate that in general a greater volume of work has been going on during that period than when prices were normal. Of course, consideration should be given to the fact that a large percentage of the permits granted never proceed further, or are delayed by a variety of causes, so proper allowances must be made when estimating the amount of building that will be done within the current year. At the present time, there is far from unanimity of opinion among manufacturers and dealers in building materials regarding the price situation in the building field: some claim that when the war ceases prices will drop because in their opinion the principal stimulus to our present expansion has been due to this cause, while others declare that as long as the cost of labor remains high the market will hold firm and little can be expected in the •nature of a decline.

“Before reviewing the market on building materials, it may be of interest to glance at the figures for operations during the past few months. Permits for May covering seventy-seven of the principal cities show the largest amount of proposed work for any single month during the history of our country, the total aggregating $106,433,902. The closest approach to this record was in April of 1912 when the amount nearly touched the million dollar mark. From figures compiled for the month of June covering sixty-four of the cities, the total reaches $76,739,283, which compares most favorably with the previous month’s report when the fact is considered that reports from thirteen cities were omitted.

“Without doubt the most noticeable advances in price have been made on various steel products. Such suddenly increased demands were brought about by the European war that prices rapidly rose, and in comparison with a year ago in most instances have about doubled. For structural material in July of 1915 the Pittsburgh mill quotations ranged from $1.25 to $1.30 per 100 pounds, while from warehouse in New York prevailing prices were $1.95 to $2.00. Today from mill, Pittsburgh, $2.50 to $2.75 is asked for ordinary shapes, while plates bring from $3.00 to $3.25. In New York prices on structurals are firm, at $3.25 to $3.30, while $4.00 is asked for plates. From warehouses in St. Louis the price is $3.43, Chicago, $3.10, and San Francisco, $4.25. The change in quotations on this material has added millions of dollars to construction work in New York, the City of New York itself having several million dollars added to its bill for the construction of subways.

“The industrial expansion in this country, due largely to war business, brought with it the requirement of more buildings and steel was in such a demand that it was oftentimes sold at a good premium. Conditions are now more favorable for furnishing the increasing supply. The capacity of mills having been increased, manufacturers are now in a better position to cope with the demands and within the past month prices on some shapes have eased off.

“On concrete reinforcing bars the same condition applies. From mill shipments for 3/4 inch sizes, $2.50 per 100 pounds is asked and from New York warehouse the price is $3.10. In St. Louis $3 24 is quoted, Chicago, $3.10, San Francisco, $4.00. A year ago this time 3/4 inch size from mill were $1.25 per 100 pounds and from warehouses, New York, $2.05 was quoted.

“With the large demand for structural steel it naturally follows that an advance on rivets would take place as both are used for one purpose. At present per 100 pounds, f. o. b. Pittsburgh, 3/4 inch structural steel rivets sell at $4.00 per keg. In New York they are $5.25, Chicago, $3.50, St. Louis, $3.55, San Francisco, $5.40.

“Plain wire nails per keg in carload lots are $2.50 to $2.60, f. o. b. Pittsburgh; for galvanized one inch and longer, $4.50 to $4.60 is asked and shorter galvanized $5.00 to $5.10. In New York wire and cut nails sell at $3.15, in Cleveland at $3.05, and Chicago, $2.85.

“Steel sheet piling from mill Pittsburgh sells at $2.50 per 100 pounds, while one year ago it could be had at $1.60.

“Portland cement per barrel in cotton bags for carload lots sells at $1.72 in New York, when a year ago $1.33 was the prevailing price. In Boston it is $1.92 as compared with $1.56 a year ago, Chicago $1.81 against $1.51 of last year. The demand for this material has also been excessive, not alone for building construction but for engineering projects in general.

“For gravel the quotations current at this time are as follows: 1 1/2 inch in New York sells at 90 cents per cubic yard for carload lots and $1.00 for 3/4 inch. In Chicago the price is 85 cents for both the former and the latter and in St. Louis 70 cents. In San Francisco it is sold at 75 cents per ton.

“For sand at the banks the quotations are as follows: New York, 50 cents per cubic yard; Chicago, 85 cents; St. Louis, 60 cents, while in San Francisco it is 75 cents per ton. These prices are for cargo lots. In the past year an advance has been made of about 10 cents, which was brought about principally by labor difficulties and scarcity of carriers.

“For crushed stone in New York 1 1/2 inch sells at 85 cents to 90 cents, 3/4 inch at $1.00. In Chicago at $1.10 and St. Louis $1.00.

“These prices are per cubic yard for carload or cargo lots. In San Francisco it is $1.75 per ton. Dealers and supply men in this line have also had considerable difficulty owing to freight congestion, shortage of barges and boats, and labor troubles. This condition aided in maintaining the firm price.

“On common red brick current prices for carload or cargo lots are as follows:

Common in New York sells at $8.00, Chicago at $6.25, St. Louis, $6.00, and San Francisco $10.00. The selling price a year ago in New York was in the neighborhood of $6.00. The better grades of face brick bring from $18.50 up.

“Architectural terra cotta is generally quoted from specifications and has advanced in sympathy with other types of exterior building materials.

“Ornamental work in iron/stone, etc., has increased in cost because of rising costs in labor and manufacture. Prices have been advanced but are holding steady.

“The lumber market has been in such an unsettled condition, representatives in New York in most instances refuse to furnish prices unless specifications are submitted. The demand has been exceptional despite the conditions.

“For hollow tile the prices have remained rather stationary, although in the past few months some advances were absolutely necessary due to labor conditions. At present in New York 4x12x12 inch sells at $0.054, Chicago at $0.064, and San Francisco $0.08. For fireproof partition blocks are quoted as follows: 2x12x12 inch at $0.046 in New York, $0.024 in St. Louis, Chicago $0.041, and San Francisco $0.055. For larger sizes about the usual variations would occur all along the line.

“Clay drain tile per 1,000 feet sells as follows: In New York 3 inch sells at $22.50, 4 inch at $32.50, 5 inch at $47.50, 6 inch at $57.50, 7 inch at $97.50. In Chicago 3 inch sells at $15.00, 4 inch at $18.00, 5 inch at $23.00, etc.

“From the foregoing it is evident that the prices on building materials today are as high as they ever have been. The steel market has never been more active. Some subsidiary companies of the corporation report that if no orders were forthcoming they would be kept busy six months into the year 1917. The one serious situation that confronts manufacturers and supply men is the shortage of labor. Skilled and common labor is almost unobtainable, both classes being well occupied. Immigrants arriving in this country are of a poorer grade than formerly, the better men being forced to remain on the other side for possible use in the army. Wages have advanced in all cases and even at the advance it is hard to hold good men for any length of time. Strikes have been prevalent in all lines of work, the result of which has been that employers have been generally forced to increase their labor costs.

 —Courtesy of The American Architect.

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