Enquiries to local building firms increased at the fastest rate for a decade in the last three months with retrofit and repair outstripping other sectors, according to the latest State of the Trade report from the Federation of Master Builders.

Activity in all sectors grew, adding to existing pressure on all material shortages, but more than half (55%) of all surveyed reporting increased workloads in repair, maintenance and improvement, while 93% report hikes in materials prices, especially glazing, roof tiles, timber and insulation.

Chief Executive Brian Berry said: “It is particularly pleasing to see enquiries grow at their fastest rate in more than a decade. However, success is not without its challenges. A whopping 93% of builders reported material price increases in the period January to March, with particular concerns over accessing roof tiles, glazing products, timber and insulation.

“The worrying impact of these material price increases is that quality builders are at risk of being undercut by unscrupulous traders offering lower quotes to homeowners. Consumers must be aware that the cost of building works may change in the months ahead, as access to materials continues to cause a headache for 93% of Britain’s builders.”

He concluded: “With the construction skills shortage slowly creeping back up the agenda, it’s clear that there is significant capacity in the sector to take on new entrants and create much-needed jobs. I am bitterly disappointed over the decision to cancel the Green Homes Grant scheme, which offered an opportunity to not only bring more people into construction but also to tackle climate change. The Government’s answer to this must be a long-term National Retrofit Strategy, that has the backing of industry from the outset.”

FMB State of Trade Q1 2021.pdf