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Frances Perkins,


Isador Lukin,
(on leave)
A . F. Hinrichs, Acting



Post"W ar Capacity and Characteristics
o f the Construction Industry
Prepared in the



T^o. 779


For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, U . S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D . C. - Price 10 cents

F rances P e r k in s , Secretary
I sador L ubin, Commissioner (on leave)

A. F.

H inrichs, Acting Commissioner

Chief, Employ­
ment and Occupational Outlook
H enry J. Fitzgerald, Chief, Business
Management Branch
H ugh S. H anna, Chief, Editorial and
D onald D avenport,

Chief, Prices
and Cost of Living Branch

Aryness Joy W ickens,

N. Arnold T olles, Chief, Working
Conditions and Industrial Relations
Sidney W. W ilcox,


Construction and Public Employment,
Herman B. Byer
Consumers’ Prices, Ethel D. Hoover
Cost of Living, Faith M. Williams
Employment Statistics, Alexander
Sturges (acting chief)
General Price Research, Walter G.
Historical Studies of Wartime Prob­
lems, Stella Stewart
Industrial Hazards, Max D. Kossoris
Industrial Prices, J. M. Cutts

Chief Statistician

Industrial Relations, Florence Peter­
Labor Information Service, Boris Stem
Machine Tabulation, Joseph Drager
Occupational Outlook, Charles Stewart
Post-War Labor Problems, John H. G.
Productivity and Technological De»
velopment, W. Duane Evans
Wage Analysis, Robert J. Myers


Factors governing capacity________________ ________________ _________
Organization of the construction industry.._______ __________ _____
Plant facilities of the industry,.................................. ...................................
Availability of machinery and equipment-.................................. ..
Requirements for machinery and equipment.....................................
Building materials and related products...................... ...............................
Supply situation, by types of building materials......... .............................
Sand, gravel, and crushed stone............................
Brick, structural tile, and related products.......................................
Cement................................................- .......................................................
Lumber and related products..........................
Miscellaneous iron and steel products. . „...........................
Builders1 finish hardware.........................
Plumbing supplies......................................................................................
Heating supplies........................................
Electrical supplies...........................
Lighting fixtures...........................................................................
Domestic appliances-------------------------Construction labor___________________
Measures to facilitate post-war construction.....................




Letter o f Transmittal

U n it e d S t a t e s D e p a b t m e n t o f L a b o r ,
B u r e a u o f L a b o r S t a t is t ic s ,

Washington, D. C., August 19,1948.
The S e c r e t a r y o f L a b o r :
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on post-war capacity
and characteristics of the construction industry.
A . F . H in r ic h s , Aiding Commissioner.
H o n . F r a n c e s P e r k in s ,
Secretary of Labor.

Bulletin T^o. 779 of the
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

[From the M onthly L abor R eview (May 1944) with additional data]

P ost-W ar C apacity and C haracteristics o f the
C on stru ction In d u stry *1


RAPID expansion of construction activity is commonly expected to
provide a major source of employment opportunity in the post-war
By 1943 construction expenditures (adjusted for the 1940 cost
evel) had already dropped from the 1942 peak of almost $11,500,000,000
to approximately $5,900,000,000, as a result of the enforced curtail­
ment of all nonessential construction as well as the completion of
major war construction programs. Although the 1943 total was the
lowest since 1938 and, until Germany is defeated, further reduction
is expected, the total is not expected in any event to fall below
$3,000,000,000 at 1940 costs.
The accumulating demands for construction raise the question of
the productive capacity of the construction industry in the post-war
period. In the appraisal of the industry’s post-war capacity given in
this article it was assumed that Germany would be defeated before
Japan and that reduced military requirements during the Asiatic
phase of the war would permit the extensive release of industrial plant
and a corresponding reduction in the war use of materials. It was
further assumed that the factors governing the selection of establish­
ments for total or partial release would include (1) their importance
in the civilian economy and (2) their importance in industrial prep­
aration for the post-war period.
On the basis of these assumptions it appears that the productive
capacity of the construction industry can expand rapidly and, within
a year after the end of the war with Japan, can reach an annual rate
of $11,000,000,000 at the 1940 level of building costs. The character­
istic flexibility in the organization and methods of operation of the
construction industiy permits a rapid expansion in the volume of
work; members of the industry are accustomed to starting work on
short notice and to expanding their operations rapidly.
Construction equipment is now sufficient for a rate of at least
$12,000,000,000 per year, and is likely to remain so. Its age and
condition will present some difficulties during the early months after
the war if no prior improvement is possible, but will not restrict
volume. During the period when hostilities continue against Japan
only, repair parts and replacement machines will probably be produced
in considerable quantity for civilian buyers. Within a short time
after the defeat of Japan these will be available in any desired quantity.
The construction-machinery industry expanded its operations for the
war effort to a rate which, if maintained after military purchases
* Prepared in the Bureau’s Division of Construction and Public Employment by Alexander C. Findlay.


cease, would replace the entire civilian inventory within approx­
imately 2 years.
Productive capacity for all types of building materials, except
plumbing fixtures and lumber, is sufficient for a construction rate of
$15,000,000,000 per year. In the lumber industry, the plant limita­
tion is logging equipment, which is badly deteriorated but can be re­
stored rapidly; sawmill capacity is sufficient. Capacity for plumbing
fixtures is adequate for a construction program of $12,000,000,000
per year, with likelihood of expansion before this rate is reached.
Reconversion is a problem only as regards metal products, and
varies considerably in importance among them. If reconversion is
started after war requirements are completely met, it should be finished
within 6 months for all products except electric refrigerators; for
many products reconversion should be well advanced, if not completed,
within 3 months or less. If, as is more likely, reconversion is started
soon after the defeat of Germany and extended progressively as
cancellation and reduction of military orders permit, the reconversion
process will extend over a much longer period but will be closer to
completion,at any specific date than if no start were to be made until
the end of the war.
Resumption of civilian manufacture, with or without reconversion,
will in some cases require official action regarding Governmentowned machinery. In some plants this is so interspersed with pri­
vately owned machinery that there is no productive entity except for
governmental orders.
Inventories of many materials are \ irtually exhausted. With
civilian production resumed at the end of the war, it would take 6
months to restore such commodities to basic working volume and
variety, and another 6 months to approximate their pre-war level.
The problem is the most serious for electrical supplies. Expansion
of civilian production during the interim period after Germany’s
defeat will ease the inventory situation greatly, and for most ma­
terials will probably mean that inventories can reach at least a basic
working level by the end of the war. The rate of inventory accumula­
tion will, however, be governed more by current expectations regarding
sales volume and price level than by considerations of capacity,
particularly in the case of such materials as lumber for which prices
have increased sharply. Both manufacturers and dealers will be
hesitant to accumulate large inventories if major price decreases
seem likely.
There will be keen competition among materials, especially since
pre-war usages have been modified so greatly in order to conserve
critical materials. Some war-expanded industrial capacity will
probably be used for increasing the output of building materials
formerly produced only in small amounts. Some products introduced
during the war are likely to be improved considerably and reduced in
price, and a few other products are scheduled for introduction early
in the post-war period. Beyond question, however, building materials
on the whole will be very similar to those of the recent past, and sub­
sequent changes in the entire building-material pattern will be gradual.
Little change in buildings themselves is anticipated. Designers
will have somewhat greater choice of materials, and there will be an
increasing range and acceptance of factory-made assemblies ready for
installation. At the same time, revolutionary changes in design or
materials are most unlikely.

On the whole, personnel will be sufficient for expanded manufacture
of building materials and related products. Before demobilization of
the armed forces, reduction or termination of war orders will release
workers. Many of those released will have skills useful in the manu­
facture of building materials. Because of the specialization of factory
work and the feasibility of brief training courses, other necessary jobs
can be filled by workers with little or no experience.
For increased lumber production, however, additional skilled woods­
men are essential. These have been lost in great numbers, both for
military service and for work in shipyards and airplane plants.
The personnel situation for construction proper is difficult to predict.
It will be controlled to some degree by the demobilization pattern of
the armed services and war industry, in conjunction with the extent to
which construction skills have been acquired in military service and in
war employment. Available information indicates that, within a
year after the end of the war, the number of construction workers will
be sufficient for a construction rate of $11,000,000,000 per year at
1940 costs.
Unbalanced prices of building materials can be a serious hindrance
to production and the accumulation of inventories. Unduly low prices
will discourage production. On the other hand, possibility of inven­
tory losses on items for which price reductions seem likely will dis­
courage the piling up of inventories. Competition among various
materials and products would probably correct the price situation
ultimately, but in the meantime the post-war construction program
might be needlessly del.ayed.
Unless the situation is changed before the end of the war, the most
serious obstacle to rapid expansion of the construction industry is
likely to be lack of preparation on the part of owners, including
private corporations and public agencies. The rate of expansion will
also be affected greatly by construction costs. These considerations
and others related to demand will be discussed in a later report fore­
casting volume.

Factors Governing Capacity

The construction industry is subject to wide cyclical and seasonal
fluctuations. After the previous war construction expenditures rose
gradually and were sustained at a level of approximately $11,000,000,000 per year2 for the 5 years from 1925 through 1929. This was
followed by a period of rapid decline to approximately $3,000,000,000
in 1933. The downward trend was reversed in 1934, but improvement
was gradual and even as late as 1940 the total was below $7,000,000,000.
The war construction program brought expenditures to a peak of
almost $11,500,000,000 in 1942. The tapering off of this program and
shortages of materials for other construction reduced the 1943 total
to approximately $5,900,000,000.
These changes in volume as well as the changes in proportions of
privately and publicly financed projects shown in the accompanying
table have been considered in evaluating the factors governing the
industry’s physical capacity for resuming activity in the post-war
period. Tne great changes in relative volumes of different types of
work have also been considered. The following four types of supply*
* To permit approximate comparisons of physical volume, all expenditure figures were converted to
1940 cost levels.

factors are analyzed in the sections which follow: Organization and
method of operation of the construction industry, its plant facilities,
supplies of building materials and related products, and availability
of construction labor.
New Construction Expenditures in Continental United States*1920-43 1

Expenditures (in millions of Expenditures (in millions of
dollars) at current cost dollars) converted to 1940
cost levels *

1921........................... -.......................................
1939............................................. ......................
1940................................................................ .
1942...................................................... ......... .
1943 4................... ...............................................











i Includes all dew construction—building, highway, utility and other—performed on contract or by
force account, but not construction performed on work-relief projects; includes alterations and additions,
but not maintenance or minor repairs.
a Estimates for the years 1920 through 1938 derived from estimates of Bureau of Foreign and Domestic
Commerce, U. S. Department of Commerce, by omission of certain maintenance expenditures. Estimates
for the years 1939 through 1943 made by Bureau of Labor Statistics.
3 Conversions of data m first 3 columns to 1940post levels made separately for each major type of construc­
tion by use of cost index for construction of that type. These conversions subject to revision after further
study of construction cost levels.
4 Preliminary.

Information was secured from published sources and, especially in
the case of the current status and post-war changes necessary for
specific industries, through interviews with officials in governmental
agencies, trade associations, and companies manufacturing building
materials and equipment.

The construction industry has been made up principally of general
contractors,3 special-trade contractors,3 and builders.3 Their method
3 General contractors construct all or the major part of buildings and other structures on contract for
owners. They sublet part of the work to special trade contractors, and usually execute the work of one or
more major trades themselves. Their field of operatons is divided into buildings; highways, and heavy
construction, with most contractors enraging in only one of these divisions.
4 Special-trade contractors perform the work of a single trade (or two or more related trades, such as
roofing and sheet-metal work) on buildings and other structures. This work is done for the general contrac­
tors in some cases, and in other cases directly for the owners.
1 Builders construct buildings (usually residential) initiated on their own account, for sale or for invest­
ment, and assume the coordinating responsibilities of general contractors on such projects.

of operation has prepared these three groups for rapid expansion.
Prefabricators were a small element in the field prior to the war, but
have since expanded their activities greatly.
Operations of both general contractors and special-trade contractors
are characterized by great flexibility. The normal operation of any
firm consists of a series of separate projects, each with its own dis­
tinctive pattern of work to be done and site conditions, and each
marked by fairly rapid expansion to peak activity. Production must
be governed by contracts on hand and readiness of related work at
the construction sites. Any production during dull periods in antici­
pation of future contracts is obviously impossible for site work, and
is severely limited as regards items manufactured by the special trade
contractors in their shops because most of these are made to individual
measurements. There are major seasonal variations in the total
volume of construction, caused mainly by weather conditions, and
very great cyclical variations.
The contractors as a group have adjusted their manner of operation
to these conditions by maintaining much higher flexibility of employ­
ment than is customary in most other fields. The general procedure
is to reduce to a nuclear organization when necessary, retaining fore­
men and a few carefully selected workmen for such work as can be
obtained, or even laying these off when the firm has no work. The
contractors are prepared to expand within a very short time—a few
days, if necessary—by hiring workmen, foremen, and even superin­
tendents, as needed.
Each project is a distinct entity, for which a working force must be
assembled at the site. As the structure progresses, the number of
mechanics, helpers, and laborers for the various trades changes con­
tinually in response to the changing pattern of work to be done.
On most jobs, requirements for machinery and equipment change
similarly. Under these circumstances, the starting of one or more
projects by a contractor who has been idle scarcely differs from the
starting of additional projects when he is busy, except that he must
hire all the site workers instead of transferring some from work
approaching completion.
According to the 1939 Census of Construction, there were more
than 35,000 general contractors and more than 176,000 special-trade
contractors, of whom 14,900 and 14,500, respectively, received con­
tracts or performed work totaling $25,000 or more during that year.
The organization and method of operation of these contractors will
permit them to expand their operations in response to any predictable
mcrease in demand.
The builders differ from contractors in that they initiate construc­
tion, rather than perform work authorized by others. Under nonwar
circumstances most of their projects consist of one-family houses built
for immediate sale, and the projects built for rent have commonly been
intended for ultimate sale as investment properties. In any event,
operations have been carried on only when a quick and profitable
market was expected, and in general have not been continuous.
Promotional building has commonly been conducted as part of a
dual enterprise or as a side line, which need not yield a continuous
One of the principal requirements for a successful builder has been
ability to evaluate and respond quickly to the potential market. The
581372 0 - 4 4 - 2

work itself can be started or expanded on short notice, ordinarily
within a very few days after financing arrangements have been made,
because land is usually available without further preparation, there
are many local contractors capable of doing the work which is to be
sublet, and usually stock plans and materials are used, with or without
minor variations. Since rapid expansion has been the customary
response to favorable sales conditions, the builders’ rate of expansion
may be expected to match the demand for promotional structures.
Prefabrication6 was such a small part of total construction prior
to the war that it may be regarded as a new element in the industry.
Its wartime growth, stimulated by a combination of favorable cir­
cumstances, has been phenomenal. Extensive changes in organization
and in manner of operation are to be expected among the prefabri­
cators, and it seems most unlikely that all present films will* remain
in the field. Those remaining will be sufficient for the effective
demand for buildings of this type during the early post-war years.

The plant facilities of the construction industry are made up of a
wide range of items, within the following major classifications:

Permanent shop equipment, in reality factory equipment, used by the specialtrade contractors in fabricating materials which they later install. The prefabricators* plant may be regarded as belonging in this classification.
Miscellaneous field equipment, consisting or motor trucks, air compressors,
scaffolding, ladders, work benches, space heaters, certain power-operated hand tools
and a great variety of other items.
Construction machinery proper, consisting mainly of larger power-operated
units and of numerous supplementary items.

The distinction between the second and third classifications is some­
what arbitrary. In general, the construction-machinery industry
regards its .field as including equipment for moving or processing bulk
materials used in construction, along with supplementary items except
A vailability of Machinery and Equipment

Shop equipment.—The permanent shop equipment of the specialtrade. contractors has been affected only slightly Dy the war. Little of
it has been suitable for war work other than fabricating materials for
war construction or closely similar work. It will therefore be avail­
able when needed without reconversion. As in most competitive
fields, the firms have generally provided shop capacity for the volume
of business which they expected to attain. Hence, within any area of
operation, capacity of all shops for a given trade has ordinarily been
ample for tbe peaks of construction activity.
rrefabricators have multiplied shop capacity greatly during the war
because of governmental purchases of prefabricated units for war
housing projects. Current factory capacity is at least 165,000 houses7
per year, and a number of firms plan post-war expansion which
would increase this rate to at least 200,000 houses per year. Whether
or not these plans are carried out, it is apparent that in plant equip* Prefabrication as here used means the assembly of structural elements (floors, walls, partitions, roof)
prior to erection, for complete buildings to be permanently attached to land. Thus it excludes manufacture
of trailers and other portable units. It could, but ordinarily does not, include some degree of pre-erection
assembly of plumbing, heating and electric work. It may be carried out in a temporary plant near the
construction site (on-site prefabrication) or in a permanent factory (off-site or factory prefabrication).
1 This figure excludes trailers, “huts,” tent houses, and nonresidential buildings.

ment the industry is prepared for increased public acceptance and more
effective distribution channels.
Field equipment.—Miscellaneous field equipment, other than motor­
trucks, will likewise present few problems. Some of it is extremely
durable, some of it can be improvised, and much of it consists of items
which individually are simple and can be manufactured quickly.
Manufacture of many items for civilian use has been virtually stopped,
so that civilian inventory has been wearing out. Nevertheless, the
total amount and condition of this equipment is sufficient for the post­
war construction activity permitted by other supply factors.
The situation with respect to trucks is less definite. Since the
construction industry has operated only a small part of all trucks,
changes in the total national inventory do not warrant conclusions
regarding this industry.
The types of trucks used in construction include almost all those
manufactured, but most of them are medium (gross weight over 9,000
pounds, but less than 16,000 pounds) or heavy (gross weight 16,000
pounds or more). For many types of construction the larger heavyduty trucks with power-operated dump bodies are especially impor­
tant, and for some types of work off-the-highway models are needed.
Production of trucks of all capacities for civilian use was greatly
reduced during 1942 and then virtually discontinued, followed later by
limited resumption. A considerable quantity of trucks in manu­
facturers' and dealers' stocks was subsequently released to private
buyers and governmental agencies, but these were only a small part
of a normal year's output and a disproportionately small number
were of heavy-duty types.
Meanwhile production rates for light trucks (gross weight under
9,000 pounds) and medium trucks have been reduced from pre-war
figures, while the rate for heavy trucks has been increased well above
any peacetime figure, because of military requirements. Since much
of the output for military purposes has mechanical features or equip­
ment which were relatively uncommon in civilian production, a
considerably larger number of civilian trucks can be produced with
the same facilities and manpower. Furthermore, the increased pro­
duction of heavy units has brought changes toward mass-production
methods which are likely to mean a permanent increase in the capacity
of existing plants.
No real reconversion will be involved in a change from military to
civilian production of medium and heavy trucks, although designs
differ substantially. A reduction in military requirements will there­
fore permit prompt expansion of output for civilian users, if material
and manpower conditions permit. It seems likely that such expansion
will occur after Germany is defeated, and possibly even earlier.
Whenever expansion comes, however, construction and related
industries will have to share the output with others.
Trade inventories of new trucks are very low. That situation will
mean some delay until shipments are received, but will not be a serious
obstacle to distribution. There will be military inventories of rela­
tively new trucks in this country at the end of the war, but because
of special designs only a minority of these will be suitable for con­
struction and related uses.
Construction machinery. —The output of the construction-machinery
industry in 1943*—valued at approximately $700,000,000—was the

highest in its history. Deflation for minor price increases gives a val­
uation, at 1940 prices, of almost $650,000,000, which is more than
twice the previous peak. Even greater production is expected in 1944.
Although figures cannot be presented, it may be stated that a large
part of the current output of construction machinery is purchased by
the Army, the Navy, and other Governmental agencies for direct war
use. All out a negligible percentage of this consists of standard models
suitable for construction use, although the distribution by type and
size differs from the pre-war pattern.
The civilian inventory of construction machinery proper has been
reduced during the past 2 years. Private purchase of new machines
has been severely limited, and the inventory of privately owned units
has been bought in considerable quantity by the Government, largely
through recapture.8 An incomplete inventory taken by the War
Production Board, as of March 15, 1943, listed 310,000 pieces of all
descriptions in civilian ownership, from which the Board estimated
the total as 450,000 pieces. Other information indicates that this
estimated total may be somewhat low, and is certainly not too high.
No information on construction machinery was obtained in the
1939 Census of Construction. Because of differences in the extent of
coverage of different types of equipment, the inventory does not per­
mit an estimate of the number of units of each type. There are, how­
ever, numerous indications that all types are available. One indica­
tion is found in the classified advertising section of an engineering
magazine which for many years has been the principal advertising
medium for used construction machinery and equipment. In recent
issues the space occupied by items offered for sale greatly exceeded
that for items wanted, the ratio being in some issues as high as 20 to 1.
The items offered for sale included those bought and recaptured by
the Government in largest quantities—power shovels, cranes, tractors
and tractor-powered units such as bulldozers.
Total valuation, when new, of privately owned machinery is esti­
mated by persons in the industry at $1,300,000,000. An independent
estimate made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics by an entirely differ­
ent method gives almost the same figure. To this should be added
at least $400,000,000 for trucks and $250,000,000 for miscellaneous
equipment, giving a total inventory of $1,950,000,000 for all construc­
tion equipment.
The WPB tabulation shows that more than a third of the machinery
was produced before 1930, approximately a quarter from 1930 through
1937, and more than a third from 1938 through 1942. It is thought
that the average age of the machinery is probably less than indicated,
because of more complete reporting of older units. The age distribu­
tion of different items varies considerably. Some machines are in
poor condition, and some are of obsolete designs, but they are not
junk; all are at least potentially usable. Most items are basically of
great durability, and although certain parts are subject to severe
wear, the units can be kept in service almost indefinitely by adequate
repairs with rebuilding at longer intervals. This process is not profit­
able indefinitely, especially for items which are becoming obsolete,
but during any temporary shortage of specific items it permits use of
8 “Recapture” is the purchase of machinery or other equipment for which rent has been paid. It occurs
ordinarily at the option of the purchaser, by payment of the difference between total rent which he has paid
and the agreed value of the unit involved, or automatically and without further payment when total rent
payments reach a stipulated figure.

machines which under other circumstances would be scrapped. Feasi­
bility of this procedure is shown by the long-standing practice in the
construction-machinery trade of rebuilding deteriorated units for sale.
It is noted that machinery manufacturers in recent advertisements
have started to emphasize the satisfactory service obtained by users
of rebuilt machinery.
However, it seems likely that military need for construction ma­
chinery and other products manufactured by the industry will be re­
duced after Germany is defeated. Use of the released facilities to
produce replacement parts freely for civilian buyers would facilitate
greatly their preparedness for postwar construction work. The
greatly expanded capacity of the industry makes it seem* likely that
complete new machines will also be available to some appreciable
extent during this interim period. If so, there will be at least limited
opportunity for increasing the total civilian inventory, less post-war
need for temporary use of obsolete units having low productivity, and
reduction in the rebuilding of obsolete and badly deteriorated units.
Moreover, the construction-machinery industry is practically intact,,
and small as well as large companies are busy. On conclusion of the
war it could operate at a rate which would replace all existing machin­
ery within approximately 2 years. It will, of course, be able within a
few months to produce replacement parts sufficient for rebuilding of
deteriorated machinery.
An additional favorable factor is that although most machinery
now being purchased by the Government is for ultimate use overseas,
it obviously cannot be shipped directly from the factory to the point
of use. Consequently, there is at any time a substantial quantity
of unused machinery in the distribution channels of the owning
agencies within this country and to some degree at primary distribu­
tion points abroad. It seems most unlikely that machinery which
has been used abroad in conjunction with combat activities or for
rehabilitation will be returned to this country. However, that remain­
ing in primary depots abroad and that within military distribution
channels in the United States at the end of the war will be modem
new machinery, available for such use as may be officially authorized.
Prompt release of these items to civilians by sale or even by rental
would permit immediate replacement of the oldest and most deterio­
rated units in the private inventory. The extent to which this
measure will be advisable will depend on the production of parts and
complete machines for civilian buyers after the defeat of Germany.
The unused military inventory can also be lent to contractors for
use on publicly financed projects, and provided to governmental
units for their construction and maintenance work.
Requirements for Machinery and Equipment

The machinery and equipment needed for a given dollar volume
of construction vary greatly with the type of work. Most compila­
tions on the subject are misleading because comparisons are made
with work actually performed, uncorrected for extensive idle time
between contracts. In addition there are uncertainties about the
valuations used, and about the equipment items included.
For highway construction, equipment having a value, when new,
of 15 percent of a full season's completed work is sufficient, with
some margin for unfavorable conditions. This estimate was made

by a civil engineer with many years of highway experience, who
has acted as equipment consultant to numerous road contractors
and as a consultant on special problems to State highway departments.
It assumed capable planning of operations resulting in efficient use
of equipment, continuous work throughout the season with no idle
time between contracts, reasonable proximity of successive projects,
and average weather. The ratio varies for different binds of highway
work, but does not exceed 15 percent for any. This figure was re­
garded by the engineer making the estimate as providing a sufficient
margin for unfavorable conditions to be applicable to a complete
program, although it may be insufficient for some individual projects.
This ratio means that a highway program of $3,000,000,000 per
year would require machinery and equipment having new value
of $450,000,000.
Heavy construction (dams and reclamation work, tunnels, dredging,
etc.) is commonly regarded as requiring only slightly less equipment
than highway work for the smaller projects, although of course the
distribution among types of equipment is considerably different.
A partial compilation made by a prominent trade association, of
work of this type done by some of its members, indicates that a
ratio of 15 percent is sufficient for this type of work. For the largest
projects, using specially designed installations of machinery and
equipment, the ratio is higher—approximately 25 percent. For
heavy construction as a whole, a reasonable ratio is 20 percent.
Thus a heavy-construction program of $3,000,000,000 per year would
require machinery and equipment costing $600,000,000.
Building construction requires very much less equipment than
do either of the other major fields. Mechanization is most extensive
in the bulk operations, such as excavation, concrete work, and
hoisting of materials, but these constitute a minor part of the total
work at the site. The remainder is largely hand work, in which
mechanization does not extend beyond a limited range of poweroperated hand tools. The new value of equipment needed on building
construction is not more than 5 percent of a year’s contracts for
the entire range of work, provided there is continuity of work to
keep it in efficient use. A large part of this equipment consists of
trucks and nonmechanical items such as scaffolding, outside the
field of construction machinery proper. A building-construction
program of $6,000,000,000 per year would require construction
equipment costing $300,000,000.
A total program of $12,000,000,000 per year in the three sub­
divisions of construction would require machinery and equipment
with new value of $1,350,000,000. The new value of that likely to be
on hand at the end of the war is estimated at $1,950,000,000, plus any
additions which may take place after the defeat of Germany. The
difference would provide a margin for some shortages in individual
items not revealed by over-all figures, and for lower productivity of
some of the older equipment. However, a construction rate of
$12,000,000,000 per year will not be attained immediately on con­
clusion of hostilities, probably not for much more than a year at the
least. The period until post-war construction reaches a sustained
volume will be sufficient for overcoming shortages of individual items
and for replacement of equipment to whatever extent the construc­
tion industry believes necessary.


Post-war limitations on the supply of building materials will in
general be temporary, caused by reconversion and inventory problems
rather than by more permanent circumstances. When these are
overcome, the supply of all materials except plumbing fixtures and
lumber will be sufficient for a construction program of $15,000,000,000
per year. The productive capacity for plumbing fixtures will permit
a program of $12,000,000,000 per year, with appreciable likelihood
that this capacity will be increased rather promptly. The lumber
supply will be restricted for a time by shortages of logging equipment
and skilled woods labor, but these should be overcome without serious
Availability of building materials in the quantities and varieties
needed will be governed by four principal factors, although not all of
these represent problems for all materials. These are productive
plant (reconversion, restoration, and pre-war capacity), trade inven­
tories, supply of basic materials, and labor supply.
Reconversion will be a problem only for the fabricated metal prod­
ucts, and for these its importance is roughly proportional to the
degree of fabrication. It is less serious than seems to be generally
surmised. For most materials reconversion will be well advanced, if
not completed, within 3 months after it is started and for all except
electric refrigerators will be completed in 6 months.
Restoration of physical plant will be essential for logging operations,
if output is not to fall seriously. Trucks, tractors, and tractoroperated equipment have had exceedingly hard service in getting out
logs for war use, replacements have been available in only the most
limited quantities, and there has been a serious shortage of repair
parts. Trucks and other equipment will be needed for gravel-pit
operations, although the need there will be considerably less urgent
than for lumber. For other materials, little physical replacement of
plant will be necessary.
For some of the more highly complicated products, removal of legal
barriers will be necessary. The larger companies engaged in the more
complex manufacturing operations are those which have converted
most completely to war products. This conversion has been accom­
panied by mixture of company-owned and Government-owned ma­
chinery in single plants, with the result that in such plants no com­
plete production entity exists, except for war products. Resumption
of civilian manufacture in these will be impossible until some provision
is made for removal or use of the Government-owned machinery.
Some persons primarily concerned with reconstruction in Europe
and China believe that the demand for building materials may be so
great as to create a world-wide shortage. Further information is
needed before an appraisal can be made as to whether essential
foreign rebuilding may limit building activity in the United States.
It would seem, however, that export requirements will be greatest
for lumber and considerably less for those products for which produc­
tive capacity abroad can be expanded by construction of additional
factories near the areas of consumption.
Wartime depletion of inventories has been serious for lumber and
for fabricated metal products. The time required for restoration
will be greatest for those types of materials, such as electrical supplies,

which consist of a great number of different items. Production and
purchase for inventory purposes may be hindered by uncertainty
regarding future price levels, in the case of those materials the prices
of which have increased most sharply.
All statements and forecasts made by representatives of the build­
ing-materials industry regarding ability to proceed with peacetime
production were predicated on availability of materials as needed.
Any delay, whether from failure to modify wartime restrictions
promptly or from other causes, will retard the entire construction
These statements and forecasts were also predicated on the availa­
bility of workmen as needed. In general, this assumption is unchal­
lenged. The industries extensively converted to war products, pri­
marily those producing or using metals, are in most cases operating
at higher employment levels than before the war. Their problem
will be little more than that of shifting employees between departments
or products, and in many cases not even that change will be necessary.
Some manufacturers think that experienced production workers tem­
porarily promoted to supervisory positions in the manufacture of
war products may be dissatisfied with their former work, but this
should not be a serious difficulty. Workers with skills useful in the
manufacture of building materials will be released from other war
plants, and inexperienced workers can be used for many factory
For lumber production, however, there has been a serious shortage
of capable woods labor for which corrective measures are necessary.

In the sections which follow, the pertinent facts are stated sepa­
rately for each major type of building materials. Numerous minor
products were omitted from the study, but these are of limited im­
portance. It seems reasonable to assume that any difficulties which
they present will be considerably less serious than those presented
by the materials included.
Sand , Gravel, and Crushed Stone

Sand, gravel, and crushed stone are local products having no inven­
tory or reconversion problems, and for which productive capacity is
enormous. Some replacement of crushers, screens, and conveyors
will be necessary, and some operators will probably want to rebuild
their plants when machinery is readily available. Additional trucks
will also be needed. These needs will not reduce production below
the volume that can be sold.
Brick , Structural Tile, and Related Products

Present capacity of brick and tile is equal to the largest recorded
consumption as measured in “brick equivalent.” • If necessary, this
can be increased by 15 percent, without additional facilities, by changes
in operating schedules and minor rearrangements at plants where
capacity has not been utilized fully by past schedules. No recon-*
* “Brick equivalent” is a unit oI volume, equal to the volume of a standard common brick.

version is involved, but capacity production will require reopening of
several hundred plants now shut down because of reduced consump­
tion. These are for the most part in good condition, and can be
reopened whenever it seems likely that the product will be salable.
Inventory is of minor importance, except for products used in small
quantities. Plants producing common brick, face brick, and struc­
tural tile are well distributed throughout the country. Direct
shipment or trucking from plant to construction site has been a
common practice on the larger projects, even for special products
coming from plants several hundred miles away.
The industry has recently introduced new products for which it
expects gradually increasing acceptance, and has adopted a new
system of dimensions as an alternate to that formerly used. Neither
development will affect its ability to meet post-war requirements.

Portland cement is produced by approximately 150 plants with a
practical capacity of 215 million barrels per year.10 Not all plants
can run at practical capacity however, because of the combination of
seasonal variations in construction activity and limited storage capac­
ity. That capacity is approximately 15 percent of annual capacity,
or somewhat over 30 million barrels; largest manufacturers’ inventory
was 26 million barrels, reached in March 1941 and also in March 1942.
The largest recorded use is 187 million barrels per year, reached
during the peak of war construction in 1942. The previous peak was
172 million barrels in 1928. Nonmilitarv exports have been small, the
peak in recent years being 1.3 percent of total mill shipments, reached
in 1940. Prior to that year, exports were equalled or exceeded by
imports. Maximum exports after the previous war were less than 3
million barrels in 1920. The industry expects a very small export
demand after the war, because of price differences between the
European and American products. Industry opinion is that plants in
the major producing countries—England, Denmark and Germany—
will on the whole be in usable condition but that the French plants
will be temporarily unusable.11 It is expected that imports from the
United States will be for only the most urgent projects which cannot
be supplied from European sources, and that other projects will be
postponed until European capacity is increased. A small volume of
exports to Africa and also to Brazil and Mexico is expected. Both
Mexican and South American capacity havb been increased in recent
years, and further plant construction is likely.
Approximately 15 small American plants have been converted to
ore roasting and similar war activities, but can be reconverted at
slight expense within 3 months or less. It is believed that all plant
owners will want to reconvert as soon as possible.
It is possible that some relocation or modernization of plants may
result from the final court decisions on pending litigation regarding
the industry’s pricing method. Productive capacity seems sufficient,
however, to prevent shortage during any such adjustments.
10 Practical capacity differs from nominal capacity (250 million barrels per year) in that it is corrected for
unavoidable interruptions to production—shutdowns for relining of kilns, etc.
11 It is entirely possible that defeat of Germany may be accompanied by extensive destruction of produc­
tive facilities of all sorts throughout the territory being surrendered.

Lumber and Related Products

The long-range outlook for lumber12 is good, but in the immediate
post-war period there will be a shortage unless factors now limiting
production can be corrected quickly. This shortage can be prevented.
Increased military use of lumber and related products has been
accompanied by drastic reduction in civilian consumption. Conse­
quently the drain on forest resources has not been increased ab­
normally, except for a few special-purpose woods not used in construc­
tion. For the construction woods, there has been no significant
increase in destructive methods of cutting.
The industry and the United States Forest Service agree that there
will be a downward post-war trend in the quantity of logs consumed
for a given volume of construction because of increasing use of ply­
wood,1* which provides requisite strength with less thickness than
conventional sheathing and which is manufactured with less mill
waste. Plywood can be made from much smaller logs than the
“peeler logs” of the northwest which are now standard, so that con­
tinued manufacture is not dependent indefinitely on this supply.
Increasing use of panels made from materials other than veneer is
also expected.
• It seems almost certain that the wartime trend from metal to lum­
ber for structural framing in factory and warehouse construction will
be reversed. Availability of sheet metal will end the wartime use
of lumber and plywood as substitutes. Building ordinances will prob­
ably be revised with the passage of time, to permit higher stresses in
wood members, thereby reducing lumber consumption. There will
probably be continuation of the pre-war trend toward greater re­
placement of lumber and millwork by metal products , for the nonstructural elements of residential and commercial structures.
Production has been restricted to an increasing degree during the
past 2 years. Sawmills need additional workers, and at logging
camps the labor shortage has been so severe that the estimate of 1943
lumber production has been reduced. Repair parts and similar
operating supplies are needed by the sawmills, The logging camps
are in the most urgent need of off-the-highway trucks, tractors, and
equipment auxiliary to tractors for building logging roads and hauling
logs, and of repair parts for these units. As a result, trade inventories
have been severely depleted despite strict control of civilian consump­
tion. The lumber shortage has been so great that structural framing
of certain war plants was designed in steel, although wood framing
was originally contemplated to reduce steel consumption, and undried
lumber has been used extensively in war construction.
Production can be expanded rapidly as these limitations are
overcome, but capacity of sawmills is much less definite than that of
most factory operations because the majority of mills are intended for
12 dumber is defined as follows in Simplified Practice Recommendation R16-39 of the National Bureau of
Standards: “Lumber is the product of the saw and planing mill not further manufactured than by sawing,
resawing and passing lengthwise through a standard planing mill- crosscutting to length and working.
Lumber of thickness not in excess of one-quarter inch to be used for veneering is classified as veneer.” By
this definition, and as understood in the trade, lumber does not include logs used after cutting to length for
poles, posts, mine timbers, firewood or other purposes; logs processed directly into paper pulp, fiberboard,
excelsior, shingles, plywood, chemical products, barrel staves or headings, or certain other products; or the
products made from such logs.
i* Plywood consists of several layers of veneer laminated with the direction of the grain at right angles
in adjoining layers, bonded together with adhesive. The veneer is produced in a continuous sheet by
“peeling”—-that is, rotating a log against a long knife. Improvements of recent years in waterproof adhe­
sives and methods of bonding have increased the value of plywood very greatly for many construction uses.

intermittent operation. Physical capacity of the saws is only one
among several limitations. If all sawmills in the country were
operated 52 weeks per vear, the annual output would be approxi­
mately 100 billion board feet, but such an operating schedule would
be feasible only in the most extreme national emergency.
Thousands of small mills are operated by farmers for only a few
weeks or days each year. Their proprietors and employees regard
lumbering as a sideline, to be followed only in the dull farming season.
Furthermore, local timber supplies require that operation be inter­
mittent; in many cases they would be exhausted within a year or
so by continuous cutting. Many larger mills likewise avoid operation
at full physical capacity, in order to prevent excessive drain on their
timber stands.
Estimates of the practical physical capacity in post-war years
range from 36 billion to 42 billion board feet per year. The lower
limit reflects to some degree the industry’s expectations regarding
post-war prices as well as strictly operating considerations. Even
so, it is approximately equal to domestic consumption in 1928 and
also in 1941, and higher than such consumption in any intervening
years. The upper limit is based on operating conditions only.
The start of expansion will be governed by seasonal considerations
to some degree, but less than might be expected, because the seasons
in the various lumbering regions do not coincide. After sawmill
production is increased, there will be delay for processing and filling
inventory channels. For construction, as well as most other uses,
drying is necessary.14* Practically all construction hardwood, used
in medium- and better-grade buildings mainly for finish floors and for
the exposed parts of doors and other millwork, is kiln dried. This
process takes 5 to 10 days, a negligible period. The bulk of the
structure—all framing, sheathing, siding, sub-floors and in cheaper
structures finish floors and all millwork as well—is softwood, except
as this has been replaced by other materials.16 Roughly half of this
is air dried, for which 60 to 90 days are required. "The average
drying time for all softwood is approximately 6 weeks.
Much more time will be required for accumulation of inventories.
Total trade inventories have been large—usually a 4-month supply
and at times a 6-month supply. The metropolitan lumber yards,
receiving frequent shipments, have had a stock turnover of six, seven,
or even m a few cases eight times a year; they can operate effectively
with a 2-month supply or, in some cases, less. Yards in small cities,
having a low volume of business and therefore receiving infrequent
shipments, need to maintain large stocks to meet the needs of their
customers. At these smaller yards turnover is commonly only
1% times per year, with inventory ranging around an 8-month supply.
For the lumber yards as a whole, 2 months’ production of con­
struction lumber will be sufficient to bring inventories from present
levels to a point where they no longer hamper construction activities.
Since these inventories can be accumulated only from the difference
between shipments received and deliveries to customers, it would
u Douglas fir lumber Is used extensively in construction without further drying than that which occurs
in shipping, but omission of drying for other woods is not accepted as satisfactory for construction use.
i* within recent years lumber has been replaced to an increasing degree by plywood, by fiber boards and
insulating boards made from wood fibers and other fibrous materials, and by products made in an extensive
variety of sizes and shapes from inorganic materials. Continuation of this trend is expected.

take at least 4 months to approach this condition, and probably a few
months longer to achieve it fully.
Actual accumulation may take considerably longer, however.
Prices of lumber have increased, to date, much more than those of
other building materials, and firms with large inventories would lose
heavily in a reduction. The trade is somewhat apprehensive about
the post-war price level, and most of the firms are expected to govern
their purchases or production by price indications in conjunction with
current sales. Thus variety will be built up earlier than total quan­
tity; but indications of active construction would stimulate both
inventory purchases and production.
The end of the war with Germany will result in a reduction in
total military requirements. Any reduction in total military pur­
chases will bring an approximately proportional decrease in military
requirements for crating and other lumber, as well as a great release
of labor from most war industries. It seems likely that large quanti­
ties of unissued stores will be available for shipment from the EuropeanMediterranean fronts to the Pacific-Asiatic fronts. If so, reduction
in military purchases other than food may be greater than the reduc­
tion in expected rate of consumption.
Almost from the time of this country’s entrance into the war, the
shortage of logging workers has been increasingly serious. For a
time the importance of lumber production was not recognized in
deferment policies, with the result that skilled workers departed to
the armed services and to officially recognized war industries. Inex­
perienced persons suited to active outdoor work are useful, but are
by no means equivalent to experienced workers. If additions to total
force consist mainly of those without experience, the increase in pro­
duction will for a time be much less than proportional to the increase
in employment, and average unit costs will increase.
It is essential therefore that efforts be made to direct capable logging
workers back to their former employment when they are no longer
needed in other war work. As shipyards and war plants reduce
their forces, it is important that choice of those to be released be
governed in considerable part by the need for their skills in other
work. By this procedure, skilled woodsmen might be released in
force reductions whenever the U. S. Employment Service had calls
for their services.
Workers at the end of the war can be sufficient for a production
rate of 33 billion to 36 billion board feet, depending on the industrial
and military demobilization pattern after the defeat of Germany. A
year later, it is likely that there will be enough workeis for an output
of 40 billion board feet, if there is sufficient employment for these
Cessation of European hostilities will be followed shortly, however,
by an active start of civilian reconstruction for which large imports
of lumber from non-European sources will be needed. In the absence
of definite knowledge about governing conditions, any estimate of
the volume of these can be little more than a guess. The extent of
destruction in Europe when Germany is defeated cannot be predicted,
and little is known about the state of European forests. Policies of
the various governments are yet to be determined. Credit arrange­
ments for private transactions are not yet made. It is possible that
military stocks of lumber already in Europe will be used for recon­

straction. Export from the United States of used lumber obtained
in demolition of temporary war housing and other temporary war
construction is also possible.
Prior to the war, Europe as a whole was self-sustaining in lumber
except for a billion board feet per year imported by England from
Canada because of the Empire-preference tariff provisions. Before
this enactment, the continent had been almost exactly self-sustaining,
with imports of consuming countries balanced by exports of producing
Up to 1929, total European imports had been approximately 10
billion board feet per year. Subsequently they were smaller, and in
1938, the last year for which an accurate estimate is possible, were
approximately 6K billion board feet. Those familiar with the field
believe that Sweden and Finland together will probably be able to
export 3K billion board feet a year, and suggest 1% billion board feet
as the possible volume for the remainder of the continent. This last
figure is highly tentative, because of uncertainty regarding the-state
of the forests.
Should post-war imports of new lumber be 10 billion board feet
per year, half of this would need to be obtained from non-European
sources. One billion board feet could come from Canada and the
remaining 4 billion would presumably come from the United States.
Potential supplies from other exporting countries are very small, and
unlikely to reach European markets.
In addition, Africa has imported approximately 500,000,000 board
feet of lumber a year from the United States, China from 300,000,000
to 400,000,000 board feet, and several countries smaller quantities.
Japan has imported from the United States at rates as high as 1%
billion board feet per year, but its requirements will quite possibly
be subordinated to those of the United Nations.
In the absence of knowledge about controlling conditions, conver­
sion of possible lumber production into possible construction volume
requires arbitrary assumption of lumber exports. The export rate
corresponding to sustained European consumption prior to 1930
provides a usable base, from which adjustments can be made for
specific increases in European consumption. This base rate of exports
is 4 billion board feet per year to Europe, and 1 billion board feet to
countries elsewhere.
Production of-33 billion board feet per year would permit a con­
struction rate of approximately $9,000,000,000 per year at 1940 cost
levels after inventories are restored, in addition to the export rate of
5 billion board feet per year. Production rates of 36 billion and 40
billion board feet per year would permit construction rates of some­
what over $10,500,000,000 and $12,500,000,000 per year, respectively.
These construction rates are for a distribution of construction among
different types in accordance with past experience and present in­
dications of the post-war pattern. They would be modified by in­
creased relative importance either of structures such as detached
houses having high lumber requirements or of projects which use
comparatively little lumber.
It is most unlikely that the construction rate at the end of the war
will be $9,000,000,000 per year, or that a year later it will have in­
creased to $12,500,000,000. It is also unlikely that export demand
will be as low as 5 billion board feet per year, because of the magnitude

of the rehabilitation program. It seems likely that exports of 10
billion board feet per year can be supplied, for a period of a year or
more, without hindrance to our construction program, after initial
adjustments have been made. Thereafter the margin for exports
would fall to 5 or 6 billion board feet per year, as construction
expanded further.

Capacity is more than ample for any predictable construction
demand for millwork. This consists of planing-mill products other
than surfaced lumber, and is made up principally of doors, sash,
frames, moldings, stair work, and cabinets. Changed standards
of design have eliminated ' the elaborate ornamental woodwork
formerly so common, and have simplified elements such as door trim.
Metal products, of which the best known is steel sash, have replaced
millwork to varying degrees for a wide variety of building elements.
Consequently the quantity of millwork used has been decreasing in
proportion to total construction. At the same time, capacity was
increased prior to the depression, before the significance of these trends
became so apparent.
There is no accurate enumeration, or even close estimate, of the
number of producing establishments in the millwork field. Most of the
largest plants make one or more stock products which, like other
factory products, are sold largely through permanent dealers. The
remaining mills operate essentially as subcontractors, supplying but
not installing a complete line of millwork items for individual proj­
ects.16 Some normally make building woodwork exclusively, either
to individual designs and specifications for more expensive structures
or to semi-stock designs. Others divide their production between
millwork and other woodwork such as store fixtures, with the main
product varying from time to time. In addition, there are thousands
of small mills operated in conjunction with other enterprises.
Plants of all sizes were shut down during the depression, and many
are operating currently only on simple work such as ammunition boxes.
It is the opinion of those familiar with the field that any necessary
production can be attained almost immediately, when lumber and
workers are available.
Inventory is important mainly for doors, the greater numbers of
which are produced by specialized manufacturers but which are needed
only near the end of any project. One plant alone can produce
250,000 doors per month, and there are several others of comparable
capacity, so that inventory shortage should be only a brief problem.
Any shortages in other items for which quantity production in stock
designs has been extensive can be overcome by manufacture in local
mills, until the distributors have built up their inventories.
Pre-war steel capacity exceeded consumption by a substantial mar­
gin, and has been enlarged for war requirements. There is no question
of capacity for post-war demand; rather, the industry is concerned
about uses, and the advisability of abandoning some of the less effi­
cient plants is receiving consideration.
16 These mills ordinarily buy doors but make all remaining items, except that in some localities stair
work is a specialty produced and installed by local stair builders.

Reconversion will be a rather brief problem. Every general type of
product is being made for war uses, although of course the tonnage
distribution among types has changed greatly and many individual
items have been discontinued.
The only serious reconversion problem is that of continuous strip
mills which are now making plate. In this case reconversion will be
simpler than the original conversion, since it involves mainly the reinstallation of equipment which was removed whereas conversion
involved construction of additional factory space and the production
as well as the installation of new equipment. At the same time,
there will not be the wartime urgency which accelerated the previous
change. Six months will be sufficient in all cases, and 3 months or
even considerably less in most cases. Some of the largest users—
makers of automobile bodies, among others—will not be ready for
operation until this reconversion is well advanced. Meanwhile, sheet
steel will be produced on those continuous-strip mills that were kept in
operation for war requirements. Principal construction uses are for
conventional sheet-metal work, and in the manufacture of appliances
and fabricated materials such as ranges, refrigerators, shower stalls,
partitions, and dabiriets of various sorts.
Manufacture of most steel-mill products will require only a change
of rolls. This is a routine procedure carried out whenever there is a
change to a rolled product of different cross section, and requires only
a fraction of an hour for the smaller rolls and somewhat longer for the
larger rolls. Change of steel formula, as from a formula suitable for
armor plate to one suitable for welded pipe, is likewise accomplished
in the course of operation. Certain special machines, such as those
for making metal lath, have been idle but can be restored to use almost
at will.
Inventories will not be a serious problem. Most of the tonnage is
sold and shipped directly to the larger consumers. The small fabri­
cators who buy through distributors use comparatively few items
of the entire range produced. Consequently, the trade channels to
be filled are less extensive than those for numerous other building
Although there are large inventories at shipyards and other war
production establishments, these would afford little help to construc­
tion if released for civilian purchase following a reduction in war
requirements. The shipyard inventories consist of plates and ship­
building shapes. Plates are rarely used in construction except for the
manufacture of boilers and tanks; and the shapes are quite different
from those used in structural-steel work. Inventories of manufac­
turing establishments are on the whole less similar than those of ship­
yards to construction steel, although a part of them may be suitable
for fabrication into building materials.
It is important that steel capacity freed by reduced war require­
ments be used for civilian products, and that reconversion of contin­
uous strip mills be permitted whenever there is permanent reduction
in the need for plates. When available, steel will relieve the lumber
shortage by ending the fabrication of wood into articles which are
admittedly emergency substitutes and by permitting manufacture of
steel building materials which have been alternates for lumber or

Miscellaneous Iron and Steel Products

A great variety of items fabricated from iron and steel, ranging
widely in importance, has become standard to varying degrees for
building use. These items cannot be discussed individually. Some,
such as medicine cabinets and industrial types of steel sash, were
manufactured in stock sizes; others were produced on special order
and commonly to individual specifications.
On the whole, production of these can be resumed without delay
when steel is available. Manufacture of some, such as hollow metal
doors, was continued in substantial quantity for war uses. There are
indications that manufacturers are planning increased emphasis on
stock designs and stock sizes for some items, with the ultimate effect
of increasing the productive capacity of current facilities.
There will probably be inventory delays of a few months for the
major stock-design products, during which these will be available in
a limited but gradually increasing range of sizes and models. Most
of these products can, if necessary, be made locally in ornamentaliron or sheet-metal shops. Most of them are alternates for wood
products for the same purposes. Consequently # the inventory
problems will be, at worst,1a hindrance.
Builders * Finish Hardware

Builders’ finish hardware 17 is made by approximately 110 com­
panies, all of which have been active on war orders. Pre-war outpiit
ranged from $80,000,000 to $90,000,000 per year. Although the
current production of the same firms is much larger, most of this is
ordnance; only about $50,000,000 represents output of builders,
hardware. Much of the latter consists o f hinges fo r ammunition
boxes and other articles which the industry classifies as bunders1
hardware, although not suitable for building use. Current trade
inventories are very low, and are made up in part of odd and obsolete
items of doubtful usefulness.
Conversion of plant has not been extensive. Facilities for war
products which could not be made on the industry’s usual machinery
have been secured principally by installation of new machinery in
additional space, and some part of the additional machinery is suit­
able for pre-war products as well. A very rapid return to pre-war
products, for which patterns, dies, and other supplementary produc­
tive agents are on hand, is possible. There has been unused capacity
in the industry, and further increase of output can be obtained by
multi-shift operation.
Kestoration of inventories is complicated by the great number of
different items in a complete line, many having a variety of finishes
and ornamental designs on the exposed parts. * The more prominent
brands have been distributed directly to certain large hardware
stores acting as local representatives, and through wholesalers to
smaller hardware stores elsewhere. The other brands have generally
been distributed through wholesalers. At least 3 months’ production
will be required to build up minimum basic inventories, and another
3 months to give buyers some choice of products for a particular
purpose. It will be several months more before buyers have the
extensive choice to which they have been accustomed.
17 Builders' finish hardware is, in general terms, the hardware visible in a completed building (largely
door, window, transom, and partition hardware). It does not include nails or other rough hardware, or
the numerous small metal parts used in plumbing, heating, and electrical work.

The plumbing-supply

Plumbing Supplies

is divided into three major parts,

respectively, china fixtures, enamelled iron fixtures, and
rass goods. A few large companies produce all three lines, but

most companies make only one. Special commercial or industrial
fixtures, such as restaurant sinks, are classified as business equipment
rather than plumbing supplies.
Production of discontinued articles can be resumed within a few
days and does not involve appreciable reconversion of plant, but
several months will be required for the building up of inventories.
Capacity is only slightly greater than 1941 production, and some
manufacturers believe tnat post-war production will be dependent
on increased prices.
China fixtures are being made currently for war construction, and
output can be increased in response to demand at any time, if addi­
tional workers are available. Inventories are at minimum working level,
and restoration to pre-war'quantity and variety will require approxi­
mately 6 months. These fixtures, however, are limited principally
to closet bowls, closet tanks, and lavatories, although china sinks
and some china bathtubs have been made for war construction.
China is the standard for closet bowls and tanks in all buildings,
but china lavatories are normally used only in more expensive build­
ings, and china sinks and bathtubs are ordinarily most uncommon.
Approximately four-fifths of the lavatories, and practically all
sinks and bathtubs, have ordinarily been made of porcelain enamel
on a base of cast iron or, for some fixtures made in recent years, on
a base of pressed sheet steel. Production for normal domestic use
was discontinued entirely until issuance of the WPB order on Decem­
ber 30, 1943, permitting manufacture of 50,000 bathtubs, and trade
inventories have been virtually exhausted. The found aries are
engaged principally in making other castings for war uses, but have
their old patterns and can reopen their enam elling furnaces almost at
will. Production can therefore be resumed in a matter of days,
but it will then require 4 months to build up basic working inventories,
and almost a year altogether to build up full inventories which would
give buyers normal range of choice.
Maximum efficient capacity for enameled-iron fixtures was nearly
reached by the 1941 construction program of almost $11,000,000,000,
including 715,000 dwelling units. With present facilities, an increase
of more than a few percent above 1941 output would complicate the
manufacturing operations and increase costs. Increased capacity
for the cast-iron fixtures is unlikely, but there are strong indications
that capacity for the sheet-steel fixtures will be increased substantially
within a few months after the end of the war and more later if
justified by increased public acceptance.
Those in the industry believe that early post-war models will be
unchanged from those made before the war and that subsequent
changes will be gradual. Any drastic changes which may come will
be introduced on a small scale, probably either by small companies or
by companies new to the industry. These opinions are supported
by the history of previous new products in the industry. Further
support is given by a recent survey of preferences in plumbing equip­
ment made among 200,000 householders by a large manufacturer

which showed an overwhelming preference for fixtures of the type
produced in 1941.
Brass goods are made up of ^ trim m ings,18 valves, and all other
metal parts except the fixtures themselves, pipe, and pipe fittings.
They are made by a large number of manufacturers, many of whom are
relatively small and confine themselves to a restricted line of products.
Inventories of completed goods are negligible, except for “war models”
in which brass has been largely replaced by other materials, and
inventories of these war models have been restricted by doubts regard­
ing their post-war salability, as well as by other limitations. Some
manufacturers have small stocks of parts of their standard models,
however, from which assembly could be started within a few days.
The foundry and machine equipment for making these parts are now
used for war products, but return to former products win involve little
more than change of patterns and machine settings and should intro­
duce no appreciable delay. There was unused capacity in 1941 and
other busy years, especially among the smaller manufacturers, and
increased production can be obtained as needed by multi-shift opera­
tion. However, it will require approximately 4 months to build up
basic working inventories throughout the trade, and at least 4 months
more to bring inventories to customary standards.
Heating Supplies

Heating supplies will be available sooner than plumbing goods, but
it will be fully 6 months before the industry can offer buyers even an
approach to a full choice of installations. Permanently installed heat­
ing plants are generally regarded as divided into two basic groups—
radiator systems and warm-air systems.
The former use a boiler from which steam or hot water is circulated
to radiators of various types, and consist of boiler, radiators, trimmings,
and pipes. Boilers and radiators for residential use are ordinarily of
cast iron, for which production can be resumed at any time on snort
notice. These are made by numerous companies having regional dis­
tribution, as well as by the better-known national companies. Trim­
mings for small systems are likewise made by numerous companies,
although the highly developed specialties for control of heat distribu­
tion are made by relatively few. The pipe is made in the steel
Warm-air systems have been much more common for smaller houses.
Simple “gravity” systems, in which the heated air rises through supply
ducts and is replaced by cooler air passing through return ducts, have
been made by about 200 manufacturers in almost all parts of the
country. The gravity systems have been made to some degree for
war housing and for necessary replacements. The processes involved
are simple, and the range of parts is rather small. The ducts them­
selves have ordinarily been made by the local sheet-metal shops which
made the installations. Hence expansion of manufacturing and
accumulation of inventories to a usable degree will require only a few
weeks. The more elaborate forced-air systems19 vary extensively
with respect to both the furnace itself and the remainder of the
11 “Trimmings" are faucets, waste connections, traps and the various other items mounted on or imme­
diately adjacent to the fixtures.
11 In these systems the warm air is circulated by a motor-driven fan and rather commonly is filtered and
humidified; they are commonly called “winter air conditioning" or some other variant of air conditioning,
although most installations are not true air conditioning.

equipment. Some are made by small manufacturers, while others
are made by divisions of the large companies most completely con­
verted to war work. Consequently these forced-air systems will
become available over a period of some months, the simpler of them
shortly after the gravity furnaces are resumed and the more elaborate
after a period of 6 months or more.
Heating stoves will be available in any quantity needed, with
little if any delay. Slightly more than 3,400,000 were manufactured
during the year ending June 30, 1941, of which approximately 950,000
were for gas, 980,000 for coal or wood, and 1,470,000 for oil.
Electrical Supplies

Electrical supplies consist of the materials used for distributing and
controlling current at buildings—wire and cable, conduit, outlet
boxes, switches, convenience outlets, load centers, fuses, and
numerous others. They do not include current-using devices
such as lighting fixtures, lamps, and electric appliances. Pro­
duction has been greatly expanded during the war and reconversion
problems are minor, but restoration of inventories will be a lengthy
process. The war effort has required tremendous quantities of
electrical supplies, so that all manufacturers have been busy, most
of them at higher rates of physical production than ever before. Many
of the products are essentially, if not exactly, the same as peacetime
products; production of other peacetime items has been curtailed
or discontinued; some products totally unsuited to construction uses
have been needed in large quantities; and development of recent
products which may have later application in construction has been
greatly hastened.
Production of most peacetime items will be merely a continuation
of present operations, with no changes other than of dies or machine
settings. For others, machinery which has been out of use can be
returned to production without delay. The only reconversion opera­
tion of any magnitude is that of some of the machines for assembling
BX cable,20 which will take approximately 2 months. Other
machines for the same purpose were kept in operating condition.
Only a few days will be needed to resume production at almost full
capacity after current limitations are removed, and only about 2
months to put the remaining facilities into operation. The range of
items is so great, however, that not even the largest manufacturers
attempt to produce all simultaneously. A complete line consists of
approximately 2,000 active items, normally kept in stock continuously,
plus approximately the same number made up principally on special
order. Under normal circumstances most of the standard items are
made intermittently, with the machines used successively for a series
of similar but not identical products, and with production of each
item regulated carefully to maintain plant inventories within prede­
termined limits. These plant inventories were extremely large, one
manufacturer alone regarding 40 full carloads as his minimum stock
of a single group oi products. In addition, jobbers and wholesalers
had extensive stocks, and even the smallest contractors maintained
inventories of some sort.*
* B X cable consists of two or more insulated wires enclosed in a helical wrapping of narrow sheet metal;
it is also known as metallic sheathed cable. Manufacture of this product was stopped for several months.

All these inventories are now exhausted, and cannot be replaced
quickly, especially with the intermittent manufacture necessary for
many of the items. One of the largest manufacturers estimates that
it will require 6 months to build up a basic working inventory, and
another 6 months to build up a good trade inventory. Some relief
will be obtained if arrangements can be made for release of military
inventories when no longer needed. This will be less, however, than
the gross value of such inventories would suggest, because they in­
clude many items unsuitable for construction wiring. An indication
of the seriousness of the inventory problem is given by the estimate
of one of the smaller manufacturers," making items sold through the
10-cent stores and similar outlets, and supplying them through several
large warehouses. He expressed the opinion that after all limitations
were removed it would be 2 years before the difference between pro­
duction and sales would bring his warehouse inventories up to their
pre-war volume.
Some improvement in the inventoiy situation is possible in the
interval between defeat of Germany and that of Japan. If materials,
facilities, and manpower not needed after reduction or cancel­
ation of war orders can be released for such use, civilian manufacture
can be started immediately. The magnitude of the inventory problem
shows how important it is that such manufacture be permitted at the
greatest rate consistent with war requirements.
Lighting Fixtures

Lighting fixtures will be available as needed. The. cheaper incan­
descent fixtures, used in most residential buildings, were produced
mainly by assemblers rather than manufacturers. The assembling
establishments were small but numerous, and in the past increased
rapidly in response to any increase in demand. The capacity of the
parts manufacturers has been ample for peak demands. The better
mcandescent fixtures have ordinarily been produced by establish­
ments manufacturing many of their own parts, and the capacity of
these has also been ample. Incandescent fixtures of standard design
were also made in considerable quantity for installation in stores,
offices, and factories, but the post-war demand for these will be small.
Fluorescent fixtures will be in post-war demand principally for
commercial buildings, both for new work and modernization. The
initial cost will restrict their sale for residential use. They will be
standard for new industrial buildings, but will scarcely be used for
replacement of older factory fixtures except in establishments which
had not been engaged in war work. Modernization of lighting was
encouraged so strongly as an aid to war production, with priorities
readily available, that eligible establishments which have not already
made the change are unlikely to do so in the post-war period. Capacity
for the manufacture of fluorescent fixtures continued its rapid pre-war
expansion into 1942 and may be expected to expand further if sales
indications are favorable.
Domestic Appliances

For residential, construction, the major domestic appliances are
comparable in importance to building materials. All appliances except
mechanical refrigerators will be available in abundance and without
serious delay if materials are available.

Ranges.—In 1941 approximately 2,275,000 domestic gas ranges were
produced by about 100 manufacturers. Their single-shift capacity
was approximately 3,000,000, and 3-shift capacity, at least 8,000,000.
There is no serious reconversion problem. Some of the manufac­
turers have been making “war model” ranges for war housing units,
and much of the industry has been engaged in direct war production
for which its existing plant was suitable. Manufacture of former
products can be resumed within a short time, from a week to a few
weeks in most cases, when limitations are removed and materials are
Domestic gas ranges are regarded by the industry as having a life of
8 years, but this is established by obsolescence resulting from the con­
tinued improvements of recent years combined with style changes.
Since early production will be of 1941 models, replacement demand
will not be abnormally stimulated.
About 700,000 domestic electric ranges were manufactured in 1941,
more than three-fourths of them by a very few large manufacturers.
War work in these plants has brought greater physical conversion than
in the gas-range factories, but reconversion can be sufficiently ad­
vanced within a period of 3 months for some approach to pre-war
output. Thereafter, production can expand rapidly.
Water heaters.—The greatest output of gas water heaters was 895,000
units of all types (storage, instantaneous and sidearm) reached in
1929. Single-shift capacity at that time was known to be somewhat
although there are no exact figures. Subsequently several of
manufacturers increased their capacity by changes in production
methods, and others entered the fiela on a large scale. The industry
estimates its 3-shift capacity as being at least 5,000,000 units per year,
and probably more. Production can be resumed almost as quiduy as
that of gas ranges, when limitations are removed, provided copper
tubing is readily available.
Electric water heaters and others not using gas are also in common
use. The delay until these are available will vary with the type, but
will not hinder the construction program.
Refrigerators.—Manufacture ot electric refrigerators was the most
highly developed in the appliance field, with the result that problems
of reconversion will be the most serious. While there have been
numerous small manufacturers, the greater part of the output was
made either by lame companies with a background of highly technical
manufacturing or by subordinate units of sum companies. Conversion
of these refrigerator plants to war work has been among the most
extensive in aU manufacturing. There has been transfer of equipment
among various plants of given companies, the individual machines
being moved to the plants where they could be used best on war
products. In some cases, there has been interspersion of companyowned and Government-owned machinery. After the machinery used
on war products is released and arrangements are made, either for
removal or for use of Government-owned machinery, it will be 6
months before production in quantity can start, and another 12 months
before it can reach its expected post-war peak of roughly 5,000,000
units per year. The pre-war peak was 3,500,000 in 1941, but this did
not represent full capacity because many of the large plants were
closed during part of the dull sales season.

Manufacture of small motors for refrigerators and other appliances
will be little more than a continuation of their manufacture for war
uses. The changes in design will cause only a negligible interruption
to production.

Information is considerably less complete on the supply of con­
struction labor than on other factors bearing on post-war construction
volume. No direct statements may be made regarding the number of
skilled construction workers who have entered the armed services,
because those tabulations which have been made .to date are
More than half of the construction mechanics21 reported in 1940
Census of Occupations as employed or as experienced and seeking work
were above the maximum age now established for general military
service. In only three major classifications—electricians, roofers
and sheet-metal workers, and structural- and ornamental-metal work­
ers—were half of those then employed under 40 years of age. In all
other major classifications, half of those employed were 42 or over.
In all classifications, those experienced and seeking work were older
than those employed. Although skilled construction workers above
the normal age range for enlisted men have been accepted for special­
ized groups such as the “Seabees,” the total strength of these groups
is small compared to the armed services as a whole.
Construction laborers were considerably younger than the mechanics.
More than 55 percent of those reported in the 1940 Census as em­
ployed, and slightly over 50 percent of those experienced and seeking
work, were under 38 years old. It is to be expected therefore that the
number of these in the armed services is proportionately greater than
the number of mechanics. This will be a negligible limitation on the
volume of construction, however, because the operations performed
can be learned quickly.
To obtain the number of construction workers in 1940, it is necessary
to adjust the Census figures for those in specific occupations, because
they combine maintenance workers with construction workers for
the various building trades. Maintenance workers are a considerable
part of the total for certain trades, especially carpentry, painting and
It is estimated that there will be 1,120,000 construction mechanics
in civilian life in the country at the end of the war; exclusive of main­
tenance mechanics in the same trades. In addition, it is estimated
that there will be 440,000 helpers and experienced laborers. To these
can be added 400,000 inexperienced persons capable of doing con­
struction laborers’ work, to bring the group into balance with the
An indefinite but large number of all of these workers are now
employed in war industries. Many will be released at the end of the
war, and it is likely that others will resign voluntarily when jobs in
their own trades are available.
These workers are sufficient for a construction program of approx­
imately $8,750,000,000 per year at 1940 cost levels, if employed
steadily. Steady employment is regarded as 1,650 hours per year,
or 50 weeks of 33 horns each, which is 40 hours per week minus time
lost for bad weather, and without overtime. The time lost because

Craftsman, as distinguished from helpers and laborers*

of weather varies seasonally, of course, and also differs between
sections of the country. The possible volume will be increased as
demobilization proceeds, and will also be increased through gradually
increasing productivity. It is estimated at $11,000,000,000 per year,
1 year after the defeat of Japan.
As already mentioned, there is likely to be strong competition
among materials and products. Substitution of materials, as between
metal and wood, will be further stimulated by any local shortages of a
customary product when another satisfactory product for the same
use is available. Such circumstances might call for adjustments
between the various construction unions involved, with new agree­
ments clarifying their respective fields of work, and providing a greater
degree of flexibility in the materials which specific craftsmen may use.

Measures to Facilitate Post-W ar Construction
It is apparent that, within a year after the end of the war, physical
capacity can be sufficient for a construction volume about equal to
the greatest peaks that have been attained in the past. It is equally
apparent, however, that capacity at the end of this first post-war year
can be cut down greatly by avoidable complications. The following
measures would be valuable in preventing unnecessary delays ana
1. Provision for removal or private use of Government-owned
factory machinery which has replaced or is intermingled with privately
owned, machinery, as soon as no longer needed for war production.
If policies for permanent disposition can not be formulated now,
authorization of removal and temporary storage of those machines
not suited to the plants’ post-war operations, and of some form of
lease for machines which they can use effectively, pending adoption
of permanent policies.
2. Permission for reconversion of machines or plants as soon as it
is known that they will not be needed for further war production.
3. Periodic review, from the standpoint of changed military re­
quirements, of Governmental inventories and purchasing schedules
of building materials, construction machinery, trucks, and related
products, and prompt effectuation of any indicated reductions. Sur­
pluses would be sola for civilian use, to the extent that these can be
absorbed readily. Sale would be made to users through normal
trade channels with the purpose of relieving shortages without bringing
price disorganization, and with qvery reasonable precaution to pre­
vent sale of scarce commodities to speculators.
In selecting establishments in which war orders are to be reduced
or cancelled, the importance of their normal products to the peace­
time economy would be among the criteria used.
4. (a) Permission—as soon as reduced military requirements give
a margin of productive capacity and to the extent that the manand material situation allows—for increased production
use of construction machinery, trucks, and building
materials, (b) Temporary control of distribution of those articles
for which the shortage is most serious. Thus, new machines for
logging (off-the-highway trucks, tractors, and certain units based on
or operated by tractors) would be given priority, with logging oper­
ators given preference in the purchase of these items untu their
shortage is no longer a limitation on lumber production.

5. A detailed study of costs of production and distribution in com*
parison with ceiling prices for all major building materials, especially
those for which prices have risen most sharply. This would be
followed by revisions in ceiling prices to correct imbalance and thus
remove potentially serious impediments to inventory accumulation
and increased production in the post-war period.
6. All possible efforts to stimulate prompt revision of building
codes with respect to permitted construction materials for various
uses and the quantities of materials required. Development of
new products, improvement of the strength or other characteristics
of older products, and improved control giving greater uniformity and
reliability in products have occurred since many of the codes were
adopted. Consequently many of them require use of materials which
must be considered wasteful by newer standards. Inefficient use of
materials and needless variations in local standards would be
particularly detrimental during the period of inventory shortages.
The Bunding Code Correlating Committee of the American Stand­
ards Association, the membership of which includes representatives
of numerous professional and trade associations in fields allied to
construction, is working currently on this problem. Pending com­
pletion of its work, valuable correction can be brought about by the
activity of local groups interested in -construction, even though
further revisions are likely to result from the Committee’s recom­