Pandemic effects ripple across home construction industry |

Home builder John Halbing has just returned to work after battling COVID-19 and he is seeing ripple effects in the home construction industry as a result of the pandemic.

Halbing, president of Summit Pointe Builders in Dallas, said there are shortages of materials like certain lumber and vinyl products since some manufacturers and lumber mills shut down or are operating with smaller crews.

High demand for some supplies like paint at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have left shelves bare as retailers try to keep up.

“It’s taking considerably longer to get certain materials,” Halbing said. “What used to take two days is now taking three weeks.”

Amid the uncertainty about the economy and finances, Halbing said some clients also are holding off on buying new homes or are considering scaling back their original plans.

One client, for example, wanted to start construction on a new $650,000 home but he decided to wait since his business was adversely affected by the pandemic and shutdown, Halbing said.

Gov. Tom Wolf initially classified construction and real estate as non-essential and both industries shut down in mid-March.

Wolf later permitted construction projects to restart May 1 and employees in the real estate to get back to work on May 19 with safety guidelines.

Once construction resumed, Summit Pointe Builders completed three properties the company started in Dallas Twp. and Jackson Twp., Halbing said.

On an average day, 75-100 employees work for his company on a construction job and the shutdown took a toll on his business and workers, he said. On Friday, workers continued a construction job on Manorview Drive in Dallas that was started last year.

Halbing, 59, said the “ironic” part about the pandemic is that he just returned to work this week after being diagnosed with COVID-19 himself and quarantining.

He has asthma but had not suffered an attack since he was 20.

“I was pretty diligent with washing my hands and using hand sanitizer,” he said. “If I went through the bank drive-thru, I wiped the canister down and wiped the steering wheel down.”

During the first two days, he said he felt like he was suffering from a “real bad flu” and he never had the flu before. He had a fever, cough, shortness of breath, a loss of appetite, weakness and aches and pains.

On the second day, he passed out in the shower, fractured his ankle and went to Geisinger’s emergency room.

After a litany of tests, he tested positive for COVID-19. After being released from the hospital, he and his wife stayed in different homes. His wife didn’t contract the virus. His 27-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have symptoms, he said. He felt better after four days of weakness, aches and pains, he said.

Now that Halbing has recovered and returned to work, he wears a mask, practices social distancing and follows other safety guidelines.

He said he knows many naysayers who think coronavirus is being blown out of proportion, but he said he knows first-hand how serious it is. He couldn’t believe how fast it spread and he contracted it.

“For me, the biggest fear was unknowingly infecting someone and that person having a serious problem,” he said.

Halbing encourages workers and others to wear masks. He said it bothers him when people say it’s their right not to wear a mask even though he doesn’t like wearing a mask himself.

“You wear a mask to try to protect the more vulnerable people,” he said. “My biggest fear was what if somebody got sick and had serious issues because I was being careless.”

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