The Paint Shortage: What Caused It and What to Expect


Following the trajectory of lumber and steel, paint is the next big product to take a hit due to supply shortages. While COVID-19 is certainly a big cause of the current paint shortage, other factors are also in play. The result is high demand for a product that is in short supply.

As a result, we are experiencing nationwide paint shortages and incurring additional surcharges and handling fees levied by the material manufacturers. This shortage is being felt at all parts of the supply chain—with no end in sight.

What caused the current paint shortage?
The current paint shortage was caused by a number of events that came together and created the perfect storm for the shortage we’re seeing now.

The Texas 2021 Winter Storm

Unfortunately, the 2021 winter storm in Texas that caused a huge freeze and power outages disrupted the paint supply chain. The winter storm froze much of the available coatings supply that would have been distributed from Texas warehouses and heavily impacted the production of petrochemicals needed to make more coatings. As a result, paint manufacturers are not receiving their raw materials, and what they do receive comes with a large markup.

Import Issues

Importing has also taken a huge hit. For example, titanium dioxide—which is frequently sourced from China—has been almost impossible to obtain. And when ships carrying this material do make it to American ports, trucks and drivers aren’t always available to move them, thanks to labor shortages caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines. That means shipping containers are quickly stacking up at ports, risking the integrity of some raw materials.

Increasing Demand

Complicating the matter is the rapidly increasing demand for paint and other coatings. People have been confined to their homes for more than a year, so it’s no surprise that many are choosing to make improvements and changes. So, with more people needing paint while less is available, expect prices to go up.

In fact, Sherwin-Williams has already instituted a price increase and warned that it may increase more if the cost of raw materials continues to rise. As paint becomes increasingly difficult to source, plant managers and property managers should expect to pay a premium for professional painting contractors’ services.

Issues With Supply Chains

The American Coatings Association, or ACA, has said that the paint and coatings industry has failed to build resilience into its supply chains. What they mean by that is if something goes wrong with Plan A, there is no Plan B. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the effects of that now.

What to Expect in the Coming Months

You shouldn’t expect paint prices to drop any time soon. Material shortages have affected all parts of the paint and coatings industry, and increasing demand has exacerbated the problem. Until raw materials are more readily available and the workforce is present to move the materials where they need to be, expect paint prices to continue to rise.

If you have an important project coming up, schedule it now so your commercial painting contractor can start the process of finding materials, but expect delays that are out of their control. The best thing you can do is be patient, and perhaps tackle other maintenance projects in the meantime.