Huttig Building Products recorded a net loss of $6 million in the second quarter, more than double the $2.5 million loss it incurred in the year-earlier period, as sales dropped 38.6% to $119.9 million from $195.4 million.

The filing Aug. 7 to the Securities and Exchange Commission means the St. Louis-based distributor has incurred a net loss of $20.3 million in the first half of this year; its net loss for January through June of 2008 was $12.3 million. Sales for the first half of the year are down 39.2% to $219.9 million from $362.2 million.

Operating expenses were cut 33.8% in the second quarter to $26.2 million, but it wasn't enough to compensate for a 41.1% slump in gross margin to $21.6 million.

General building products--a category in which Huttig includes composite decking, fasteners, connectors, housewrap, roffing products, and insulation--accounted for 49% of all sales from continuing operations in the quarter, up from 45%. Wood products sales (lumber, panels, and engineered wood products) figured in 9% of sales, down from 12% in April-June 2008. Sales of millwork--including doors, windows, patio doors, mouldings, frames, stair parts, and columns--amounted to 42% of sales vs. 43% a year before.

"Our sales depend heavily on the strength of national and local new residential construction and home improvement and remodeling markets," Huttig said in the SEC filing. "During the past three years, our results of operations have been adversely affected by the severe downturn in new housing activity in the United States. We expect the severe downturn in new housing activity to continue to adversely affect our operating results throughout 2009."

Huttig has responded to the slump in part by closing, consolidating , or selling 19 distribution centers since mid-2006. Two of them were sold in the first half of 2009, while a third--in Anchorage, Alaska--is to be closed in the fourth quarter of this year. (Story.)Huttig also has reduced its workforce by approximately 1,200 since the middle of 2006 and had approximately 1,000 employees as of June 30, 2009.

In an interview published in the June issue of a St. Louis business journal, Huttig president and CEO Jon Vrabely said Huttig had thought at one time that the housing market had bottomed out in mid-2007. But then conditions worsened, and Huttig had to scramble, it said.

"It's a very delicate balancing act to ensure survivability while keeping an eye on the future," the magazine quoted Vrabely as saying. "You're trying to maintain a strategic view of the future, but you are challenged with immediate needs that need to be addressed from a financial and cost perspective."