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Remodeling 101: 7 (Stress-Free) Tips for Renovating in the Time of Supply Chain Issues


Remodeling 101: 7 (Stress-Free) Tips for Renovating in the Time of Supply Chain Issues

March 23, 2023

From landing on a realistic budget to narrowing down selections from what seems like an infinite number of options, home renovations have always been a complex and challenging undertaking, even in the best of circumstances. Throw in a global pandemic and an erratic supply chain, and even the most enthusiastic remodelers may find the process overwhelming.

While certain aspects of the global supply chain have improved since the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, some continue to affect renovation timelines and budgets. But don’t let these hurdles diminish your excitement or stand in the way of your project. Understanding the economic circumstances at play and planning accordingly will allow for a much smoother and enjoyable experience.

As an interior designer in New York City, here are a few tips I recommend keeping in mind before embarking on your home renovation project these days.

photograph by french + tye, courtesy of studio ben allen, from a london victori 17
Above: Photograph by French + Tye, courtesy of Studio Ben Allen, from A London Victorian Terrace House Recast in Living Color.

1. Plan (way) ahead.

Renovations are taking longer than ever due to supply chain disruptions, labor and material shortages, and transportation bottlenecks. While container prices and availability are finally normalizing, a warehouse and truck driver shortage continues to complicate shipping logistics and lead times; containers sit in ports because there’s nowhere for the goods to go. Items like appliances, hardware, and plumbing fixtures (trim plates, faucets, hand showers, etc.) continue to have the longest lead times, especially if they are custom and/or fabricated abroad.

At the start of your project, make a list of the products with the longest lead times and place those orders as soon as possible. While these items would normally be ordered once the design has been finalized, it’s now essential to get ahead of schedule if you want to meet your renovation deadlines. Once those orders are placed, follow up consistently (ideally in writing).

photograph by jonathan gooch for remodelista from rehab diary: storage in unexp 18
Above: Photograph by Jonathan Gooch for Remodelista from Rehab Diary: Storage in Unexpected Places, Home Office Edition.

2. Create a realistic budget.

With a skyrocketing demand for labor and low supply, companies are shelling out higher wages to retain talent…resulting in increased labor prices for consumers. Combine that with inflation, higher material prices, and backordered products and the cost of a renovation can be significantly higher than you anticipate. Allow extra room in your budget for re-selections, price hikes, and unexpected costs, too.

be mindful of appliance delivery delays. styling by hilary robertson and p 19
Above: Be mindful of appliance delivery delays. Styling by Hilary Robertson and photograph by Dana Gallagher from Farmhouse Refresh: An Antiques Dealer’s Clean and Simple Family Retreat on Shelter Island.

3. Anticipate some additional service charges.

Long lead times and delays for products may mean that certain items will arrive on site much later than expected—and after a contractor’s crew has left the job. For example, if a refrigerator or dishwasher is delivered months after the plumber and electrician have finished all of the other scheduled work, those trades may charge a service fee to return to complete the plumbing and electrical connections for this one item. (Additionally, if these items have integrated panels, the cabinet maker will also have to return for the installation). Being mindful of the delays will help ensure that these potential costs are factored into the project budget.

4. And be mindful of the ongoing skilled labor shortage.

Finding great contractors has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to a shortage of skilled labor that existed even before the pandemic. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction laborers, carpenters, drywall and ceiling installers, plumbers, and painters has steadily decreased since 2018. The decline is due to a combination of an aging workforce of tradespeople and an insufficient number of newcomers—and the result is longer wait times for renovation projects and schedule delays. If you’re not already working with an interior designer or architect who can recommend trades, ask your friends and family who they’ve worked with—or pop into your local showrooms to ask for recommendations.

a remodel that made use of existing materials where possible: kitchen of the we 20
Above: A remodel that made use of existing materials where possible: Kitchen of the Week: A Waste-Conscious Remodel for a Ceramic Tile Designer. Photograph by Agnese Sanvito, courtesy of Brisco Loran.

5. Shop local and secondhand. 

Are there any materials or products that can be sourced in your area? Sourcing items nearby is a great way to eliminate the headaches that come with ordering products fabricated overseas (and it’s more eco-minded, too). Buying vintage or rehabbed items, like antique doors, is an environmentally friendly way to add character to your home. Get creative and explore alternative options that have a smaller carbon footprint and no (or short) lead times to boot!

6. Hire a great design team.

There are myriad benefits to working with an interior designer and/or an architect—like creating a cohesive design vision and ensuring the renovation project runs smoothly, just to name two. Most have their go-to teams of contractors and preferred vendors, and one of the biggest perks is having access to this extensive network of trusted tradespeople. And costly mistakes can be avoided by working with professionals who understand the current design and construction landscape.

flexibility is key. photograph by lorenzo zandri from the low energy house 21
Above: Flexibility is key. Photograph by Lorenzo Zandri from The Low Energy House: 10 Ideas to Steal from an Eco-Conscious Retrofit of a 1907 Townhouse.

7. Stay flexible and patient.

When your first choice material or fixture isn’t available, staying open to options that are in stock or have shorter lead times can help keep your timeline on track. While planning ahead is essential, being flexible can help you meet crucial deadlines and stay on budget. And when those inevitable delays occur, stay calm, make the appropriate plans or revisions, and remember it’s all part of the process. It will be worth it when everything comes together.

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Frequently asked questions

What is causing the delays in supply chain for renovating projects?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in the global supply chain, impacting the availability of building materials and products needed for renovating projects. This has resulted in longer lead times, delays, and backorders for many items.

What are some examples of building materials that are experiencing delays?

Lumber, steel, and concrete are some of the building materials that have experienced delays due to supply chain issues. Additionally, products like appliances, plumbing fixtures, and lighting are also affected.

How can homeowners and contractors mitigate supply chain delays?

One way to mitigate delays is to plan ahead and allow for longer lead times when ordering materials and products. Homeowners and contractors can also consider alternative materials or products that are readily available if their initial choices are experiencing delays.

Is it possible to expedite delivery of materials to avoid delays?

Expedited delivery of materials may be possible, but it often comes with a higher cost. Homeowners and contractors can check with suppliers about their available shipping options and timelines.

What should homeowners and contractors do if they encounter delays?

Homeowners and contractors should communicate with each other and with suppliers if they encounter delays. They can work together to come up with alternative solutions or adjust the project timeline if necessary.

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