As market forces have continued to change and evolve – or devolve, as most of us have been experiencing for well over a year now – it seems timely to report on current conditions and what to expect when remodeling a residence today.
Historically, planning and executing a room or entire house remodel has not changed much over the past 40 or 50 years, other than when the internet grew up to allow unprecedented access to ideas, resources and products from around the corner to around the globe. That is to say, until the COVID pandemic affected supply chains in ways that are still unfolding and continue to affect normal processes and timelines. Patience, nimbleness and tenacity are the order of the day when dealing with market forces.
Sequence of steps pre-pandemic
Before the pandemic, for remodel and renovation projects, a licensed architect would usually be the first step to design and document the improvements, and work through the initial drawing set phase
to completion of the final
The next step would be to interview general contractors and perhaps an interior designer. Between the general contractor and interior designer, and perhaps the architect, the budget for the project is developed. Once a comfort level is established with the entire program and the costs, a timeline is created.
The timeline has dates that trigger when all items need to be purchased based on industry norms of availability, production and shipping. These items range from rough lumber materials to tiles, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, light fixtures and everything one might imagine needed to populate the construction of a home.
The team usually targets the purchases to arrive close to when they are needed, so each item can be unpackaged, inspected and installed soon after delivery. With this approach, any uncovered problems are more easily resolved, such as hidden shipping damage, because the window to discover and report a problem is usually between seven to 10 days. Shipping insurance is short-lived for this purpose. Manufacturers of products are not thrilled to hear from a customer 30-60 days or more after something is shipped.
Current market conditions
Quick remodels and additions are not likely to occur now, and probably not at least through 2022. More demand has created less supply. This is compounded by a worker shortage and infrastructure limitations to produce more volume.
Here is what we are navigating around more specifically:
• Qualified contractors are in high demand. It is therefore usually a good plan to secure them first for an estimated start date, then complete the designs, specifications and budget to meet the contractor’s availability date.
• Many items normally in stock – like appliances – have become very hard to find. Some brands have no availability of dishwashers or washers and dryers for nine to 12 months out. This is true all across the U.S., and even outside the country. Now, appliances must be ordered far in advance of when they will be needed, and thus those decisions must be made upfront. One year would be considered prudent.
Paint, the simplest of materials, is at times out of stock. It happened to me for my own house project. It forced a change to a darker color than intended. The colorant used in the bases for lighter colors has been running low due to higher demand. The paint store associate asked me which color I was interested in, noting that if it was too light, they could not mix it up for days.
Expectations should meet and match the moment. Frustration will only increase when trying to assert some control over things that outside forces are affecting. Prior proper planning will help smooth out the bumps.
Allowing for a larger price contingency percentage, between 20% and 50%, will keep cost increases from derailing a project. (Last year, in less than 12 months, we had three or four price increases from the same manufacturer due to increases in both raw materials and shipping costs. In the past, we might not get a single price increase for two to three years from a manufacturer.)
Once the logistics are planned for, the fun part of the project can begin. Create a before-and-after visual of removing old masonry on a fireplace and replacing it with a custom-colored concrete fireplace fitted for a larger screen size and wires hidden in the correct location for that equipment. Photo-realistic 3D planning software can easily show various options for kitchen cabinets. It is helpful to see what open shelves might look like versus closed cabinets.
Small projects are still being completed and can provide a big aesthetic improvement – like installing wood panels on a plain sheetrock angled ceiling. Just don’t forget to reserve the scaffold equipment in advance. Those are in short supply, too.
Sherry Scott is a Certified Interior Designer, professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and proprietor of Sherry ScottDesign, 169 Main St., Los Altos. For more information, email [email protected]