In addition to rolling price increases, one of the unique results of the pandemic has been longer lead times for products, as well as products not being available- if not outright discontinued. This is becoming a problem with virtually every product that goes into a new home or remodeling project.
Now, more than ever, planning ahead is essential. We strive to have all products selected before “pulling the trigger” and signing a contract. This is the only way to have some semblance of certainty that the products will be available when required. The big gatekeepers in projects involving kitchens or bathrooms are the cabinets and appliances, some of which currently have five month lead times. This means that start of construction dates are often figured out by working backwards from when cabinets and appliances will arrive, in order to minimize the amount of time a client is inconvenienced with their home being torn apart. Here at Custom Dwellings, we love to see daily progress. The last thing we want is to start a project and then have to stop and wait 3 or 4 weeks for products to arrive.
Construction management has always had the challenge of ordering and scheduling well enough in advance that everything runs smoothly and for decades, the lead times have been fairly consistent. This past year however, it seems to be a moving target. For example, we have a project coming up that we know the lead time on the bath tub is going to be critical to make the job run smoothly. Two weeks ago we checked on the lead time and it was two weeks. Just today, we found out it has now changed to four weeks- which is pushing out the construction start to October.
Flexibility by both the client and contractor is key in these challenging times. Now, more than ever, delays are increasingly out of the contractor’s control. We ordered the cabinets for another project well in advance, expecting a four month lead time as projected by our supplier. We lost a month of productivity waiting on framing lumber that was not available- an LVL beam shortage! Added to that, the cabinets arrived a month earlier than originally anticipated. While it’s not necessarily a problem having products ahead of time, finding a place to store them can be, especially with something like cabinets that should ideally be stored in a climate controlled area.
We are also finding that many products are being discontinued for a variety of reasons. Even some of the most popular products in recent years are no longer available. This can be addressed with a little creativity, such as mixing and matching similar brick to achieve the blend of colors desired, interspersing stone accents or having the brick stained after installation to achieve the desired result. If there is a ‘must have’ product, such as the decorative tile a kitchen has been designed around, it is prudent to order it as soon as possible and sometimes from alternate vendors that have remaining inventory a few states away.
Custom Dwellings has been very fortunate this year to have some very understanding clients that realize we can only control so much. While not the ideal, it has been almost fun to work with the clients to overcome the supply challenges we are currently facing. A little creativity and flexibility on behalf of both parties involved goes a long way to achieving a satisfactory end result.