Backordered supplies, lumber shortages, fewer available tradespeople — these are just a few of the reasons that home renovations in the U.S. are taking longer and are more expensive to complete than ever before.
Some construction delays fall outside a contractor or homeowner’s control (weather, backordered materials), while others may be a result of improper scheduling or homeowners who make last-minute changes once construction is underway.
In fact, according to one survey, more than 85% of homeowners experienced a delay of some kind, whether their project was remodeling an existing home or new construction.
Homeowners can keep their construction projects moving forward with some planning and a lot of patience. Consider these strategies to keep your timeline on track:
It’s imperative you have a series of conversations with your contractor before your project begins to make sure you’re on the same page regarding budget, timeline, communication expectations, and, maybe most important: contingency plans. Knowing in advance how your contractor will deal with unforeseen delays, cost increases, labor shortages, or other problems that might arise once the crew starts opening walls can save you unnecessary frustration.
As the homeowner, you can help keep things on track if you begin the project by providing your contractor with a clear and detailed plan and have as many decisions made as possible. Change orders made once the project has started are major reasons for delays and added expense. Take the time to think through all the details before the project gets underway.
Again, talk with your contractor to set a realistic timeline based on the availability of subcontractors, materials, supply chain issues and any other factors that may be affecting your market at the moment. Once you have a timeline, mentally increase it by 25% to 50%.
Mentally extending the project timeline provides an added psychological cushion, which can go a long way towards maintaining your perspective when delays start causing your blood pressure to rise.
Pushing out the timeline is added insurance that — should your project be delayed and overlap with a hard deadline (a mortgage end-date, for example) — your plans have enough padding to absorb the extension.
Choosing the “bells and whistles” of any renovation project is usually the fun part. It’s especially gratifying to see the vision in your mind’s eye come to life when everything you’ve chosen comes together during installation.
Keep in mind that it’s not unusual for certain materials, fixtures, or appliances to have a 12-to-15-week lead time, particularly if the item is custom made or high-end. Supply shortages due to COVID-19 have only exacerbated extended lead times in recent years. Some home renovation credit cards offer protections for materials that arrive damaged or are discontinued.
Certain steps in the renovation process must follow a particular sequence, and it’s easy for a delay to derail that process. A kitchen countertop can’t be measured and installed until the cabinet bases have been completed. The plumbers can’t complete their job until the sink and toilet arrive. The tiler can’t install your backsplash when you’re waiting for the handmade ceramic tiles to arrive from overseas.
Suppliers will typically alert you once a product has shipped. Keep track of where your items are in the shipping process, alert your contractor if there are any delays, and be prepared to be flexible and choose a backup if an item or material is discontinued or indefinitely backordered.
Though a recent report found that more than 90% of homeowners plan to tackle a home improvement project in the next five years, it’s important to know when to DIY and when not to DIY. Be honest about your level of DIY experience and ask yourself if you’re willing to pay the cost in both time and money to potentially have a professional fix a project gone wrong.
Even if you have the necessary skills, time, and equipment to take on certain aspects of your home remodel, that doesn’t mean you should. An experienced team of professionals led by a seasoned general contractor will have the inside knowledge of things like permits, inspections, and other factors unique to your area like material or labor shortages. Good contractors typically have long-standing relationships with other professional tradespeople, which can keep a project moving forward so you finish on time.
Renovating a home involves a lot of moving parts; rare is the renovation that doesn’t experience at least a minor hiccup. Keep your frustration to a minimum by staying aware of the current circumstances affecting your project and maintaining open communication with your contractor and team.