From my inbox June 25: “Dear Valued Dealers, I am reaching out again this year to share an update on our current Ocean Freight Surcharge. The ocean freight and supply chain issues I shared with everyone In March have proceeded to get significantly worse. On top of those issues, we have run into significant challenges with our domestic carriers to the point that our largest carrier issued a two-week embargo on trailer pickups.”
The furniture company CEO who wrote that went on to explain that although container space is a little easier to secure, the cost is five times more than normal. He concludes that instead of raising furniture prices, they will increase freight surcharges.
Delivery is agonizingly slow. In my own business, furniture we ordered in October just arrived in July.
“While remodeling and home construction are bright spots in the economic recovery, the explosion of demand for materials and products for projects and developments contribute to shortages,” said Rob Dietz, economist for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.
And from our dedicated Santa Fe Area Homebuilders Association executive officer, Miles Conway: “Homebuyers and their builders are confronting an average 26 percent year-over-year gain in construction costs, all in (300 percent annual increase for lumber alone). Couple that with lingering COVID chaos and outright paralysis in the supply chain, and you have a perfect recipe for a glacial pace in home construction. Frankly, the home-sweet-home industry professionals who are able to complete projects in a reasonable time frame and within a stone’s throw of original cost estimates are superheroes in our community this summer.”
This story has wide implications in my core business, which has become kitchen and bath remodeling, in large part from COVID-induced, stay-at-home requests like: “We must remodel this outdated kitchen now.” The cost of wood, and more damaging, the lack of supply of wood products, not to mention worker shortages, have pushed cabinetry availability far out.
None of the custom cabinet makers we know are even able to consider potential clients until October or November. When we turned to quality semi-custom cabinet makers in the Midwest, we found the same long lead times. Cabinetry that used to arrive in six to eight weeks now takes 14 to 19 weeks.
Kitchen and bathroom renovations are complex. You are dealing with three dimensions, fitting everything in a finite space, while optimizing existing plumbing, electrical and roof vents. Appliances are taking six to nine months.
Because installations follow in sequence, these delays create workflow disruptions like we have never seen. We have problems if a valued tradesperson shows up on schedule, only to find the needed unit is delayed until “we do not know when, maybe November.”
We lose momentum and the schedule is blown.
If you are considering a new furniture purchase, please know any custom order will be as delayed as cabinetry. Quality furniture is not prepared (upholstered or finished) until it is ordered.
What can you do about it? Plan ahead. Get your design going in the summer or fall for the following winter or spring. Practice patience. Mental survival has relied on the practice of patience for the past 18 months.
Here are some kitchen remodeling tips: Order appliances first and ask about the worst-case scenario on lead time. With appliance dimensions in hand, work out your cabinetry design and get the delivery time. Then you can plan a somewhat realistic schedule with the builder and subcontractors. The caveat: The timing could take at leas two times what you anticipated. Plan on a long process. Be flexible; use your old dishwasher until the back-ordered Bosch arrives. Increase contingency funds or cut back on selections.
We do not expect costs to go down.
Remember, none of us could have predicted the shipping blockage by a freighter stuck sideways in the Suez Canal, or the Texas ice storm that would affect every manufactured wood product because of undeliverable components, or, of course, the pandemic. In general, if you can dial back your expectations and be considerate of your design team and contractors, you can still realize a remodeled kitchen, bath or room addition that will outlast the long process and greatly enhance your life at home.