Building materials, furnishing items hard to find in the new year

Erin Stetzer had a seemingly impossible job ahead of her: painting the brick exterior of a large River Oaks home and doing it in two weeks during a pandemic.

His painters visited Sherwin-Williams paint stores across the city, buying as much untinted paint as each would allow — 135 5-gallon buckets in all — while waiting for the homeowner to choose a color.

Then they went back to all those stores to get the right color tinted paint base. Since the owner had a big party planned, there was no flexibility in timing.

It would be a big job at any time, but when workers have to social distance and a shortage of paint makes it impossible to get a high volume of paint at once from a single store, the task becomes monumental.

“That’s where local knowledge through the business base is important,” said Stetzer, who began his homebuilding career with David Weekley Homes and went it alone with Stetzer Builders in 2003. “Painters thought about it and went to every Sherwin-Williams store they could possibly go to.

If you’re building, remodeling, or remodeling a home, you’re all too aware of shortages and delays of almost everything needed to complete the job. The worst news is that the problems are expected to continue until the end of 2022.

Everything takes longer to deliver: kitchen appliances can take anywhere from nine months to a year to arrive and special-order furniture can take six months. Timber price quotes could be valid for five days; windows can take five months to arrive. Tiles are spotty – some brands or styles take a few weeks to get here, while others can take four to six months.

Adding insult to injury, when things finally arrive they may be damaged, broken or the wrong item.

While the coronavirus pandemic has prompted more people to redecorate, remodel or even build a new home, the pressure on manufacturing and every link in the supply chain has meant there are few happy customers.

For Stetzer, a solution returns to the more compact format of his days as a production builder, instead of the longer, more spread-out schedule of a custom homebuilder. This means that when she, her clients, and their designer meet early, they make decisions and order everything from the get-go. Then, if it takes nine months to get a Wolf range or a SubZero fridge, that’s okay, because they have plenty of time.

Changes are risky, however, as the wait for materials has to start all over again, which complicates the other phases of construction.

The problem of backlogs on kitchen appliances presents itself differently in a renovation project that should only take a few months. The homeowner should plan a year ahead and then start construction after the appliances arrive, or proceed sooner, using a stove or refrigerator that they know will be temporary until the one they need. he wants to happen.

No industry is more affected than another. Contractors and designers place orders to set a price and wait, expecting continuous delays and having little or no control over when something happens.

Houston interior designer Lucinda Loya and her purchasing manager, Mary Choe of Lucinda Loya Interiors, said that every time they contacted a client, it was to deliver more bad news, projects taking three to four times longer.

“Two or three years ago, 75% of the time, we could count on delivery times to arrive on the scheduled date. These days everything is estimated and there are no guarantees,” Loya said.

Conversations with customers aren’t just about furniture choices, but also about deadlines, with weekly order reports, shipment progress reports, and even sharing tracking numbers when they can. It also means that when certain suppliers do a better job of delivering, orders are moved in their direction.

“We’ve never had any issues in any category like we do today,” Loya said. “From their perspective, clients are asking, ‘Do we want to take on this project and spend the money?’ Then the rest goes easily, right? – except that is not the case because of logistical problems. The real problem is that they are everywhere.

If a customer’s first choice takes too long to get in, they can move on to a second choice, but these are often out of stock as well.

“Literally last week we received an item the wrong size – half the size it was supposed to be. It’s not the customer’s fault, and it’s not our fault,” a said Loya “No matter who is at fault, we have to correct it as soon as possible. This is the most difficult experience we have ever seen in our careers.”

The same goes for interior designer Nikole Starr of Nikole Starr Interiors, who sometimes offers “loan” furniture that customers can use until their own furniture arrives. Instead of delivering furniture in one complete installation, it may have to take over in four or five phases.

“Since the winter storm in February, it’s been a real storm of events. Vietnam has shut down for COVID, and that’s where furniture frames are made. Then there is a container shortage and a labor shortage. Anything that can go wrong has gone wrong,” Starr said.

Furniture showroom owners Connie LeFevre of Design House and Fabric House and Meredith O’Donnell of Meredith O’Donnell Fine Furniture both said the wait for furniture can be long – and will likely continue. They also offered early warning; furniture prices are expected to increase by 10% from January.

O’Donnell said his showroom and warehouse were busy. She’s the main Hickory Chair dealer in the Houston area, and she’s purchased two fall furniture market showrooms — two or three shipping containers of furniture —. These are the new furniture collections presented to designers and store buyers each year.

For workarounds, O’Donnell said she had to get creative and find trucking lines that could deliver. And its salespeople also try to be creative.

Sherrill furniture companies – which include Hickory White, Lillian August and Motioncraft – have expanded and plan to open a new production plant by summer 2022. Instead of a six-month delay, they will be able to manufacture stuff in a few weeks.

For all, the past year has been about problem solving: learning the production issues and idiosyncrasies of foreign shipping and domestic ground transportation.

One of Stetzer’s customers had ordered two chandeliers to be installed on his kitchen island, but one was broken when they arrived after a long wait. They returned to the local lighting showroom to re-order, but by then that style had been discontinued and they were no longer available.

The owner reacted quickly, pointing to the sample display still hanging from the ceiling, “I’ll take that one.”

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