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Building Materials Shortages; What’s going on?

If you’re renovating your home, or have tried a spot of DIY recently, you’ll have noticed lots of empty shelves at the builders’ merchants, with materials shortages now taking effect.

In the early days of the Covid 19 pandemic, factories across the world closed their doors, and all sorts of materials became scarce as a result, but in the second half of 2020 the problem seemed to be lessening. So what is happening, and what should you expect if you are renovating?

Navy kitchen with subway tiles, white worktop and brass ironmongery. `Renovation by Absolute Project Management.

Why is there a problem?

There are problems at most stages of the manufacturing and delivery supply chain;

  • Many factories around the world are still working at reduced capacity to accommodate safer working practices, and because of staff shortages due to illness and self-isolation.
  • International shipping ports are subject to sudden closures due to outbreaks – especially in China. This is significantly delaying the shipment of materials at most points of the supply chain (unloading, loading up, etc.).
  • Lorry deliveries are also being disrupted with staff shortages.
  • Demand has increased significantly this year – a release of ‘pent up’ demand through 2020.
  • The ramifications of the Suez blockage are still being felt, and changes due to Brexit have added further strain.

The impact of this is that not only are many materials out of stock, but suppliers are unable to accurately predict when they will next be available.

Smart control electric radiators - Renovation by Absolute Project Management

What is in short supply?

There are delays in materials of all kinds. We are seeing a particular impact on Timber products; (e.g. Flooring, doors and building timber), some fabrics, glass and anything shipping from outside Europe.

What can you do to reduce the impact on your renovation?

  • Allow a contingency budget for price rises caused by shortages. This is always advisable. In the current circumstances you may be faced with sudden price rises, or a situation where an in-stock option is more expensive than your original choice.
  • Expect delays. If you are having significant works done and are moving out, consider what your accommodation options will be if the works are extended. It’s never pleasant to have to do this, but it is helpful to know your options in advance.
  • Talk with your contractor about what the key risks are and how you can work around them. They may be able to change the order of works to help deal with e.g. a delay to a tile delivery – although be aware that’s not always possible, specially without knock-on effects later in the project.
  • Ask suppliers to check stock before you order. They may have in-stock or locally produced options you can focus on.
  • Buy project-critical things in advance; We normally aim to carefully line up fittings and furniture to arrive just as they are needed, to reduce the risk of things being damaged or lost on site, and to make sure the contractor team have plenty of space to work. Currently, we’d advise getting anything critical ordered and delivered asap. If you don’t have much space on site, you may need to negotiate a fee for the supplier to keep hold of goods for you in their warehouse until you are ready for them.
  • For all renovations in general, it’s important to plan well in advance so you are as prepared as possible. See our previous blogs on Avoiding problems during a renovation here and here for some tips.
Chris, Hove - Home staging by Absolute Project Management

Is it a good idea to delay a project?

Renovation work is always potentially at risk of delays and price rises. Many of our suppliers report that they expect problems well into 2022, and contractors that we work with are very busy. On that basis, if you were to wait until a time that there were no delays at all, you could be waiting for a very long time. We advise continuing with any work you have planned, but taking plenty of time in the planning stage before moving out and starting work on site.

If you’re thinking about completing a renovation in London or Brighton, contact us now!

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