Supply chain problems and labor shortages have made home improvement projects even more complicated.
The salesman for the cabinets I was about to order stood in my kitchen a few weeks ago, looking worried. Normally, he would wait until after a contractor had gutted my kitchen to take final measurements, because these semi-custom cabinets ordinarily take three or four weeks to arrive. Now, because of pandemic-related delays, they would take 13 weeks, maybe more.
He suggested my contractor preemptively take a sledgehammer to my soffits to make sure no wayward pipe would undo my cabinetry plans. My timing headaches didn’t end there. The next day, when my contractor showed up to punch those holes in my walls, he told me to order my windows as soon as possible because who knows when they might arrive. Appliances, he said, would be even harder to get.
A major kitchen renovation is never easy. It’s like assembling a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, with the addition of each piece dependent on the one before it. Renovating a kitchen during a pandemic is even trickier. The global supply chain has been upended at nearly every point, leading to delays in everything from refrigerators to lumber.
The shortages have been exacerbated by a home renovation boom that defied the recession. In 2020, as the U.S. economy fell by 3.5 percent, spending on home repairs and improvements rose more than 3 percent, to nearly $420 billion, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Since March 2020, monthly online spending for home improvement products and appliances was, on average, 74 percent higher than pre-Covid levels, according to 1010data, which analyzes consumer habits.
“I don’t think anybody was prepared for the massive increase in demand, especially when it came to home goods,” said Tyler Higgins, head of the retail practice at the global consulting firm AArete.
Contractors, designers, cabinetmakers, plumbers and electricians are struggling mightily to keep up with the demand, meet deadlines, and temper the expectations of clients eager to gut their kitchens and bathrooms.
“It’s pretty extraordinary,” said Caleb Anderson, a co-founder of the New York City design firm Drake/Anderson. “I would have