Supply Chain Problems Disrupt Chicago Home Construction and Repair


With widespread supply chain disruptions, 2021 has not been a year anyone in Kida’s business would ordinarily describe.

An owner of an Evanston lumberyard gathered the materials to build about 15 houses. A remodeling contractor pieced together materials left over from previous work to update a house in Calumet Heights so that its elderly owner’s family could bring it to market. A builder ordered $ 150,000 worth of windows for a new home in Highland Park months earlier in the construction process than he would normally expect. An Arlington Heights handyman has become accustomed to having to shop around every big box hardware store to find enough matching parts to complete his customers’ jobs.

“Balancing inventory has never been so difficult,” says Bob Fisher, third generation owner of Evanston Lumber. “We tell our clients that the deadlines have gone from reasonable to outrageous.”

Fisher, who also owns the Marvin Window Gallery in Lake Bluff, says ordering times for doors and windows have gone from about 3 to 4 weeks to “16 or 20 weeks, maybe more.”

Also growing rapidly: prices. Fisher said some window lines have seen “five price increases at 5% each since 2019. Normally that would be around 3.5%, once a year.”

In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article, transportation specialist Yossi Sheffi explains that supply chain shortages are due to downsizing manufacturers, either because of reduced demand for their products or because of working rules of the COVID era, just before an increase in demand. for many consumer products, including home improvement ones, driven by cheap stimulating money.

“They did less when they didn’t know people would suddenly demand more, and now no one can catch up,” says Jonathan Rubenstein, whose Highland Park renovation and construction company is called Jar Corp. As a result, “everything is more expensive and everything is more difficult to obtain,” he said.

During a large-scale renovation like the one Jar specializes in, the owner expects an array of quality finishes and materials. Rubenstein drafts a proposal and, under normal circumstances, it may take a few weeks for the client to review it before accepting.

It used to be good, says Rubenstein, because “my suppliers kept the prices they gave me for 30 days to 12 months.” In their pinched state now, its sellers will “hold their prices for seven days.” This price may increase before (the owner customer) opens my email.

Kida says that in mid-October, a well-known cabinet brand – which Kida wouldn’t name – announced a 9% price increase that would take effect on November 1.

“Normally, cabinet makers would give us 60 to 90 days’ notice and we would finish our projects,” Kida explains. “This time it’s ‘Boom, it’s done, we’re going up.'”

Some repairs require near-instant turnaround time. When a water heater breaks, “you have to have a new one the next day, maybe two days,” says Stephen Adamitis, president of American Weathermakers, a heating and air conditioning company in Northbrook. Typically, Weathermakers would have two 50 gallon water heaters in their supply warehouse and rearrange each time one leaves the building to be installed in a customer’s home.

Due to the supply chain slowdown, Adamitis says, he kept up to eight 50-gallon heaters in the warehouse, just in case.

Customers are largely willing to accept longer wait times and higher prices, according to these industry sources. They attribute this to two factors: The supply chain has been a high-profile issue, so it shows up on owners’ radar screens and doesn’t surprise them, and most people don’t see prices going down anytime soon.

The owners “have been understanding,” says Jack Casey, an Arlington Heights handyman who calls his business Handy Jacks. “They know what’s going on there. They saw the container ships parked in the ocean (near) Los Angeles.

When he tells them that a sheet of plywood he could get for $ 15 is now $ 48 and that he will need seven sheets for their bathroom, like he did for a recent customer, ” They know why, ”says Casey.

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