The Disrupted Kitchen and Bath Supply Chain

COVID-19 Quarantine. West coast fires. The Suez Canal backup. A frozen Texas. What do all of these things have in common? They are all contributing factors as to why your kitchen and bath projects have been delayed. That, and there has been a significant increase of those wanting to remodel their home. And the good news doesn’t stop there! These are all also reasons why remodels are starting to cost 15% to 30% more than just a few years ago. So, we want to deep dive into some of the things affecting every client looking to update their home right now, and what it actually means. We’ll also offer a few solutions for how to work alongside your designer/contractor to alleviate some of these supply chain burdens.

Know Your Standard Project Timelines

First, we want to make sure we address a standard project timeline. Normally, kitchen projects can take about 10 to 12 weeks from day of demo, to the day that you can start moving back in. Primary bathrooms? They can take the same amount of time. And don’t forget to add a couple of weeks – making up to 14 total – for permitting needs (i.e., inspection days). Diving deep into the depth of our blogs, we actually found one about The Importance of Understanding the Timeline. And, even though it was written back in 2016, the same methodology still holds true today! However, these timelines only make sense if you already have everything you need to install, the day you plan to install it.

Keeping Your Timeline On Track

When working with Kitchen Design Concepts, we choose pretty much everything before you accept a scope of work and budget. Why? This allows your designer to order all of the materials upfront and ensure that they are on-site by the time they are getting installed. It also means you know exactly how much your project should cost. There shouldn’t be a scenario where you’re asked what backsplash you want right before counters are installed. We’ve already picked it out, determined how it’s being laid, and have ordered it. Most likely, it’s sitting in a warehouse with your name on it before we even demo the room! But, nowadays, your materials are seeing longer and longer lead times. By using the same methodology, we work to still specify everything and order upfront. This allows us to work alongside our vendors to see what lead times we are looking at for each product.

So your shower fixtures are taking 8 weeks instead of the standard 4 to ship? We can easily look at your timeline and see when those items are supposed to be installed, and if they will still arrive on time. If not, we can discuss options with you – hopefully even prior to demo day. Clients can either:

  • Realize that there may be a few extra days of downtime during the project, extending that 12-week timeline to 14 or 16, or
  • They can wait to start demo a week or two later to alleviate the lead time changes without increasing their project timeline

Why The Longer Lead Times?

We already covered your two options to keep a standard project timeline, but what’s affecting that start date? First and foremost, ridiculous lead times. There isn’t a better way to describe it, and there isn’t really a way for anyone to fix it right now! Different parts of the industry have been seeing different delays and shortages across the board. Almost everyone is aware of the lumber shortage during 2020 and how that affected the cost of wood. Not shockingly, it also affected the availability of most wood products, like cabinetry. But, even as things like lumber start to become available again, that doesn’t mean your cabinet lead times are vastly improving.

Different manufacturers were seeing many different shortages and delays. The most prominent we have seen or are still seeing are lumber, copper, paint pigments, electronic chips, and foam. Foam? You heard that right. Rigid foam is used in refrigerators – for example – keeps all of your things cold and at the right temperature. For our fellow Texans who remember the February 2021 Winter storm, it knocked out power to a lot of things, including refineries and chemical plants that make byproducts for the creation of that rigid foam. Other shortages, like the lack of ample shipping containers due to increased demand, create larger shipping delays. Bringing in something from overseas for that bathroom remodel? You’re probably waiting a little longer because they can’t find a container to ship it in, and then the ports are still running at partial capacity, so delays are stacking.

Hold Your Horses For These Items

If you’re considering a remodel, we want you to be mindful of the top two project timeline disrupters. Appliances and cabinetry. Not only are these all very important and costly items (more so in a kitchen), but they’ve all been deeply affected by the supply chain over the past few years. But before we dive into these two, don’t think the other things – like bathroom heavy products – aren’t also affected. We’ve seen some strange lead times for tile, plumbing, and even some soft materials across the board. Some manufacturers have pulled certain collections from being made entirely. The idea is that the factories can work around a streamlined product line, change our machinery less often, and push out more products to meet higher demand.

Appliances Supply Chain

Number one cause of remodeling delays: Appliances. We are working with our clients to pick out their appliances before making most other decisions in their kitchen. We’re then ordering them before we even finalize a proposal. Appliances are seeing the craziest supply chain disruptions for a plethora of reasons and lead times are ever-changing. Most cooking items – ovens, ranges, and cooktops – aren’t seeing more than 6 months based on a few of our recent orders. However, if you have a cooktop, you’ll need to remember to get it on site for countertop templating. Cold storage items are in a big flux. Most manufacturers have stopped, or held back, on introducing newer products we were eagerly waiting on to play catch up in their factories. Some even stopped production of lesser ordered items – like 30″ refrigeration units perfect for small or auxiliary spaces – to focus on their heavy sellers. And did we tell you about the foam? Dishwashers are also almost impossible to get your hands on. For some, you may be waiting a few months just for an ETA. We’ve seen lead times jump between 6 to 12 months for some products, so get those orders in ASAP!

Cabinetry Supply Chain

Normally, you could get stock cabinets in 1 to 2 weeks, semi-custom cabinets in 5 to 8 weeks, and custom cabinets in no more than 10 to 12 weeks. Enter lumber shortages and price increases. Enter labor shortages due to COVID-19 and job security issues in early 2020. And finally, enter a massive increase of demand for remodeling driven by people working from home and spending less because they’re quarantined and cannot travel, eat out, etc. Needless to say, our cabinet manufacturers are worn out, and we can see why. But, it’s affecting remodels across the board. By the end of 2020, we were starting to see a few weeks being added here and there, and by 2021 the industry got a rude awakening. Cabinet lines were ranging anywhere from 6 to 26 week lead times and constantly changing. Rebecca polled her fellow NKBA Thirty Under 30 Alumni in May of 2021 and showed the following results:

  • 49 votes for 12-18 weeks
  • 20 votes for 6-12 weeks
  • 11 votes for 18-24 weeks
  • 1 vote for 24 weeks or more
  • 1 vote for 6 weeks or less

Generally, the more customization offered in a cabinet line, the longer the lead time was extended. Even some of the stock cabinet lines across the country were added a few weeks to production times. Luckily, by the end of the year, some lead times were beginning to improve. Currently, our semi-custom and full custom lead times range anywhere from 6 to 18 weeks, mostly depending on the cabinet door material. Some melamine and stained doors are sitting at shorter lead times, where woods and painted cabinets haven’t decreased as much… yet.

Pricing Increases Galore

Yup – the other side of a restricted supply chain and increased demand. Higher pricing! Yes, some of these price increases are likely your standard supply and demand (as we try to remember what our professors were telling us in Economics class). However, that’s not the only driving factor. When factories had to downsize staff, some had to let go of employees entirely. Now that they are rehiring, people are realizing that they are worth more than they were being paid, and asking for higher salaries. Companies may also be having to hire new employees, offering more aggressive compensation to hire quickly and get back to producing more. And as has been true the past few years, higher tariffs have also attributed to price increases on certain products and/or fuel charges. In 2021 we saw a record number of price increases by our cabinet lines, and have already been warned of some happening early in 2022. Hopefully, things will taper off soon, but don’t delay on your remodel thinking prices will come down. We’re assuming once things plateau, they are here to stay.

The Remodel Bottom Line

With increased product costs come increased total remodel costs. Your total remodel is also going to be directionally affected by increased labor costs due to a continuing shortage in the skilled labor industry. As tradesmen like carpenters, plumbers, and electricians become more in high demand, their schedules fill up. This allows them to also charge more. Increase demand, increased costing – as previously covered. A standard $100,000 kitchen from 2019 may now cost $130,000 or more. Your typical $60,000 primary bathroom could jump to $85,000 plus. And some final food for thought: Mary Kathryn says she hasn’t seen a product price decrease in the 18 years of remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. So, once a price increase is in effect, it doesn’t just decrease. This is especially true when demand continually outpaces supply.

Preparing for your next remodel? Supply chain disruptions freaking you out? Jump in and check out why kitchen remodels and bath remodels take so long. Learn about the benefits of working with a design-remodel company (like ourselves). And see the benefits of our virtual design services in this crazy time we live in. As always – happy remodeling!