Yet Another Thing To Drive Us Mad: Home Construction

This article is part of a series on Home Renovation. It outlines the forces making construction hard in 2022 . The next will provide some surprising steps you can take to make your home renovations sane for you and your family.

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash

If you own a house or condo, or are buying your first home, the odds are pretty good that you will begin a renovation project in the next eighteen months.

Lucky you!

2022 is a daunting time to do construction, however. Below, the key challenges are described.

Forewarned is forearmed!

Home Improvement Is Hard

Anyone embarking on a significant home improvement project should watch the ridiculous 1986 movie, The Money Pit. In ninety-one minutes we observe an old, grand home literally fall apart around Tom Hanks and Shelley Long before finally, miraculously, coming together in the end.

Home is the place where American families spend the largest chunk of their lives. Mortgages demand our dearest monthly check. And homes are our largest asset. We understandably get emotional about our homes.

Even medium sized construction projects face a bizarre array of variables.

Photo by author. We don’t notice the broken tiles, molding ceiling, or non-working faucets.

Over the first three “work” days of our recent, thoroughly-planned bathroom renovation, we encountered the following delays:

  • Schedule delay: 6 weeks of scheduled start-stop-start because of other projects pursued by our GC (General Contractor)
  • Team delay: Work stopped after the first two hours because a child on the GC’s team became sick.
  • Product delay: A 7-week delay because the tub sitting in the GC’s facility for the past 8 weeks was damaged in transit

Construction Professionals Have Earned Their Reputation

The Consumer Federation of America has worked to protect the public from unscrupulous business practices for over fifty years. Since at least 2016, it has ranked Home Improvement / Construction #2 on its “Top Ten Complaints List” citing

Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, failure to have required licensing or registration.

There are fabulous businesses and people working in construction. But the nature of the job makes disappointment easy.

Growing Demand for Construction

Except for a brief pandemic pause, the 400+ billion dollar home renovation market has been growing steadily since 2010. 2021 marked another boom year, and growth is projected through 2025.

Why so much construction now?

  • The number of homes per million people has fallen.
  • Millennials are finally buying homes.
  • The shift to home life (home offices, home gyms, family rooms,…) remains post-pandemic.

Finding Construction Skills Is A Big Challenge

Though the prospects for the industry look bright, the supply of skilled construction workers remains uncertain. Eighty-one percent of surveyed construction companies in 2019 complained about extreme hiring challenges.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next decade, carpenter jobs are projected to increase 2%, plumbing jobs 5%, and electricianjobs 9%.

Despite the projections of increased need, the Bureau reports that since 2018, the number of carpenters in the US has dropped by 22%, largely due to retirement.

It has also been widely reported that 10,000 electricians are retiring each year in the US. Despite the need, they are being replaced by only 7,000 newly-trained electricians each year. That’s a net loss per year of 3,000 electricians, the construction job type expected to grow the most.

Construction Remains Local

Though modular construction continues to grow, much construction work is done on site. Sure, new windows and doors will be shipped from JELD-WIN, Andersen Window, or Pella, but the installation takes on-site expertise. Demoing a room, pouring a foundation, framing, wiring, plastering, and tiling an old home is almost always done onsite.

Furthermore, each region within America has unique characteristics. The housing stock in San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston is largely limited to existing plots of already-developed land. Regions around Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Parkland, Florida offer virgin land for new home and condominium developers.

The populations of each region are different, too. Some are stagnating. Some booming. Some are older. Some younger.

These variations produce wildly different labor and material availability in each region. The following wage calculator is offered up by the US Department of Labor through 0*Net OnLine:

Because of the factors described above, an average brickmason in Massachusetts earns almost as much as the highest-earning brickmason when averaged across the US. It is nearly a guarantee that masonry projects in the most populous New England towns are harder to source and will cost twice as much as in other US locales.

Covid Rules

Finally, we can’t get past the reality that Covid-19 has disrupted supply chains, limited material availability, and increased costs. Ahh…Covid.

Some joke that Covid-19 has made no one accountable for anything. Like a lot of humor, there is some truth in the statement.

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In addition to years in product and people management, I am a veteran of decades of apartment/old condo/old house renovations in one of America’s toughest regions for construction. My family has worked for generations in the building trades.

Today I am spending most of my time writing. I would love to share insights with you!

Even better to begin a conversation.

Until then, be well!

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A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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J. Andrew Shelley

J. Andrew Shelley

A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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