Frustrated by home project delays: Homeowners look for tips to keep jobs on time, on budget

CONCORD, Mass. — After a year stuck at home for everything from work to school, many in our area are thinking about updates and renovations.

The price of home projects has jumped, and Boston 25 News found that’s not the only hurdle you’ll face. For some, furniture is delayed for months and appliances are on backorder. But with a little planning and awareness, you can move your project ahead.

We checked in with local homeowners, contractors and kitchen remodeling companies for ideas on what you’ll face and how to avoid those unexpected bumps in the road.

Concord resident Mark Carbeau is getting used to those bumps now.

“Well, I’m not fine with that. But I’m adjusted to it, and now resigned to it,” Carbeau said.

He and his wife bought a registered antique Georgian colonial in Concord. It’s a project they launched in June of 2020 at the height of COVID-19. But just getting signed off by the historic commission took longer than expected over Zoom.

“I think the approval cycle probably took us four months, it might have taken otherwise, maybe half that time had we had some face-to-face conversations,” Carbeau said.

But it wasn’t just time -- it was also money.

Soon, project costs began to climb. Contractors said building material prices have gone through the roof.

“There was a shortage for a long time for me perhaps I have to wait two weeks to get lumber that normally you get like next day, and the cost is tripled. A piece of half-inch plywood was about $20 each. Now it’s $56 each,” said Scott West, the project manager for the Carbeau project.

The problem? Well, it’s a COVID kink in the supply chain after businesses and factories worldwide shut down early in the pandemic.

Nada Sanders is a Distinguished Professor of Supply Chains at Northeastern University.

“And that has not allowed the system to come back,” she said. “So I think we’re really vulnerable. We have to be very careful now, I think, to monitor very closely and begin putting in some extra buffers, so that we can have a lot of these things come back.”

Lori McGeown, who works for Kramer’s Custom Kitchens in Sudbury, is designing the kitchen for Mark Carbeau. She’s seeing big project delays with many customers. And it’s not just the high demand and price of building materials.

“So, the appliances are all delayed and that started with you know, COVID shut down, everything just got backed up in that sense,” McGeown said.

What’s McGeown’s advice to people planning a new kitchen?

  • ORDER YOUR APPLIANCES FIRST

“So, we’re letting them know like you want to order your appliances first or you want to you know get your contractor on board and get a start date from him first,” said McGeown.

  • HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR BALLOONING BUDGETS

She said consumers should have a contingency plan because budgets are likely to balloon especially on complicated projects like kitchens.

“There’s countertops, there’s the appliances, there’s a plumbing fixture, there’s the lighting, so there’s a lot of different, you know, parts and pieces that go into that,” McGeown said.

Boston 25 News first told you in March the cost of lumber had skyrocketed also increasing the price of renovations.

“You know, stock takes longer the job, everything just takes longer because of the chain from where it all gets processed is delayed,” West said.

Boston 25 News asked what it would take to turn things around.

Sanders said she thinks as more people get vaccinated things should improve.

“You have supply and demand, consumer demand is pent up, they’re going to they’re, it’s like this coil that is just going to be unleashed. And the more consumer spend, the more businesses are going to be able to come back. I really think by early summer,” she said.

  • BE REALISTIC -- THE PROJECT COULD TAKE 50 PERCENT LONGER

In the meantime, Carbeau, whose home is already weeks behind schedule, has some advice to people seeking to renovate.

“Yeah, I would just encourage you to plan ahead and be realistic. But I think it will take, you know, 50 percent longer probably just because of materials, delays and subcontractors being super busy,” Carbeau said.

  • PROJECT SHOULD NOT EXCEED 10 PERCENT OF HOME’S VALUE

And here’s a good basic planning tip to keep costs manageable: Experts say a project should only be about 10% of your home’s value that way you won’t get in over your head and will see a return on your investment.