Long delays in sourcing building material could mean home renovators risk not even starting their project until 2022.
Mark Trafford, the managing director and founder of the national renovations franchise Maintain To Profit, said that with New Zealand’s borders shut and serious shipping delays at the country’s largest ports, Kiwis are still facing a perhaps three-to-six-month lag to get even some of the simplest building materials like decking timber.
“There is still a huge problem with supply. The entire building sector is struggling to source decking timber, framing timber, GIB Aqualine (for bathrooms and wet areas) and other key products.
“And it’s not just imported versions of these materials. Timber and decking products manufactured in New Zealand are also clogged up,” Trafford said.
Many construction materials have already experienced considerable jumps in price this year. The delays are having a serious impact on lead times too. For instance, a pallet of plywood used to take two days to receive, but now it can take two weeks.
Trafford said appliances can also take dozens of weeks to arrive in the country.
“It’s a juggling act to get this sorted out. This week the delays might be for framing, next week it will be for appliances, and the next week after will be something else. It just doesn’t stop,” he said.
The supply problem is now so acute that building companies both large and small are beginning to enact waiting lists for clients. If a renovator hasn’t organised their finances, the builder will often move on to another client that has.
“It is still tough out there. Depending on the materials, a three-month renovation project might be delayed by another month, and larger six-month projects could spin out to eight or nine months.
“It’s a problem upon a problem, and it’s creating a situation where we do not know what will happen for the commercial and retail industries badly affected,” Trafford said.
But hopeful renovators still have some options. Trafford has a few pieces of advice.
- Talk to the professionals
Since everyone is facing the same problems, the key to completing a renovation in 2021 may not be what you know, but who you know.
“A good project management company can overcome these obstacles by having good contacts in the industry such as major merchants. We rely on those relationships to get what we need,” Trafford said.
He added that a lot of smaller renovation and building companies are made up of one or two people, and it is hard for them to plan ahead to supply materials. They can order materials, but special projects often need to be funded up-front.
“It is now actually quicker for us to build the pre-nail framing on-site, rather than getting it shipped to the site. That’s how long the delays are. But if you don’t have the labour resources to do that on-site, your building company will be at the mercies of the timber merchants,” Trafford said.
- Ask about alternatives
If a type of timber is unavailable – or any timber at all – it pays to check with a builder or project manager for any ideas about alternative materials.
“Hardwood decking is especially tough to source today. But a good builder should be able to give you more than one option for completing a deck,” Trafford said.
He said suppliers, buyers, builders, and homeowners must start thinking about alternatives to timber to use on any part of their homes. This will help conserve low timber supplies, ensure renovation projects are completed sooner and perhaps even save the client money.
- Start earlier
Trafford is adamant that starting planning for renovations much earlier is crucial for getting any job off the ground in 2021.
According to BNZ’s latest business survey, because international travel has ceased once again due to Covid-19 restrictions, renovations are now about 30% of what people will spend their money on.
“Start by seeking out companies and looking for recommendations. But you need to be asking questions months ahead of a project start-date. Contact your bank or mortgage advisor to get advice early on about finance and make sure the paperwork is all done before even approaching a builder for the job,” Trafford said.