Here on the Sweeten blog, we can’t help but focus on great design and beautiful finishes. In the last year, we’ve been treated to magazine-worthy upgrades and transformative craftsmanship in many corners of New York City. But today, I’m ready to confess that I’ve been withholding a key piece of behind-the-scenes insight. I love hearing from New Yorkers about their renovation experiences and design inspiration, and it is tempting to let the glittering tile and fresh paint do all of the talking, but there is one comment that just about each and every homeowner utters at some point in the conversation: “work was delayed because we were waiting for that < insert massive or minuscule detail here… >”.
I usually don’t include these off-hand comments on the Sweeten blog, because it’s not that interesting to hear that a toilet sat uninstalled for two weeks while a homeowner waited for a missing screw to arrive (and I don’t want to publicly shame any homeowners for causing project delays!), but these are not isolated incidents. I talked to Sweeten Expert Valeria to understand why material order and delivery delays are so pervasive, and what homeowners can do to up their renovation cost savings and keep things moving. Valeria’s firm is in the midst of taking this Brooklyn kitchen from pre-fab to super fab, and she echoed what I was already hearing from homeowners: when material orders and deliveries go even slightly haywire, it can be spectacularly disruptive to the progress, sequence, and cost of a home renovation, AND, these disruptions usually occur (ironically) when individual homeowners are trying to save money by ordering their own materials. Here’s why:
1. Homeowners are generally focused on showpiece orders – getting the fabulous farmhouse sink or glass shower door or imported stone they’ve spent three months sourcing. These elements are what make a renovation exciting and unique, but they also often require hidden parts, specific spatial leeway, or particular installation packages, which you might miss while you’re dealing with the bigger-picture order.
2. Most stores offer curbside material delivery, leaving homeowners literally standing on the street with 800 square feet of flooring or four walls worth of marble slabs. Busy homeowners can easily miss these deliveries, but even when they are home to accept the materials, they have to figure out how to transport and store everything.
3. Homeowners are not equipped to check for order amounts, damage, and missing pieces. Many fixtures come with very specific pieces and parts; if a tiny screw is missing from a particular piece, installation can be tied up for days or weeks while the exact piece is reported, matched, and shipped.
4. Homeowners think they can save money by doing the legwork on material orders, but they often miss the fact that contractors and designers have trade relationships with retailers. This means two things: your expert may have access to pieces you wouldn’t otherwise see in a brick-and-mortar store and your expert probably has access to prices that aren’t available to you. To-the-trade discounts can easily run 10-20%, and often as high as 30% – you might avoid an upfront design and sourcing fee by trying to manage orders and delivery yourself, but you may be missing out on built-in savings that your expert can automatically tap.
So! What should you do?
Decide how involved you want to be in the design and sourcing of materials. Some people love this stuff and deeply enjoy looking at options. If you can’t wait to get your hands on tile samples and wood cuts, great, but talk to your contractor about your purchase plans before you order or accept any deliveries so that he or she can ensure that you’ve got the technical pieces covered. Be clear with your contractor on which materials you will provide and which materials they will provide and be sure that you both agree that the list is complete before work begins.
If you need help envisioning options for your space, or have limited time to wrangle orders and track down deliveries that fell off the truck, talk with your contractor about what kind of support they offer. Many design & build firms have expertise in guiding homeowners on selecting and ordering materials, or you may decide that you need an interior designer to look at your project more holistically. Contractors that are focused solely on building are generally less well-equipped to guide you with selections and managing orders, but they will often handle deliveries and can pitch in on specific finds (we saw Sweeten Expert Mark pinch-hit on finding a specific tile effect for Melissa’s glam bathroom redo, and Sweeten Expert Paul added to Blaise’s Brooklyn kitchen upgrade by finding extra pieces to match existing tile and staining new cabinetry to match cabinets that were already in place). Either way, again, be clear with your contractor on materials and be sure that you both agree that deliveries are complete before work begins.
Sweeten can help you figure out how much support you need. If you are thinking about getting started with a home renovation, post your project and tell us what you have in mind. We’ll make sure we match you with experts who can provide the right level (a little or a lot) of design guidance and project management so that you can create a space you will love, and stay sane on the road there. In the meantime, we’re keeping an eye on Valeria’s kitchen renovation and can’t wait to check back in on that project when it’s done!