As the crisp air settles in, you might be planning a fall renovation. Maybe you’ll finally replace that horribly lumpy sofa or get around to painting your 1970s bathroom a warm rose instead of avocado green. Unfortunately, those seemingly simple upgrades may not be quite so easy this year.
Thanks to myriad supply chain issues caused or greatly exacerbated by a global pandemic that just won’t quit, many homeowners in the U.S. may face some serious shortages in what was the land of plenty.
“Homeowners who are probably used to simply walking into a major hardware store and picking up the items they need for home improvement projects or renovations may be surprised when they find empty shelves,” says University of Wisconsin economist emeritus Sandra Claflin-Chalton.
We’re here to tell you to fear not if you have home maintenance or improvement projects planned.
What is a supply chain anyway?
Supply chain refers to all the steps a product goes through to get from manufacturing to its final destination as an item for sale. And at the moment, there’s a bit of a meltdown with shortages rising across varying sectors—including rubber producers, plastics products, electrical equipment, wood, and electronics.
“Product shortages, labor constraints, transportation capacity issues, and shifting customer demands are only a few of the many reasons that we’re finding ourselves in a supply chain crisis at this time,” says Claflin-Chalton.
Here are the five shortages you might face, and the workaround to get what you need.
Climate change may be partly responsible for this one. The freak cold snap in Texas in February coupled with hurricanes pummeling the Gulf Coast in 2020 and 2021 seriously damaged chemical processing plants that manufacture key ingredients of both interior and exterior house paint.
As a result, it may take longer to get large supplies of paint—especially given the convergence of reduced supply and increased demand.
“The past year has been the busiest I’ve ever had,” says paint color expert Cindy Gelormini. “Everyone was working from home and deciding that they hated their old paint colors.”
The workaround: If you have trouble getting paint, consider buying leftovers.
“Some stores have a supply of reject cans that were mixed by mistake,” says Gelormini.
Not only are these big-ticket items heavy and thus hard to ship, most appliances also have a host of parts and chips that are made overseas.
That means many people who ordered everything from a dishwasher to a stove during the COVID-19 pandemic are still waiting for them to be delivered. So if you’re in the market for a new appliance, expect months to pass before you receive it.
The workaround: Consider buying a used appliance.
“A washing machine is a great example of an item that’s popular to buy via online yard sales,” says Deb Colameta, author of “Best Offer, Best Life!” and host of the “Upcycling with Deb” podcast. “Just try keeping the sales transaction in a local selling group like Facebook Marketplace, where you are likely to have acquaintances in common and sellers have an incentive to be honest.”
National shortages of foam and lumber are only part of the reason the furniture industry has had the highest rate of backlogs. The furniture supply chain, which is reliant on shipments from Asia, has been further affected by international shipping delays and overstuffed cargo freighters. Deliveries that used to take 10 weeks are now taking 35-plus weeks.
The workaround: If you know you’re moving or renovating in January, consider ordering your new furniture now. Then by the time 2022 rolls around, you’ll have already knocked a couple of months off the wait time. Or, Colameta again suggests this is a great moment to reduce your carbon footprint and buy quality, previously owned pieces.
Have a new buzzsaw on your holiday list? You might want to tell Santa to snag it early. While many major home improvement stores have planned for supply chain shortages—and even hired their own air freighters to get products to the U.S.—train and truck issues may slow the transit of electrical tools to local stores.
The workaround: While it might be nice to have your own nail gun to do a project whenever you want, consider renting tools until the supply chain smoothes out. This is a convenient service offered by big-box stores and local hardware stores alike.
5. Bottled water
Yes, even water is in short supply. The problem is a shortage of petrochemicals, which are necessary chemical ingredients found in a plethora of plastic products ranging from sandwich bags to plastic shovels.
As a result, anything that has plastic as a major part of its construction is going up in price or may become scarce. For example, the price of a plastic bottle cap has skyrocketed 300% in recent months.
The workaround: If your tap water has you relying on bottled water, it may be time to look into getting a water filtration system at home.