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Time, Money, and Labor Forcing More to DIY

Jun 2, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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For those with gray hair, do-it-yourself or DIY has a different connotation than it does for most millennials. Young couples will turn on their favorite home improvement channel to see this loving couple take an old, rundown house and turn it into a Pinterest photo project. These home improvement channels make the project look so fun and easy that you immediately want to go to your local home improvement warehouse and start your own project. As most find out very quickly, that is not reality.

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New Sidings Offer More Durability

May 26, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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Product offerings in the world of sidings have dramatically changed over the last decade. Project owners are no longer limited to stucco, vinyl, brick, or wood sidings. For many decades in the state of Florida, stucco siding applied over block homes was the dominant siding product. However, the cookie-cutter look has run its course with many homebuyers, and many of them consider vinyl and wood sidings dated in style that also lack the durability of a set-it and forget-it generation.

Cement sidings in lap and panels have taken the place of most traditional wood siding jobs. Although this product offers a high degree of durability it has to be painted and maintained. A movement by a major cement siding company to replace traditional stucco with a stucco panel product is on the horizon this year. This could be a game changer for the inherent moisture penetration issue of traditional stucco.

One of the more intriguing lines of sidings is being offered by Royal® Building Products, which produces sidings and trim out of PVC-based products. This product line offers long-term durability, unmatched quality, and the closest look to wood without all the rot and deterioration of wood. Celect® Cellular Composite Siding by Royal Building Products is a new siding, which directly addresses the strength of vinyl siding while adding beauty and dimension that closely compares to painted wood. This siding is substantial in thickness and density, which stops buckling and waving, which has been a long-term issue for regular vinyl siding.

Celect Cellular Composite Siding is available in non-painted or in 15 Kynar pre-painted colors that offer a 25-year warranty. This siding is made of recyclable, state-of-the-art cellular materials which do not rot, split, crack, warp, twist, blister, flake, or peel. This product is interlocking and does not require caulking to install. Plus, you do not have to have any special tools for cutting or installation. This is another great example of the building supply industry creating a product which dramatically lowers maintenance and replacement costs.

Although the new siding products being offered in today’s market are more expensive than the older product lines, they offer the homeowner a cost-benefit equation that outweighs most of the initial investment. The homeowner must decide if the long-term cost savings in maintenance, performance, and hassle are worth the upfront investment. With the projected labor shortage in the construction industry, the need for products with lower maintenance is growing in the supply industry.

The other benefit of Royal Building Products is the breadth of product lines being offered. In the past, innovations like this siding were limited because the accessories and other parts needed to complete the job would generally have to be made from non-conforming products like wood. Royal Building Products has developed a full line of interior and exterior trims that enhance the installation of their new siding program. With their full line of trim products, the jobs look complete and professional.

Before you begin any construction or remodel project, research the building material selections closely and evaluate what will serve you best in the long-term and provide you with the greatest return. Spending a little more up front can save a lot of money in maintenance and painting a few years later.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House.

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Do Not Waste on Construction Projects

May 19, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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Since last year, lumber and plywood products have more than doubled in price and most other products used in home construction and remodeling have increased in cost by 10 to 30 percent or more. Housing indexes, which measure the price of housing, are at record levels and everything is hard to find. To illustrate how extensive the prices of building materials have increased, consider these five items, which are some of the most popular items used in construction in Lake and Sumter Counties.

From May 2020 to May 2021, 2x4-92 5/8 spruce wall studs have increased $4.11 each while 2x4-16 dimensional spruce has jumped $8.44 per board. 7/16 OSB sheathing is up $24.43 per sheet while 5/8 CDX pine plywood has soared a whopping $30.33 per sheet. 3 1/4 colonial base moulding is up almost 30 percent (or 8 cents per lineal foot). These are huge increases and that is real money.

At these record prices, builders, project owners, and remodelers cannot afford waste on the jobsite. On jobsites in the past, workers have been very nonchalant when it comes to waste. Most of them did not purchase the material and if they had extra material (waste) it was no skin off their nose. At these record prices, waste must be eliminated.

Here are three important ways you can eliminate waste on your construction project.

Order exactly what you need. In the past, builders and subcontractors were quick to add a 10 or 20 percent waste factor for building materials being delivered to jobsites. In essence, they condoned poor behavior by workers. More time should be taken to correctly calculate the list of materials and workers should be instructed on how to use the material. If more material is needed on the jobsite, someone should have to be accountable and explain the reason why—whether it is a mistake, theft, or waste factor. If you are doing a construction project, inspect the dumpster on your jobsite. You will see how much waste you have on your project, and it will probably hurt your feelings.

Next, purchase the right products and correct lengths. Contractors are creatures of habit and very few of them want to figure things out to the nitty-gritty. For example, at most lumberyards, 2x4 dimensional spruce comes in lengths from 8 feet to 16 feet. However, most builders only order 16-foot lengths. Only using one length in lumber encourages waste on a jobsite, because very few walls are 16-feet in length. As a result, carpenters on the jobsite will take 16-foot boards to construction a 14-foot wall and waste two feet. At these record prices, ordering the proper length to match the project and then instructing your carpenters to size the project out can save the project owner a lot of money. A builder that only orders one length in lumber has not done a thorough evaluation of your project.

Finally, securing your jobsite against theft is probably one of the biggest areas you can prevent waste on your jobsite. With building materials at historical prices, neighbors and other contractors will treat your jobsite as their lumberyard. If you drop a pile of material on the jobsite and leave it unsecured, it is just like putting raw meat in front of a hungry dog—it will quickly disappear. Although theft has always been a big problem on most construction sites, the issue has been exacerbated with everything going up in price. Everything is getting stolen—from lumber, to doors, to cabinets. Only have delivered what can be nailed up that day and lock up your jobsite as soon as you can.

What is so discouraging about jobsite waste is that most small pieces of cutoff wood or moulding can be used in other areas of the project, such as bracing or closets. However, many carpenters find it easier to simply grab a new stick. There is little doubt that if they are paying for the material on their own project, they would make use of every scrap piece. These days, larger commercial contractors are having laborers scour jobsites daily and repurpose small pieces of lumber and sheathings to cut down the waste factor.

On your next construction project, do not waste unless you want to pay a lot more.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House.

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The Home of the Future — Wood, Steel, or Concrete

May 5, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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Since the start of the pandemic, the national framing lumber composite by Random Lengths has increased by more than $600 dollars per thousand, which has more than doubled in cost. This has a lot of builders rethinking how their homes in the future should be constructed with some builders looking to full metal and concrete construction to see if there are cost benefits. It is a complicated decision, because each product category has its own unique challenges for construction and future availability.

The price for dimensional lumber has increased a lot over the last year, and the budgets for many construction project owners are overrun with huge price increases. Lumber has some unique benefits despite these higher prices. First, it is a totally renewable source of building materials, which is plentiful in the United States. Forestry is a thriving industry in Florida and across the South. Plus, new hybrids in trees are allowing for much faster growth times. Wood construction is easier, and a framing crew can generally frame a home as well as side and deck the house. Less subcontractors are needed for wood frame construction. More importantly, wood frame construction is more forgiving when changes are needed and for remodeling projects. Finally, despite the cost increase, framed construction remains the lower cost option when it comes to building a home.

Concrete construction for projects is plentiful in Central and South Florida. If installed properly, concrete walls add a great degree of protection from the elements and termites. The two big issues with masonry construction are labor and water infiltration. Good masonry crews that can install block and slabs without excessive cracking are hard to find and the same crews that block the walls cannot install trusses and decking. In this era of a tight labor market, the project owner is forced to find other crews to finish the job. Concrete is not immune to price increases as most concrete and blocks have increased in price from 10 to 20 percent in the last year. Shell contractors in the Orlando and Tampa areas are reporting block shortages with manufacturers instituting controlled inventories or allocations. Pre-poured concrete wall systems offer big challenges for installation and logistics when being considered for residential construction. Plus, the cost and safety factors are very difficult to overcome.

Concrete is made with sand and limestone in Florida and the natural minerals needed to make concrete are plentiful in the state. However, many Floridians are growing weary of the huge holes being dug into the ground, which are polluting waterways and aquifers. The phosphorus retention pound disaster in Manatee County, Florida highlights why more Floridians are opposed to this type of mining. Bringing in the raw materials to manufacturer block and concrete via rail or boat dramatically increase the price.

Steel framing is very popular for commercial projects and more residential contractors are incorporating steel framing into their designs. Good steel framers are very difficult to find, and a crew that installs steel framing rarely installs decking or interior wood walls. While steel framing offers a good straight wall, it is not forgiving when changes must be made to the project.

Since the first of the year, most steel framing has gone up 25 percent in price with a couple of pending increases announced for the summer. Anything that is made of steel has gone up in price and the worldwide demand for steel is outstripping resources. America’s steel industry is woefully behind and there appears to be a lack of will to expand manufacturing because of the uncertainty of a long-term payback. America simply does not have the scrapping capabilities as that of many other developing countries.

With all of this, in my view the home of the future will be the same as the home of the past—wood framing. My reasoning is simple: raw materials. With the stimulus bill and a potential huge infrastructure bill by the Biden Administration, steel and concrete will be in high demand globally, especially as the pandemic resolves itself. There could be huge shortages of concrete and steel if the country starts a major rebuilding of infrastructure. Wood, on the other hand, is plentiful in the United States and does not have the negative environmental impacts of steel and concrete.

Prices will find trading ranges, but first you must have the material. Even at much higher prices—considering the labor savings, environmental impact, availability, and renewable source—lumber remains the best value for construction projects.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House.

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Five Tips for Speeding up Your Construction Project in This Market

Apr 28, 2021 9:47:18 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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If you talk to any homeowner, builder, remodeler, or subcontractor who is building a project with the current supply market during the pandemic, the two words most used are “expensive” and “delays.” Everything is going up in price with many building supplies hitting record high prices. Even worse are the delays due to extended lead times, labor shortages, material shortages, and transportation challenges. Projects that could be completed in four months before the pandemic are taking double that amount of time to complete. The stress factor is elevated well above the red zone.

When it comes to construction, time is money. In some cases, these huge delays are more costly than the price increases on building materials. In fact, more and more contractors are more worried about supply than price.

If you are planning a construction project, here are five tips you should consider in helping speed up your project.

First, hire the right construction professional who is well-funded, properly licensed and insured, and has the wherewithal to get the job done in difficult circumstances. A construction professional that is weak financially or who cannot handle the increased pressures of updating bids and monitoring costs can be devastating to your project, because when they run out of money they will disappear. Even the good guys are hard to find when there is nothing but bad news. Now is the time for a construction professional.

Next, ask your suppliers what they stock and try to make stock products work for your project. Many delays occur because project owners are ordering and specifying products, which are special order, with disjointed manufacturing, being shipped from overseas, or have real labor issues. Products that are special orders are experiencing extremely long lead times. If you insist on ordering special order items from overseas, you should understand that they could get stuck in the Suez Canal or put on a backlog at some point. You can always remodel and enhance your project later when supply lines improve.

Third, double check the details of your project. If you do not have good construction plans drawn or have the details thoroughly noted in all aspects of the project, expect delays. Ordering products last minute is a time killer, and this is where most projects are falling apart these days. Builders and homeowners who are used to ordering the materials a few days before the installation are finding out that it just does not work. Making a mistake in ordering because you have the incorrect size, style, or color for an item becomes very costly from the time delay and expense of having to reorder that item. It is imperative that you double check the details of your project and ensure everyone has signed off on them.

Creating a real budget for the project is probably the most important tip. Earlier, I mentioned the record high prices for building materials. There are projects that are literally running out of money because the budgeting was so poor. The RoMac Building Supply Whole House Commodity Index surged a whopping 58.4 percent from April 2020 to April 2021, and most project budgets cannot withstand this type of massive increase. It is imperative you make an accurate budget and update it weekly and monthly as the markets rise or fall. Running out of money can slow down your project and create a huge loss for you and your family.

Finally, there is gold in those building supply stacks! A sheet of CDX pine plywood has more than tripled in price. If it is left on your jobsite unattended, expect it to grow legs and walk off. Jobsite theft is the worst it has ever been, and desperate people are willing to steal building materials from your jobsite. Be sure to keep from loading your jobsite with materials you cannot use daily and secure all high-value items. If you have HVAC items or a one-of-a-kind door or window stolen from your jobsite you will not only lose a lot of money, but you will also lose a lot of time.

The best thing any person can do to have a successful construction project is focus on taking the steps to shorten the period of time from start to finish. These days, time truly is money!

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House.

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