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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Inspect What You Expect Before Buying

A couple of years of supply chain disruptions, COVID-19 video meetings, and online shopping has made a lot of shoppers lazy, and this is creating major issues when doing home improvement projects. On jobsites across America products are being ordered sight unseen, and when the items arrive there is disappointment in quality, or worse, the products simply do not work because of issues in sizing, building codes, or performance. The major rub, unlike a shirt or pair of pants that is ordered errantly, is that due to the size and weight of most building material, items are not easily returned. In some cases, they cannot be returned at all due to the logistics, company policy on special orders, or the long-lead times to get a replacement.

Daily product expectations are not being met on jobsites across the country because buyers are not doing their due diligence prior to purchasing. It seems nobody likes to read actual specs as it relates to sizing, weights, and rough openings. Plus, few people are taking the time to go to a store or neighboring jobsite to actually inspect the products they are buying.

The one important fact that consumers need to understand when ordering building material products online is that the products they are viewing in the pictures have been enhanced for maximum consumer appeal. Just like back in the day when people would go to the mall to have glamour shots taken of themselves, these product pictures are enhanced and photoshopped under perfect lighting. Even things like lumber items are touched up online when in reality a 2x4-16 #2 spruce item will not always be perfect, but they are within standard.

Doors, windows, and other décor items in the house are especially deceiving online because most of the items have been professionally painted and not shown unfinished, and they are normally pictured in a breathtaking background. More importantly, that beautiful window or door you are looking at in the picture may look like a heavy-duty top of the line product, but it could be lightweight and flimsy. Don’t forget no one ever compares weights or specs - just appearances.

When making product decisions for your next home improvement project, here are some things you should consider before buying:

  • With the supply chain disruptions, there may be limited supply and availability, and you may have to take something that is not what you want. It is important to know what is available before you buy and have realistic expectations.

  • If you have multiple choices on products, take a moment to read the specs such as weight, and size, and understand rough opening issues as well as installation requirements.

  • Rather than just buying an item from a touched-up photo online, do everything you can to see it live and in color. Touch, feel, and view the item from all sides, especially for very expensive items.

  • Before you buy anything, make sure it is acceptable in your building code, especially if you live in Florida. Buying an exterior product online and out of state is very risky unless it has been Florida Product Approved. Yes, most exterior structural components in Florida must meet code and should have been tested.

  • Understand the return policies before you buy. Most special-order items or large items have limited or no return conditions. In many cases, if the item can be returned, the freight expense to ship it back could cost as much as the item itself. Plus, with the trucking shortage, it will be difficult to find a carrier to ship large items.

  • Please, before you have something installed, inspect it. It is especially demoralizing to have a building material item you hate installed in a project. Down the line, you will probably incur the extra expense of replacing the item with what you initially wanted. Additionally, most companies will not take back anything that has been installed. You lose most of your leverage to return an item, even with heavy freight and back charges, if it has been installed.

  • Finally, understand most products online, unless specified, will come unfinished and you will have to hire someone to prep, paint, and install the item professionally to match the picture.

This column should make you think twice before online shopping, especially in the case of large, building material purchases. The weights, size, and features not readily seen in a picture can make all the difference in the world.

If you make a mistake in buying building material items because you failed to do proper due diligence, please do the right thing, and accept responsibility. If you are buying products for a project, you are accepting the responsibility and liability of all aspects of the job. It is not the supplier’s fault that you made a poor decision by not doing your homework, and the only recommendation is to call the supplier and ask for help. Many times, if you are pleasant and honest with them, they will try to help you out with a solution.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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