If you hired a home improvement contractor in the last few years you likely experienced some sticker shock and delays getting your job scheduled. Many things contribute to this ongoing challenge. While we can’t control a lot of it, there are some things we can do to minimize scheduling delays and possibly save some money. Understanding what drives some of these setbacks is helpful.
For starters, contractors in Western Washington are in high demand. One long, ongoing challenge has been finding experienced, skilled labor to hire. For many years, there has been a shortage of skilled labor in Seattle and the surrounding area. Contractors must pay higher wages and benefits to attract and retain good employees. This affects both contractor availability (or lack thereof) and the cost of doing business.
Another factor is material costs. The cost of construction materials was high before supply shortages further aggravated price increases. Inflation and supply interruptions have driven up the cost of lumber, steel and aluminum, concrete, gypsum, and plastic products, to name a few. These increases add up on a sizable remodeling project or upgrade.
These reasons, among many others, affect contractor availability and the increased costs associated with home improvement. If you are willing to get a little creative, there are ways to get around some of this.
Many trades have a high and low season. Scheduling your projects during the off-season whenever possible is worth considering. Doing so will minimize scheduling delays and could save you money. Some trades even offer discounts during the off-season. Be sure to ask!
HEATING & AIR-CONDITIONING (HVAC)
The non-heating and non-cooling seasons are the best time to schedule tune-ups, repairs, or new installs of these systems. Typically, HVAC companies provide both heating and cooling services. Aim to have the heating system serviced in the warmer seasons and the air-conditioning in the cooler seasons.
CHIMNEY CLEANING & REPAIR
Chimney cleaning is a great summer project. Oftentimes this important maintenance project is overlooked until it is time to stoke up that first fire. By then, the chimney sweeps are booked for weeks. Thinking of adding an insert? Summer is also an optimal time to refurbish or reface the fireplace or have an existing insert serviced.
Exterior painting is seasonal in Western Washington. There isn’t a lot we can do about that. If you need your house painted it will be done as weather allows. The key take-away is to plan ahead. By late spring, most painter’s schedules will be booked for the summer. To ensure your job is completed while the weather allows, start getting bids in late winter and get your job scheduled by April or May, latest.
On the flip side, interior painting can be done year-round. However, unless you hire a painter that specializes in or prefers interior painting, you may have a hard time getting a painter’s time and attention during the summer season. If you can, plan your interior painting projects outside of the peak summer months.
KITCHEN & BATH REMODELS
Remodeling contractors don’t have much down time these days. That said, there is still a spike in spring and a slow-down in late fall and winter for many types of remodeling projects. Many folks don’t want their home to be a construction zone during the winter holidays. This can be a tremendous opportunity to get your remodeling project completed timely and with less competition than the rest of the year. If it is an option, crash someone else’s home for the holidays or plan a well-deserved vacation and take advantage of this window of time. Keep in mind, a remodel requires some advance planning. Ideally, by summer your plans have been finalized and you are scheduled with your contractor of choice for a fall or winter start date.
DECKS & FENCES
The call for deck and fence repair and new installations peak in spring and summer. The first warm days of spring beckon us outdoors, perhaps reminding us that our deck or fence is in a state of disrepair. By then, deck and fencing contractors are flooded with calls. Get in line. If you are lucky, you might get your deck completed in time to enjoy the final dog days of summer. Those same contractors would love your business in the winter. Fall is a great time to start talking with contractors. They are winding down from summer and able to start scheduling winter projects. Your project will be completed and ready to enjoy by the time the first warm days of spring arrive.
We don’t always think of replacing a roof outside of summer, and for good reason. You certainly do not want to expose your home to adverse weather conditions. A reputable roofing contractor won’t either. Most roofs can be removed in a matter of hours promptly followed by the installation of a waterproof felt paper. It usually only requires one reliably dry day for this procedure. The new roofing material can be installed during inclement weather. Most roofs will be completed in less than a week, start to finish. There are many opportunities throughout fall, winter, and spring where the weather cooperates for this often overlooked ‘seasonal’ project.