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Contractors, Suppliers Feel the Pinch

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rk Miles staff member Kevin Kelly (left); at the counter Maurice Moran is waiting on Aaron Gardner. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.

While central Vermont, like much of the country, has seen a boom in home renovation projects since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the waves of illness have also disrupted the availability of materials needed to make those renovations.

Clar Construction 

For Clar Construction, which specializes in home renovation, the solution has been to double down on advance planning. “Delivery time for materials has almost doubled,” said Dan Clar, who founded the company in 2004. “It takes a long time. Items that would have been delivered to us in six weeks, now will take 12 weeks.”

The slowdown has come at a time when the company has been “remarkably busy,” Clar added. But with careful planning, and clear communication about the situation with clients, projects are continuing.

Another impact of the pandemic has been a surge in home sales. Again, Central Vermont is no exception. “Currently we have renovations in the homes of three families who have moved here from California,” Clar said. “Two of those families purchased their homes sight-unseen,” making their decision just from the online description and photos of the properties.

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rk Miles

Supply chain issues continue to be forefront in the building and materials universe. Josiah Miles, CEO of Manchester Center-based rk Miles Building Materials Supplier watched a shipping container arrive in the lumberyard as we spoke. 

“I’m thinking that’s a rare bird these days,” he said.

At the outset of the pandemic, Miles noted a surging demand for “everything outdoors — raised beds, garden structures, deck materials.” The substantial hike in prices for some materials that occurred in 2020 has abated. 

“In a nutshell, dimensional lumber and plywood pricing has come way, way back toward a normal range. But with other materials we still have supply challenges: engineered wood products, adhesives, some metals, and imported products in general,” Miles said.

With the recent acquisition of the Allen Lumber Company yards in Montpelier, Barre, St. Johnsbury, and Waitsfield, Manchester Center-based rk Miles now operates in ten locations, eight of which are in Vermont. Efficiency has driven some changes at the Montpelier location but has also provided opportunity. Kitchen and bathroom furnishings, cabinets, and counters are no longer displayed on the third floor, but the space is being used as an open area for training, both of staff and interested customers, Miles explained. Local delivery of materials in Central Vermont is made exclusively from the larger rk Miles facility in Barre.

Long term, Miles hopes to see a return to more localized manufacture of building materials, “even if it’s more expensive, it’s more efficient and better environmentally,” he added.