The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for businesses as customer habits changed and supply-chain issues required adaptation to changing conditions.
Andrew and Michelle Shelter faced a series of additional changes in early 2021 when they had to rebrand their New Philadelphia home improvement company after finding another with the same name 35 minutes away.
The business formerly known as Cross Home Improvement became Monumental Decks and Windows. It happened at the beginning of the lumber crisis, during a slow construction season, while the couple was raising a 1-year-old and a had baby on the way.
The company, now in existence for four years, continued building outdoors into the middle of December.
One of the late-2021 projects involved extending an existing deck for Bill and Gail Houglan of Dover. The couple, recently retired, wanted a bigger deck to accommodate an outdoor hot tub behind their Dover home. The job required removing part of the existing decking and capping a gas line.
Bill Houglan said Andrew Shetler "did a great job" on the project. He had previously done other work for the couple including lighting and finishing in the bathroom.
Even though the deck was finished in December, the Houglans have already used it. Bill said the water is 105 degrees. He said he and Gail have no problem walking from the back door to the tub.
Andrew Shetler answered questions from The Times-Reporter about operating a home improvement business in a time of fluctuating materials prices and a global pandemic.
When did you first notice lumber prices climbing?
We noticed them start to climb at the beginning of the spring in 2021.
How much did they increase?
It depends on the piece of lumber. However, on average in our area, according to the lumber we bought, about 60 to 70%.
When did they go down, and how are they now?
The lumber prices went down in September of 2021. The lumber prices are about the same as they were last spring. The problem is there is no one to mill the lumber and transport the lumber and when there is someone to transport the lumber the cost to do that is exceptionally higher than it used to be in 2020. However, upon consulting with local lumber companies, we feel like this is our “new normal.” Price increases are everywhere, and the construction industry is no exception.
How did you respond to the higher prices?
We have always been in constant communication with our clients, and now it is even a stronger commitment to quickly address the variables. We consulted with multiple local lumber companies and due to the rise in lumber cost, we concluded together that we would keep our agreements valid for three days without a price change. Once we had an accepted agreement with the client and the deposit was paid, we would buy the materials/lumber as soon as the next day to avoid all “changes in lumber cost or material cost” to the client. If the agreement wasn’t accepted within three days, we would re-evaluate the material costs and bring out another agreement, no big deal.
Are you switching from wood to PVC, passing increases to customers, or absorbing a bit of the extra cost?
We have seen clients choose composite or PVC over wood deck boards. However, it seems to still be all personal preference.
If our agreement is accepted within three days, there are no price increases. We buy the materials as soon as the next day to make sure no price increases happen. If the agreement isn’t accepted in three days, we re-evaluate the prices of materials and bring the client a new contract. The prices may go up, we just don’t know, and this is the best solution we have found. We are maintaining a profitable business that can serve the community well and our clients are happy with the “no hidden cost or surprise fees” aspect of working with us.
Have you noticed any change in customer preferences due to COVID, such as choosing to spend on home amenities rather than travel vacations?
Yes, in the summer of 2021, we did a few decks for pools so families could stay at home and relax and add value to their home instead of traveling. We also have had many clients at the end of the year in 2021, who decided to add a deck on and get a hot tub. Already, we are noticing more calls about getting a deck to add on to pools.
Is there anyhing else you would like to say?
One of the challenges Monumental has overcome is managing expectations. So many people simply cannot appreciate material and labor issues until it directly impacts them. At Monumental, we ensure the client understands these challenges before we start the relationship. And while there may be a little disappointment, based on unrealistic expectations, we feel starting the relationship with the truth of the situation is more important than anything else.
Working with us is a personal experience. We work together with you to build the deck you want. Our company designs the deck and provides a visual aid before the build. You can decide to make changes or keep it the same and move forward. Someone from our team calls you to set up the days that work for your build. We respect you and your neighbors and show up at 9 a.m. to work on your build. The goal is to make sure you can get the maximum return on your build. According to Northeast Ohio, Cost vs. Value Report, you can retain 61.9% to 63.5% of the cost you put into your deck build.
We are also a window installation company. We provide windows for your home and commercial buildings. We can install custom windows, standard windows, replacement windows, look-alike Victorian windows, and so much more. We also can add on a four4-seasons room to your home. We have adjusted the same way for windows as we have decks. According to Northeast Ohio, Cost vs. Value Report, you can retain about 69.5% of your cost with vinyl windows. You can also save up to 25% on your energy bill with energy-efficient vinyl windows.
More information is available online at https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2021/east-north-central/canton-oh/ and https://builtbymonumental.com/.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Monumental Decks and Windows copes with lumber prices