When buying a house we focus on location, views, the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. We rarely think about the house building materials that went into the construction of the house, besides the granite countertops, hardwood floors and other visible features.
When you build a custom home or tackle a major remodeling project, you take more time to learn more about building materials. This can be challenging if you've never bought lumber or ventured into a plumbing store. I still remember when we built a house. Our builder sent us to N&S Supply, a plumbing distributor in Wappingers Falls, NY. We had to pick out toilets and he told us that “Donna or Denise” were included in the negotiated contract. If we picked something more expensive, we'd have to pay the difference.
Picking the Right House Building Materials
When buying clothes, you know what store you'll head to based on what you're shopping for – shoes, pants and shirt or an exercise outfit. Once you get to the store, you probably know what brands to look at like Nike sneakers. These decisions are ones you've made because they reflect your cost and quality preferences.
When you head to the store to buy lumber, do you know what sizes to buy or the lumber grade needed for your project? You can learn more about lumber sizes and lumber quality grades. Here are the things you want to consider when buying any house building materials or products:
- Purchase costs – include more than the initial cost to buy materials and/or products. You want to consider installation costs and how quickly you might need to replace a product. For example, an inexpensive hot water heater that must be replaced within eight years, is might be more expensive than a better unit that will last twelve or more years.
- Operating costs – are primarily the energy costs you'll pay monthly to run appliances, heating and cooling systems, irrigation and more. The EnergyStar program can help you pick the best products, continuing to expand so that it now includes roofing shingles.
- Home maintenance and repair costs – cover simple things like HVAC air filters. Decisions about exterior home building materials are far more important because of the wear and tear a house must withstand. Where you might love the look of wood siding, you should compare the cost of wood rot repairs and frequent painting to protect the wood. Vinyl siding or new composite siding will reduce these costs significantly and might be a better option if you prefer “low maintenance”.
Where to Buy House Building Materials
When building or remodeling, you probably don't realize how much expertise your builder/remodeler brings to the job. They have to calculate and order the correct materials and arrange for delivery. This date also has to be coordinated with the installer's schedule. You don't want to have materials delivered too early as it's risky on an active job site … or too late to miss a day of work and slow the project down.
With any do-it-yourself projects, you face the same challenges. Once project planning is done, you want to assemble all the materials and tools you need to get the job done on schedule. In fact, experienced remodelers will insist that all products you're ordering be onsite before they start working. Having experienced a two month delay in floor tile we ordered from Italy and custom kitchen cabinets that were more than four months late, I have to confirm that this is really smart for every project.
So where do you go to buy home building materials?
That depends on where you live and what you want to buy. My recommendation for most house building materials and products is to buy them locally. That's because it takes time and experience to learn what things feel like, so you'll feel more confident when you can see and touch things before you pay for them.
- Box stores – are very popular with homeowners because they're everywhere and their hours of operation are better than any other option. However choices are limited to the brands they carry, the number of products they stock and you may or may not find someone with experience to help you finalize your purchases. For example, at the last home builder show I attended, I learned from Progressive Lighting that the box stores only carry a handful of their light fixtures versus the more than 5,000 in their catalog.
- Local lumber yards and building supply companies – tend to work with fewer manufacturers, while offering a wider selection of their products to meet the demands of their builders and remodelers. What I like best is you can rely on their experience, stocking of sizes you can't get at the box stores and when needed, they'll order products in any color or finish.
- Salvage companies – are a great resource for materials when you're willing to reuse something old like a fireplace mantel, doors, hardware and so much more. There's so much hype about building things by reusing pallets but the idea isn't new, so be sure to visit your local architectural salvage company (find one at OldHouseOnline.com) before you buy everything new.
- Online resources – work well for tools and smaller items that are easy to ship. Some manufacturers are creatively coming up with new products like deck building materials (Acacia patio pavers from Amazon shown here), packaged in squares versus eight foot boards, so they can be shipped.