A Healthy Economy
The United States is currently enjoying one of the longest job growth streaks in its history. As of February, 2017 unemployment stood 4.7%, which continues a trend of sub 5% unemployment throughout 2016. At an unemployment rate of 5% or less, it’s generally understood that anyone who’s able and willing to work has found a job. So if this is true, most industries must have plenty of workers, right? Not so fast.
A Construction Skilled Labor Shortage
The construction industry - long a bellwether of overall economic health - has seen year-over-year growth in construction starts in each of the last four years. This growth has spawned a corresponding jump in construction hiring according to a recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report. But unlike the economy at large where growth and job opening signal health, this new data underscores the uncertain future for America’s construction industry.
In 2015 the Associated General Contractors of America commissioned a report surveying 1,358 U.S. Contractors. The results neatly capture the problem the industry faces:
“... 86 percent said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft or salaried professional positions. Seventy-nine percent of responding firms nationwide are having a hard time filling one or more of the 21 hourly craft professional positions, particularly carpenters (73 percent of firms that employ carpenters report difficulty), sheet metal installers (65 percent) and concrete workers (63 percent).”
So during one of the longest job growths streaks in the country’s history, in an economy enjoying full employment, the majority of contractors report difficulty finding qualified workers. So what gives? A closer look at the jobs data shows us why.
Jobs Data Shows Aging Workforce?
By now we all know the role housing played in the Great Recession and in many ways, the construction industry bore the brunt of the subsequent losses. Between 2007 and 2011 - during the worst years of the housing crash - approximately 2 million skilled tradespeople left the industry. Those workers didn’t just drop out of the workforce. They went back to school, acquired new skills, and moved on to other lines of work. As a result, the industry has struggled to replace those lost jobs, even as the sector heated up over the last few year.
To make matters worse, the construction workers still on the job are a rapidly aging group. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the median age of a U.S. construction worker is between 41 & 43 depending on their exact job. The same data reveals that more than half of the total construction workforce is over 35, with more than a third - close to 3 million workers overall - nearing retirement age. The construction workforce under the age of 35 might be enough to replace all those retiring workers alone, but BLS data also predicts the construction sector will grow by nearly 15% - adding 800k new jobs - through 2024.
So we have a sector struggling to return to prerecession employment levels, currently experiencing heavy demand, with more growth predicted for much of the next ten years. Alongside it, there’s a rapidly aging workforce that lacks the young workers necessary to fill all the new jobs. Therein lies the skilled labor shortage.
How Does This Shortage Affect the Construction & Remodeling Industries
Like many other aspects of our economic system, the job market is subject to the laws of supply and demand. A growing number of jobs with fewer workers available to fill them means wages rise as competition increases for qualified candidates. This results in higher labor costs that are ultimately passed down to consumers. In addition, a smaller hiring pool makes it more difficult for construction contractors to scale up to meet increased demand. As a result, new projects often face long delays. This all spells trouble for the long-term health of the construction sector, and there’s no easy solution in sight.
How Does this Problem Get Fixed?
Many people point to the decline in trade school attendance and trade school education in high schools as a source of this current predicament. As a counter, many industry associations are sponsoring efforts to encourage younger people to consider a future in the trades. They hope more younger workers will be enticed by the promise of long-term stability and comparatively higher wages. The available data certainly underscores this argument.
Douglah Designs Sees the Impact
As a company dedicated to luxury home remodeling, Douglah Designs understands how important skilled tradespeople are to the health of our industry. That’s why we employ our own in-house team of construction managers and skilled installers. It’s the only way we can guarantee your remodeling job will be completed on budget and under the timeline we’ve promised. If you’re interested in learning more about our process, please feel free to contact us.
We all benefit from a construction industry that’s able to provide fast service for a competitive price but unfortunately, current trends are discouraging. If you know a younger person considering their own future career path, encourage them to consider the trades. There’s plenty of opportunity and the future health of the industry - and the nation - might depend on people just like them.
If you wish a bathroom in your home could be a little larger without adding more square footage, here are a few design tips to make your bath look and feel more spacious.
Freestanding or wall-hung vanity: Replacing wall-to-wall built-in cabinetry that goes down to the floor with a delicate free-standing pedestal, a furniture-style freestanding vanity, or a sleek wall-hung vanity will make the bathroom floor space appear larger (try Furniture Guild). Being able to see the flooring continue underneath the vanity, as well as space around the sides of the vanity, will give the illusion of a larger room, or at least a less cramped one. Remove extra wall shelves and accessories that cut into the space.
Select a fresh color palate: Clean neutrals, fresh whites, and soft “cool” colors can make your bathroom look more spacious. Strong colors on the walls will shrink your space.
Keep it clean: Stick to a clean, minimalist style when choosing fixtures and finishes. Reduce décor in the room; try only one piece of art instead of several small ones. Store toiletries away instead of on tub and sink surrounds and other surfaces.
More light: Adding more lighting to the bathroom, such as recessed cans and wall sconces, will brighten and therefore open up the space.
Glass and mirrors: Glass accent tiles and a large mirror can help pick up light in the room. Better yet, use a mirrored medicine cabinet that’s fully recessed into the wall (try Robern cabinets) for extra storage without taking up extra floor or wall space. Always choose clear glass instead of frosted glass, especially for the shower door, to keep the bathroom more open.
Choose the right tiles: Stick with larger scale tiles instead of busy mosaics. Try rectangular floor tiles like 12” x 24” and run them length-wise down the bathroom so the space appears to continue. White subway tiles on the tub/shower walls provide a clean yet timeless look. Choose grout colors that match the tiles if you are using small tiles, as contrasting grout lines can visually shrink the bathroom’s floor space.
If you are planning a bathroom remodel with a designer or a contractor, you have likely been asked what kind of shower system you want. There are only two basic systems, and chances are you have used both at some point, but the technical plumbing lingo can make it all a bit confusing.
Pressure balance shower system
With a pressure balance valve, you have one lever that is your on/off function and controls only the temperature of the water, not the volume of the water. When the valve is on, it is all the way on (2.0 gallons per minute in California). You cannot decrease the volume of water coming out, but you can always use an adjustable shower head to change the pressure.
Thermostatic shower system
With a thermostatic system, you typically have two levers or controls. One lever controls the temperature of the water (thermostatic valve), and a second lever controls the volume of the water and the on/off function (volume control valve). This system allows you to set the temperature once and for all so that each time you take a shower it’s set the way you want it. You can also adjust the volume of the water coming out, but 2.0 gallons per minute is still the maximum. This valve is more complex and therefore is more expensive than the pressure balance valve.
With either system, you can add a diverter function to the shower. A diverter allows you to have more than one shower head (or a tub/shower combo). In California, you can only have one shower head running at a time, so each shower head needs to be on it's own diverter port that cannot be operated at the same time as another, and the valve cannot have any shared ports. Today, "all-in-one" valves are available that combine the diverter, volume control, and thermostatic valve on one escutcheon plate for more simple look.
So what’s popular?
Our design team usually suggests a pressure balance system in hall, kids, and guest bathrooms, and a thermostatic system with a fixed shower head and a handheld shower head on a diverter function in the master bathroom.
We are frequently asked to explain the difference between stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets, and custom cabinets. Here is a brief explanation of the three to help better understand why the differences drive the overall price.
Stock kitchen cabinets are pre-made based on a set catalog of options, finishes, and sizes determined by the company. Only these pre-determined sizes and options are manufactured. There is no option to edit or customize for your project beyond the standard offerings that the factory produces. Diamond is one of the stock cabinetry options that we offer.
Semi-custom kitchen cabinets are also made based on a catalog of options determined by the company. However, semi-custom cabinets are often available in more sizes, more woods and finishes, and with more options and accessories available. The factory is typically making these cabinets per your order. DeWils is an example of a semi-custom cabinetry option that we offer.
Choosing to work with a custom cabinet company gives you free reign in terms of woods, finishes, design options, sizes, and accessories. If you can dream it, chances are it can be built, as your cabinets will be made specifically for you based on your order. Different from a local cabinetmakers’ shop, the custom cabinet companies that we work with are still made inside a factory, which allows the temperature, humidity, and air dust levels to be controlled for a flawless finish. Bentwood is one of the custom kitchen cabinetry options that we offer.
We recently became dealers of an exclusive handmade tile collection called Tabarka Studio, and it is already one of my favorite products we offer. Tabarka specializes in beautiful handmade ceramic and terra cotta tiles that are hand glazed or painted with intricate patterns. The tiles are perfect for any indoor floor or wall application and look especially beautiful as a kitchen backsplash, fireplace surround, or a powder bath floor.
The shapes, patterns, and colors of Tabarka tile are influenced by art, architecture, and design from all over the world and from many different eras. Tile inspiration stems anywhere from the Art Nouveau style Paris Metro signs, to the Moorish patterns of Alhambra, and beyond.
Here are some beautiful pieces from the Tabarka Studio collection:
We could all use a little inspiration.
Porcelain is one of the most popular tile options due to its durability, cost, and consistency in color and texture. Porcelain is typically more durable than natural stone due to its resistance to staining, etching, and scratching. Porcelain tile can be used anywhere, and most are suitable for outdoor use and wet applications. Many types of natural stone contain calcium that can wear with time, but that will not happen with most porcelain. Since porcelain is man-made, its color and texture are controlled, unlike natural stone where variation is inherent and often quite prominent.
Porcelain tile can look almost any way, shape, or shade imaginable. A porcelain tile can be as small as a fraction of an inch or as large as several square feet per piece. Porcelain tile can be made to look almost exactly like natural stone, hardwood flooring, concrete, or anything else you can think of. And trust me, the technology to do so is getting better and better.
Here are my favorite porcelain "look-alike" collections:
Bamboo is one of my favorite "green" materials to use in interior design projects. It is a rapidly renewable resource and most bamboo products are FSC-certified. Not only do many types of bamboo regenerate without needing replanting, but it also grows easily on its own without pesticides or other chemicals. Its ease and speed of growth make bamboo one of the most eco-friendly materials on the planet.
Not only is it environmentally friendly, it also performs. The species of bamboo used for building materials is very hard and durable, making it a great option for hardwood flooring, cabinetry, butcher-block countertops, and more, and it looks beautiful in all of these applications!
Here are some of my favorite bamboo products:
Bamboo is an obvious option for achieving that "zen" feel in a space, but it actually works great in all styles of homes. Bamboo hardwood flooring is perfect for traditional and contemporary applications. Bamboo butcher block wood tops look good in every kitchen. Bamboo cabinets can be stained any color to work in all contemporary and many transitional applications.
Open up any architecture and design magazine and you’ll probably see articles or photos that feature sustainable or “green” design. More than just a trend or concept with few product choices, sustainable design does not yield a limitation on the possibilities of your interior design or remodel.
Regardless of your style preferences, there’s a growing range of innovative and attractive sustainable and recycled product choices to incorporate into your home.
Wood cabinets from certified sustainable sources such as bamboo, hardwood floors created with reclaimed wood, durable countertops containing recycled glass, renewable fiber or recycled paper are just a few popular green options that Douglah Designs uses for our kitchen and bath remodel projects.
Rustic French country-inspired or “farmhouse” style of interior design and décor is distinct and charming as it is timeless. Rustic white cabinets, country inspired faucet, big apron sink, and old fashioned French motifs on hand crafted tiles are only some elements of a farmhouse style kitchen design.
The farmhouse style is so very distinct, that it’s safe to say that you either love it or you don’t, right? Before you eliminate the idea completely, take a look at some updated farmhouse looks that are evolving towards cleaner lines, sleeker shapes, and a fresher overall feel, while still adding that little touch of French country character to the space.