why do builders want you to shop at specific stores?

lucas412March 9, 2013

We want to do a big pretty big renovation on our kitchen in the next few months. We have never hired a contractor let alone done a major renovation so once we started talking to designers / builders we were surprised by how they all steered us to specific stores for materials. Like Ferguson for plumbing fixtures or a specific lumber yard for windows. Home Depot and Lowes sell pretty much the same stuff (and according the their web sites usually for less) but nobody say go there to look around. You can imagine the reaction when we mentioned IKEA (we like their cabinets and they have great prices on LED lights).

We were just wondering why are builder so particular about the stores we shop at? I thought a custom kitchen meant custom.

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They steer you to particular stores because they have a "relationship" with those stores. Sometimes it means you may get a discount there but more likely it means that your contractor will get a cut. Try to find a contractor that will let you pick out what you want - don't get forced into things you don't want. One thing though, sometimes the big box store have lower quality plumbing fixtures than other places - check the model number carefully - even one digit difference can mean that the fixture was made specifically for that store and may have plastic parts rather than metal.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 8:56AM
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Our GC told us about places where he had an account and would pass his discount onto us if we selected and had the items delivered ourselves. We bought from one of the stores but found we could generally do better online.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:03AM
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You can certainly do a project where you select the products, but you have to spec those out on the front end. You can't hire a contractor who has based his estimate on using certain products from certain sources and then blow the whole thing apart by now changing your mind on things. That's called a change order, and you pay for that priviledge.

Contractors don't want to deal with the hassle of waiting for your special order from Namibia seashell tile taking 9 weeks to come in or the hassle and delay of you ordering a beautiful faucet that you see on the internet only to have it delivered and it using British Pipe Threading fittings which you can't even find on a good day in a major city.

Construction is all about scheduling. And delays cost money. I'm sure you know that the contractor is going to pass any of those delay problems back to you if you cause them.

If you want certain products used in your renovation, then make a list of those and get bids on the project using those products. Otherwise, the numbers you get are meaningless and the change orders will eat you alive in fees.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Our quote was not based on specific products, and there were no change order fees based on what we chose, except for our backsplash that turned out to be more time consuming than we originally represented. I don't think our GC cared what we chose. I agree, though, that you need to make sure everything is on site on time.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:46AM
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Wouldn't you like to work with vendors that you have worked with before? Are they insisting that you use their vendors or just stating it as a preference? Have you asked them why? The answers to the last two questions should be helpful. Once you have that info you should be able to get what you want from Ikea or anywhere else.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:48AM
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My experience is that I told my contractors upfront that I wanted to buy my appliances, sink, fixtures, tile, and lighting myself. They were fine with that because we decided it upfront, I was very specific, and there was no waffling on my part (i.e., like "um, OK, some of the stuff I want to buy, and some you should buy, OK?"). Contractors HATE uncertainty, whether it's delivery time, lack of specifications, or the scope of work of what they're to be doing. So, if they can control those things, they can control costs and work time. So, the contractor steering you to favored suppliers, or having the contractor himself make those purchases gives him that control over how smoothly the entire project will go. If you feel confident in your abilities to source, purchase, and oversee fixtures and materials, you should do it, but you must be very specific with your contractor about it, and put it in writing in the Scope of Work. If you think you may be uncertain, or end up waffling, or not making decisions, you should go with your contractor's suggestions.

BTW, my electrician was actually relieved I was to buy all the lighting, receptacles and switches. He didn't like dealing with that stuff, and having to sort out part numbers, lead times, and the like. He said "I'm an electrician, not a parts salesman".

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:03AM
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robo (z6a)

This is the front end so you should be able to build your preferences in.

Lucas, I somehow found 3 contractors in my first 3 tries who all were comfortable with ikea cabs and with me picking my own finishes. If those contractors aren't, you may wish to keep looking if you can (if your area will support that). I was looking at more smaller operation guys (still reliable but not super luxury contractors) and that may have made a difference.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Sat, Mar 9, 13 at 10:17

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:13AM
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GC have recommended companies, its because they have a working relationship. Meaning the GC trusts the quality of product, service, and timing of the company and services they provide. (And no, you can't get the same product at box stores. Box stores sell cheap versions of the mega brands, that's why the cost difference. They are not made the same, that's why the box stores sell them at a lower price point. For example: Lowes approaches Delta and says we like this model of faucet, but we only want to pay $55 for it and sell it at $75. What can you make for us?)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 11:05AM
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You may find that depending on the supplier and your contractor's business volume, it may allow extra security. Buying through the contractors account might make dealing with problems easier if they value his business. If he does a lot of buying through that company and only has the normal returns/exchanges that are expected, the rare times he has a major problem with a product they might be more accommodating.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 11:53AM
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So, have you concluded that Prior Preparation Precludes Procrastination?
After posting in separate forums without the courtesy of a crosspost note.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 5:59PM
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I like my clients to shop at specific stores NOT because I get a kick back but because I know exactly what to expect. I am familiar with their lead times and how they handle products that come in worng or damaged. I once had a clinet order a sink online, it came in damaged and I had to wait for the clinet to talk to the online compnay, find out how to return and how to order another. The project was held up for 3 weeks with nothing going on. Then I couldnt get my tiler there when I wanted bec he had to move onto his next job. He was expecting to do his work a certain week and it was postponed bec of the sink. That being said, if my client wants to order everything online, I just ask them to do it ahead of time and have all the prodcut there(and inspected for damage or wrong finish) when the project begins so we arent waiting on anything.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:54PM
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My husband, is a GC. He likes to send his clients to the stores that he can trust. Like one client a few weeks ago went to a store he, did not do business with and they ordered the wrong tile for her, floor wrong color backsplash, so now she has to wait another three weeks for her things to come. And she would have got my husbands discount. So that is why they sometimes like you to go to certain stores.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 12:06AM
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