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Research: Product and Material Preferences

Product and material selection for remodeling projects nearly equal between remodeler and customer.

July 22, 2014
Research: Split Decisions

Who specifies the products and materials for a remodeling project? The answer depends on whom you are asking. Often times, the remodeler will say he specifies products and materials such as roofing, insulation, drywall, HVAC systems, and other products that fall into the category where the homeowner relies on the remodeler for their years of expertise. When the homeowner is making the product and material decisions, it is typically for faucets, fixtures, appliances, carpeting, and other high-visibility products and materials the homeowner comes in contact with every day.

According to the 2014 Professional Remodeler Product & Material Preference Survey, we found product and material selection was influenced 55 percent of the time by the remodeler, designer, and contractor. The remaining 45 percent revealed the customer has influence over the product and material selection for a remodeling project.

Customer influence

In some remodeling projects, the customers are responsible for product and material selection. The products and materials primarily consist of kitchen- and bath-related products and materials, but are not limited to these two areas of the home. The leading products and materials selected by the customer include: appliances, cabinets, carpet, countertops, faucets, lighting, paint, and plumbing fixtures. On the flip side, products that are least influenced by customers include drywall, HVAC, insulation, masonry, siding, and skylights.


363 remodelers answered the survey via the Internet in June 2014. Participants were a random sample of subscribers to Professional Remodeler print and digital editions.

When the product or material selection is left to remodelers, designers, and contractors, typically they specify a large series of products including decks/patios, doors, drywall, HVAC, insulation, masonry, roofing materials, siding, tools, and windows. Products and materials least specified by remodelers, designers, and contractors include appliances, carpet, countertops, faucets, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and tile.

“For the most part, I recommend the underlying building products such as waterproofing materials and insulation,” says one Massachusetts-based remodeler.

At times, the subcontractor is responsible for specifying product or material selection on a remodeling project. In this situation, generally the subcontractor specifies drywall, home security/automation, HVAC, insulation, paint, and roofing materials.

“The subs select products or materials such as wiring,” says a remodeler based in Michigan.

“I only let the subcontractors select landscape-related materials,” says an Arizona-based remodeler.

Purchase points

Products and materials for remodeling projects are still purchased at material dealerships, wholesalers, big-box stores, suppliers, and distributors. Twenty-six percent of products and materials are purchased at lumber/building materials dealers; 23 percent are purchased at wholesale suppliers such as ABC Supply or Norandex; 22 percent at big-box stores including Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menard’s; 16 percent purchase direct from the suppliers; and 12 percent purchase from a building materials distributor such as Bluelinx.

Which products and materials are purchased from a lumber or building materials supply dealer? At the top are decking, engineered lumber/I-joists, lumber, plywood/OSB, trim/millwork, and trusses.

The product and materials most commonly purchased from wholesale suppliers include appliances, cabinets, countertops, faucets, plumbing fixtures, roofing, siding, and tile.

Products and materials most often purchased by remodelers from the big-box stores and/or home-improvement centers primarily include drywall, insulation, lighting, locksets/hardware, paint, and the power tools used for remodeling work. The products and materials purchased the least at big-box stores and home-improvement centers include fireplaces, garage doors, home security/automation, skylights, and sunspaces. 

“We usually buy miscellaneous hardware from the big-box stores, some lumber, and budget lighting and hardware,” says an Illinois remodeler. 

When asked where hand and power tools used for remodeling projects are purchased, the responses were consistent with the findings from last year’s Product & Material Preference Survey. Forty percent of remodelers purchased their hand tools from big-box retailers and/or home-improvement centers; 15 percent purchased from lumber/building materials dealers; 15 percent purchased from a wholesale supplier; and 6 percent purchased from a building materials distributor. The remaining 9 percent who indicated “other” purchased their tools online or from a specialty store.

Product and material info sources

Remodelers use a wide variety of sources to get their product and material information prior to purchase. Twenty-seven percent indicated they get their information from trade publications; manufacturer websites accounted for 23 percent; consumer magazines registered 19 percent; recommendations from other remodelers was indicated by 15 percent; and email newsletters accounted for 14 percent. Two percent indicated “other” represented by trade shows, websites, and vendor data. PR

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