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How the Right Products and Manufacturer Partnerships Can Help Solve Labor Shortage Issues

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How the Right Products and Manufacturer Partnerships Can Help Solve Labor Shortage Issues

There are 17% fewer people now working in construction than at the market peak, with some states seeing declines of 20% or more

January 25, 2017

If you ask homebuilders today how business is, most of them will tell you that it should be very good – if they could support it. Eight years after the housing bust forced an estimated 30 percent of construction workers to find work in new fields, homebuilders are now fighting against a significantly reduced workforce, resulting in higher wages for skilled laborers and ultimately higher costs for builders, slowing down construction in a hot market.  

Residential construction continues to lag behind this demand, as homebuilders struggle to attract workers to their businesses. Many prospective workers are worried about a volatile market that may go from hot to cold very quickly and unexpectedly. They are not comfortable with either entering or re-entering such a market. In addition, the large absence of young people entering the workforce means it will be extremely difficult to replace aging laborers. From these and other factors, growth in this sector is crippled, and homebuilders across the country are looking for solutions.

On top of the added cost of skilled laborers, the average cost of building a new single family home is 13.7 percent higher than it was in 2007, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. All of these factors combined are making it more difficult and expensive to build, even though the demand to build reached a nine-year high in July 2016.

While the industry scrambles to catch up with the demand of the market, innovative building product manufacturers have developed products and systems that are making construction easier and less-labor intensive than ever before. As a homebuilder, there is no better time to explore these products and systems, and to work closely with manufacturers to make product selection and installation more seamless to reduce reliance on skilled trades.

Homebuilders who cannot add more workers should be aware of products and systems that require less workers. One such system is ExpressShelf™ by ClosetMaid®.

ExpressShelf is a new, pre-finished shelf and rod system that provides a fast and affordable alternative to traditional, painted-MDF plank and pole closet systems. In fact, this product can be installed by one person in less than half the time of traditional painted-MDF shelving, doubling productivity for work crews, enabling them to move on to the next job faster.

ExpressShelf also doesn’t need to be caulked or painted. Plus, it’s installed after-paint, allowing trim carpenters or after-paint specialty contractors to complete their jobs faster and turn over houses more quickly. And since these skilled laborers are more expensive to hire, reducing the amount of hours they are needed significantly reduces labor costs.

Finally, because ExpressShelf is pre-finished, it offers a consistent look throughout one home, or a number of homes. Unlike traditional plank and pole systems, builders will know exactly what to expect when ExpressShelf is installed. This consistency makes it very easy to maintain the builder’s design schemes, and as a result maintain its brand identity.

Smart, limited use of skilled laborers and reliance general laborers is the best way to attack the current housing market. That’s why leading manufacturers are developing solutions that can complement this attack. Products like ExpressShelf are, in many ways, the result of the current demand on homebuilders to do more with less. Now more than ever, working with these manufacturers will help builders solve labor shortage problems and take better advantage of the hot housing market. 

To learn more, visit


Written By

ClosetMaid®, industry leader in home organization and storage systems since 1965, is a business of Emerson. ClosetMaid offers a complimentary Professional Services program to assist builders, contractors, developers, designers, architects, and installers in streamlining the storage design, specification, and installation process. For more information, visit

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