At the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas in January, 84 Lumber officially announced its “We Build American” program, which aims to encourage builders, remodelers, and homeowners to use as many U.S.-made products as possible. The impetus for this program was Marnie Oursler, a homebuilder from Bethany Beach, Del., who found that building a home almost entirely from American-made products wasn't such a difficult task after all.
Oursler was featured at the 84 Lumber press event in Las Vegas as well as in the March ProSales cover story, “Born in the U.S.A.,” which details the struggle many dealers have had in stocking American-made goods. She provided us with so much information—only a fraction of which appeared in print—that we decided to provide the rest of her interview as a ProSales online exclusive.
First off, can you give a little bit of background on your projects and why you chose to use American-made products?
Marnie Oursler: Originally I built an American-content home at the requests of my clients Bill and Diane Gay. Diane saw a special report by Diane Sawyer on a home that was built in Montana that was 100% American made. They asked if I would try to build their home with the goal of using as many American-made products as we could, providing it was financially viable and the products could be sourced. We ended up building a home with approximately 95% American content. I found that it is financially viable, that products are offered in the United States, and the products are of equal or better quality.
How difficult was it for you to find dealers who sold Made in the U.S. products?
M.O.: It took more legwork at first, mainly just time making the calls and comparing quality and prices. But after building one home, I have five American content homes under construction and it is pretty easy to source the products. The hardest part that I find now is that some of the U.S. products are not as readily available and have a bit longer lead time. But once you build the first house, you know which products may take longer to get.
What products were the most difficult to find and what were your eventual solutions.
M.O.: The hardest products to find are nails and fasteners. We are working with Maze Nails, Peru, Ill., to order in larger quantities so that we have the nails and fasteners when we need them. The lead time is longer and the price is a little bit higher. We are finding that despite the higher price, we are offsetting that cost in productivity savings. The nail guns are not jamming as much, in turn saving us about 2.5 hours per week in labor costs. This and ordering early has helped us overcome the difficulty in lead time and the higher price. We also have a hard time finding many light fixtures, recessed light cans, and switch boxes. This is not a large cost, but we have not been successful finding a financially viable solution. We try to always look at the American products offered to make sure we are giving U.S. companies a shot before purchasing.
Why should dealers consider selling U.S.-made products?
M.O.: The products are of equal or, in many cases, better quality. We have many production standards in the United States and many products have great warranties. As a builder, I am confident that I am building a home that was well researched and with top quality materials. It is also important to me as an entrepreneur that I give back to my country by looking at the products made in the U.S. whenever feasible. The homebuilding industry was hit very hard during the recession, and I think as builders we can help in the recovery by making sure we help the United States economy by creating jobs in the industry whenever possible. This includes purchasing materials made in our country to keep people in our country working.
After your experience in constructing homes made almost entirely of U.S.-made products, what advice would you give to dealers considering supplying these products?
M.O.: The best advice I can give is to be sure the American-made products are of equal or better quality, competitively priced, and can be sourced and obtained quickly. Most of the time, you will find that the prices are very competitive, and the quality is better. You might have to be a little bit more organized in purchasing, to make sure you can get the product you need when you need it. But in most of these instances, the U.S. companies have been able to meet my needs. I make sure I order certain materials early.