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Community and Q&A

Who are your favorite online suppliers?

User avatar
Justin Fink | Posted in General Questions on

Hi all,
I’m sniffing out a story for Fine Homebuilding on how progressive builders are acquiring their progressive materials for remodeling and new construction.

There are lots of online suppliers for building materials these days: Conservation Technology, Energy Federation, Energy Conscious, Small Planet Workshop, GreenDepot, even Amazon.

So, are you using online suppliers for specialty materials like air sealing tapes, insulation, housewrap, and so forth? If so, what are some of your favorite outlets? Are you ever going beyond the small orders (a few rolls of this or that) and getting large shipments from distant suppliers rather than from your local suppliers?

For those who are still relying heavily on lumberyards, are you finding your local yards to be pretty helpful in terms of ordering specialty items?

Looking forward to your thoughts and the challenges you’re facing in finding the right materials to build responsibly and progressively.

Thanks,
Justin Fink
Fine Homebuilding

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Replies

  1. Kevin Dickson, MSME | | #1

    Pex Supply for mechanical HVAC items
    Grainger for hard to find motors and repair parts.

  2. User avatar
    Matt Risinger | | #2

    Justin, Great question!
    I've got one local lumberyard (that's locally owned) who does a great job of bringing in new product. For example, I used to order Quickflash flashing boots for sidewall penetrations online from EFI.org but McCoys agreed to stock them. Other builders have started using them now that they're available locally and I've seen improvements in our building community for this historically leaky connection.
    I buy my Siga air sealing tapes from SmallPlanetWorkshop.com as they're the only supplier for many specialty items I just can't get locally.
    I buy a lot of canned spray foam (including black PUR foam) from efi.org .
    I found a local supplier that caters to Commercial Waterproofing companies and they've been a great source for my CCW 705 Through Wall flashing, Tremco Dymonic caulk for air sealing in sausage tubes, and some of the commercial grade Tyvek products. All-Tex Supply
    I also buy from http://www.ecotoneproducts.com for some of my favorite Heat Pump Water Heaters and LED bulbs.
    Lastly, I buy some specially LED under counter lights in my favorite HERA brand from http://www.eclectic-ware.com . They are a small shop that knows HERA well, and they make some really nice LED and Florescent under counter fixtures.
    Best, Matt

  3. User avatar
    Justin Fink | | #3

    Great information, Matt! Did you have any trouble working these mail-order items into your work flow? Do you buy in bulk to avoid the issue of having enough?

  4. Bob Irving | | #4

    EFI, Maine Green Building, Conservationtechnologies.com (great choice of gaskets), Wind-lock, Amazon. Ordering small quantities are usually no problem and it's far easier - and usually cheaper -to order direct than waiting for the local lumberyard to a)source it through their normal suppliers b)order it c)go there to pick it up. Other than standard materials I buy most of our "specialty items" online.

  5. Christopher Vernott | | #5

    Justin,
    In addition to the suppliers mentioned (EFI, Conservation, Amazon) we have used:
    - Insulationdepot.com for XPS foam board insulation recovered from commercial roofing jobs - a great value and a great way to recycle a product that is energy intensive to manufacture and keep it out of the landfill.
    - Uline.com for specialty 3m double sided tape
    - Americover.com for true 10 or 15mil below slab vapor barriers
    Perhaps your article could also mention items to be careful about purchasing online. I considered buying mini splits online for my new super insulated home. Ultimately, I purchased from a local HVAC supplier because I did not have comfort with the warranty issue and if a manufacturer would stand behind it with an online retailer.
    Thanks for a great magazine.
    Chris

  6. User avatar
    Albert Rooks | | #6

    Justin,

    I dream of the day when you can find most all of our type of products locally. It would mean that heavy insulated, air tight projects have become the norm. I'd gladly give up the revenue for my children's ability to have a life on Earth in the present climate conditions

    Albert Rooks, President
    The Small Planet Workshop

  7. Steve McMannis | | #7

    Hey Justin,
    Our company was fortunate to land a Passive House Residential Retrofit here in Pittsburgh over the summer and as part of the bidding period we began actively sourcing materials. The architect had specified several products that we were previously unfamiliar with, yet our goal was to find the best price for our client so we had plenty of shopping to do in the process.

    What we have found out to date (but definitely not limited to):
    - Was that local lumber yards did not have the products we needed off the shelf.
    - If a local lumber yard or wholesaler carried the product it often had a lead time (an example of this is where we special ordered 4" Polyisocyanurate sheets sold through ABC Supply that the lead time ended up being 3 weeks) .
    - With thicker exterior insulation (6" Walls, 8" Roof) we required long fasteners (up to 12" screws for our roof so we could have at least 2" into the studs), we have a great vendor Triangle Fastener locally that helped us out.
    - For our Passive House specific products we turned to FourSevenFive.com for all components from the Pro-Clima line. This included Tescon Vana tape, Solitex Mento (Plus & 1000), Fakro Skylights, Intello Plus and several primers/sealants.
    - Our jobsite is in a very densely populated area and it was actually much easier to take deliveries via UPS than dealing with box or boom trucks when possible.
    - Always order more than expected to avoid delays in assembly (we underestimated slightly two times that held up our crew).

    Our initial conversations with vendors followed a pretty common pattern to even explain what we were trying to attempt. I will say that many of the vendors were very interested in our build, however our purchases currently only make up a niche market so persistence was key to getting reasonable prices sometimes. Now our interactions with http://www.foursevenfive.com were a stark contrast, where we were no longer starting the dialogue - we became active listeners. It was incredibly refreshing to have someone on the other end really have a strong understanding of high performance building and not merely conventional techniques.

    As a side note I also manage the financial end of our projects and I personally find the ability to pay 475 invoices online via IPN a very valuable tool. It sure beats trying to track paper invoices or statements and fits with our business's goal to rely on technology as much as possible. Another benefit we have realized is the advantage of online pricing - no more calling every few months to check on prices before getting out new estimates. Overall, we love saving time and that is the one way we expect to lower the cost of building to Passive House standards in a sustainable way. We hope our other vendors will take up the online trend in the new year as they see more demand from builders embracing similar progressive methods.

    Best,
    Steve McMannis

  8. Christian Corson | | #8

    Gosh, I guess I really need to chime in here.
    Thanks to all above who have shared their info. It would be impossible for me to not answer this question without first mentioning 475 High Performance Building Supply. They are the exclusive U.S. importer of Pro Clima air sealing systems/products. Yes I do buy in bulk-ish. We order cases and cases of tapes and sealants. As well pallets of Mento plus and intello. They also have a great blog dedicated to the proliferation of foam free air sealing and insulation techniques. I have also used products from all of the suppliers listed above so no need to re-mention.
    Although I have to admit that my Amazon purchases are mostly limited to MP3's and books. Things that can be delivered with you know, drones.
    We also use/ spec quite a bit of the Todal line of products for window and door installations. These we purchase through Maine Green Building Supply mostly. Not the cheapest necessarily but the most local for sure......and good peeps.
    Since I moved back to Maine I would like to think that we have had some sort of affect on our local lumber yard .
    They have begun to sock EPS as well as XPS and started selling the 3M 8067, which we used almost exclusively ( as well as Vycor) for air sealing, before the Euros ( Germans and Swiss) came to town.
    Thank god I don't need to buy Canadian windows and ventilation systems anymore.

    Where is the Foam Glass aggregate? Anyone..........................?

  9. User avatar
    Albert Rooks | | #9

    Justin,

    I can see the article title now… "Passion about new breed of suppliers causes internal heat gains. further lowering project heat demand".

  10. Rick Van Handel | | #10

    Christian, where are you currently sourcing windows from and what manufacturer? Glass package?

  11. Sophia Padilla | | #11

    I try to keep local, but can not always find what I need. I use google and just search and search.

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