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Swap Before You Drop

Avoiding Regrettable Substitutions with Custom Building Materials

We know it is hard to source things right now, and we have all been struck with that moment of awe in the grocery store when the product you were looking for is actually there! We have become used to making substitutions in our daily life, whether settling for the refrigerator without the craft ice maker because the other is on backorder, or opting for the medium roast instead of dark roast coffee to avoid a trip to another grocery store. We were spoiled, and in many ways still are, by getting exactly what we want, when we want it. We were all snug and cozy in our Amazonian world when we got walloped upside the head with two+ years of chaos.

Right now, we have to explore our options with an open mind and adapt. This certainly applies in our business of building materials and construction products. We see buildings pop out of the ground, studs and foundations rising up out of nowhere, enclosed somehow overnight, clad, windowed, and open to the public. The process seems so localized and efficient, but where do all of these materials come from and how are they made?  

Building materials are not all made in America, many must be imported and are sourced from all over the world. This used to be no problem–we could order anything from anywhere, whether it be the finished product or a specific mineral needed to make the product function properly. As an industry and a society, we were highly dependent on the smooth sailing of the shipping industry and copious supply of materials from our international vendors. So, when the last two years tested our resilience, many distributors have had to adjust how they source building materials.

A lot of great materials come out of Europe and Asia. Ceramics, natural cork, and sintered stones from Spain, Portugal, and Italy; engineered surfaces from China with its abundance of recycled materials. Sadly, the state of the world is holding up both production and transportation of some products. It can certainly be frustrating when a contractor is trying to order a specified material that has long or uncertain lead times. When put in this rock/hard place sandwich it can be easiest for the contractor to substitute a readily available material, even one that doesn’t quite match the design intent.

Designers design. Builders build. Both need construction products to achieve that. But a builder can not simply say “I can not get that blue backsplash, so I am going to switch it to white, because I know I can get that color.” That takes away the design intent and would massively irritate a lot of designers or owners. Imagine if you came home to find your house painted yellow because “that was what was in stock.”

This is where we’d like to intervene! Don’t give up the design intent because your container is stuck in a port in China, indefinitely. There are great building materials either in stock or made to order right here in the US.

We work with designers, fabricators and trades to help find suitable substitutions for surfacing materials and products they can not get, like terrazzo, specialized stone and quartz. We have two factories, one in Chicago and one in Georgia, where we can do customization to get as close to your design intent as possible. Not able to find another terrazzo product with the same colors? Looking for a solid surface that matches the sinks you already ordered? We can work with you to create a custom color, custom aggregate density, and custom size that turns your incomplete design puzzle back into a masterpiece.

Here are some examples of the range of colors and finishes we offer that can be mixed and matched to find a suitable substitution so you do not make a regrettable one.

Recycled Glass Colors:

Recycled Plastic Colors:

Recycled Aggregate Options:


For custom acoustic solutions visit: ezobord.com/custom-design/

For custom bio-based wall coverings and natural surfaces visit: organoids.com/special-surfaces

Contact us today with any customization questions and sign up here to stay informed with a monthly email update!

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