Sporadic Covid related hardware and plumbing shortages. Plan your projects carefully

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing some parts shortages for do it yourselfers and professionals

We are now about nine months into the Covid-19 pandemic. I am noticing that the range and depth of plumbing, electrical and hardware items is decreasing with intermittent shortages. I’ve come up short on more than one recent trip

What’s the problem, they had 95% of the parts you needed?

Suppose you are a do it yourselfer doing a moderately complex plumbing project. Ideally, you would like to make one trip for fittings, come home and complete the project.

You take the time to plan the project out and make a list of what you need and head out to the large home improvement store or perhaps your local hardware store.

Prior to Covid, the range and depth of stock for fittings and parts usually ensured that I could go to one store and get everything I needed.

Range means having different items. For example, a plumbing section might have a limited range of reducing bushings offered.

Depth is the amount of stock. One store may target having 20 1 1/2″ Tees available while another store might target 50.

When you are working on a project, you usually need all the parts on your list or you won’t be able to complete the project. Suppose you had a list and the store had everything except for an inch and a half tee.

If you are complying with your plumbing codes, you probably can’t substitute or adapt other parts. 

Choices – How do you get what you need to complete your project?

Try another store

If you want or need to complete the project right away, you might need to try other stores. That will cost you time of course. In the case of plumbing, you might be able to find what you need at an HVAC or plumbing supply house. Keep in mind that these businesses are used to dealing with professionals. If you know exactly what you need, that helps a lot.

Order online

If you order online, you are looking at a minimum of a day for delivery. If you can put your project on hold, ordering online might work out.

Ask friends

If you have friends who do their own projects, you might get lucky and find someone who has the part you need in their supplies.


As I mentioned earlier you need to follow the building codes for things like electrical and plumbing jobs. You can’t substitute 14 gauge wire when the code calls for 12 gauge.

On the other hand, suppose, you need bolts and they are out of the galvanized bolts in the size you need. Check to see if they have the same sized bolt in stainless or brass. Both of these will be significantly more expensive. Also, in the case of brass you need to consider if they will be strong enough for the project.


If you need a half dozen 3/8 x 4″ bolts for your project and you only find 4 in the bin you might be able to improvise. Check to see if there are longer bolts that you can cut down. You need to think things like this through. when you cut a galvanized bolt, the cut surface is no longer corrosion resistant. Also, you need to make sure that you don’t ruin the threads. If you don’t have a thread die in the correct size, you can run a nut on the threads before you cut. When you remove the nut, it will usually clean the threads up .


With Covid related shortages, you need to plan your projects a little more carefully. You also need to have contingency plans in the event that you can’t get all of the parts you need.

Having your existing supplies well organized can help to some extent.

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