Stone Restoration and Maintenance Corner

Price Increases and Supply Chain Delays

Bob Murrell 

M3 Technologies

Photos by Bob Murrell

Regular-grade octane was $4.09 at my favorite local station when this photo was taken, in late March. This is close to double what I paid for gas in 2020.

Regular-grade octane was $4.09 at my favorite local station when this photo was taken, in late March. This is close to double what I paid for gas in 2020.

At the time of this writing in late March, we are all starting to feel the pinch of higher prices and extended wait times on many items that we, as stone restoration professionals, need for our everyday projects. We all know that the worldwide COVID pandemic has definitely put a big hurt on both the extraction, production and logistics of most all goods that the world depends on to function. I’m not trying to be all gloom and doom or political, I just want to clarify why we are all paying more for our goods and therefore services, and why we will all inevitably have to raise our rates accordingly, as well.

First, here’s the reality for those of us who have a delivery or installation vehicle: we are all paying almost double for the fuel we put in our vehicles today, as we were in 2019. I believe the national average for regular unleaded is now at $4.25 per gallon – and more in California. I recently filled up at Sam’s Club at $3.95 per gallon (including my discount), but then we are very sheltered here in Knoxville. The average diesel price is now over $5 per gallon. Think about this last number and you’ll know one very good reason why the price on many items has skyrocketed.  

Currently, the planet relies on fossil fuels to extract, produce, and move both goods and services. Some of the fertilizers and chemicals that farmers use are a by-product of fossil fuels. The tractors and other equipment used by the farmers also rely on fossil fuels. The produce is then moved by truck, rail, plane, and ship by, you guessed it, fossil fuels. Imagine filling up your semi-truck with 300 gallons of diesel for around $1,500 every 2,100 miles (based on an average of 7 miles per gallon)!   

Now consider the impact of the pandemic. COVID-19 has dramatically slowed the extraction, production, and delivery of goods and services worldwide for two years, now. As an example, raw materials mining operations have suffered, and much needed materials such as bauxite, which is used to make aluminum, cost more to obtain and refine. In the stone restoration industry, we use aluminum oxides as fine abrasives to hone and polish stone and other hard surfaces.

Factories, restaurants, retail stores, and service companies all had to shut down and / or change their normal operations significantly. This has ultimately contributed to delays in these products and services. Thankfully, most essential services were allowed to continue operations. If it hadn’t been for some specific retail outlets like grocery stores, truck drivers, first responders, health care personnel, and others working hard, things could have ended up being even worse. So many thanks to them, for sure!

Of course, there are other factors that affect prices as well, like geopolitical politics. There are tariffs assigned to certain countries’ products due to certain political issues like unfair trade or business espionage or human rights violations, all of which is way above my pay grade, if you know what I mean. The point is, all of these problems have culminated in the current economic climate. Hopefully it will be temporary, and I have the greatest expectations from these here United States of America!

Products made from oil and natural gas

Now, let’s consider stone restoration and maintenance suppliers, and the issues we face directly. At M3 Technologies, Inc., we have had to raise our prices anywhere from 15 percent to more than 30 percent on some items. As an example, it is unfortunate that most of our steel comes from overseas. This combined with tariffs, has caused the price of steel wool to start approaching double the price it was two years ago. This same issue is seen with anything containing steel, like floor machines, for example. The price of motors (and most things electric) has also risen substantially. This combined with the higher steel prices have sent machine costs upwards of 30-plus percent.

Steel wool is another common item whose price has skyrocketed. Hopefully, the prices hikes for everyday consumable items are temporary, and will eventually return to “normal.”

Steel wool is another common item whose price has skyrocketed. Hopefully, the prices hikes for everyday consumable items are temporary, and will eventually return to “normal.”

When you combine these new costs with the fact that many of these items come from overseas, the logistics have turned into a quagmire. Floor machines are now on a 6-plus week lead time. We have actually had some machines on backorder now for well over 180 days! Now add the new cost of fuel with regards to shipping, and you have a recipe for all-time high costs. 

So, what’s the difference between inflation now and historically? I mean really, in 1965 a new Mustang cost around $2,427.00. They now sell between $30k - $40k for base models (if you can get one!). Once again, the answer to this question is well above my pay grade.

Guess what resin diamonds are made from? Yep, fossil fuels. What about some of the chemicals we rely on like solvent-based impregnating sealers? Then there are the plastics that many other items are constructed of, too, like the bottles and pails the chemicals come in. Adhesives, poly tape, caulking, Tape & Drape, paint rollers and applicators, totes, safety glasses — are all made from fossil fuels, and the list goes on and on.

Now, I’m not saying all of this to start a controversy or attempt to sway any political opinions. I say all of this to reassure you that we in the restoration and stone countertop business are not trying to hose or overcharge anyone with a new pricing structure. Just like you, M3 has to make a profit in order to pay our bills and feed our families. If companies cannot remain profitable, then they would cease to exist and that wouldn’t help them, their employees, or their clients who depend on them. Hopefully some of these rising costs (especially fuel and steel) will stabilize and we can get back to a somewhat normal place again. For now, we just need to tighten our belts, try to be frugal, and keep our nose to the grindstone.  

As always and before beginning any new project, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm the results and the procedure, prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration/ maintenance project. Also, the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor, like BB Industries, that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.

Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.