Supply Chain Shortages Hit U.S. Paint Supply—One Color in Particular

As homeowners work on renovating their homes during pandemic downtime, supply chain issues can make the right paint hard to find.

By Shannon Lee | Published Nov 16, 2021 9:35 AM

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Just about every day, it seems, we see stories on the news about supply-chain disruptions around the world. These supply chain issues are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seems that just about every industry—from food and electronics to furniture and construction—has been affected.

Supply chain problems have hit homeowners with home-improvement aspirations rather hard, too. Prices on home-improvement materials have increased, and many are harder to come by than they used to be. The latest home-improvement product that’s in short supply? Paint in all colors, but especially paints in tints and shades of blue.

Why Is There a Paint Shortage?

Manufacturing paint is an exacting process, with certain ingredients blended in just-right amounts to create a uniform color that companies can rely on. For instance, when you buy a gallon of a particular green paint, that gallon must match perfectly with a gallon of the same color that is produced months later.

Keeping paint colors true requires using the exact same ingredients throughout the production process. If creating that green color takes 60 different ingredients, a shortage of just one of those ingredients is enough to halt production.

In the depths of the current supply chain issues, not getting a particular ingredient has become more of the norm than the exception. That’s why paint offerings are suddenly looking a bit sparse, and orders of paint are backlogged.

Why Is There a Shortage of Blue Paint in Particular?

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Paint manufacturer Akzo Nobel is running low on the ingredients necessary to make shades and tints of blue paint.

“To make the blue paint, you need dozens of additives, and some of these additives are hard to get hold of today because of the supply chain issues,” says Philip Ash, the founder of Pro Paint Corner. “Plus, we’ve seen a spike in consumer demand. With most people staying at home, many homeowners are doing renovations, DIY painting, and construction. There are also shortages in supply chain and logistics workers and truck drivers, resulting in backlogs in moving goods from container ships, warehouses, and other supply chain transportation.”

Where the paint is available, the price is much higher than usual because the cost of materials to make paint increased by more than $323 million in the past year. This cost is passed along to consumers. All companies are charging more. Prices for Akzo Nobel have risen by about 9 percent; Sherwin-Williams has even alerted investors to expect higher prices for the foreseeable future.

What Does This Shortage Mean for Homeowners?

If you’ve got your heart set on one of the beautiful 2022 Colors of the Year, especially those such as Valspar’s Mountain River or Sherwin-Williams’ Aleutian, you might have to hold off on that project for your walls, or go with a different color altogether. Though shoppers may find these hues at retailers, they may not find enough of the paint to complete a large project. These colors might also be prohibitively expensive for a while.

Paint retailers and contractors are doing what they can to ease the burden. “We’re ordering paints well in advance as much as we can to make sure we can get the supplies in time to complete our projects,” Ash explained.

“When it’s not possible to wait for too long, we try to be flexible with the supplies that we use and encourage our clients to do the same,” says Ash. “Even when they’re set on certain paint colors, they may be open to considering other colors, especially if their priority is to complete the projects fast. It also helps to factor in potential delays and shortages and discuss them with the clients before you both sign the contract.”

When Will Things Get Back to Normal?

paint shortage

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The supply chain is snarled badly enough that many experts believe the issues will last through 2022 and beyond. And even when the supply chain does start to get back to normal, expect prices for paint—and a bevy of other goods—to remain higher than they were during the pre-pandemic days.

There is some good news on the horizon, however: Though prices are high now and some coveted shades of blue paint are scarce, Akzo Nobel expects the availability of the hard-to-find ingredients for their blue paint to improve within the next 6 to 9 months.