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Home Renovations are Booming During COVID-19: Here’s What You Need to Know

By Tanya Svoboda
October 2020

Many things have been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but home renovations aren’t one of them. Research conducted by Houzz, an online hub for home design and decorating, shows that over half of homeowners who found themselves mid-renovation on March 11th, when the pandemic was officially declared, continued their projects.

The same study showed that 79 percent of homeowners surveyed were considering starting new projects that would help them enjoy their homes more. Sheltering in place seems to be driving homeowners to tackle pre-existing challenges they face in their current homes, like lack of storage, and begin projects to make their time at home more enjoyable, like improving the layout of their home.

Homeowners looking to get in on the COVID-19 home renovation boom will find some pandemic related changes to the process.

More Planning Meetings are Being Held Remotely

Completing a home renovation outside of a pandemic involves lots of planning meetings, trips to showrooms, quarry visits, and on-site check-ins. But, during COVID-19, homeowners need to get comfortable with technology. To complete your home renovation you will still need some in-person meetings. But a lot of the “leg work” and pre-planning will be done remotely so when you do meet in person to, say, pick out a granite slab, your time together will be safely and efficiently spent.

Your design firm or general contractor may want you to walk them through your home via Zoom or Skype to get an initial idea of the scope of your project. While they will have to make an on-site visit to your home for measurements, many designers will share their 3-D renderings through video conferencing. With the use of project management software like BuilderTrend or Co-Construct, you can track your project’s progress remotely.

Completing a home renovation during COVID-19 will require you to put a great deal of trust into your contractor and subcontractors. Clear communication and solid planning will make sure you’re all on the same page.

Renovation Timelines are Increasing

CDC guidelines and OSHA protocols will dictate the specifics of the construction crew’s workspace and pace. Workers in many areas will be required not only to wear appropriate PPE, but also disinfect the workspace frequently, and maintain appropriate social distance protocols.

The New York Times article, The Return of Home Renovations, states that in New York, “Contractors and their employees must also be mindful of a whole host of other rules for home improvement during a pandemic: no more than one worker per 250 square feet; open windows whenever possible to increase ventilation; daily temperature checks before employees report to the job site; [and] work stations must be cleaned and disinfected regularly,” among other things. All of this translates to a slower rate of work with fewer people on site.

Production Cuts Are Affecting Supply Chains

Issues with supply chains and materials production are also adding to home renovation delays. Lumber markets were projected to plummet in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yahoo Finance article Lockdown Renovation Boom Sends Canadian Lumber Stocks Surging states, “The COVID-19 pandemic was initially expected to hurt lumber markets as surging unemployment curtailed demand and lockdowns shuttered the offices that issue permits for cutting operations.” But, RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn said, “Instead, spending on home repairs and renovation is ‘high and accelerating.’”

While the increased demand for lumber is great for stockholders, consistently low inventory and permanent capacity closures are bad news for contractors and homeowners looking to complete renovations on budget and on schedule.

Finding Temporary Housing During Renovations Is More Challenging

During COVID-19, homeowners looking to complete a renovation may also need to consider temporary living arrangements. The pandemic has made short term rentals harder to find and there are risks associated with staying in hotels. but, as Asher Lipman founder of NYC Renovation Coach notes, “If you’re working from home, and the kids are at home, and these workers are traipsing in and out – is that really safer?”

Both hotels and Airbnb style rentals have upped their cleaning protocols in response to COVID-19. But, if you’re making a choice between the two, Dr. Neil Brown, K Health’s chief diagnosis officer, said in the article Which is Safer: Airbnb or Hotels?, “While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property.”

In spite of the challenges facing homeowners when it comes to home renovations during COVID-19, many are forging ahead with their projects so that if the time comes to shelter in place again, they’ll be doing it in a home they love.


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