After months of quarantine, home remodeling is back in full swing
People have spent many extra hours inside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, hours in which they have begun to notice the parts of their homes in need of updates. While the home remodeling industry was halted during stay-at-home orders this spring, homeowners are ready to tackle renovations, often seeking the help of contractors and design professionals.
Paul Driessen, owner of Timber Innovations in Kimberly, says that months of quarantine has led to an increased demand for renovations, both major and minor.
“We have never had so many inquiries on the board in the history of our company. People are using their extra time and thinking about the projects they want to complete, doing their research on remodeling and then turning to the experts for help,” Driessen says. “There is a certain level of people deciding to DIY projects, my wife and I included, but then they reach out to us to do the things they cannot do.”
Katie Jane Ferrito, interior designer with VKB Homes in Menasha, says while business started out well this year, it slowed during Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, but has increased steadily post-lockdown.
“People are definitely undertaking small projects on their own such as painting, but for the big projects they are coming to us,” Ferrito says. “We are seeing that our usual business that would have been underway during the months of the pandemic has just shifted time-wise.”
As the pandemic began, Driessen explains that Timber Innovations chose to stop all remodels during the Safer at Home order, despite being considered essential. As the order continued, the company developed new safety protocols.
“We implemented initial consultations using conference calls and video meets,” he says. “It is not quite the same as being able to walk into someone’s house, but we were able to get familiar with the client and have the initial discussion taken care of.”
Maintaining the client relationship is also key for PortSide Builders, which has offices in both Neenah and Sturgeon Bay. Joe Englebert, remodeling specialist with PortSide Builders, says he prefers to talk over projects with clients virtually before setting in-person meetings.
“Most [clients] are ready to meet in person again, but we like to have conversations over the phone at first just to get the ball rolling,” he says. “We have a two-way relationship with our clients, as we interview them for what they want, they are also getting a look at what we can do, and deciding the best course of action with us.”
This spring, the pandemic shaped the way PortSide Builders not only connected with clients, but the types of projects they were able to complete.
“We weren’t working in homes where people were occupying, at least this spring we were not,” he says. “We were working primarily in summer or vacation homes, where people were not living at that time. We also were working on newly purchased homes, again when people were not living there.”
Beyond new and vacation homes, Englebert says that the types of projects PortSide has completed have been varied.
“We have been seeing a lot of everything,” he says. “Kitchens are very popular, but they were also popular before COVID. In general, remodels have stepped up overall, but not in one particular area.”
Driessen says kitchens have become especially important post-pandemic, with bathrooms coming in a close second.
“We do a lot of kitchens. Maybe it is because people were stuck at home and had to cook and they realize the kitchen needs an update,” he says.
Similar to what Timber Innovations and PortSide Builders have experienced, Ferrito says kitchen remodels are prevalent as projects resume at VKB Homes. Oftentimes homeowners decide they are in need of new appliances, so they decide to redo the entire kitchen at the same time.
“Kitchens are pretty popular simply because people spend a lot of their time cooking, and often realize it needs a refresh,” Ferrito says. “[VKB Homes is] seeing a lot of people who just want to redo their cabinetry, but [we] also have been involved with projects where [homeowners] have decided to go as far as removing walls, in order to pursue a more open-concept space.”
Basement remodels are another popular area of focus as families spend more time at home.
“We are seeing homeowners who decide they want to renovate their basements for the extra square footage and a little bit more living space,” Ferrito says.
As work continues rolling in, Driessen believes that safety is more important than ever.
“We are back to full [operations] with no restrictions on certain types of projects, but we are being careful by not overloading the jobs with different contractors, specifically on new constructions,” he says. “We’ve been scheduling people so there is no overlap with only about six to eight individuals working at a time. With clients, we verify their comfort levels before proceeding with interactions.”
Englebert echoes many of the safety precautions followed by the industry, “We are working on staggering people so that we can allow for more social distancing, we never want too many contractors in one location at any given time, especially, keeping in mind all of our employees and contractors to work with them too.”
Ferrito explains that VKB Homes has implemented significant measures to keep everyone safe, including working with small crews of one to two people with each person wearing protective gear.
Despite the Safer at Home order being lifted, many people are still choosing to stay home as much as possible due to public health concerns. Ferrito says if you have been considering a home remodel or renovation, now might be the time to do it.
“With how much more time we are spending in our homes, I’ve been telling people, do the projects now while you can, so you can enjoy it versus waiting until you’re ready to sell and not getting to enjoy the finished project,” she says.