Pandemic DIY Projects: The Risk and Reward Of Going It Alone

pandemic DIY projects hero

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

The home improvement industry is booming as many homeowners turned to pandemic DIY projects to improve their living spaces during 2020 and 2021.

Both home improvement retailers and home contractors have been doing robust business. This has happened during an unprecedented time of struggle in most sectors of the economy.

It makes a lot of sense. Locked-down homeowners had more time than ever before to really take a look around the houses and condos they were confined to. Clearly, a lot of us saw room for improvement in our homes and chose to take action.

The most popular pandemic DIY projects

Pandemic DIY projects ranging from the small (like staining a deck) to the large (such as a flooring renovation) were started. Considering the unpredictable nature of DIYs, we’d hazard a guess that not all of them were finished.

It wasn’t only home building and repair projects we took on to improve our living spaces. Some of us kept the power tools on the shelf and took the time to finally clean up those clutter hotspots in the home, such as the garage, basement, or our closets. Every little bit helps, right?

The reno projects that are routinely popular with homeowners (like interior painting and kitchen and bathroom remodels) continued to get a lot of attention. A number of the other projects that rank high on our home improvement to-do lists reflect the unique times we’re living in:

  • home offices
  • home gyms
  • outdoor living spaces
  • home entertainment rooms
  • mudrooms
  • landscaping
using tape measure while doing DIY project

Lots of free time, boredom and restlessness, extra savings, and the opportunity to learn a new skill translated into a home improvement boom. (Photo by Los Muertos Crew from Pexels)

9 reasons pandemic DIY projects are so popular

The reasons behind the surge in DIY projects are both obvious and a little less apparent. Here are nine reasons we have invested so much time in refreshing our homes during the pandemic:

1. We finally have time to tend to our homes: it took a global pandemic for many of us to find the free time to dust off that home to-do list and finally get around to completing some of the tasks on it.

2. We need to nurture our mental well-being: being stuck at home 24/7 and cut off from our social lives (aside from socializing virtually) took a toll on our mental health. The opportunity to be productive by tackling a building project or pursuing creative outlets like crafting or learning an instrument helped us tend to our mental well-being.

3. Canadians saved more money: Statistics Canada reports that Canadians saved an average of $5,574 in 2020, compared to just $479 in 2019. It stands to reason, then, that if the average Canadian had over $5,000 more in their bank account than usual, the average number of home renos done would be significantly higher, too.

4. Sheer boredom and restlessness: everyone who experienced cabin fever during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 can relate to people looking for anything to do to keep themselves busy. Doing the “Netflix and chill” thing day after day only goes so far before it starts to feel old. As boredom and restlessness set in, working on one of those long-delayed DIY project ideas might have become the highlight of your day!

5. We got a new perspective on things: having so much at-home time made us view our living spaces with a completely different perspective and make some changes to better suit our lifestyle. Our eyes were opened to upgrade opportunities we perhaps wouldn’t have considered because of the busy nature of our lives during “normal times”.

reasons for starting pandemic diy projects

44% of the 1,500 Canadians surveyed have invested in home renovations or plan to do so during the pandemic. These are the top reasons given for improving their homes. (Infographic from Abacus Data)

6. Cost-effectiveness: not everybody’s bank account was flush with extra cash, so naturally anyone wanting to save a few bucks on a home upgrade or two was willing to use their free time to handle their own projects.

7. The chance to learn a new skill or hobby: home improvement enriches our lives and so does self-improvement. One of the silver linings of having all this “you time” is that we’ve been able to take on new hobbies and develop new skills that might have otherwise remained unfulfilled aspirations.

8. Add value to our homes: one of the main incentives for starting a DIY project anytime is to increase the value of your home. The pricey GTA real estate market right now, which is being driven by low inventory, record-high demand, and low interest rates, makes upgrading your current home more attractive than moving.

9. Home renovation tax credits: some provinces offered tax credits that anyone who had done work on their home might be eligible for. Saskatchewan, for example, allowed homeowners to claim up to $11,000 for renovation work done during 2020 and 2021. Here in Ontario, the Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit allowed seniors or anyone with senior relatives living with them to claim 25% of up to $10,000 for work done to make a home more accessible and safe for seniors.

Pandemic DIY projects give us a sense of purpose

That second point above about nurturing our mental well-being warrants some further examination, considering how rough 2020 and 2021 has been on our mental health.

When anyone who experienced the pandemic is asked in the future about the feelings they experienced during this period of time, words like “stressed”, “fearful”, “disoriented”, and “helpless” will be used. Pandemic DIY projects have helped function as somewhat of a coping mechanism for many of us. They give us a sense of purpose and some structure in a daily routine that has been completely upended.

So many things during the pandemic were out of our control. Home building projects let us focus our energy into something positive we could control – building new things, making repairs around the house, and getting organized.

That let us feel more in control and productive, as we worked our way through those home to-do lists and satisfyingly checked things off them.

Medical experts believe there are psychological benefits to learning new skills and staying productive during trying times. Keeping busy with a creative and physical activity like a pandemic DIY project can help reduce feelings of depressions and anxiety.

DIY floor project

Keeping busy during difficult times by learning a new skill or having a creative outlet is good for our mental health.

It’s no surprise backyard upgrades were popular

Backyards have gotten a lot of DIY love during the pandemic. That makes a lot of sense, considering we couldn’t travel anywhere internationally, nationally, or even locally most of the time, for that matter.

Outside of taking socially distanced excursions to a local park or going out for a walk or jog, a staycation in the backyard was just about the only option we had to enjoy ourselves outdoors while the weather was nice.

Extending the home’s living space to the backyard to get some fresh air and sunshine took on a variety of forms. The most popular backyard renovation projects include adding or updating:

  • pools
  • outdoor kitchens
  • outdoor living rooms
  • decks
  • patios
  • landscaping

A HomeAdvisor survey found that 27% of homeowners shifted their spending to upgrade their outdoor living areas and some of them left their backyard projects to the pros.

Basil Larkin, the vice president of sales for premium grill maker Hestan, told Forbes at the end of 2020, “Our summer orders have increased by 80% compared to what they have been historically. Moreover, we have maintained this throughout the remainder of the year to date, even after the traditional grilling season has concluded in many parts of the nation.”

As the article says, “New outdoor kitchens add a new and enticing dimension to the home.”

Shifting needs led to homeowners investing more in projects that upgraded kitchens, home offices, home entertainment areas, and outdoor living spaces. (Infographic from HomeAdvisor)

4 drawbacks of DIYing home projects

Although there are lots of benefits to taking care of your own home building projects, it’s an activity that does come with some pitfalls. Here are some ways DIYing can be challenging and not worth the headaches:

1. Inexperience: the most obvious reason for thinking twice about starting a home reno project is if you don’t have any experience in the renovation area you’re looking to tackle. Most people can handle an interior painting job. Someone who can tell the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer might be able to handle a deck build with some help. Something far more complicated like building an outdoor kitchen is a whole different ball of wax, however. Building inexperience also raises the risk of injury.

A recent survey of 870 American homeowners by Bid-On-Equipment found that 77% of DIYers thought their project took too long to complete without a pro’s help.

2. The finished project is disappointing: It’s one thing to start and finish a DIY project, but what does the final result look like? There’s nothing more deflating than struggling through a time-consuming, challenging DIY project and feeling disappointed when the completed project falls well short of having the kind of professional look that comes from the hands of a skilled contractor.

In that Bid-On-Equipment survey, a third of the homeowners who did a pandemic DIY project said they were disappointed with how the project turned out.

3. Getting building materials has been a challenge: access to the vast majority of brick and mortar stores has been severely restricted in Ontario during the pandemic. That made picking up tools and building materials you needed for a job difficult. Curbside pickup services were available, but high demand could sometimes mean waiting days for an available pickup time and delays to your project.

4. Supply chain shortages: as much as actually getting your hands on everything you needed to work on your home project has been challenging, sometimes the tools and building materials we needed weren’t even available to get. Since the pandemic began, supply chain shortages in many types of manufacturing industries has been an ongoing issue.

DIYers are basically at the mercy of whenever their local home improvement store gets in a new shipment of those deck boards they needed for their deck-building project, for example. Most contractors have existing relationships with suppliers they use often. This gives them a slight advantage to get the supplies they need for their projects quicker than a DIYer can.

Have a pro make your backyard staycation-worthy

Anyone can spruce up their backyard with a simple DIY project. Fixing a deck or patio and setting up a small outdoor cooking station with a basic barbecue allows your family to enjoy your backyard more.

Not all home improvement projects are for the average DIYer, however. As a Toronto plumber told CTV News, “My advice for starting any DIY during COVID-19 is keep it within your abilities. The last thing you want is to be staring at a half-finished project in your home and adding to your stress levels.”

outdoor kitchen and living space

Building an outdoor living space so nice that it could be featured in a magazine spread requires years of expertise.

Outeriors specializes in taking backyard home improvement projects to the next level. We create beautiful outdoor living spaces with fully outfitted luxury kitchens and comfortable lounging spaces that will transform your backyard into a part of the home that provides more fun and function.

If you’d like an experienced pro to handle everything with your outdoor kitchen and living space project, schedule a free design consultation with us.

Please share this post if you found it useful.

See also:

Toronto Sun: Bringing Heart of the Home to the Great Outdoors

Outeriors president Daniel Albo was recently interviewed by the Toronto Sun for an article in their Homes section.

Albo talks about how the demand for outdoor kitchens is soaring as Canadians take advantage of the warm weather to use their backyards more.

Outdoor cooking spaces are also more popular than ever as a post-pandemic world beckons, which means the return of backyard gatherings.

Albo shares his expertise to explain what essentials outdoor kitchens should include, design tips, outdoor cooking space trends, and price ranges for an outdoor kitchen project.

View the article here on the Toronto Sun’s website.

Download the article as a PDF here.

Toronto Sun news story

7 Smart Outdoor Home Improvement Projects That Up Your Curb Appeal

outdoor home improvement projects

Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value report measures which home improvement projects retain the best value over time.

The 2020 Cost vs. Value report determined that nine of the top ten renovation projects that delivered the highest value returns were outdoor home improvement projects.

Homeowners want their houses and property to be something they can show off and be proud of. Investing in the right outdoor home improvement projects can turn an average-looking house and property into something special that can make your home really stand out in the neighbourhood.

Boosting curb appeal doesn’t just have aesthetic benefits, however. Investing in your home’s exterior appearance also enhances your comfort level and adds value to your home that can be recouped to varying degrees whenever you move.

7 smart outdoor home improvement projects

Curb appeal isn’t restricted to only your home’s street-facing features, either. Sprucing up the backyard is also important and we’re seeing more interest in this area of home improvement.

It pays to do your homework about which outdoor home improvement projects pay off and which ones don’t.

Adding a pool, for example, might provide you and your family with many hours of enjoyment for as long as you own your house. Unfortunately, pools have a notoriously lousy return on investment (typically in the 40-50% range). The vast majority of anyone buying a home views pools as the least appealing outdoor feature for a house.

Which outdoor home improvement projects are considered the smartest picks if you want to invest in your curb appeal and retain a higher amount of your remodeling investment?

Here are seven worthwhile projects that will refresh the exterior appearance of your house and add value to your home.

1. A new roof

As you can see from the Remodeling Impact Report infographic below from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a new roof provides an outstanding return on investment.

home improvement projects infographic

A roof upgrade has a huge impact on curb appeal and provides a great return on investment. (Source: The National Association of Realtors)

Not only is redoing a roof a wise investment and great for curb appeal, but it also ranks very high when it comes to the satisfaction of consumers with their outdoor home improvement projects.

The NAR’s “Joy Score” measures the happiness of homeowners with their renovations on a scale of 1-10 and a new roof gets a score of 9.2.

Giving your roof a facelift isn’t cheap, so it tends to be one of those outdoor home improvement projects that get put off for as long as possible. The lifespan of asphalt roofing shingles in Canada ranges anywhere from 15-30 years, depending on the quality of the shingles.

However, waiting to replace your shingles isn’t the kind of thing you want to procrastinate on for too long, as anyone who has dealt with a leaky roof can attest. Even if a roof isn’t leaking, missing and faded shingles, along with other types of roof damage, can present your house in a poor light.

Performing annual roof inspections yourself can mitigate unexpected roofing issues in the future. Look for wind damage that may have caused some shingles to get ripped off or loosened, curled shingles, an excess of missing granules on the surface of shingles, and damage from hail. Ensure your downspouts and gutters are regularly cleaned, as clogs can potentially cause roof damage.

If you can afford it, a roof upgrade project also presents a good opportunity to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency and value. A study by Zillow (a leading real estate and rental digital company) found that homes with solar panels sold for more than homes without solar energy systems.

Some people don’t care for the aesthetics of roof solar panels, which Tesla has addressed with its Solar Roof system. It replaces the large, shiny, and futuristic look of traditional roof solar panels with much smaller high-efficiency solar panels that replicate the look of a traditional shingled roof.

2. Front door replacement

One of the more cost-effective outdoor home improvement projects worth doing is replacing your front entry door. A stylish and modern front door creates a strong first impression to anyone entering your home.

A professionally installed new front door typically falls in the $1,000-$5,000 range. Larger doors that have high-end hardware and include more intricate glass designs will naturally increase the price of the project.

New front doors provide a solid return on investment of around 70-75%. On the most recent Remodeling Impact Report, homeowners who had gotten recent fibreglass and steel front door replacements rated their project a 9.7 on the Joy Score scale.

Steel and fibreglass exterior entry doors are popular with homeowners nowadays because they cost less than most wood doors. Unlike wood doors, steel and fibreglass also requires little to no maintenance.

In addition to aesthetics, one of the reasons given by homeowners for a steel or fibreglass exterior door replacement was energy efficiency considerations. Homeowners also cited security concerns as a reason for getting a modern door that was sturdier than their old door.

If your budget doesn’t allow for getting a new front door, even sprucing up your existing door is beneficial to your home’s appearance.

A fresh coat of paint or stain for your door and upgrading hardware features like the lock, knob, handle, and knocker can make an old front door look brand new. You can also update the door by adding a smart lock system.

3. Adding an outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen on patio

Kitchen remodels are consistently one of the most popular home improvement projects. The American Institute of Architects’ recent Home Design Trends Survey is taking this concept to a whole new level.

45% of the 500 members of residential architecture firms surveyed predict that outdoor kitchen additions will become the most popular type of home improvement project in the kitchen category in the coming years.

Adding an outdoor kitchen gives Canadians who are looking to maximize their time outdoors when the weather is nice with another option when it comes to cooking at home. And when we say “option”, we’re not just talking about using a single grill with a side burner.

Outdoor kitchens are capable of truly bringing the indoors outside, implementing many of the amenities and features of a traditional kitchen into an outdoor cooking space.

A professional outdoor kitchen design company like Outeriors can create a cooking space that is fit for a gourmet cook.

From design to installation, we take care of everything for your outdoor cooking space. Our outdoor kitchens have a sophisticated, high-end look and are designed to incorporate all of the features your cooking needs require. This includes:

A creative and thoughtful touch like adding a nearby garden (or a vertical garden that’s actually right in the kitchen) with fresh herbs and veggies for your meals is also an option for an outdoor kitchen.

4. Adding an outdoor living space

To complement an exterior cooking area, adding an outdoor living space can really help you get the most out of your backyard and connect more with the great outdoors.

An outdoor living room with plenty of comfortable seating and an area for dining al fresco extends your home’s living space.

Backyard living spaces also create an ideal space for entertaining during the warmer months of the year. These attractive benefits are why many buyers of new luxury homes consider an outdoor living room a must-have feature.

Outdoor living spaces can be designed to accommodate all types of budgets and sizes of backyards. A simple design for a small patio or a larger, more lavish outdoor living space design will improve your comfort level while at home.

A talented designer will ensure your outdoor living space and outdoor kitchen blend seamlessly with your existing home’s style and décor.

A few extra amenities worth considering for an outdoor living space are:

  • an outdoor fire pit or fireplace
  • a pergola or retractable awning for sun and rain protection, as well as for privacy
  • an outdoor audio system
  • lighting upgrades for more ambiance and functionality
  • a weatherproof/outdoor TV

5. Home siding or stone veneer upgrade

Appearance-conscious homeowners should consider a siding replacement if their home’s siding has seen better days.

This home improvement project can greatly impact your curb appeal. Compared to siding products from 20-30 years ago, modern siding is a lot more durable, is easier to maintain, and gives you a lot more design options with a variety of profiles and colours.

While the return on investment for vinyl and fibre cement siding is in the 65-75% range, a siding replacement left homeowners who undertook the project very satisfied with a 9.3 Joy Score.

For a different look that stands out from the long horizontal panels used for siding on most homes, you could choose textured shake siding made from engineered wood.

Another visually impressive alternative is to add a stone veneer to your home’s exterior for a distinct, natural look. While it’s not cheap, adding a manufactured stone veneer to your home had one of the highest returns on investment in the latest Cost vs. Value report at 96%.

6. New garage doors

outdoor home improvement projects garage doors

One of the home’s major focal points is the garage doors, which can account for as much as a third of a house’s front exterior. It’s a simple fact that attractive garage doors and strong curb appeal go hand in hand.

While the approximate returns on investment for various renovation projects can vary from year to year depending on trends, new garage doors are as rock-solid an investment as it gets in home improvement for the amount recouped. Year after year, they stay in the 85-95% range for return on investment.

Like front doors, garage doors offer a wealth of styles and customization options nowadays to effectively complement a house’s exterior, in addition to improving the energy efficiency of homes.

An aluminum capping upgrade is a rather underappreciated way to add to a home’s exterior visual appeal, too. Most people aren’t familiar with what aluminum capping is. It involves wrapping a garage doorframe in aluminum sheeting that is colour-matched to the garage doors and home exterior, which gives a house a clean, more finished look.

7. Upgrading or adding a deck or patio

Decks ranked number one among the features wanted most by homebuyers, according to the Homeowners’ Most Wanted survey from Porch, an online home improvement resource.

Their return on investment is in the 70-75% range, with wood decks recouping slightly more than decks made from composite materials.

It’s no surprise that a deck or patio upgrade or addition is usually one of the most popular outdoor home improvement projects in Canada during the spring and summer.

These areas are the foundation of a backyard cooking and living space. Whether you’re working on a tan, cooking for your family or guests, or just relaxing with friends, there’s a real value in having a spacious, comfortable area at the ready in your backyard.

If you already have a wood deck, giving it a little TLC every few years by spending a weekend restaining it can give this part of your home a beneficial refresh. Deck stain applications will last for about five years.

Get started on your outdoor home improvement projects!

Which outdoor home improvement projects are on your to-do list this spring and summer?

If an outdoor cooking and living space is something you’ve always wanted, make this the year your dream becomes a reality.

Request a consultation with Outeriors to start planning your outdoor project now so you’ll be able to maximize the use of your outdoor kitchen and living space this summer.

Please share this post if you found it useful.

See also: