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.

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