Home improvement projects hot locally during pandemic

A Dayton Daily News analysis of building records suggest there has been a larger increase in permits specifically for additions, new decks, patios, garages, accessory structures and home remodeling projects.

Montgomery County Building Regulations this year has recorded 352 permits for residential alteration and addition projects in Dayton, which is up 3.2% from all of 2019. Permits for alterations and additions this year far exceeds the total for all of 2017 and 2018 combined.

The analysis did not count projects that clearly state they seek to repair fire, storm, tornado or other kinds of damage. The analysis also excluded solar panel additions, new home construction and projects stating they were for nuisance abatement.

The coronavirus has dramatically altered everyday life.

Many people have worked from home for months and aren’t sure when or whether they will return to the office.

Restaurants, bars and recreation and entertainment establishments have reduced operations for safety reasons and to comply with social distancing requirements. People simply have fewer things to do and places to go.

Chameleon Architecture in Dayton has seen an uptick in residential remodeling requests, even though the company typically serves nonprofit groups, commercial and retail clients and religious congregations, said Chip Williamson, the firm’s principal.

Most of the work has been for additional bedrooms and home offices, but some people want larger living spaces or to convert their basements into entertainment areas, he said.

The firm even received a request to create a “school room” in someone’s home.

With people spending so much more time at home, they are noticing things they don’t like and want to change, especially when it comes to working spaces, Williamson said.

Some rooms have poor noise separation. Some homeowners are learning their bedrooms don’t really work as offices and they want to change up their properties and try something new.

Williamson said he thinks the “new normal” of working from home likely will continue even after the pandemic ends.

After an initial slowdown at the onset of the pandemic, Cincinnati-based RWA Architects Inc. has seen an increase in business partly due to COVID-19, said Michael Mauch, the company’s principal.

Clients have inquired about new homes, additions and remodeling projects, Mauch said, and some people say they need a quiet space at home to work and get away from the kids.

“They said they are working from home and staring at their four walls 24/7, and now that they are noticing, they wanted to make a change,” said Mauch, who also serves as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Cincinnati chapter representative of the AIA Ohio Board.

Patio projects were fairly popular this summer. So were porch additions.

Some homeowners have invested in their yards so they can have a comfortable outdoor space where friends and family can spend time together while staying safe and social distancing.

With winter approaching, some people are realizing they will no be able to lounge outside like they did all summer and they want new sun rooms or three-season porches or patios, Mauch said.

The problem is, he said, many contractors and sub-contractors are booked through the next nine to 12 months.

“Most are too late for this year. They need to get in line,” Mauch said. “We see no reason that the residential work load is going to slow down.”

Home improvement retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s reported robust revenue and profit growth in the second quarter of this year, during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders and lockdowns.

Lowe’s President and CEO Marvin Ellison said the company’s more than 20% sales growth could be attributed to consumers focusing on improving their homes and shifting discretionary spending away from other places.

Many consumers cancelled vacations and trips this year and decided to splurge on fixing up their homes.

Home Depot saw sales increase more than 23% from the second quarter of 2019, which some observers and news agencies credited to consumers investing in their homes.

Multiple people interviewed for this article said their home improvement projects were delayed because contractors have been so busy and COVID-19 has led to disruptions in the supply chain for materials.