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There’s Always Room For Improvement – Renovations can increase the value of your home, but also make it more liveable for your entire family
A year of staying home and enjoying stay-cations has created opportunities for many people to renovate their homes, add recreational spaces, install pools and hot tubs, update kitchens and bathrooms, and create office space to make working from home more convenient.
So, while many businesses have been struggling throughout the various government-mandated lockdowns and colour-coded restrictions, home renovation companies and contractors have been kept busy across the Windsor and Essex County area.
According to a report released in October 2020 by TD Bank, 37% of Canadians have made significant home renovations or repairs to accommodate their changing lifestyle during the pandemic.
These renovations also included home offices, learning spaces for children studying at home and home gymnasiums to make up for the fact that many gyms were closed or had limited capacity.
Many people are even re-designing their living spaces, according to Jamie Adam, Chairman of the Ontario Renovators’ Council (the Ontario Home Builders’ Association; OHBA.ca) and President of Pioneer Craftsman Ltd. in Kitchener.
“What was once a dining room, hallway nook or even a kitchen is now a home office, which is causing families to carve out space for themselves,” Adam indicates. “Early on in the pandemic, we saw many inquiries for home office space.”
He adds, “Now, it seems like more and more people are realizing their home needs some personalized space for them to escape the ‘home office.’”
While the final numbers for 2020 are not yet in, Altus Group (AltusGroup.com), a real estate consultancy firm, forecast that home renovation spending would hit $76 billion across Canada in 2020. It would mark a 5.2% drop from a record-breaking $80 billion in 2019, but with consumer confidence rebounding, it’s likely that 2021 will rival 2019 for home renovation spending.
Adam mentions his organization has recorded a 100% increase in calls for additions and renovations year-to-date, with the majority of people saying they need more space in order to accommodate their new daytime needs.
With many children learning from home alongside their work-at-home parents, many families are looking to make spaces they can escape to when the workday is done.
This has led to increased calls for family room/home office additions, interior renovations, leisure spaces, home theatres and outdoor living spaces.
According to Altus, home renovation expenses have risen in all but two of the past 20 years and represent a larger segment of the Canadian economy than new home building. And for the past six years, renovation spending has grown at a higher rate than the overall economy.
In 2019, the most recent year for which these figures have been tracked, Altus estimates $14 billion in new borrowing by Canadian homeowners for the purposes of renovations.
“Regardless of whether people are working from home or not, everyone is realizing the value of home as a safe place where they don’t have to worry about mask wearing, constant hand sanitizing or physical distancing. So, creating a space for families to really enjoy their time at home is more important than ever,” says Adam.
All of which bodes well for the local renovation sector, including a small cross-section of companies identified by Biz X magazine for this cover story. Let’s meet these companies now!
While Alpine Construction specializes in restoration work following fires, floods and other disasters, Owner Lou Savoni says his company has noticed a definite increase in home renovations by people who have been working at home, while saving money on travel and entertainment expenses.
“When you spend months at a time at home, you tend to notice the small things you wanted fixed, but never got around to,” says Savoni, whose son Chris handles project management for Alpine. “Now people are thinking they’re tired of waiting and have decided to get it done.”
He notes there “was definitely an increase in calls during the summer and fall months last year.”
These renovations can include upgraded bathrooms and kitchens, a new games room, a finished basement, an office, or an addition to the house to incorporate more living space.
“Now that people have a better handle on their finances and they’ve gone through a year of the pandemic, we’re finding our phones ringing more often with people looking for quotes, if nothing else,” explains Savoni. “People have saved money from not taking as many trips and they are looking to update their homes instead.”
In Savoni’s expert opinion, he comments that with Windsor’s real estate market very strong for sellers at the moment, many people are looking to renovate their own homes rather than buying a new one.
Swapping out a vanity and sink and changing a tub enclosure can be just as transformative in a bathroom, as updating countertops and cupboards and adding an island can be in a kitchen.
“And the general rule of thumb, when it comes to return on investment, is that kitchens come first followed by bathrooms,” he comments. “You might be renovating for your own use or you might be preparing to sell, so any changes are likely going to help — even a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference.”
According to Savoni, there hasn’t be a huge demand for home offices because he believes most people think they’ll eventually return to their workplace and setting up a temporary office in a spare bedroom is sufficient.
“A lot of people I know miss the engagement with their colleagues and feel that a return to the office is preferable to staying at home where there can be too many distractions,” he says. “It appears as if the novelty is wearing off and most people will return to their workplaces when it’s safe for everyone.”
In the meantime, home renovation projects continue to grow.
Alpine Construction is located at 2645 North Talbot Road in Tecumseh and further details on the company can be viewed online.
Adding a sunroom to a home can create a feeling of being in the outdoors while avoiding bugs, dust and wind.
More people are turning to this type of home renovation feature because they are spending more time at home.
“Creating additional liveable spaces is very popular at the moment and business has absolutely picked up since the beginning of the pandemic,” explains Jenn Gillen whose husband Rod runs Diamond Home Improvement Co. (DHI) along with his mother Janice.
“Early on, people were unsure how long the restrictions would last and we shut down for all of April last year,” Gillen states. “But, now that restrictions have been eased and people are more comfortable having us in their homes, business has been going very well.”
DHI offers three-season and four-season sunrooms made from vinyl and glass with either a slightly sloped roof or an A-frame style tied into the home’s existing roof line with matching shingles.
“The four-season room can be quite cozy even at 20-below and it can be beautiful watching the snow fall outside your windows,” says Gillen. “At our last home, we had a four-season room and we were able to watch the children skating on a backyard rink my husband had built.”
A three-season room, while not insulated against winter weather, can still be used for about eight to 10 months of the year depending upon exterior temperatures.
DHI, which now has 18 employees, was launched in 1983 by Pete and Janice Gillen. The company also offers roofing, siding, windows, doors and Mirage screen systems.
“We like to say we’re one big family that just happens to work together,” expresses Gillen of the company’s employees.
Diamond Home Improvement is located at 6930 Concession Road 6 North in Amherstburg, just 10 minutes out of Windsor.