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Home Sweet Home

The pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of home improvement spending and professionals in the industry see no sign of slowing down in 2021.

As the year comes to a close, many people are spending the holidays in a home that looks a bit different than it did a year ago. Perhaps there’s a new roof over their head, an updated kitchen, a deck or pool out back or just some fresh paint on the walls—all projects completed during the pandemic.

The home improvement industry saw a year like none other. While others felt the repercussions of the pandemic’s effect on the economy, contractors and design professionals were being hired to make homes more comfortable and functional.

The type of work being requested runs inside and outside the home, but a survey conducted by revealed deck construction, landscaping and fencing saw sharp increases. Experts in the industry have said the pandemic’s impact on the industry has been surprising.

“We’re going through and finalizing everything from the year and it’s been a pleasant surprise. Much like others, we’ve seen an uptick in work and requests coming in online,” says Stephen Hood, owner of Stonehaven Roofing. “We’re one of the few industries out there that didn’t see a downturn.”

Ken Poole, president at ProGreen Central Florida (formerly Artificial Artisans), a synthetic turf installation company, says many of their commercial projects were put on hold and still are, but the uptick in homeowner requests was massive. “After the first two months of the pandemic, we saw three times the amount of leads. Instead of spending money on a vacation, people wanted to make their home as lovely as it could be while staying there,” he says.

The fact that many projects could be explored or completed while still safely social distancing also made a difference. Hood says technology like Zoom means he can theoretically sell and install a roof without ever having to meet the homeowner in person.

“We had to adapt and ride the wave of the technology that was available and still provide excellent service but do it in a way that made people comfortable,” he says.

Connie Emerson, president of Royal Landscape Nursery, says the six-acre outdoor garden facility helped people feel safe while shopping. “Because our business is one with Mother Nature, people felt comfortable being outside, in the fresh air and at a place where it was fairly easy to practice safe social distancing. We have a place where people could bring their children and enjoy being outside as opposed to staying cooped up inside staring at the walls. We practiced social distancing in the office and encouraged people to call and pay over the telephone instead of coming inside,” she says.

Garden and landscape projects were certainly among the most popular, and Emerson says it became a new hobby for families. “Our products are ideal for people to be able to stay active and stay close to home at the same time,” she says. “Installation is time to spend together as a family or can be a great time alone. Using the opportunity to teach children about plant material (can be a great teaching moment and possibly be incorporated into school lessons) and let them play in the dirt. Planting time can be therapeutic to anyone.”

Emerson says homeowners start small, but over time they get more creative and take more pride in their work, which is good for home values. “I see many homes that have been neglected are now being spruced up and overall we should see an improvement in property appearances therefore (hopefully) increasing property values,” she says. “It will absolutely continue into 2021. [Gardening] can become addictive.”

Products from ProGreen also make time spent at home more enjoyable. “There is very little maintenance with artificial grass. Kids and dogs can run around outside and not track any mud into the house or tear up patches of grass,” Poole says. “It also helps minimize bugs and alleviates allergy issues.”

Technology has made the product look more realistic than ever—not like the turf of the ’70s, he continues. Infills are also being upgraded to help mitigate the temperature of artificial grass. In their new partnership with ProGreen, the company will be able to offer a product called Greenplay, which is made of ground-up coconut husks and cork then used as an infill to help drop the ambient temperature, making the grass more comfortable for bare feet in the summer.

Adding a screen room, pool enclosure or sunroom can extend the enjoyment of outdoor space as well. MD Construction has seen an influx of projects in this arena since the spring as people look for a way to relax outdoors without the worry of insects.

“Especially now, these options add comfort while people enjoy the fresh air while working outside without worrying about insects and pests, and in places where HOAs do not allow fences, it gives kids a safe place to play outside instead of being indoors,” says Megan D’Avila, vice president.

The company offers open-view screen enclosures and rooms, where the openings between pots are larger than the typical bird cage spacing, she says, making it feel more open and not obstructing your view, especially if you live on a lake, pond or conservation area.

“The demand for projects does not seem to be slowing down, especially if interest rates stay low and homeowners can refinance and get the equity out of their homes,” D’Avila says.

The desire to reinvest in their property is what Hood sees driving a good deal of roof work. This year brought a lot of storms and natural disasters that kept the construction industry busy as well. Hood says his company does a lot of insurance claim work and people are using those funds to upgrade to a better roofing system.

“Certain roofs can help reduce insurance premiums, and that’s one reason we’re seeing more inquiries in Florida for metal roofing,” he says. “Metal has a higher wind rating to stand up to Florida hurricanes and weighs less. It will also last longer than shingle or tile roofs—up to 20- to 30-plus years.”

Going into 2021, Hood sees a lot of this continuing. “This year has been one of the largest in contracting across the board nationwide. I don’t see this slowing.”

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s January 2021 issue.