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DIY, pandemic style: home-based projects to do during isolation

Zelda Stevenson, of Aylesford, N.S., says she has finally gotten around to updating her office and has only used supplies she found at home. She challenges others to look deeply in closets, basements and sheds to find materials and come up with some fantastic house projects.
Zelda Stevenson, of Aylesford, N.S., says she has finally gotten around to updating her office and has only used supplies she found at home. She challenges others to look deeply in closets, basements and sheds to find materials and come up with some fantastic house projects. - Contributed

When Lynn Ferguson and her husband bought their new home in Williamswood, N.S., they never anticipated they would have to complete the necessary renovations in order to move in during a pandemic.

The Fergusons took possession of their new house on March 16 and had hired a contractor to start on March 17.

These were not easy jobs, requiring the Fergusons to live with Lynn’s sister for more than seven months until they were complete. Jobs included replacing tile flooring, replacing countertops, plumbing, painting walls and cabinetry, and the list goes on, she says. 

Lynn Ferguson recently purchased a house in Williamswood, N.S. and had hired a contractor before the COVID-19 isolation order was in place. They are managing to complete the work despite the closures. - Contributed
Lynn Ferguson recently purchased a house in Williamswood, N.S. and had hired a contractor before the COVID-19 isolation order was in place. They are managing to complete the work despite the closures. - Contributed

Not long after the renovation work began, provincial isolation orders were put in place due to COVID-19, and store closures started.

Ferguson says shutdowns have impacted their renovation work in several ways. First, they had to reselect tiles for the floor as the ones they had chosen were on a truck waiting to load onto a ship in Italy a couple of weeks ago. Then, they had to reselect countertops as the chosen ones were made in a plant in Quebec, which shut down.

Their hired contractor has faced delays picking up supplies due to delivery delays, and is restricted to pickup times, and unfortunately, had to lay off his helper so is now working alone.

Through it all, Ferguson says they can maintain the rules of social distancing.

“We do not work together with the contractor, and we try to leave 24 hours between the times either of us is working in the house to reduce possible survival and presence of the virus,” she says.

But, with lots of time on their hands, they are making it work.

Ferguson is not the only one who is using the time to concentrate on home renovations and DIY projects.

As Clarence Sullivan of Calvert, N.L., says, there is always something to do around the house from small projects like fixing birdhouses or lose doorknobs, paint touch ups and more. A carpenter by trade, Sullivan says he is happy to have some extra time on his hands because he is normally working 12-hour days. Now, he says, he can finally get to some of his own projects like building an extension on his garage.

Alicia McMullen, of Murphy Lake, N.S., is also using the isolation time to do major house renovations. They are working on a complete kitchen and laundry room renovation. 

Alicia McMullen of Murphy Lake, N.S. is using new-found time in isolation to completely redo the family’s kitchen and laundry room. For any needed supplies, she recommends making a list and a plan in advance before visiting a store or ordering online. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
Alicia McMullen of Murphy Lake, N.S. is using new-found time in isolation to completely redo the family’s kitchen and laundry room. For any needed supplies, she recommends making a list and a plan in advance before visiting a store or ordering online. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

They had planned on these renovations in the future but decided to begin early as the weather was nice and having her husband home has allowed the time and energy to begin such a large undertaking, says McMullen.

Fortunately, the McMullens already had a lot of supplies from previous projects they could use, and for everything else, they went to Kent Building Supplies with a list.

“We went to the service desk to order the wood and was able to pick it up outside,” says McMullen. “Having a list prepared in advance made our visit in the store quick and efficient.”

Brad Doyle has a similar M.O. when working on his St. John's, N.L., home. After purchasing his house five years ago, he had been slowly stockpiling supplies when they went on sale, working on projects during evenings and weekends. Now, being laid off from work, he has the time to devote to house projects. 

Brad Doyle, of St. John’s, N.L., was previously completing house projects on weekends and evenings. Now that he’s laid off from work, he can more actively devote his time to renovating his rec room. He advises fellow DIYers to not take on projects that are too big to handle. - Contributed
Brad Doyle, of St. John’s, N.L., was previously completing house projects on weekends and evenings. Now that he’s laid off from work, he can more actively devote his time to renovating his rec room. He advises fellow DIYers to not take on projects that are too big to handle. - Contributed

Like McMullen, Doyle uses the curbside pickup at Kent, ordering online, and uses a list.

“Normally, I would just make a run out and get things as I needed them, so if anything, the current situation has forced me to become a bit more organized so I get everything I need in one delivery,” says Doyle.

Others, like Zelda Stevenson, of Aylesford, N.S., aren’t ripping out or building walls, but working on updating rooms. After more than a decade of saying she was going to redo her office, Stevenson took the time to colourfully update the space, using only what she had at home.

“I was surprised by how much stuff there was crammed here and there!” she says. “I used what I found in the house and what I did not use is packed up for charity when this is over.”

Local businesses across Atlantic Canada are noticing this trend, now known as “Isolate and Renovate.”

Brianna Flood, director of marketing and advertising from the Spring Valley Building Centre in Kensington, P.E.I., says because a lot of people are spending more time in their homes, they are becoming inspired to embrace home projects, both big and small.

Most popular projects, said Flood, involve paint, whether it is for a dresser, a room, or kitchen cupboards.

“It is a great way to keep busy and positive during these uncertain times.”

For those at home working on projects, other renovators have offered some sound advice:

  • call ahead to your store with a list to see what regulations are in place.
  • Borrow tools or supplies from friends – maintaining your distance.
  • Get advice by calling your local store or contacting them through Facebook; ask a friend; or watch YouTube videos.
  • Use apps, like one from Benjamin Moore called colour portfolio, to help you choose paint colours if you cannot personally ask an expert.
  • Try to select projects at home that you do not have to go get supplies for, like cleaning your garage, or using countless craft supplies.
  • Don't tackle anything you may not be able to handle as a lot of professionals have reduced hours or shut down and won't be able to help you if you get over your head.

Be safe.

As Sandy Daniels of the Annapolis Valley, N.S., who is busy redoing furniture, says, “my advice to anyone bored, missing their families or feeling isolated, is to find something they like to do to keep busy!”

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