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Australians used the lockdown to finish home renovations – here’s how you can join them

By Ben Jusufi

Australians have powered through their home renovation plans in spite of the pandemic.

In fact, the housebound life encouraged many home owners to brainstorm ideas and start DIY projects.

Online renovation community Houzz’s recent survey of 2200 Australians found 62 per cent soldiered on with renovations after the pandemic was declared in mid-March. One in four home owners put their plans on hold, while only 2 per cent cancelled mid-project.

Houzz ANZ managing director Tony Been told The New Daily that Stage Three restrictions forced home owners to think outside the box. “Many [renovators] adapted to the new environment by offering virtual consultations or 3D floor plans [and] those who continued working on site took all necessary protective measures to keep homeowners and workers safe,” Mr Been said.

Houzz’s survey also revealed that 75 per cent of home owners added new renovation projects to their wish list, with most eyeing off outdoor, kitchen and bathroom refurbishments.

‘No problems’ completing projects despite lockdown

Brisbane’s Jenny Conaghan is one such home owner who persisted with her dream renovation. Her family planned a complete kitchen overhaul in September last year – encompassing new wooden cabinetry, marble finishings and an island tabletop. Construction was slated for April and everything was expected to run smoothly. But then followed a short panic because of the pandemic, before Ms Conaghan realised the project could still run to schedule.

“We were sent an email by our renovators that there’d be no holdups because they followed social distancing and would always use hand sanitiser,” Ms Conaghan told The New Daily.  She said her husband’s new working arrangements also came in handy. “We had to more or less be the project managers, so we had to be on-site when the plumber and other tradesmen came in and when the cupboards were delivered, so it was good he was always around,” she said.

The before and after of Jenny Conaghan’s full kitchen renovation. Photo: Supplied

Renovation numbers soared as families stayed home

Anne Ellard, kitchen designer at Kitchens by Kathie (who worked with Ms Callaghan), told The New Daily she expected inquiries to taper off through the pandemic.

To her surprise, the complete opposite occurred.

“It was probably our busiest period of the year,” Ms Ellard said. “I guess people had more time on their hands, weren’t travelling away as much and had more time to consider projects they previously put off.” Abiding by the coronavirus restrictions also taught her business lessons that will continue to help in future, she said.

“We had to make sure our clients felt comfortable and that was through having continuous communication with the on-site team,” she said. “And using Zoom to communicate remotely also taught us we could help clients finalise their design and choose materials and finishes from the comfort of their home.”

Spending on furnishings climbed as restrictions eased

Houzz’s findings support recent analysis from fintech company Zip and Commonwealth Bank that revealed spending on household furnishings and equipment boomed in the latter stages of the lockdown.

Zip’s Weekly Spending Index, which analyses the spending activity of 1.8 million Australians, found outdoor home improvement purchases soared 201 per cent in the week of May 18-24. Spending on trades services – including electricians and painters – lifted 30 per cent. Meanwhile, CommBank’s June Household Spending Intentions Series found retail spending was expected to rise 6 per cent in May, based on consumer behaviour patterns. The bank’s economists said a significant portion of that spending could be driven by household furnishings and equipment.

Houzz’s guide to renovating amid COVID-19

  • Use virtual consultations: More renovators are using Zoom calls and online walkthroughs to showcase their work. They can also instruct how to take accurate home measurements without needing an in-person consultation
  • Improve open areas: If social distancing is difficult to maintain due to room sizes, focus on projects where 1.5-metre breaches are less likely (i.e. open-plan kitchens, backyard, home exterior)
  • Plan before hitting the tools: Renovation projects usually take six months from ideation to construction. Use the stay-at-home time to find ideas and consult professionals (designers, landscape architects)
  • Double check official advice: Concerned about being caught out by public health rules? Check Department of Health websites to see what work can be undertaken at home, and whether professionals can be allowed in the home.


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