Business is booming for local home improvement companies and contractors as the pandemic leads prospective customers to spend more time at home and spend less money on vacations.
Paul Warren, who lives on Burningtree Mountain in Decatur, hired ESS Concrete and Design of Decatur to create a larger patio and make a walkway from his driveway this summer.
“It was a project we wanted to have done, and it probably would have been done in the fall,” Warren said. “But because of the pandemic, it sped things up.”
Zac Lott, owner of ESS, said his business picked up substantially two or three weeks after the coronavirus shutdown was ordered in mid-March. He said his work is up 25% because of the pandemic.
“Money is good right now,” he said. “People were going to work, but some are now home all day and are spending their stimulus checks. … The number of high-dollar projects is up.”
He said referrals from other contractors are up, too.
“People are wanting extra parking at their houses so jobs for driveway extensions and patios are up. I’ve even done some work for doomsday preppers,” he said, referring to people preparing for a cataclysmic event. “People have the money and are spending it.”
Industry experts said some homeowners spent money budgeted for family vacations on home improvement projects. Lowe’s Home Improvement Inc. reported a 35.1% increase in U.S. sales in the second quarter of this year compared to the same quarter in 2019.
Houzz, an online home remodeling website, said it saw a 58% increase in project leads in June compared to a year earlier.
Emily Long, city spokeswoman, said the Decatur building department issued 928 residential improvement permits from May through August, 31 more than the same period in 2019.
Wayne Patterson, owner of Smith and Patterson Homes of Hartselle, said low interest rates and the pandemic keeping people at home have increased demand.
“But finding labor and materials has been a challenge,” Patterson said. “I need more carpenters, painters, extra hands. There’s plenty of work in the region. I heard there was a lot of activity in the Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee, area and I drove up there last week to see for myself. In north Alabama, we’re paying about $5 to $6 a square foot under roof for carpenters, and Nashville is paying $10 to $12 a square foot.
“It’s all about supply and demand. It’s hard for builders here to stay competitive with those rates. A lot of migrant workers who were in this area have moved there where the money is better.”
He said his company has a couple of crews of carpenters and painters who are working long days because of demand and the lack of additional crews.
Patterson said supply shortages are also making it hard to meet demand.
“When I am ordering windows, I now order them three to six weeks before I need them because some manufacturing plants are at 30% capacity because of COVID,” he said.