It’s a busy spring season for construction, whether it’s major renovations or even small projects like Matt Cavaco is doing at his home on the corner of Woodruff Avenue and Robinson Street in South Kingstown.
“I want to do this project in April so that I have time for myself during the summer and it is important that it is done now with my son who likes to run,” Cavaco said recently as he and a few friends were nailing boards. into posts to create a fence for her two-year-old son, Callan, and the family’s pup, Lennox, a Golden Doodle.
The U.S. Coast Guard petty officer stationed at Point Judith is originally from South Kingstown and returned in 2020 with his wife, Jackie, and purchased this two-story home that had no fence for the family that they are melting.
Cavaco said he’s also doing interior work this spring, like painting and other needed repairs.
In Narragansett, James Doyle, who goes by the name of Handyman Jim, is a home improvement contractor doing small to medium sized jobs. Those in demand this spring include sanding cabinets, painting, setting up a new bathroom, and installing trim.
At a Narragansett home, he hung a barn door and finished it off with a tongue-and-groove board for an outdoor deck.
“I wouldn’t say there’s been a slight impression that the pandemic has subsided, but there’s certainly been very stable work that hasn’t faltered. People still need to do things. They’re not waiting to do it,” said Doyle, whose company is based in Scituate but does a lot of work throughout South County.
Investing in home improvements, whether done by do-it-yourselfers, small contractors, or large builders, is something homeowners are spending more money on this year than last. Project costs range from a few thousand dollars to over a million dollars.
The main reason: working from home and relocating to a more preferred southern county environment for many out-of-state residents. Big spenders want to be on the coast near the ocean in Rhode Island, so many second home owners are renovating to make these places their primary residence.
Whether it’s total renovations or small jobs, people push to make the most of the land. This is partly due to the tightening real estate market and rising interest rates, forcing many homeowners to stay put and improve what they have.
Industry analysts have said 2021 is a big year for home renovations due to the extra money that was accumulated unspent during the pandemic. This trend in 2022 continues. Home renovation spending is expected to rise 9% in the first quarter of this year and then continue to rise 8.8% in the second quarter.
According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, Improving America’s Housing Report, the home improvement market reached $281 billion in 2021 and is expected to continue growing next year.
Jeff Sweenor, owner of Sweenor Builders, which builds and remodels custom homes, said most of his work is high-end and “calls for a full dowel casing or rollover.” These are really complete renovations” for those coming from out of state for newly purchased homes or remodeling those already owned.
“There’s a new paradigm – we have a beautiful place to live in Rhode Island along the coastline and we’re welcoming a lot of people who haven’t lived here but want and COVID change work to allow them to work at home,” he said.
He noted that he is tearing down a house for a CEO from California, but who has roots in Rhode Island, so he can now work from home in Narragansett and maintain a small lodging on the West Coast.
David Whitney, vice president of Davitt Design Build, Inc., in West Kingston, said his company was also doing expensive total renovations for people wanting permanent residence in South County.
“Since the pandemic hit – let’s say mid-2020 and now all of 2021 and into 2022 – we’ve seen a lot of New York, Boston and people from elsewhere come to their second homes because they have the option to work from home. , ” he said.
“We see people not coming back, but staying here,” he added.
Mike Virgilio, owner of Virgilio Builders in Narragansett, said while his work also focuses on work-from-home transitions, he also does small-scale work for those looking for minor modifications for a more practical style of work. .
Additionally, the tight housing market is also increasing the number of people living in houses, he said.
“We are seeing a lot of renovations to accommodate more people and larger families in the house. They need places to work, places for the kids to go, more basement space, just extra space,” he said.
Demand also means some contractors aren’t starting or expecting to complete small jobs for several months. And Rhode Island isn’t the only state seeing an increase in home renovations and improvements.
Oklahoma, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas could become major hotspots for that, housing analysts say.
Trends this year
Some trends for home improvement projects in 2022 include the need for people’s current spaces to become a touch of everything.
It’s a place to work, attend virtual classrooms and entertain guests while socially distancing, while still being a cozy home with nooks for well-deserved privacy, according to a report on Bobvila.com, a site overseen by the television building personality Bob Vila, formerly of the “This Old House” series.
Environmental issues have also taken root in the American collective consciousness as more intense weather patterns and changes in the cycles of nature begin to affect daily life. As a result, some homeowners are looking for more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and techniques for their homes, according to Vila’s report.
Some of these trends are also following in Rhode Island, as seen in the frequent shopping patterns of DIYers, contractors, and others shopping at local hardware stores.
Rob Ferraro, owner of Jerry’s Hardware in Narragansett, said lawn and garden supplies are the top sellers this year in addition to outdoor living needs, which include gas grills.
“It looks like people here in South County want to get together with people again as well,” Ferraro said. He noted that traditional annual home repairs and maintenance still bring a steady stream of customers, especially since the pandemic when people are spending more time at home, especially for work.
“They look at the wall and say, ‘It would be nice to freshen up the paint,'” he said with a laugh.
Echoing big builders, he also sees more do-it-yourselfers, with new customers accounting for about 30% and the majority coming from out of state, he said.
These builders and lumber companies in the area say project costs are rising due to delays in the arrival of materials for projects. These delays, whether due to shipping, manufacturing, or other causes, are called supply chain bottlenecks.
An idea for this problem came from Bob Gillette, estimator at Arnold Lumber in South Kingstown. He reviews home construction plans from builders and gives quotes on what will be needed to construct the skeleton of the home which includes a complete weather-tight exterior shell.
“We are seeing supply chain issues due to the pandemic for window, door and roof truss manufacturing,” he said, adding, “The (delivery) lead time tripled there. is a year old. This makes planning work for a builder very, very difficult.
For example, he noted, in the past, orders were made to manufacturers as work was done and items were needed. Now they have to be ordered as sketched on a plan so that they arrive on time,” he said.
This can create a problem, however, when site-specific modifications are needed and also “if a framer makes a mistake, they’re in big trouble,” Gillette said.
Whether the buyer is a do-it-yourselfer or a contractor, they also face higher prices this year.
“A lot of materials have gone up in price – decking, railings, kitchen cabinets as well as shipping that has gone from four or six weeks to over 12 weeks to arrive,” he said.
He also noted the increases in the variety of materials provided by lumber stores for building a house.
“In April 2020, for a first home that would involve the exterior shell, roofing, siding, windows, it was $30 per square foot. It’s now $50 – a 66% increase,” he said.
That kind of lumber and installation cost is what prompted Matt Cavaco to erect his own fence and enlist the help of his friends Vin Mancini and Jeremy Marcantonio.
He priced with a fencing company his work which included labor, wood, nails and cement.
“They wanted $20,000. I’m doing it for $5,000. They don’t know when they might. I live in a busy area and need to lock up my son and my dog at the moment,” he said.
Beyond just wanting the job done immediately – rather than waiting weeks for a contractor to be available to do the job – he also believes in sweat equity in DIY work. .
“It feels really good to be working on something that I actually own. I’m putting equity into something for the future,” he said.