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Looking for DIY home reno projects during pandemic? Leave big jobs to experts

Lumber is stacked at the Home Depot store in Londonderry, N.H. on July 11, 2019. Home renovation projects may start to look tempting to people cooped up in their houses during the COVID-19 pandemic.But while minor cosmetic changes are easy enough to tackle, experts say it's best to put any major projects on hold, at least for now THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charles Krupa
April 09, 2020 - 1:00 AM

Home renovation projects may start to look tempting to people cooped up in their houses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while minor cosmetic changes are easy enough to tackle, experts say it's best to put any major projects on hold, at least for now.

"Things like electrical and plumbing, those should always be left to the professionals," Steve Dawson, the owner of Dudley's Hardware in Toronto, said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.

"And for anything that's not a serious issue, that can probably be put on hold for a bit."

Dawson, who's owned the store near the city's downtown core for more than 10 years, suggested simple projects like painting or gardening for anyone who's itching to get to work on their homes.

A fresh coat of paint, or a brand new colour palette, can do wonders for any room, he said.

"It's something that's fairly easy to do, you can take your time with it and you don't need a lot of experience," Dawson added. "It's about just beautifying your space because you're bored staring at the same walls.

"We have a lot of customers coming in because they're having to be do video chats for work and they don't like how they look in front of certain colours, or they're realizing maybe it's time to fix that big plaster mark on the wall behind them."

Dawson had to make changes to his shop over the last few weeks to accommodate social distancing measures.

Customers are no longer allowed in the store, with a small pick-up window being used for orders instead. He asks customers to call ahead with their orders and avoid paying with cash, and his employees are wearing face shields to keep themselves safe.

Those kinds of changes are the norm now, especially in Ontario where all major hardware stores have adopted to pick up or delivery only. Some stores are also limiting their hours nationwide.

Canadian Tire's website was down Wednesday morning, with a message saying: "Due to these unprecedented times, we are experiencing a higher than normal volume of traffic."

While Dawson said Dudley's has not yet been inundated with order requests, he expects an uptick as the pandemic continues.

Things like paint, painting supplies and gardening tools have been his big sellers lately. Dawson said that's typically the case around springtime, but he suspects the coronavirus outbreak has played some role.

"People are starting to think about things like gardening and growing their own food, especially now," he said.

Peter Lippert, a Toronto plumber with Newbridge Plumbing, said there are many reasons to hold off on large projects during the pandemic, with the most important being safety and avoiding unnecessary trips to the hospital.

Lippert also cautions people to be aware that professional help, if needed, is in short supply.

"My advice for starting any DIY during COVID-19 is keep it within your abilities," Lippert said. "Many contractors and trades people are still open but only for emergency services, so if you need someone to step in and fix what you've started, you may have trouble scheduling someone.

"We also all want to make sure we are limiting the number of people that are coming in and out of our homes, so if you need to bring in a contractor, make sure it is essential."

Ensuring you have the supplies you need before taking on a project is also important, Lippert said, stressing that having to order in certain items "could take months."

"The last thing you want is to be staring at a half-finished project in your home adding to your stress levels," he said.

Dawson says DIY projects don't need to be stressful and wants people to remember that some home-improvement tasks can offer more benefits than just sprucing up your surroundings.

"People are starting to get a little squirrelly being shut inside and seeing things that need to be fixed, and there's a lot of therapy when it comes to sort of freshening up and making your space more homey," he said.

"Things like gardening, painting, they can go a long way in providing some mental stability."

Just be sure you know what you're in for, Lippert warns.

"Keep it simple. And avoid touching the kind of things that could do damage to your home."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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