What to Expect If You Are Planning a Home Renovation During COVID-19

Being stuck at home during a global pandemic has resulted in many homeowners wanting to enhance where they work, live and play. Houzz, an online home remodeling platform, reported in its Q4 2020 Renovation Barometer that the construction sector has had its strongest business activity since 2018. Whether it is putting an addition on, renovating the kitchen or investing in outdoor spaces to extend livable space, there are a few important realities you will want to consider before committing.

It May Take Longer Than Expected

Supply and demand are a challenge for certain products a result of both increased construction activity and factory shutdowns due to COVID-19. Reports indicate that some homeowner projects have been put on hold due to delays in getting materials and appliances; while shipments of major appliances were down 7% year-to-date in June 2020 suggesting lower demand earlier in 2020, it appears that demand grew quickly during the second half of the year, placing greater strain on supply.

Those working on outdoor spaces saw the biggest increase in demand, with availability for pool and spa professionals taking three times longer than a year ago. Some pool and hot tub companies are booking contracts into late 2021 and even early 2022

Homeowners looking to put in a new deck will see delays as contractors have seen more than double the demand on outdoor projects. Products seeing even longer lead times include granite and stone countertops/backsplashes as well as lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures and windows, due to limited availability of raw materials and shipping delays for products coming from overseas.

Site-safety protocols can also affect project timelines. For example, if you are renovating within a high-rise condo or co-op building, you may run into restrictions on having a certain number of workers per square foot. This may prohibit a project manager from having two separate contractors on site simultaneously, which delays progress.

Be Prepared to Compromise on Materials

Based on delays in obtaining products and materials, homeowners may need to be open to alternatives in order to move a renovation across the finish line. For example, some primary roofing distributors are currently limiting the colors offered on their roofing materials due to lack of production and staff. 

Need appliances? With a national shortage in play, you might have to compromise on selections to minimize delays. Being on lockdown equated to the perfect storm of people cooking more meals at home and therefore an increased number of broken appliances and a growing discontent over their kitchen surroundings; resulting in a desire to completely remodel and do other home improvement projects. With many kitchen renovations relying on measurements of appliances, ordering these first is probably a good start.

Prices May Change

If you are amid a home renovation project, you have probably already heard the news: the cost of lumber has soared to record highs. Per Engineering News Record, a leader in construction industry news and trends, average lumber prices have surged more than 48.3% from December 2019 to December 2020 due to a combination of the pandemic, tariffs, disrupted supply chains and a surge in remodeling and new home construction due to low interest rates. Generally, the price from a supplier is good for 30 days; however, in these times of uncertainty, things can change quickly. According to Bloomberg Markets, “Lumber prices typically hit a lull in December, but not this year as lean inventories and strong building demand forces buyers to pay up.”

Don’t Overlook Insurance Considerations

Should you decide to push forward with enhancing your home, it is always a good idea to notify your insurance advisor of the changes being made so they can help you to avoid renovation pitfalls. Significant improvements to your home also can leave you underinsured. In addition, be sure to hire a licensed and insured contractor and/or architect; hiring contractors who lack the correct amount of insurance coverage can leave you exposed.


Milissa Malloy is an assistant vice president and strategic valuation & quality assurance manager, Chubb Personal Risk Services



The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.