Home Improvement Spending

Across the world, homeowners and renters alike are rolling up their sleeves and finally “doing it themselves,” as COVID-19 continues to keep many of us home and socially distanced. Whether it’s upgrading a showerhead or redecorating the bedroom, American’s love for DIY projects during the COVID-19 lockdown has made quite the economic splash, with companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot reporting banner years despite the economic hardship felt across most of our economic sectors.

In fact, over three in four (76%) homeowners in the United States have carried out at least one home improvement project since the start of the COVID pandemic, according to a survey from Porch.

So what have homeowners and renters been able to build, renovate, or repair on their own? And what projects may have been more than they bargained for? We surveyed over 1,000 homeowners and renters and asked each to share their home improvement efforts since COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020. If you think your own space could use a little fixing up, you’re not alone. Keep reading.

Home Improvement at a Glance

The first part of our study explored just how popular home improvement projects have been recently among homeowners and renters. Respondents shared which projects they had undertaken and how well (or poorly) those projects turned out.

There’s certainly some good news in this data: Most people are taking on home improvement projects and it’s usually going well. Ninety percent of homeowners and even 78% of renters had taken on some type of DIY home renovation project in the first half of 2020. Moreover, more than half of both homeowners and renters enjoyed the fruits of their labor when they gave it a shot: 64% and 63% of their projects went well, respectively. Success, it’s worth noting, was also determined by the respondents’ own satisfaction with the job done, and only the people who said they were “very satisfied” were considered to have completed a successful project. So, 64% and 63%, though large portions, represent just those who were overly satisfied.

Bathroom repair was priority number one for most DIYers. Renters, owners, and millennials all tackled the bathroom first. Though, interestingly enough and despite differing project priorities for each generation, levels of success appeared to improve with age. Evidently, YouTube can’t replace life experience. Baby boomers were most concerned about their bedroom decor (25%), while millennials were more interested in the aforementioned bathroom upgrades and repairs.

We would be remiss not to mention how frequently gardening surfaced as a project of interest for respondents. Perhaps you’ve been starting a garden of your own or have been noticing a social media feed full of proud plant parents? Either way, a whopping 72% of renters said they had success when installing or enhancing some type of garden to their property. The reward of this effort likely grows (pun intended) during a pandemic: Since we’re required to spend so much time at home, a little nature might sound even nicer than it normally would. This unprecedented consumption of planting and gardening materials has even led to a 30% increase in the sales of plant food.

Painting was also a common project that seemed easy to execute, judging by the 57% of homeowners who rated it a success. The popularity of painting projects are also reflected in the market; some companies, like Sherwin-Williams, saw their stock gaining 26% in value over the last three months and are enjoying great market success against a dire economic backdrop.

Refurbishing furniture might be one project best left to the professionals, unless you know what you’re doing. Homeowners said this was their least successful endeavor: Only 17% of those who attempted it thought it turned out well. Furniture is often expensive, so the stakes are particularly high. Moreover, there’s a high degree of functionality required – even one small error can defeat the purpose of a particular piece. If you’re looking to try furniture upgrades yourself, respondents might suggest you consider a professional first.

Spend It Yourself

After looking at just how often people are working on their surroundings – and after noticing the corresponding market success – we wanted to know what was happening to the wallets of each DIYer. Were they spending inordinate amounts to get the job done? And which projects were costing them the most?

Even though do-it-yourself home improvement seems like the cheap_er_ option, it isn’t guaranteed, especially if a project requires the experience of a professional. Building and installing home features like cabinetry or shelving, for instance, cost respondents an average of $767, while painting the exterior of the home themselves left respondents out $512. Even something seemingly straightforward like deck and patio repair cost about $450 to complete. To finance these projects, more than half of respondents had to dig into their savings, and 31% had to put the expenses on a credit card. Even some stimulus checks went toward DIY bills.

Millennials spent more on DIY projects than any other generation studied. Unfortunately, our study also showed that this group was the least likely to be successful in these endeavors. Baby boomers, on the other hand, spent only $359, while Gen X spent just $290. Evidently, experience buys you not only success, but better savings. We previously saw that baby boomers were most often tackling bedroom decor, which, in this instance, was costing respondents an average of $221. Decor is also a lower stakes game than something like a toilet or sink upgrade, so perhaps it’s a good place to start if you’re thinking of improving something in the home.

Renovation Motivation

Respondents are clearly getting to work on their homes, and markets are responding, but where is all this motivation coming from? Of course we know that COVID-19 has more than a little something to do with it, but we wanted to know what exactly was urging respondents to pick up a hammer or bag of soil so often.

Social distancing mandates were the most common motivator. In other words, 55% of people were inspired to start projects just by sheer virtue of being forced to look at their surroundings more than they’re used to. However, that wasn’t the only reason why people chose to do projects during the COVID-19 lockdown: Mental health and pure enjoyment of DIY were among the top three motivators.

The financial benefit of home renovations was also a common motivator for 1 in 3 homeowners. Roughly a quarter of respondents were looking to sell their homes within the next five years, although 69% foresaw a problem with doing so because of the pandemic. For those who planned to stay the course with selling their home, their strategy had to be adjusted due to the pandemic’s effects. The most common of these adjustments was to wait until the pandemic ends and attempt to sell the home then. Another 33% wanted to see what happened to the market before making a decision about what to do, and a small 4% canceled their plans to sell altogether.

DIY Life

The results of this study showed some of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 lockdown. For many, months spent stuck at home became productive times for home improvement. And by the results of these projects, homeowners and renters are pretty handy: Over half of those who took on DIY home improvement projects were successful!

If you are looking to get started on a project of your own, whether it’s because you want to increase the value of your home or simply because you’re spending more time there, don’t forget to do the research and pick up the necessary supplies! You can often find 10% off Lowe’s coupons on the eBay marketplace for online or in-store usage- which can add up to big savings. Additionally more niche home improvement online only e-commerce stores sometimes have sitewide promotions. For example, you can find Zoro promo codes ranging from 15% - 25% off sitewide periodically. Whether you’re taking on a bathroom repair or need a bedroom upgrade, you can utilize CouponFollow to browse thousands of online discounts and start saving money on your DIY project today.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,013 people who reported doing a DIY home improvement project during the COVID-19 lockdown starting in March 2020. Anyone who did not undertake a DIY project since March 2020 was disqualified. Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76. The average age was 38 with a standard deviation of 12 years.

Of those we surveyed, 56% were millennials, 28% were from Generation X, and 10% were baby boomers. Other generations were excluded from our analysis due to sample size issues but were included in non-generation-specific assets. Seventy percent of our respondents were homeowners, and 30% were renters. Forty-two percent of respondents identified as female, and 58% identified as male.

Survey data has certain limitations due to self-reporting that include, but are not limited to, the following: telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. Data were not weighted and hypotheses were not statistically tested for significance, as this was a purely exploratory look at home DIY spending during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Fair Use Statement

It’s clear that our respondents have had some experience in the home improvement department. If you know someone who is also looking to improve their surroundings, you’re welcome to show them the findings of this study; just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page to provide proper credit.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Founder and CEO, CouponFollow
As the Founder and CEO of CouponFollow, Marc has a passion for helping consumers save time and money while shopping online. He’s been a bargain and deal hunter since the early 2000s.