How Coronavirus Has Made Us All Very Handy

Wesley Storey has been documenting on Instagram the home repair tasks he’s attended to since he and his husband, Martin Esqueda, started working from home last month.

They’ve built out shelving units in their attic to create new storage space in their four-bedroom home in Austin, Texas. They’ve picked up supplies for re-landscaping the front yard. Mr. Storey has also repaired tufted buttons from the living room sectional and installed a ceiling fan in the room that’s become their office, where their three dogs like to cozy up alongside them as they work.

“We quickly realized that three computers, three dogs, two humans equals ceiling fan,” said Mr. Storey, an operations manager for an insurance firm. “That was kind of out of necessity.”

For many homeowners across the country, the coronavirus-imposed quarantine has presented an opportunity to head over to the local hardware store and launch a few D.I.Y. projects around the house.

They may be taking on repairs that they’ve been putting off for too long, or they might be focusing on small projects around the house that they suddenly realized needed immediate attention now that they’re spending so much time at home.

Last month, Lowe’s chief executive Marvin Ellison reported an uptick in sales across all store categories, including areas of home improvement supplies.

The bulk of Lowe’s business right now is for critical repairs or home maintenance projects that might help people shelter safely in place, according to a Lowe’s spokesman. Top sales items include: new refrigerators to replace broken ones, door locks and other home security items, and plumbing supplies to repair broken faucets.

But there are also signs that clients are taking on less critical tasks. “In the early days of coronavirus impact, we’re seeing customers engaging in spring projects, buying appliances and using their time at home to work on a variety of projects like these that have been on their to-do list,” the spokesman said.

Local hardware store owners say that in addition to coming in for gloves, masks and disinfectants, people are also buying parts for emergency fixes, like toilet seat covers, and home preservation projects like paints to tackle some easy fixes. While his store has seen a decline in sales and customers, Matt Mazzone, of Mazzone Hardware in Brooklyn, said he had seen an uptick in people purchasing gardening supplies.

“We are selling more seed and seed starter kits,” Mr. Mazzone said. “I think a lot of people are taking the time to grow their own gardens.”

For Nigel Jordan, a homeowner in Denver, sheltering in place has turned his long-planned basement renovations into a necessity.

Mr. Jordan, 40, lives with his wife and six children in a 2,400-square-foot house with two roommates who are friends of Mr. Jordan. At the moment, the three youngest children — ages 5, 3 and 1 — share the master bedroom with Mr. Jordan and his wife.

With all the children home from school and all the adults working remotely from the house, “We’re just trying to keep off each other’s toes,” Mr. Jordan said. Often, he and his wife retreat to their closet, where they can sit down on the floor and “have a glass of wine.”

Renovating their basement, which had been unfinished except for some drywall and insulation, would add about 900 more square feet to their usable space, Mr. Jordan said. Before the pandemic, he had started chipping away at the project and planned to add three bedrooms, a family room and a bathroom.

They recently made a mad dash to pick up supplies at the hardware store: nine doors, light fixtures, electrical supplies, materials for trim work. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the hardware stores busier than I have during the middle of the day on a Tuesday afternoon,” he said.

He’s doing the work himself, much of which he has undertaken on weekends, from about 5 a.m. to noon, before spending time with his family. Now, the pressure is on to get everything wrapped up. He uses about one break a day to steal away downstairs and make even the smallest of updates.

Turns out productivity begets other projects. “Every time I learn something new in the basement, I come back upstairs with a new idea,” he said. Originally, he thought the basement would be “livable” — everything but the bathroom completed — by early April; however, they’ve had to delay the carpet installation by a few weeks. “Maybe I can get cracking on the bathroom while I am waiting!” he said.

In Harlem, coronavirus stay-at-home rules finally gave Sandra Garcia Lowery, 34, the impetus she needed to convert the second-bedroom in her apartment into a home office. For months, she had been staring at boxed-up furniture that she bought — a couch, a desk, white shelves and frames for the wall — but never got around to opening.

Ms. Garcia Lowery, an entrepreneur and founder of Encounter Your Potential, has been sheltering in place since early March. Like many New Yorkers, she had been moving “so fast and furious” before, commuting every day to appointments and attending evening events that often kept her out until very late.

Now, she’s finally opened all the boxes, assembled the various pieces of furniture, rearranged odds and ends she had acquired through the years, and cleaned every nook and cranny.

“I’ve put together a functional space that wasn’t there before,” Ms. Garcia Lowery said. “But the shopper in me is still craving a walk down the aisles of Home Goods for inspiration.”

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