Like many people during 2020, Kelley Weninger spent her time updating her home. And like many people throughout history, she first started with a general contractor who wasn’t exactly doing what she wanted.
Weninger works for Lee Company as a strategic account manager for larger customers like hospitals. She and her fiance bought the home in the Willow Springs neighborhood in Franklin last summer. They knew it needed some sprucing up, both because parts of it felt dated and because they wanted to make it their own. After struggling to get her kitchen remodeled in a timely fashion with a contractor who was subbing out most of the work, she decided to use Lee Company’s home improvement services to get the work done.
“We were able to pick up the phone and call them if we needed something or if something changed we could easily find or track down who was working on what,” Weninger said. “That was important because sometimes with a general contractor you’ve got to hunt them down and they’ve probably subbed the job out so they’ve got to contact that person. That scenario just did not work particularly well for us.”
Weninger said her family also plans to renovate the master bathroom as well as some smaller projects like updating the dining room.
“There’s a lot more to do, but we really knocked out the big one with the kitchen,” she said.
Alli Thompson with Lee Company said that while not all families were looking for big upgrades like a kitchen remodel during the pandemic, many did things like put in additional plugs to accommodate working from home or having kids home doing virtual school work.
“We definitely saw a spike in redoing home offices,” Thompson said. “As far as our home services group, we weren’t really sure what to expect when the pandemic hit. What ended up happening at first is that people were a little scared to have people in their homes. Luckily we have some technology where we take pictures of things, and so first we were doing a lot of that.”
According to a survey from NerdWallet in August of 2020, more than 60 percent of homeowners said they updated their home during the pandemic.
“The pandemic probably generated a lot of repair and rehab projects, for a couple of reasons,” NerdWallet’s home and mortgage expert Holden Lewis said. “First, homeowners were present to supervise the work or do it themselves. Second, people seized the chance to fix up their homes before listing them, preceding skyrocketing home sales in late summer.”
Lewis said the COVID-19 pandemic also changed how homeowners felt about having contractors and sub-contractors in and out of their home. More than half said they wouldn’t allow home repair or improvement professionals in their home due to safety concerns about the coronavirus, according to the September survey. About 80 percent said later on that they’d just be more cautious than usual due to safety concerns about the coronavirus.
Thompson said later on in the pandemic, and now that vaccinations are ramping up, Lee Company’s home improvement division expects more people to call about bigger builds.
“Some might’ve held out for a bit, but now folks are a little bit more ready to redo a whole bathroom or bedroom,” Thompson said.
Weninger’s kitchen remodel was a complete rebuild — they took everything down to the slab. They moved plumbing, pulled up floorboards and “started from scratch.”
“I thought, you know, we’re both working from home right now during COVID,” Weninger said. “So we just jumped in.”
Weninger’s favorite feature in the kitchen is the island — a large block that includes a farmhouse sink and can be used as dining space or to prepare food. It faces into the home’s great room so she can still chat with family or watch TV while cleaning up. The cabinetry for the island is stained a more natural wood color while the ones on a back wall are painted white. The kitchen looks upscale, but also feels comfortable and like a space that can be lived in. It also features an appliance wall, which neatly tucks away the refrigerator and oven.
Weninger worked with a friend who is an interior designer to create the look — details like the white subway tile lining the wall or the elongated cabinetry or copper hood over the stove.
“Lee Company worked with exactly what we chose,” Weninger said. “So we picked everything and they would just install it exactly as we wanted it. We would give them drawings and know we would get back what we asked for. The whole process, working with a friend to design it and then guys that I knew from Lee Company getting it done. It made it comfortable and easy and it’s now a service I know works from personal experience.”