Islanders show and tell their pandemic home improvements

CBC asked people on Prince Edward Island what renovations they'd been doing since the pandemic hit 10 months ago, and why now seemed like a good time to do the work.

'We really had more time not running here and there for kids and pointless errands'

Kent Dunville in North Granville built this treehouse with and for his kids. (Submitted by Kent Dunville)

More people have been spending time at home during the pandemic and doing more work around their houses. 

Working from home and staycationing has caused a shortage in things like home office equipment and patio furniture, and driven up the price of lumber substantially. 

CBC asked people on Prince Edward Island what renovations they'd been doing since the pandemic hit 10 months ago, and why now seemed like a good time to do the work.

We received lots of submissions here as well as on the CBC P.E.I. Facebook page. Here's a sampling. 

(Please note that usernames are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style.)

Kent Dunville in North Granville built a treehouse for the kids, mostly from recycled items. 

"Floors and frame are pallets, siding from friend, the fibreglass roof is a huge '80s satellite dish and even stuff from roadside cleanups like railings and windows," he said. 

Dunville said aside from going to work, the family stayed home all summer, so had time and energy for the project.

"We really had more time not running here and there for kids and pointless errands, we just stayed close to home and did stuff at home and made our own projects to do with kids," he said, adding he loves to teach his kids to build things. 

'We were already planning on painting it but it definitely wouldn’t have been done so fast if not for the pandemic,' says Melissa Gray of painting her mother's house. (Submitted by Melissa Gray)

Melissa Gray said during the summer of 2020 she had plenty of time to paint her mother's house, changing it from barn red to aqua.

"Chef Michael Smith even stopped and told her it looks like a cosy sweater now," Gray said. "We were both out of work for a few months, we were already planning on painting it, but it definitely wouldn't have been done so fast if not for the pandemic." 

Work dried up for Chris Knox's production company during the pandemic, so he took time to build a workshop for his other passion, drum-making. (Submitted by Chris Knox)

Chris Knox owns production company K-Audio, and his work was curtailed as performances and gatherings were cancelled. He took the time to build an enclosed, elevated woodworking workshop in his warehouse with its own electrical panel, dust collection and flip-top workbenches.

"I've put off my custom drum building for the last six/seven years to build up my production company, but now that COVID has put a stop to all concerts and festivals, I plan on stepping up the drum building again," Knox said. 

The Mullen family needed more space to be cosy and attend virtual meetings, so they closed in part of their deck this summer. (Submitted by Heather Mullen)

Heather Mullen of Mount Stewart said her family enclosed part of their deck to create a sun porch.

"We started the project in the spring after we had spent chilly days and evenings on the deck," Mullen wrote. "This room provides a space outside of the main living area to read and play music and attend many virtual meetings."

Anna Keenan had time to tile the backsplash and add new countertops in her family's sunny kitchen in St. Ann. (Submitted by Anna Keenan)

Anna Keenan and her husband did some kitchen upgrades at their St. Ann home including a sunny yellow tile backsplash, new windows and new countertops, a DIY renovation they'd started in 2017 when they bought their 120-year-old farmhouse.

"We know that we are lucky to have not had our jobs at risk when the shutdowns happened," because she already worked from home before COVID-19 hit, Keenan said. But the couple and their young child did have more time and money during the pandemic since bubbling under the same roof with a friend and her child — CBC P.E.I. wrote about that last April.

"With evening and weekend dance classes, public events, leisure activities cancelled, it made it easy to chip away at these long-neglected tasks," Keenan commented. 

Donovan McNeely says his family saved money during the pandemic by not driving back and forth to work, which helped them afford this bathroom reno. (Submitted by Donovan McNeely)

Next to the kitchen, the bathroom is another shared family space that saw more use with people at home during the pandemic, and it's the room Donovan McNeely's family had redone this summer.

"It was the last room in the house to renovate and was one of the most expensive projects," he shared. "We have been waiting a long time to finally get this done!

"It made it much easier to afford since we were working from home. We are rural so it saves a substantial amount on gas with two of us not driving back and forth every day."

He said it did take a few months between booking the contractor and getting the work done. 

Lori S. MacArthur of Charlottetown shows off her nearly-completed bathroom reno. (Submitted by Lori S MacArthur)

Lori S. MacArthur of Charlottetown has almost completed the reno on her family's bathroom, which dates back to the 1970s. 

"Because we will not be travelling this year, probably not for a long time, [this was] a good way to keep busy and put our money to good use," MacArthur said. 

"We both have said this has been a good lesson as far as enjoying home more."

Audrey Gee Arsenault of Wellington used vinyl click flooring on an accent wall 'to freshen up the kitchen from the dated red painted walls,' she says. (Submitted by Audrey Gee-Arsenault)

Audrey Gee Arsenault of Wellington used a washed-grey click flooring to create an accent wall in her kitchen, covering up dated red paint.  

She said with extracurricular activities cancelled due to COVID-19, her family went on fewer outings and restaurant visits.

"We had more cash to spend on renovations and best of all, we had more time to focus on our home. Since we were/are spending more time at home with family, we want to slowly improve it so it becomes more of a cosy and clean sanctuary," she said.

Chelsea Murphy says she and her kids had extra time during the pandemic, so built this backyard fire pit and chairs to better enjoy the outdoors. (Submitted by Chelsea Murphy)

Many people made improvements to their backyards, like Chelsea Murphy, who built a fire pit and some lounging chairs.

"I was off work because the kids were out of school/daycare. We got to spend more time outside, so why not make the yard a better space?" she said.

"As for spending, I was saving lots of money on daycare, so we put it to good use. Like fixing up the yard and buying lots of treats."

More from CBC P.E.I.


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email


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