Whether it is because homeowners suddenly have time to tackle their “honey-do” lists or are reallocating funds originally earmarked for vacation, outdoor living projects are on the rise this year amidst pandemic fears, updating fencing and deck railings among them.

A surprise uptake

It hasn’t been smooth sailing all year, however. Many industries such as hospitality have been hit hard by closures due to the spread of the global coronavirus (COVID-19), but around home renovations, especially outdoor projects, some say the increased activity has been surprising.

“Back when everything got shut down, it had us all panicking and asking, ‘what is the future going to hold?’” says Andrew Pantelides, vice president of sales and marketing, at aluminum railing company Regal Ideas. “But our team has been steady with quotes, with people wanting inventory. It’s just unbelievable.”

“Knock on wood.” He suggests e-commerce and online research have been a major contributor to a continued outdoor building product uptake during the spring.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what people are going to spend, but what we are seeing is that homeowners — the ones that did have that reserve to go to Mexico or the Bahamas or to do that annual trip — are now spending that money and saying, ‘how do I make my outdoor space more enjoyable because I’m going to be here for a while.” 

Good fences make good (socially distant) neighbours

At their heart fences and railings are security and safety products and 2020 seems to be reinforcing that. Even the concept of social distancing may be driving interest in fencing and railing projects.  Carlos Pacheco, president, Nuvo Iron says his company has been seeing fencing and decking product purchases on the rise during these unprecedented times.

“With people being a little more paranoid around security and social distancing, they’ve been looking at using fencing and railings to support that,” Pacheco suggests.

“I think people are finding there’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, early on there were hoarding issues, it all planted a big scare in people, and they looked at their own security and their home security.”

Proof of this, he notes, is that there’s also been a tremendous surge in gate hardware upgrades. “Homeowners are looking at their hardware and asking if it’s good enough.”

Helping homeowners cope with forced staycation

With travel restricted even in many cases to cottage country, many Canadian homeowners are looking at how to invest in their backyards to enjoy the summer however they can.

“I think the spending, the focus will be home, and really tight to the home proximity,” Pacheco says. “A staycation this year is an actual staycation — it’s not going to Muskoka (Ontario). This is the first time in a period of our history, that is really making people think their home renovations through a little bit more.”

Photo courtesy of Nuvo Iron

Rick Churchill, sales specialist, Liv Building Products, agrees. “People are home and looking at projects, projects they’ve been thinking about. There are lot more decking orders going through, composite decking. He also notes that “enquiries around glass railing systems, our bread and butter, is out of this world at the moment.”

He says contractors need to position themselves in their local markets with whatever marketing is available to create buzz around their abilities in the outdoor building space. The big question, of course, on everyone’s mind is whether there will be a second wave of the virus and how that would impact renovation jobs. For now, though, the time is ripe for outdoor projects.

Glass railings for the win

Once primarily of interest in cottage country, more homeowners in both urban and rural areas are looking to glass railing systems, like Liv Building Products InvisiRail. In fact, Churchill notes that the system has begun migrating into the home where it can provide safety around stairs or second floor overlooks but helps extend an open-concept design. Outdoors, he says property owners are using a mix of tempered glass to create a view with frosted glass on the sides to create privacy. “InvisiRail is one of the only glass railings on the market that can span 6’ between posts without a top or bottom rail, so the moment you sit down you don’t get that railing to obstruct your eye-level view.”

Photo courtesy of Liv Building Products

Nuvo Iron recently added two Aluminum Deck Railing Kits for Glass to their portfolio. The line, the company says, creates a clean, modern, open concept space outdoors. The kit supports 24×42”, 36×42” or 42×42” tempered glass inserts and is available with black or white top and bottom rails. Mixing and matching of materials continues to be prevalent as homeowners look to turn their outdoor living spaces into more creative and unique showpieces, Pacheco says.

Glass and lighting systems are the top trends this year, Pantelides adds. He says Regal’s railing system is a component system, giving it the versatility to add glass to systems installed years past or to create various combinations of glass and aluminum. Combing LEDs with tempered glass, his company’s CrystalRail is gaining popularity, he says.

Photo courtesy of Nuvo Iron

A look ahead to 2021

In 2021, Pacheco predicts there will be a push for new colour pallets and choices and new shapes in the yard. “I think what everyone wants is to hit the fast-forward button on 2020. Folks will want a fresh start in 2021. I wouldn’t even call it speculation.” —