Home Month and Year November 2022 The Rebound is Good

The Rebound is Good

The construction work and reno momentum


For Calgary trades, contractors and renovation specialists, the post-pandemic rebound is happening and it is good.

Despite the many speedbumps, from lowens, supply chain issues, and particularly the past two-plus years of work disruptions, the Calgary construction and reno sectors are in recovery mode and maybe even booming.

“We have seen a steady influx of work across multiple project types, and there is every indication that there is a backlog of opportunity for the future,” says the enthusiastic Bill Black, president of the Calgary Construction Association. “The positives are generally related to the fact that the resilience of the industry enabled an adaptation to the impact of the pandemic that allowed work on sites to continue. The industry was able to maintain momentum and was in a good position to begin responding to the increase in work.

“Even issues related to supply chain and escalation have been adapted to and, while not all owners seem to fully appreciate the nature of global supply chain dynamics, the industry is adapting as far as possible to these realities.”

The far more consumer-driven Calgary renovation sector took a major pandemic hit but is also weathering the speedbumps. And the reno recovery has begun. “The reno industry, like many others during the pandemic, faced a lot of uncertainty, especially in early 2020 when everyone took pause to evaluate how it would impact their lives and finances,” says Danny Ritchie, the respected co-owner and president of Calgary’s Ultimate Renovations.

“Eventually, we came to see many Albertans choosing to invest in renovations, as they experienced a trend to stay-put for both the short- and long-term. With the increased demand came a host of challenges for renovations, ranging from supply chain issues to skilled labour shortages and everything in between. We’ve been fortunate to weather that storm, sails intact, and even collect a few more accolades along the way,” he adds with a warm smile.

Despite weathering the pandemic storm and the positive momentum for Calgary construction, Bill Black explains that a labour shortage is a lingering problem. He points out that most industries are struggling with one kind of labour shortage or another, and the demand for workers exacerbates the problem. “We need government support related to immigration, temporary workers, support to hire new workers and other such programs that will assist in addressing labour challenges.”

According to the recent Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, 82,800 Calgarians were employed in the construction industry, up from 76,300 last year. That works out to a construction sector growth rate of 8.5 per cent, year over year. StatsCan numbers also show that the construction industry is the fourth-largest industry in Calgary, when compared to employment numbers, behind retail, professional services and health care. More than 9.2 per cent of all jobs in the Calgary CMA region are directly in the construction industry.

When it comes to consumer trends about renovations, it seems the past two-plus years have shifted some consumer trends and perspectives. The popular stereotype used to emphasize that “buying a home is the biggest decision” people make. The cliché has been tweaked significantly, especially in the Calgary area, with the big decision being – to buy or to renovate.

Due to factors like mortgage rates, house affordability and inflation, many Calgarians are opting to stay put and renovate their home with personalized lifestyle touches and features.

“As we wrap up business in 2022, and continue to navigate what comes next, we’re seeing reno demand wane very slightly,” Ritchie says. “But this has been a record-breaking year, after all. Many Calgarians who were serious about renovating have initiated or completed projects, and some are now focused on the return of private travel. There are many who are still evaluating their existing space, their priorities and their next move. There’s every indication that the reno industry will stay busy well into 2023 and beyond.”

The upswing of people choosing to stay and renovate their existing home also reveals some changing consumer trends about lifestyle wish lists and expectations. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are the most popular and in-demand renovations in Calgary area. A kitchen remodel with new cabinets, granite countertops, state-of-the-art appliances or a stunning ensuite spa can change the whole character of a home and is proven to add significant re-sale value.

Cocooning for two-plus years have also increased Calgary reno demand for more space. Basements are being converted into home offices, study rooms, home gyms and spacious, open concept family rooms.

“One of the most frequently requested projects we’ve seen over the last few years has been the renovation or addition of an outdoor living space,” Danny Ritchie says from experience. “Having spent so much time indoors, people are yearning to connect with fresh air, and the Calgary area provides the perfect connection. Often done in tandem with the kitchen, our clients love that we can bring their dreams of a cozy outdoor living space with cooking, dining and entertaining spaces to life.

“A lot of our clients are committing to personalization in their renovation plans, rather than keeping re-sale considerations top of mind. In turn, this has led to loads of unique design features and finishes in our projects. Clients asking for everything from new custom cabinetry details and lighting technologies to funky bathroom tiles and wild wallpapers in their selections. It’s making from some really great designs and stunning results!” he notes with enthusiasm.

One of the most in-demand features of Calgary renovations, aside from stunning kitchens and decadent ensuites, is flooring. “Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) continues to dominate as the most popular flooring choice for its cost, durability and its look,” Ritchie  says. “We’re also seeing lots of creativity in hardware, wallpapers and tiles, where we used to see simpler selections. One thing for sure, gone are the days of basic subway tiles.”

Compounding the pandemic impact on then reno sector and the suppliers of lumber and other building materials, supply chain issues and delays were a double whammy. “We are finally seeing a return to pre-COVID supply chain issues,” says Chris Dupont, manager of Calgary’s popular TimberTown Building Centre, “although there are still some products that have extended lead times. All things considered, we’re seeing a return to where we were in 2019.”

“The renovation sector has undoubtedly been affected by supply chain issues,” Ritchie points out. “While we’re fortunate with a great network of industry peers doing their best to meet the demand, we have had to adapt our own timelines and processes as well. Our clients have certainly been patient and understanding while waiting for appliances, furniture and other materials.”

When it comes to some new trends, Dupont notes a shift in the past few years towards vinyl flooring and more and more people converting their decking to composites.

But there’s no doubt about it,” he says. “With the higher interest rates and the housing market instability, I believe many people are staying in their current house and upgrading as needed.”

The post-pandemic momentum is also positive for Calgary’s recovering construction sector. “The BMO project is proceeding with a lot more work needed to complete it,” Bill Black says. “Arts Commons is going to provide some great high-profile work and the potential of the Red Deer hospital will likely engage some Calgary interest. Not to mention that we still hold out hope for a Calgary Event Centre project.”