When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred and everybody was confined to their homes, many took the opportunity to improve the spaces they were spending so much time in. From DIY room transformations to complete home renovations, building supplies for home improvement projects were suddenly in high demand across the country and especially in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Mike and Danielle Nelson were still in the design phase with Architect and Principal Owner, Chancie Keenan at Mountain Architecture when the construction industry and the rest of the world came to a screeching halt last March of 2020. “When the pandemic started, we probably should have held off on execution until after the long term impact was known.” Danielle recalls. With many unknowns ahead, but with the support of Keenan and their contractor, Brent Bessey with Steamboat Building Company, the Nelsons decided to press on with their home renovation.
“It became obvious that the pandemic was not going away, and soon the entire industry – contractors, suppliers, architects, owners – were scrambling to come up with creative solutions to keep our projects moving forward,” recalls Keenan.
The first big blow they noticed were significantly higher excavation costs than anticipated, and they were just getting started.
“Then the pandemic was in full throttle and we started seeing price increases and supply shortages. Everything was sitting on ships off the coast of California.” Danielle explained.
Even for experienced homeowners and building professionals who know what to expect and how to prepare for the worst during a renovation project, no one could have foreseen the potential long term effects the pandemic had on the building industry. “My sister had gone through years of renovations, so I had asked her what to expect. She was very candid that it would take twice the amount of time and twice the estimated cost. Of course, no one could have predicted COVID-19,” Danielle shared.
The Nelsons had purchased their current home five years ago and even in 2017 “you had to choose between location or move-in ready; you couldn’t do both. We chose location,” Mike admitted. Similar to the neighboring structures, all built in the 80’s, the Nelson’s house appeared as an idyllic, d-log cabin-style home from the exterior. However, the floor plan and interior aesthetic fell short in areas that were important to the owner’s contemporary preferences.
“The previous house was so ill planned with zero sense of entry,” Keenan describes. “We conceived an inviting entrance that draws you into the open living spaces and provides functional every-day areas. We’re most excited about the giant window openings we’ve created to capture breathtaking views of Spring Creek, Buffalo Pass and Emerald Mountain.”
Despite the hurdles this project has faced due to the pandemic, there were other challenges that needed to be addressed, even in a normal building year. The log construction presented unique design challenges that would require additional expertise from the engineers at Steamboat Engineering & Design; Jake Mielke, Principal Owner and Project Engineer, Sam Samlowski. The team came up with structural solutions to increase window openings and raise interior beams which were paramount to capturing the incredible views across the valley and the open floor plan the Nelsons had wanted.
One year later, the Nelsons are crossing their fingers for a new projected move-in date of Christmas 2021, which is triple the amount of time from their original estimated completion date. The Nelsons have endured much more than the average renovation project, yet have remained hopeful that the investment in their dream home will pay off for future generations of their family to enjoy.
“Our initial reaction was frustration, but eventually you need to only worry about what you can directly control. In this case there was no point in wasting emotion on it,” Danielle reasons.
Currently the building industry is still experiencing a shortage of supplies, increased costs of materials and a shortage of labor, resulting in the delay of building materials as well. Keenan notes that a home that previously took 12 months to complete, now has a timeline of 6-8 additional months as a result of market and labor volatility. “It’s extremely frustrating for everyone involved, but at the same time we’re all experiencing the effects of the pandemic which has created a sense of solidarity throughout the industry as well as with our clients,” she says.
Now, rolling with the punches and a long project punch list ahead, the Nelsons are still looking forward to the luxury of a covered garage through long Steamboat winters and hosting family and friends on their new deck in the summer of 2022. Mike and Danielle Nelson are not the only homeowners in Steamboat experiencing these hurdles, but their story is a positive perspective for anyone going through similar struggles with their home renovation during this unprecedented time.