Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A playhouse Catlin Bartman built for his two kids in Calgary this summer.

Julie Bartman/Courtesy of the Bartman Family

After a few months of being house-bound with a very bored six- and seven-year-old, Catlin Bartman decided to take matters into his own hands and build something that would be a welcome distraction for the kids – and him and his wife, Julie.

Julie gave him a photo she’d found on Pinterest, a playhouse complete with a trap door and ladder to a spacious loft. He scoured websites and YouTube videos for ideas, bought the building materials and spent two months this summer completing a project that is an envy of his Calgary Pump Hill neighbourhood.

“I wouldn’t have been able to take this on if I wasn’t working from home,” says Bartman, 34, who works in oil and gas. “Doing the work myself saved us thousands of dollars and was mental therapy for me.” The mechanical engineer has always been handy, but never had the time to let his inner do-it-yourselfer go a little wild. “Now I’m planning on building the kids a hockey rink in the backyard with LED lights embedded in the ice,” he says.

Story continues below advertisement

Bartman isn’t the only one whose DIY impulses have kicked into overdrive during the pandemic. A recent report from Toronto-based real estate consultancy Altus Group estimated Canadians will spend about $25-billion on DIY projects in 2020, which is approximately 30 per cent of the $75-billion home renovation market.

Instead of discretionary dollars going to restaurants, clothing (aside from comfy casual) and travel, thousands of Canadians are investing in wood, nails, drywall and power tools to take on projects around the house they finally have time for.

And a wellspring of DIY videos on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, and their accompanying comment threads, are making the jobs easier and more accessible for this army of everyday folks who want to make their homes more comfortable, save money, and perhaps most important, feel like they’re accomplishing something at a time when COVID-19 feels like it’s brought the world to a standstill.

“Once I’ve showered and am ready to go for the day, I want to feel purposeful, with COVID even more so,” says Lisa Mihalcin, a recently retired legal assistant in Thunder Bay, Ont. with two grown kids. “We’ve been talking about replacing the deck on the back of our house for years. So I went online, watched a couple YouTube videos, and hit the lumber store. It took me a couple of weeks to finish the job.”

Lisa Mihalcin working on the deck she built in Thunder Bay.

Handout

She bought 16-foot boards, replaced old wood pickets with aluminum ones, and screwed it all together with a new tool her husband, Al, surprised her with. “He came home with an impact driver, which was very exciting,” says Mihalcin.

Do-it-yourself used to be a male domain, but this new vibrant virtual community – which includes blogs (the Home Depot’s is popular), websites and community forums such as doityourself.com and hometalk.com, Instagram sites and YouTube channels (two popular Canadian offerings are MySelfReliance and Home RenoVision DIY) – is replete with valuable do’s and don’ts. More important, it’s levelled the playing field and given women like Mihalcin the confidence to strap on tool belts.

“YouTube is kind of my extended family,” she says. “I’m asking questions to everyone who’s out there listening. I put what I’m looking for out to the masses and get all the best answers.”

Story continues below advertisement

One guy who seems to have all the answers is Ottawa-based Jeff Thorman. His YouTube channel, Home RenoVision DIY, has 10-million viewers and 1.3-million subscribers.

Jeff Thorman has huge following on Youtube for his DIY videos.

Michelle Thorman/Handout

Since COVID-19 hit, Thorman has seen a 20 per cent jump in traffic. “It’s a little weird. We did a live show a week ago [on LED lights] and we were taking calls from South Africa, Ireland and Japan,” he says.

A contractor for 15-plus years, Thorman started his channel four years ago after he identified a market niche that wasn’t being fulfilled – practical, easy-to-follow tutorials for people to fix up and take care of their homes.

The age demographic for his YouTube channel is 24 to 45, millennials and Gen-Z’s for whom online research is the norm. Thorman does 110 videos a year and his viewership numbers are staggering. For example, a video titled How To Paint Like a Pro garnered 4.7-million views, How to Install Drywall has 4.2-million viewers and How to Build a Shed A to Z, 4.8-million.

“It’s never a problem to come up with subject matter,” says Thorman. “It’s the world of renovation, so it’s endless.”

When 26-year-old Megan Judges realized she needed to reconfigure her 10-by-20-foot bedroom so she could work from home, she, too, went online to figure out how to build a desk. The Queen’s University business grad, who works at Capital One Financial in Toronto, read up on how to glue plywood together (for the desktop), what waterproof materials are best to cover that surface (contact paper, which she triple wrapped) and how to install desk legs.

Story continues below advertisement

It took her a weekend to complete it, cost her $200, and now she and her roommate each have separate “home offices” in their 800-square-foot apartment.

“You do your first one [DIY project] and you’re a little bit nervous,” says Judges. “But then you have the confidence to go onto the next thing. Now I’m feeling inspired and thinking about installing a slider for my keyboard. It’s good therapy during these really strange times. It’s also kind of empowering – not to mention, a little bit addictive.”

Mihalcin, in Thunder Bay, can attest to that. Since the deck overhaul, she’s moved on to some bathroom renovation work and is currently refinishing some furniture in the garage.

She says the work is a respite from the general craziness of a COVID-focused world. It’s a movement, she adds, that seems to fit with the current trend to take pleasure in doing things the old-fashioned way, like baking sourdough bread or making preserves.

“For me it’s relaxing and gratifying,” says Mihalcin. “It’s like going for a walk to clear my mind.”

Sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, beauty and design, and follow us on Instagram @globestyle.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies