HERMITAGE – Out is in.
“We’re seeing strong demand for fire pits and pizza ovens,” said Eric Graven, owner of Susi Builders Supply, which has a Hermitage store. “People were tired of being locked up in their homes during COVID. They wanted to be outside more when they were home.’
The “going out” trend was among many topics discussed Saturday at the Mercer County Home Show held at the Hickory VFW in Hermitage. The Mercer County Builders Association attracted over 20 vendors for the event.
Outdoor pizza ovens, already popular before the pandemic, exploded when COVID-19 confined many people to their homes. Graven said another factor at work locally is what Graven calls “staycations” — when workers take vacations away from their jobs but stay home.
“Stays are pretty big here,” he said. “And people want to have fun outside their homes, so they started adding things like fire pits and patios.”
Another trend is for people to build smaller homes, said Amber Warner, co-owner of family business Warner’s Homes & Improvements at Mercer.
“We see a lot of people downsizing and building a retirement home,” she said.
And people become attached to ranch homes because it means less climbing and descending stairs, she added.
“We’re also seeing people who want enclosed porches at the back of homes,” Warner said.
Specialist suppliers including Chatfield Watercare & Drilling of Greenville also participated in the event. Matt Harrison, Chatfield’s water treatment manager, said much of the area’s water is hard and often contains iron, making it less suitable for cleaning and drinking.
Water samples at his stand, not intended for tasting, show horrifying examples of water problems. A sample containing iron and other materials emits an odor that turns the stomach.
“It can clog up your entire water system,” Harrison said.
Homeowners looking to hire contractors for renovations, upgrades or additions may encounter obstacles. Like other businesses, the construction industry is hurting for workers, said Tom McCosby, who runs TW McCosby, a building inspection and construction company in Union Township, Lawrence County.
“I don’t know a single person in the business that wouldn’t hire someone right now,” McCosby said as he held his booth.
Those wishing to build a new home now face a stark reality, he added. What five years ago cost $125 per square foot in new construction now costs $200.
“It’s unbearable,” he said.