“Covid-19 has caused a lot of economic hardship, but you wouldn’t know it up here”

“Covid-19 has caused a lot of economic hardship, but you wouldn’t know it up here”

There’s never been a better time to be a cottage-country stone worker, or arborist, or builder, or landscape architect, or carpenter…

The arborist

Pete Cowan, Cowan Tree Services, Milford Bay

“When schools closed in the spring of 2020, people started prioritizing their lake properties, and my phone went crazy. Obviously Covid-19 has caused a lot of economic hardship, but you wouldn’t know it up here. They’re putting in bunkies, hot tubs and patios, and when there are trees that need to be cleared, they call me in: ‘I need it done yesterday.’ They don’t even ask for quotes because they know how much demand there is. A few people even offered to pay extra to get me in sooner.”

The landscape designer

Lexi Dearborn, Dearborn Designs, Muskoka

“I’ve been seeing huge demand for backyard landscaping of all types. Larger budgets and more elaborate projects, too. A lot of swimming pools and hot tubs. It costs up to 30 per cent more to put in a pool than it did a year ago because of increased demand and an uptick in steel and vinyl prices. So you’re looking at $60,000 for a 16-by-32–foot pool. And the cabanas! People are spending more time outside, for obvious reasons, and these things are the size of small cottages.”

The stone worker

Eric Doetsch, Bacher Construction, Dorset

“Business has jumped by 15 per cent, but demand is far beyond that. I’m already booking for 2022. The average patio used to be $40 per square foot; now, people are spending more time up here and want higher-quality stone, so it’s $60. A 200-square-foot patio? That’s going to be a ton of money. A few people have offered extra money to get to the front of the line. If I can’t do it right away, they say they’re taking their business elsewhere, but then my competitors say the same thing, and they come back.”

The painter

Scott Simmons, Georgian Painting Services, Wasaga

“In my line of work, primer is the new toilet paper—next to impossible to get. I’m doing a lot of new builds. With this kind of market, everyone has an eye on reselling. I’ve been on jobs where the property has been sold halfway through the job, and the owner is asking me if I’ll do their new place next. I’ve seen a lot of pop-up painting companies—people who are out of work and figure this is a good way to make money. I always say you get what you pay for, but honestly I’m too busy to worry about competition.”