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Renovation projects on the rise in Black Diamond

An increase in building permit applications and customers shopping for building supplies stems from a growing interest in renovation projects as residents are faced with more spare time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From left, co-owners Matt Wagstaff and Ryan McKay with Robbie McKay, previous owner, in front of RONA in Black Diamond. (Wheel File Photo)

The sounds of air nail-guns and Skilsaws are becoming frequent in Black Diamond as more residents tackle home and business renovation projects this spring.

A steep rise in building permit applications and customers shopping for building supplies in Black Diamond’s hardware store is the result of a growing interest in renovation projects as residents are faced with more spare time due to temporary job layoffs and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The customer count in RONA increased by 43 per cent so far this month compared to 2019, said co-owner Ryan McKay, marking the busiest May for the hardware business since it opened its doors in Black Diamond 12 years ago.

“People are home so they have extra time to work on those projects they’ve been putting off,” he said.

Although RONA initially cut back its store hours in response to physical distancing regulations implemented by the provincial government in March, an influx in customers had McKay and partner Matt Wagstaff deciding to return to the store’s regular hours within two weeks.

“We’re definitely busy,” he said. “We thought we were going to slow down but we picked up more than we thought.”

With residents pursuing such projects as building planter boxes, decks and fences, McKay said materials in highest demand this month are lumber and soil.

“Supply and demand is becoming somewhat of an issue, especially with soil,” he said. “We’re selling out of soil and we have shipments coming in every week. It’s hard to keep up with the demand.”

In addition to keeping up with the increased demand, staff have more on their plate as they comply with physical distancing regulations and ensure customers do the same, said McKay.

“We have rules in place,” he said. “When it gets to a certain amount of people we have them line up outside the store.”

McKay said Plexiglas barriers have been installed at the checkout counters to protect staff and a wash basin has been placed at the entrance to encourage customers to wash up before touching merchandise.

“Most people have been patient, understanding and are good at social distancing for the most part,” he said. “About 90 per cent of the people who come into our store wash their hands. People are doing a pretty good job of self-regulating themselves for COVID-19.”

Business has also picked up for Black Diamond planning and development officer Denice Stewart.

She said the Town issued 12 building permits the past two months compared to five during the same time period in 2019.

“There has been a crazy increase in building permits, to be honest,” she said. “I also have six to nine inquiries a day with people asking how tall can my fence be? How do I find out where the property line is? What are the rules for cutting down trees? Before, I had just a couple inquiries a day.”

Permits issued by the Town have been for such projects as additions, flowerbeds, fencing, roof extensions and decks for both residential and commercial properties, Stewart said.

Although the municipal office is closed, people can make an appointment to meet with Stewart to discuss their projects by calling 403-933-4348.

Tammy Rollie,

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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact
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