TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — With more time at home thanks to stay-at-home orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, families across central Texas are tackling home improvement projects, and hardware stores are seeing the benefits.

Dozens of people posted photos and descriptions of the projects they’re working on to KXAN’s Facebook page, ranging from car repair to gardening with the kids to installing a home theater system.

“Painted my daughters room, pulled the carpet and put down new flooring. The master is bathroom is now getting repainted as well,” one viewer wrote. “Trying to be productive while staying home.”

“We moved to Austin about a month ago and my husband FINALLY hung stuff up around the house for me,” another wrote.

The location mapping platform Foursquare has been monitoring foot traffic into different kinds of businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. In its last analysis, published last week, the company found traffic to hardware stores nationwide was up 26% between Feb. 19 and March 20.

“Place has been busier than normal,” a KXAN viewer wrote about the big-box hardware stores he’s been to. Others commenting on the thread decried the crowds, wondering why the stores were open in the first place.

“It wouldn’t be a problem if people were truly there for essential items and not planning a kitchen remodel or garden,” one commenter wrote. Another added: “I don’t think painting your house is necessary at this point.”

A spike in sales

Dave Barker, who owns four Ace Hardware stores around central Texas under the Breed and Co. brand, is seeing an even bigger increase at Spicewood Hardware in western Travis County. “That particular store was up over 50% the past two weeks,” he told KXAN.

The other stores, within Austin city limits and focused more on home decor, have not seen as much business since the outbreak. “People reacted probably more negatively to the shelter in place, and probably took it more serious,” Barker said.

Spicewood Hardware in western Travis County. (Photo Courtesy: Breed and Co.)

But the Spicewood store, he explained, is a more traditional hardware store. That location has sales spike for soil and other garden supplies, “weed-whackers, chainsaws, pole saws. Barbecue is up significantly in that store, so people are cooking at their homes and they’re cooking outside, it appears. Charcoal’s huge right now.”

He attributed the increase to two things: people stocking up on supplies like cleaning products, and also making sure they have what they need to do projects around the house while they’re locked down.

“You don’t want to be trapped up in the house, so outside projects are a great thing to be doing right now,” he said. “I suspect that store is going to do well for some time.”

Barker said they sanitize the store daily and are separating people by six feet as much as they can to increase social distancing. They also hung signs to remind people to leave space.

Risk of injury

Garden and construction projects also bring with them the risk of injury. That’s why the Yale University School of Medicine is encouraging people to skip those projects during the pandemic.

“Now is not the time to end up in the emergency room with a broken bone or worse if it can be avoided,” a doctor recommends.” We want to lessen the load on our emergency room doctors as well as keep you safe from exposure.”