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Construction slump a boon for home renovations

The continuing slump in the building trade and high rates of unemployment among construction workers mean that skilled labour and materials are readily available for home renovation jobs.

Remonttimies poraa.
Right now, before the start of the summer season, it is easy to find professionals on short notice. Image: Kalle Mäkelä / Yle

February's unemployment figure for construction workers in the Vaasa region was at close to 26% and firms specializing in renovations these days have thin order books. Many can provide homeowners with electricians, plumbers and other skilled professional at short notice.

"With a bit of luck you can get a plumber the same day, but generally it takes two or three days to get a skilled professional," says Mikko Forsell of the heating, plumbing, air-conditioning firm Peten Putki in Kokkola.

The situation is more or less the same at the carpeting and painting service Matto- ja Maalauspalvelusta Sandkvist.

"A worker would be available first thing at the start of next week, if not before. Since November, we've had one employee laid off. Last summer was the worst of my 30 years in the business," the company's CEO Jari Sandkvist told Yle.

Can't afford to refuse

Mikko Forsell says that in these hard times his six-employee firm has to take anything that comes along.

"There is really stiff competition for big jobs, so it is the small ones that make the difference. And, on short jobs of an hour or two, one does a lot of things like dealing with stopped-up toilets and leaky pipes. At least you get yourself a good reputation when you take on the small jobs," Forsell points out.

Although unemployment in the building trade follows a seasonal cycle, over the past few years it has remained consistently about two percent above the long-term average year round.

However, prospects for the summer season are looking brighter. Homeowners planning on getting spring renovations done would be wise to book the needed professionals soon. By May, many smaller companies could well be too busy to take on new clients.

"We've already contracted to paint two blocks of flats, so things are looking surprisingly good," says Jari Sandkvist.

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