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Ordered to stay home, many Charleston area residents made home improvements

It seems one sure way to get people focused on things they would like to change or improve in their homes is to tell them they can't leave, for weeks.

Debra Wilbourne already had a long to-do list before the coronavirus stay-at-home orders came down, because she and her husband were getting ready to move from one house to another in Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm subdivision.

"It's amazing what you can do with a little extra time throughout the day," she said. "The extra time came from not commuting every day, not sitting in traffic while doing errands, and cutting out most errands."

So, out came the old linoleum floor in the bathroom and in went the tile.

Debra Wilbourne

Debra Wilbourne of Mount Pleasant applies grout to a new tile floor in her master bathroom Thursday, April 30, 2020. Brad Nettles/Staff

Fencing was repaired, screen porch slats were painted, brick work was repaired, downspouts were replaced and the yard got nine pallets of sod.

"The grass is doing fantastic because we were home to water it," said Wilbourne, who has also been working from home. "Staying busy has helped keep our minds off of things we can't control."

Wendy Thiel bought a small house on Isle of Palms three years ago, but hadn't had time to make some desired improvements because she often travels internationally for her job as a distribution sales manager for an adhesives company.

With air travel shut down and stay-at-home orders in place for weeks, she seized the chance to make changes while also working from home.

Thiel's happy with the results, and so are the three Great Danes that share her 1,200-square-foot home: Elsa, Gus and Cali. 

“I created a dog park for my dogs, so they have part of the yard and I have part of the yard," she said. “This whole project involved building a set of stairs for them to get into the yard, and a fence to separate the yard."

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Wendy Thiel

Homeowner Wendy Thiel of Isle of Palms used antique doors and a trellis to divide her yard into space for herself, and for her three Great Danes. Brad Nettles/Staff

Thiel said the yard was so overgrown when she bought the house that it was hard to tell there was a yard. Now, in the part of that's not reserved for her dogs, she's created a personal oasis with 10 palm trees, antique gates set in a newly built trellis, pavers and a hammock swing.

Also, lots and lots of flowers and a potting shed. 

"I figure my yard will be all done and beautiful in time for a party after the lockdown is over," Thiel said on May 4. "While I am lucky to still have work, others aren’t, so I have been trying to hire those who have lost a lot of contracts over this time."

Home and garden stores have been busy during the coronavirus restrictions, as people across the nation focused on things they could do at home, from starting vegetable gardens and learning to bake bread to tackling improvement projects.

Michael Enright on Isle of Palms said he turned his garage into a Jiu-Jitsu gym and has been training his four kids there daily.

Rick Jess, in Mount Pleasant, built a fence to hide his heat pumps as well as garbage and recycling containers.

"Now we have something to paint!" he said.

Some have found new hobbies and new ways to enjoy their homes. Others had unexpected time to chip away at to-do lists, like Wilbourne's.

She and her husband were able to start packing and decluttering for a summer move much earlier than planned.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

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