How the UK has changed their homes during lockdown
25th February 2021
The coronavirus outbreak has seen hundreds of changes to normality across the UK and most of the world meaning many of us have had to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and make changes to our everyday lives accordingly. For those with mobility issues and the people that rely on aids such as stairlifts and disabled baths – 2020 and the start of 2021 have been a struggle without the normal support from the likes of family, carers or helpers and friends.
However, one thing that has been a silver-lining for many is the extra amount of free time that people have enjoyed. This free time has given many the opportunity to make the much-needed changes and adaptions to their homes that they may not have otherwise found the time to look at. The Government aided these changes by making a selection of grants available to those who need it most, one of these being the Green Homes Grant.
The Green Homes Grant offers the homeowner up to £5,000 to make adaptations to their homes that ensure the house is more energy efficient. This grant has allowed many to make the required changes.
With additional time at home and access to financial aid such as the Green Homes Grant, the UK have sparked their creative juices and as such, the past year has seen a huge rise in DIY home makeovers and changes, garden renovations and home improvements.
This article delves into the homes of the UK between March and October to uncover what adaptations have been most popular over the lockdown period. By looking at search trends and comparing them to 2019, the data gives an accurate comparison on which search trends have been the most popular, how they have increased due to lockdown and what this has meant for houses across the UK.
REVEALED: How the UK has changed their homes during lockdown
Looking at a selection of home-related search terms (a search term is a phrase used to describe a word or phrase someone enters into a search engine) that are focused on decorating ideas, ‘how-to’ guides and a selection of other hand-picked terms for the period between March and October 2020 (covering the first two UK lockdowns), the search terms were collected and then compared to the same terms from 2019 (also from March to October). The terms were split up into three sections to allow us to evaluate them cohesively:
- By Area – this allows you to see search terms organised by the areas of the home.
- By Type – this allows you to see search terms that have been added into type categories (how-to, ideas etc)
- By Category – this section allows you to delve a little deeper and take a closer look at specific categories, for example, patios and decking, design and general inspiration.
Categorising these terms meant they could be analysed by the monthly data to see which areas are being searched for the most and compare this to other search areas. The data was also grouped into years to give us a clear depiction of how these online searches compared in 2020 to 2019. The interactive tables allow the user to filter their search choices to see a detailed pie charts, line graphs and overall search volumes for their preferred term.
2019 vs 2020
NOTE: Hover over data to see volumes and % increase year on year.
Before delving deeper into what specific home improvements were most popular during the first two lockdowns in the UK, let’s uncover whether searches for home improvement terms had risen in 2020 compared to 2019.
As you will see from the above dashboard, the study found that there were nearly 17 million total searches for home improvement terms between March and October 2020 compared to 9.2 million for the same period in 2019. It’s clear from the data that home improvements were at the front of many people’s minds with searches for home improvement terms up 83.8% in 2020 compared to 2019.
An increase on the previous year was seen across each month in 2020, with a large spike in searches between April and June during the first national lockdown. May saw the biggest difference with a 172.5% increase – there were more than 2.8 million searches made compared to just over 1 million in May 2019!
Click here to view the raw data for the home improvement search terms study. Here you will be able see all the different keywords included in the research and be able to filter the data to look at specific search terms.
The search terms
NOTE: Hover over an area, type or category to highlight associated keywords. Click on area, type and/or category to filter keywords.
We analysed a selection of search terms which fall under the home-improvements umbrella and offer an insight into the improvements, renovations and changes the UK public have made in their homes in 2020.
Presented above are all of the search terms analysed, colour coded to accompany their chosen area, along with their search volumes. Take a look at the top 10 search terms by 2020 number of searches on the right-hand side to get a detailed idea of what search terms were most popular from March to October. By hovering over the interactive table you can take a look at the search terms individual search volumes and the increase in searches year-on-year (YOY).
Top 10 DIY search terms in 2020:
- Bathroom ideas (1,021,000 searches)
- Garden ideas (979,600)
- Bedroom ideas (935,500)
- Kitchen design (587,000)
- Diy kitchens (553,500)
- Kitchen ideas (527,000)
- Small garden ideas (488,800)
- Small bathroom ideas (450,100)
- Deck ideas (403,200)
- Hallway ideas (288,400)
Search terms by area of the house
NOTE: Select an area to highlight associated data. Click again to remove selection. Select type and/or category to filter data.
The bathroom is an area of the house that people use every day but may neglect when it comes to decorating and updating, other than essential upgrades such as installing mobility aids such as walk in baths with showers to help with independence. With a lot of extra time during lockdown, updating our bathrooms and washing areas became a little more doable.
From the data above, you can see that 2019 saw a large volume of searches for bathroom-related keywords with 1,990,890 (21.6% of all DIY-based searches we evaluated), this makes it the second most popular ‘area’ searched for in 2019.
Compared to the number of searches in 2020, it is clear to see that, although the bathroom doesn’t now occupy a quarter of all searches, it has risen to a staggering 3,252,580 searches. In fact, in June we saw a 139.6% increase on searches from 2019 to 2020.
The bedroom is a space that may be overlooked when it comes to decorating due to it being a secluded and personal space. However, over the lockdown period, it is apparent that many gave their bedrooms a bit of a makeover, whether it is their own, their children’s or a spare room.
Although the search volumes may look low compared to other rooms, 2019 still saw 1,026,580 searches across the period examined, making up 11.1% of all DIY searches between March and October. 2020 however, saw another huge increase due to the coronavirus and various lockdowns. The biggest change was seen in April when searches jumped up 218.8% compared to 2019, with 1,825,100 searches from March to October, 10.8% of the total searches evaluated.
It is clear by the figures that bedrooms were a relatively popular area of focus for those looking to update their home over the lockdown periods.
With the first lockdown spanning the spring months and restrictions continuing into the summertime, many of us spent a lot of time in our gardens trying to make the most of the good weather. This influx of sun and time spent outside also saw people take the opportunity to spruce up their outdoor spaces a little, which is reflected in the data found regarding garden keywords.
Searches in 2019 for garden-related keywords were already high and make up the largest chunk of the pie chart at 25.8% with 2,378,440 searches between March and October.
With the most outstanding volume increase, 2020 was a huge year for garden transformations which may come as no surprise for many. Garden keywords in 2020 saw 5,585,390 searches, which is over double the previous year and makes up 32.9% of the overall searches.
Garden-related searches also saw the greatest uplift across all areas of the home, with overall searches year-on-year rising by more than 134%. Both search volumes and uplift year-on-year of garden-themed searches were at their highest in May 2020, followed by April 2020.
The fact that searches for garden-themed keywords was so popular during the lockdown could be a result of garden centres remaining open for the majority of the lockdown period and it therefore being an accessible area of the home to renovate.
For some, this year may have been a chance to make smaller tweaks and changes around the home rather than focusing on one room in particular. The general search terms we examined could be applied to a range of rooms in the home and aren’t limited to just one space. An example of some of the search terms:
- Floating shelves ideas
- Painting ideas
- Office home ideas
- Open fireplace ideas
- How to measure curtains
- How to paint a room
- How to remove skirting boards
General renovations proved popular in 2020, probably due to the large selection of search terms included. In 2019, general DIY terms saw 1,692,340 total searches which equated for 21.6% of all the searches examined, with the biggest spike being in October. Looking at the data for 2020, you can see that the search volume has increased to 2,900,490 which equated to 17.1% of all searches from March to October with a 121.6% year-on-year difference in June.
The kitchen may not seem like a hugely popular area to try and tackle yourself, with many changes often benefitting from professional help, but with that being said it still has some popular search terms and it was actually the third most popular category in 2019 contributing to 18.7% of the total searches.
2020 saw a 51.1% increase on the 2019 results totalling in 2,603,930 searches from March through to October, a significantly large increase for a sector that often relies on the work of professionals. 2020 also saw the highest number of searches in June as opposed to October in 2019, showing that people were using the lockdown as a chance to get ahead on renovations.
An area that you may have thought saw a larger interest than it did was the living room. The living room is an easy area to upgrade yourself and can be adapted relatively cheaply without too much effort. But, in fact, this room makes up the smallest chunk of the overall searches with only 85,610 searches during March to October 2019, equating to 0.9% overall.
In 2020, the searches went up a little but still saw the living room providing the smallest portion of total searches. The overall searches from March to October 2020 went up to 144,780 but still equated to only 0.9% of the total searches. The most popular month for these terms in 2020 was October, perhaps coinciding with the weather changing and people spending more time tucked up on the sofa rather than out in their gardens.
Stairs and Hallway
The stairs and hallway were a more popular area to renovate than the living room but not by much, with 2019 searches only reaching 329,730. This area of the home could be considered a little niche and quite specific, but that being said, it does still manage to outrank living room data.
In 2020 the searches doubled, but still only saw a small volume in comparison to some of the other areas at 649,080, 3.8% of total searches. The hallway and stairs searches didn’t see any drastic uplifts across the year in either 2019 or 2020 but October saw the largest number of searches in 2020. Like with the living room, this may be due to the weather turning and homeowners turning indoors for their DIY projects.
Search terms by Type
Many people were looking for inspiration and ideas of ways to improve their homes during the lockdown and this was shown in the study.
Idea type search terms accounted for the greatest proportion of home improvement search terms in 2019 (63%) and an even greater proportion in 2020 (70%). In fact, ‘Ideas’ type searches significantly increased year-on-year between April and June, with volumes and uplift peaking in May 2020.
Idea search terms also saw the greatest uplift of all search term ‘Types’ as overall volumes year-on-year increased by 103.3% with 11,942,650 searches in 2020 compared to 5,874,380 searches in 2019.
The month that saw the highest number of idea-related searches was in May with 2,059,960. May also saw the largest spike for idea type searches with a 234% increase compared to May in 2019.
Breaking the results down into areas of the home, people were searching for ‘ideas’ type keywords for the garden the most. There were 4,395,080 searches for ‘ideas’ themed keywords in 2020 and this was a rise of 151.9% compared to 2019. In fact ‘Ideas’ type search terms accounted for the highest volumes in each year across each ‘Area’.
With some people put on furlough and many others working from home during the lockdowns, there were lots of people who had more time on their hands and were using that time to make home improvements. This saw lots of people making home improvements on their own for the first time and this was seen in the study with the number of ‘how to’ searches rising in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
From March to October searches of ‘how to’ type keywords in 2020 saw volumes at 2,242,540, which accounted for 13.2% of all home improvement search terms for the year. This meant that ‘how to’ type searches increased by 59.1% compared to the same period in 2019, which saw 1,409,680 searches.
Although May saw the most ‘how to’ related searches (388,750), it was the month of June which saw the biggest year-on-year increase - 103.5% increase in the volume of ‘how to’ searches compared to June 2019.
In terms of areas of the home, the biggest increase in searches for ‘how to’ keywords in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 was in the garden (83.9% rise) and the kitchen (82% rise).
Searches for ‘other’ type terms made up 11.7% of all home improvement search terms for March to October in 2020. In total there were 1,986,970 searches for ‘other’ terms in 2020 – a rise of 42.2% from 2019.
June 2020 was the most popular month for searches for ‘other’ type terms with 301,880 searches. June also saw the biggest year-on-year increase with a rise of 97.7% on searches for ‘other’ terms.
For areas of the home, the biggest increase in searches for ‘other’ search terms was seen in the bedroom with 230,700 and a 90% increase of the same searches compared to 2019.
More evidence that shows people were looking to make changes to their home during the lockdown in the UK is the fact that there were so many ‘DIY’ related searches made.
In total there were 789,190 searches of ‘DIY’ themed keywords in 2020 compared to 546,080 in 2019, which is a rise of 44.5% year-on-year. In all, searches for ‘DIY’ themed terms accounted for 4.7% of all search terms in 2020 compared to 5.9% in 2019.
June 2020 was also the most popular month for searches for ‘DIY’ themed search terms with 125,420 searches and this was also the month with the biggest year-on-year increase (102.7%).
Looking at areas of the home, the research found that the biggest increase in people searching for ‘DIY’ search terms was in the garden with 116,980 searches, an increase of 201.7% compared to 2019. An increase in searches of ‘DIY’ themed terms was also seen in the bedroom (75.9%) and other general areas of the home (76.2%).
Search terms by Category
As you will see from the interactive dashboard, the search terms by category tab allows you to look at search trends during the lockdown period for specific categories around the home. The categories the study looked at are:
- General Inspiration
- Painting & Decorating
- Patios & Decking
- Garden Structures
- Soft Furnishings
- Fixtures & Fittings
- Furniture & Home Décor
- Renovations & Builds
The research found that ‘General Inspiration’ saw the greatest proportion of searches in both 2019 (43%) and 2020 (45%), with uplifts year-on-year of just over 90%.
The second-highest proportion of searches in both 2019 and 2020 at just 13.4% was ‘Painting & Decorating’ themed search terms.
The biggest overall uplift year-on-year was for searches relating to ‘Garden Structures’ (140%) and ‘Patios & Decking’ (135.8%), which are both related to the garden. Both also saw the greatest peaks in May 2020 in terms of both volumes (133,000 for ‘Garden Structures’ and 340,600 for ‘Patios & Decking’) and uplift (273.5% for ‘Garden Structures’ and 258.3% for ‘Patios & Decking’).
The study also found that ‘General Inspiration’ category themed searches accounted for the highest proportion of searches across each ‘Area’ of the home except for ‘General’ indoor areas and ‘Living Room’ where ‘Painting and Decorating’ saw the highest volumes across the year.
In the ‘General Inspiration’ category, ‘Bathroom’ areas accounted for the greatest proportion of search terms (29.9%). This resulted in ‘Bathroom’ themed ‘General Inspiration’ ‘Ideas’ type search terms seeing the greatest volumes of searches (2,242,300) across the period of March to October.
When looking at the height of the lockdown period in April, May and June, ‘Garden’ themed, ‘General Inspiration’ ‘Ideas’ type searches had the biggest search volumes during this period.
When looking at a combination of area, type and category searches, the research found that ‘Garden Structures’ saw the biggest uplift year-on-year across all ‘Types’ of searches. A combination of ‘Garden’ themed, ‘DIY’ type, ‘Garden Structures’ searches saw the biggest overall increase of just over 251% on the previous year.
Across the majority of combinations of ‘Area’, ‘Type’ and ‘category’ the most significant uplift year-on-year was seen between April 2020 and June 2020. With ‘General’ themed, ‘Ideas’ type and ‘Painting & Decorating’ terms having the greatest uplift in this period of just over 449%.
Tips for making home improvements
If you have been inspired and want to make some improvements to your home, then you should not just dive straight into the job you want to do. Here are some tips and recommendations from experts for people looking to make some alterations to their home.
Start small and build your confidence
If you haven’t ever made changes to your home or are inexperienced when it comes to DIY jobs, then it is wise not to start on a huge project and instead build up to that by completing smaller DIY projects.
Vikkie runs the blog The Carpenter's Daughter and she highly recommends that starting a small home improvement project will help build your confidence.
She said: “You’ll soon find that after doing lots of smaller jobs, it quickly builds your knowledge and common sense to tackle bigger projects. Try to mentally plan the job from start to finish and if you have any questions, google it until you know. And always go at your own pace to avoid mistakes! We all learn at different rates and speeds and I don’t mind admitting, I’m certainly not the quickest of workers as I like to analyse what could go wrong while I’m working.”
Make it practical
With the advent of social media, some people fall victim to concentrating too much on the latest interior trends instead of making more practical home improvements.
Instead of adding features to a home that might make it look easier on the eye but are not fit for purpose, you should instead look at making changes which are actually helpful and will benefit you. For example, if you suffer from mobility problems and struggle to shower, you are better off installing walk in shower cubicles instead of a shower that is aesthetically pleasing but difficult to get into.
Mike Aspinall, the writer behind The Crafty Gentleman blog, says it is important that you make your home into a liveable space rather than making it look picture-perfect.
“It’s easy to get distracted by interior trends and achieving the perfect, Pinterest-ready house. But don’t forget to make your home somewhere you actually enjoy spending time. Somewhere you can relax, and somewhere that suits your lifestyle. Making your home a liveable space is more important than it being picture-perfect!”
Continuing, Mike explained why he thinks DIY jobs have become increasingly popular during the lockdown: “I think everyone has a level of innate creativity, it’s human nature – though, in today’s busy world, we don’t always have the chance to explore it. But suddenly, many of us have found ourselves spending a lot more time at home, with more free time than we have ever had before. With that free time comes headspace, and the chance to slow down a little and explore new hobbies and creative pursuits – like DIY and home improvement projects.”
Invest in storage
An often-overlooked aspect of a house is storage, and this is something that normally isn’t at the top of a homeowners list.
If a home has a lack of storage, not only does it mean that you are more likely to leave things lying around that can cause safety concerns such as trip hazards, but it can also decrease the value of your home too.
Christine is the blogger behind The Little House On The Corner and she talks about how important having enough storage in your home is.
“Invest in practical storage to be able to hide clutter, create more space and keep organised, especially if you are working from home. Try to finish all of the little jobs you’ve started before attempting new projects. This will make you feel calmer and help you not get distracted by a long list of projects you need to tackle.
“With most of us spending more time at home than ever, all of the unfinished projects, imperfections and unpractical design choices in everyone’s homes are amplified and more noticeable than ever,” Christine continues. “All of the little issues that never seemed a problem are now unpractical and annoying. Making a home not only look but also function better is at the top of everyone’s priority list.”
Consider how you finance your home improvements
If you’re considering carrying out some home improvements during the current lockdown, then something that is advised is that you first think about how you are going to pay for the changes you plan to make before you start work on the project.
James Smith, from Help & Advice, said that was his main tip for anyone looking to start a home DIY job.
“Small jobs can often be funded from savings, but bigger jobs, like an extension or a new kitchen, may require you to borrow some money. If you are having to lend some money, then you should consider where you get this from. For example, if you are over 55, you could use equity release to take some borrowings out against your home. You can use an equity release calculator to see how much you could borrow. The key thing though is to make sure you only borrow what you need.”
William Jackson, the Chief Engagement Officer at UK Care Guide, explains a little more about the popularity of DIY over the last year: “DIY jobs have increasingly become popular for two reasons. One, it gives people something to do to help spend their time, when there is little else to do. Secondly, with so much uncertainty around people's jobs, preserving cash is something that is higher on peoples agendas. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues once the pandemic recedes.”
The coronavirus pandemic and the various lockdowns across the UK have seen people spending more time at home. As a result of the extra time that people have on their hands, many have turned their attentions to making home improvements.
This was confirmed in this study with home improvement search terms between March 2020 and October 2020 increasing by 83.8% compared to the same period in 2019. The greatest increase in searches for home improvement terms occurred during the lockdown period between April 2020 and June 2020.
Other main themes that became clear from the research is that people were looking for inspiration when it came to making changes to their homes. The top 10 keywords with the biggest increases in searches from 2019 to 2020 (March-October) were all “idea” type searches with “patio and decking” related searches making up three of the top 10 keywords that rose the most.
In terms of areas of the home that people were looking to change during the first lockdown, the bathroom and the garden were at the forefront of most people’s minds. ‘Bathrooms ideas’ ranked number one in 2020 with the greatest search volumes across March to October 2020 (1,021,000 searches) which accounted for 6% of total searches for the entire year. During the lockdown period from April to June 2020, ‘Garden Ideas’ ranked number one with the highest volumes, seeing an uplift of 285% on the previous year and accounting for 8.2% of searches for the period.
‘Garden’ themed search terms accounted for the greatest proportion of search terms from March to October 2020 (37%). Another example that gardening was a popular area of the home that people were looking to change during the lockdown was that the search term ‘budget garden decking ideas’ saw the biggest rise in popularity with a 2400% increase year-on-year.
The trend of ‘Garden’ themed searches being extremely popular from March to October 2020 may be a result of garden centres remaining open for the majority of the lockdown period and it therefore being an accessible area of the home to renovate.
It should come as no surprise that making home improvements was a major priority for so many people during the lockdown as people were spending more time at home and had more time on their hands.
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