If You Build It, They’ll Stay: Boomers Remodel Their Homes

If you build it, they will stay. The small businesses that dominate the home remodeling industry are expecting robust growth in the next few years, thanks partly to baby boomers who want to remain in their homes.

Home remodelers say they've had a pickup in projects from boomers who are in or approaching retirement and are seeking to modify their houses. It's a trend known as "aging in place," an alternative to moving to smaller quarters or a warmer climate.

Many of these homeowners are hoping to make their surroundings easier to manage and safer in case they have health problems.

They're replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers, installing safety rails, widening doorways and building ramps -- features known as "universal design" since they can be used by anyone, regardless of physical ability. Boomers are also redoing their kitchens and sprucing up other areas -- since they're staying put, they want to enjoy their surroundings.

Zach Tyson estimates that 30 to 40 percent of his revenue is now coming from boomer renovations, up from 15 to 20 percent five years ago. Most of the projects come from homeowners who are healthy and mobile now, but want to be prepared if illness or injury hits.

Besides making bathrooms safer, they're enlarging rooms so wheelchairs or walkers can be used more easily, and also to give the rooms a more open feel.

"It's trending up, for sure," says Tyson, co-owner of Tyson Construction in Destrehan, Louisiana.

The oldest of the 76.4 million boomers, the U.S. generation born after World War II, are turning 71 this year. As more of them retire and make decisions about where they want to live, there will be a great need for accessible housing, according to a report released in February by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

"A large share of these households live...

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