What’s a homeowner to do during a pandemic? Whether you started a renovation project before social distancing went into effect or you urgently need a plumber today, you may need to bring contractors into your home at some point.
Fortunately, many contractors and home renovation professionals are continuing to work, including Docia Boylen’s team at Handyman Connection of Golden.
“Don’t panic,” she says. “Our craftsmen want to work, and they want to be safe.”
That said, if you decide to move forward with a renovation or repair, you’ll want to be extra careful—for the safety of both your contractors and yourself.
So what does this mean, exactly? We talked to experts about what you should know before welcoming contractors into your home.
Move it online when you can
Many homeowners halted renovations when the pandemic hit, says Cristina Miguelez, remodeling specialist at Fixr, a marketplace for contractors and homeowners. But “for many, consultations, walk-throughs, and initial meetings are happening online,” she says.
Talk to your contractors and ask if they’ve been using any virtual workarounds for providing estimates, quotes, and design work. A video call could help avoid at least one unnecessary trip inside the house.
Communicate with your contractors
Before you move forward, ask your contractors what precautions they’re taking in light of the pandemic.
Doug King, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and president of King Contracting in St. Petersburg, FL, recommends asking the following questions:
- How do you plan to keep my family safe while you’re working here?
- Does your company have a written policy or procedure for performing work at private residences?
- Who will enforce those policies?
Boylen says her company has also taken extra steps to keep contractors and homeowners safe.
“We got creative with our customers,” she says. “We stopped exchanging paperwork and moved to online quotes and credit card payments. We stopped shaking our customers’ hand to thank them for their business. We implemented processes to check every craftsman before work to ensure they were not feeling poorly or had a fever.”
Your contractors may also want some assurance from you to make sure they’re entering a safe work environment. Be prepared to talk about your own protocol for cleanliness.
“It’s a conversation; you both need to speak to one another and don’t assume,” Miguelez says. “Respect this person coming into your home and try to keep them safe.”
Cover the cleanliness and safety basics
Both you and your contractors should be following CDC guidelines. That includes wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently. Regularly disinfect high-contact surfaces like countertops and doorknobs and make hand sanitizer available at entry points to the house.
And remember: You wouldn’t want a sick worker coming into your home, so don’t let a contractor work in your home if you or someone else in the house is sick.
“Under no circumstances should a contractor or their subcontractors enter a house if there are sick persons in the house or if any of the workers are showing symptoms,” King says.
Leave the house, if possible
“Remodeling is very intrusive and disruptive even without the pandemic,” King says. “If there’s any way at all possible, leave your house while the work is being done.”
If you don’t have anywhere else to go, avoid the work area while contractors are present, and keep any immunocompromised members of the household as far as possible from the worksite.
“Be sure to wash your hands after visiting the work area, even after the workers have left for the day,” King says. “Designate one point of entry to limit contact areas.”
Remember that your contractors are doing their best to navigate an unprecedented situation. Be understanding if plans change.
“The craftsman scheduled at your home could have come in contact with someone last week that has let us know they have COVID-19,” Boylen says. “It means we will not send that craftsman to your home, but we may not have another craftsman [available] in order to keep your original appointment.”
You may also find that contractors are booked weeks or months in advance. When shelter-in-place orders started taking effect in March, many homeowners delayed projects, King says, which has created a bottleneck now that projects are ramping back up.
“Contractors have seen the lead times for products like cabinetry, windows, and doors double and triple in some cases, which in turn leads to project delays,” he says.