The coronavirus has restricted us in many ways. It can be an eye-opener, too—in terms of our living space.
Homebound in exile, we’re noticing things in our homes that would have escaped our attention if we’d been at our usual workplaces. Things like how the water running through the plumbing sounds like squealing. The refrigerator seems to be cycling too often. How bad that dreary wallpaper looks. Maybe the garbage disposal is rattling.
What do you do if the situation is a bit more urgent? Your washing machine won’t wash, the AC is down or you spot a leak in your basement wall? What if your cable TV goes out? Does it make sense to call a professional? It’s a head-scratcher as health officials’ orders were clear: stay inside and away from others to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Does bringing in a worker—or several—put your safety and theirs at risk? Do you try doing it yourself? What if you’ve already begun home renovations and the job is partially complete—do you continue? Do you commence with a new build-out that you had planned?
It’s essentially okay
It’s true that non-essential work is restricted in many areas. However, most all service work is still going strong as “essential businesses.” This is due to the fact that homeowners have the right to maintain the “essential operation” of their homes.
With most of us under stay-at-home orders for now, more people are relying on working lights, Internet connectivity, water and air conditioning in our homes. All of which are, for now, considered essential services. Plumbers, electricians and handymen and -women are considered essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis. So, tackling home repairs during COVID-19 is possible.
Follow these five strategies
Homeowners everywhere are wondering how service calls should be handled during the outbreak. As a result, here are five simple strategies to effectively manage home repairs during COVID-19:
#1: Evaluate the project
Should you try to take on the job yourself? Anyone concerned about exposure to the virus or who is lean on funds might be considering a DIY approach.
Home maintenance falls on a wide spectrum of difficulty. Small wear and tear projects such as painting walls and cabinets, laminating floors, installing fixtures, mirrors, and accessories are just a few of the projects you that can do-it-yourself. For a smaller job, DIY repair channels on YouTube might be able to walk you through the job.
Professionals advocate caution. Nearly all plumbing and electrical jobs, for example, are best left to the professionals. One mistake can cause irreversible damage. For example, any aggressive force from a plumbing snake may lead to cracks or complete pipe breakage. For some things, you’ll need to hire a pro for a successful and efficient home improvement or repair.
#2: Schedule service
Once you decide to outsource your repair or replacement, your initial call for service should include a conversation about potential of exposure. Ask companies what precautions they’re using to make sure employees are healthy. Will workers be wearing masks? Gloves? Booties? Are they social distancing? And be candid about your situation, too. The health questions are imperative for customers as well for the safety of employees.
If you are concerned about touching any surfaces during the visit, you may want to request a touch-free transaction. Ask up-front whether documentation and sign-off can be done without exchanging paper or writing implements. Some vendors are temporarily allowing customers to leave receipts unsigned.
#3: Prepare your home
It’s a good idea to pre-clean the area or surfaces where any technicians will be working, with a disinfectant cleaner known to kill the virus. Then, to limit exposure, lay down disposable paper or plastic on the work area, or a washable sheet on which the worker can walk and place his or her tools.
Plan out how the workers will access and leave your home, in advance. Maybe have them come in a back door or side entrance to limit what rooms they’ll be in. This will keep everyone from wandering around, cut down on any unnecessary contact and limit exposure.
Consumer Reports recommends having some hand soap and cleaners ready. You can offer them to the service workers before and after the job is done. (You’ll want to disinfect the sink afterward.)
#4: The site visit
During the visit:
- Wear masks, wash your hands and maintain 6-foot rule distance.
- Have one single contact person greet the workers. Then, go to another room and make yourself available if needed. Everyone else in the home should stay elsewhere or in other rooms, too.
- Avoid touching the same surfaces. For example, your electrician might ask for a credit card payment after the work is complete. Instead of handing the card over, read the numbers aloud, or pay online later if that’s an option. If you need to hand something to the worker, wear chemical- and liquid-resistant latex gloves. If you must sign something, use your own pen or stylus (for touch screens).
- If you’d like to thank the worker with a tip, put money in a sealed envelope and place it on a surface for him or her to pick up.
- Wash your hands, thoroughly, again.
- If the repair work was done in an enclosed area where you can’t get some air circulating, don’t go in there for a few hours after the job is complete,
- Wipe down surfaces (once again using a disinfectant cleaning solution) in any area or on any items that the workers came in contact with. This includes the doorbell, doorknobs and light switches.
If you are in the middle of a remodel, or planning to start one, you may be nervous about having people in my home. What COVID-19 safety protocols are builders following?
In many areas of the U.S., when stay home orders were put in place, most construction was deemed nonessential. Currently, most residential construction is now allowed to resume. Therefore, whether a specific project is considered appropriate is a matter largely determined by homeowners and contractors. Some factors to consider:
- Sanitation and hygiene. Businesses are required to be in accordance with COVID-19 guidance of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—the government agency providing to home repair workers and employers. Following these protocols, you’ll most likely find worker outfits and procedures designed for extreme for both the homeowner and worker.
- You may choose to do the work now, or wait. If you opt to wait until the pandemic eases, experts say, you can still use this downtime to plan your project and get on your contractor’s radar. But you could be finding many work orders in front of yours, delaying your project.
- Contractors are more likely to take outdoor rather than indoor projects during the coronavirus pandemic.
So how do you pay for a major home improvement project? Consider a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This provides homeowners flexibility, comfort and value. A lower interest rate and tax benefits may keep your costs down, depending on your circumstances.
Resources: DP Shop Talk, Consumer Reports, MoneyTalksNews, Apartment Therapy, LLC, Condé Nast., The Washington Post