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5 Steps to Take When Hiring Home Pros During the Pandemic

Friday, November 13, 2020   /   by Frank Hornstein

5 Steps to Take When Hiring Home Pros During the Pandemic

5 Steps to Take When Hiring Home Pros During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses to shut down in the spring and home remodeling projects were put on hold, you might not have been able to imagine having strangers working in your house. But in the months since, renovation and design projects have gotten back on track and people have learned the drill when it comes to mask wearing, physical distancing and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. But some homeowners may still wonder whether they’re comfortable having workers in their home. If you want to feel reassured that the contractor you choose is adhering to federal and local guidelines, arm yourself with information and questions to ask before hiring.

Potter Construction Inc

1. Do Your Research

Before hiring a remodeling or design pro, do as much contactless research as you can online or through email, phone and video calls. Many construction and design-build companies have web pages devoted to COVID-19, with Q&As and articles on how they’re dealing with it. This is the perfect time to take advantage of a company’s online live chat feature.

Any kind of visual information you can provide a pro during the initial remote consultation can help. The pros at Potter Construction in Seattle will sometimes have homeowners provide a virtual peek inside their space. “Sometimes when we’re doing an initial sales call on videoconference, we’ll have the owners, especially if they have something like an iPad, show us the space, for us to get a feel for it,” says Laurie Robbins, marketing and operations manager at Potter Construction.

Julie Sheer

A South Land Remodeling employee at a jobsite posts a sign with regulations as required by the city of Los Angeles. Photo by South Land Remodeling

A qualified general contractor should be able to provide a ballpark estimate by seeing your home via a videoconferencing tool, the pros at South Land Remodeling in Los Angeles say on their online page listing tips for hiring a general contractor during the pandemic.

Limit the number of contractors you need to meet in person, and spend time reading comments and critiques on sites like Houzz to see what others have to say about their experiences, South Land says. That said, some potential projects need to be seen in person before an estimate can be made. “Anything that’s out of the ordinary, maybe a more complex project such as a building on a hillside, is hard to give an estimate without seeing,” South Land owner Oren Farkash says.

Now more than ever, it’s a good time to use Houzz ideabooks to share with designers and remodeling pros. Find out if the company you’re hiring uses Houzz Pro, which makes it easier to message and check your pro’s calendar for consultations. “We use Houzz Pro and we love it,” Robbins says. “We get a lot more questions through the email function about COVID protocols and it’s easy for us to reply that way, and we’re also asked about virtual consultations that way. It’s almost like a database for us.”

Julie Sheer

A kit that goes to each Potter Construction jobsite includes necessary supplies, signs and documents for the lead carpenter to use throughout the remodel. Photo by Potter Construction

2. Know the Rules

By now, you’re probably familiar with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about social distancing, masking and other ways to stay safe. The CDC also has requirements for the construction industry, similar to guidelines from OSHA, the National Association of Home Builders and Associated General Contractors of America. Contractors and designers should also adhere to state and local guidelines, which you can usually find on your state or city’s public health department website.

Julie Sheer

A COVID protocol sign is placed outside each Potter Construction jobsite in the Seattle area. Photo by Potter Construction

3. Ask the Right Questions

Communication between you and anyone you hire is key to giving you peace of mind. When interviewing potential contractors, be realistic about how skittish you might be about having strangers in your home. “Ask what protocols that business has in place, keeping in mind that in a couple months down the road this team will be in your home and chances are you’ll be there,” Robbins says.

Crystal Kitchen + Bath

When questioning potential contractors, ask how they plan to communicate with you about their COVID protocol and any issues that might come up. “I would ask about their process and how they communicate with their clients,” says Kaitlyn Stokes of Crystal Kitchen + Bath in Crystal, Minnesota. “We make sure our clients know what is happening each day throughout their project and let our clients know right away if anything changes on their schedule,” she says. As is the case with many companies these days, Crystal’s COVID response plan is on its website.

“When interviewing contractors, ask those questions. ‘How do you intend to isolate [workers]?’ Contractors really have to give you information on how they plan to deal with COVID,” Farkash says. Farkash recommends eliminating unnecessary in-person meetings when hiring a pro and streamlining the number of bids to five at the most. “More than that just gets confusing. Some people have a habit of taking 10 bids and that’s a bad idea right now,” he says.

Outdoor Dreams

4. Pick a Project

With so much time being spent at home these days, many pros report clients seeking additional space and reconfigured offices and other rooms, including accessory dwelling units. Depending on the weather in your area, outdoor projects are perfect to undertake if you’re worried about workers being inside your home. “Outside work is still popular — pools, backyard remodels, driveways, landscaping, whatever can be done outside,” Farkash says.

Stokes says clients at Crystal Kitchen + Bath are seeking multifunctional spaces, consistent with spending more time at home. “We have seen people wanting more storage solutions and wanting to make sure kitchen spaces can accommodate multiple activities.”

South Land Remodeling Inc.

An accessory dwelling unit in the Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, remodeled by South Land Remodeling

With employees at many companies not returning to work until 2021, many of Potter Construction’s clients in the Seattle area are still working at home, Robbins says. “Since April and May, we’re getting more inquiries for home offices, basement remodels, some bump-outs and additions, those types of projects, because people are expecting to be in their homes now for longer,” she says.

Julie Sheer

Photo from Potter Construction

5. Know What to Expect

If you plan on being home during renovation, decide if you need to stay or are able to leave during the work. If you stay, plan on the usual noise and disruption. Keep track of pandemic precautions being taken by the crew, including plastic zip partitions between rooms, especially if the workers know you’re going to be there.

“We end up having lots more conversations with clients about what to expect during construction because we were used to them being gone during the day,” Robbins says. “They’ll meet the carpenter at the start or end of the day. We tell them it’s going to be loud, you’ll lose internet at unexpected points, and we communicate things like coordinating water shutoff. In the past we’d inform them, but they’re usually not home. There’s more communication on what to expect.”

Julie Sheer

A portable sink that Potter Construction provides at each jobsite, in addition to portable toilets. Photo by Potter Construction

The trade group Associated General Contractors of America has set guidelines for crews to follow, including asking occupants to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance, workers washing hands before and after work, limiting the number of visitors to only those necessary for the job, screening workers upon arrival for virus exposure and respiratory symptoms, and glove and face protection for all workers.

You should make sure you see the required sanitary supplies mandated for construction crews during the pandemic. “We do postings of signage and provide hand sanitizer and a portable toilet with a sink. [Early in the pandemic] it was just a toilet. Those were replaced with ones with sinks and soap,” Farkash says. All in all, Farkash says it seems there’s a little less panic over COVID than there was in the spring, though things aren’t completely back to normal. “We’re getting more kitchen and bath remodels. I get the feeling people realize we have a pandemic but life goes on,” he says.

Iron Valley Real Estate | Frank Hornstein Group
Frank Hornstein
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Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
Cell: 302-604-4746
Office: 302-541-8787

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