For those who aren’t hard-core do-it-yourselfers, it’s likely the services of contractors, repair specialists or even cleaners will be needed. But with the coronavirus pandemic raging, it’s challenging to feel safe opening the door wide to people outside a household.
Precautions to prevent transmission of COVID-19 are essential when it comes to ushering in workers, says Anthony Harris, associate medical director of WorkCare, a physician-directed occupational health company, in Chicago. “They need to follow official COVID precautions,” he says. “Just because someone is wearing a mask doesn’t mean you’re safe. If they’re not wearing it properly, that’s a problem.”
Inquire about COVID precautions
Precautions start with the homeowner wearing a mask while in their own space. Studies have shown that if all parties are wearing masks, there is significantly less risk of transmission of COVID-19.
In addition, talk to anyone coming into your home about the safeguards they will take. Some people feel timid bringing this up, but they shouldn’t, says Jeff Yoder, owner of ShelfGenie, a national shelving installation company in Washington, D.C. He says customers regularly ask him about the COVID-19 prevention steps his company mandates.
“I take my temperature every morning,” he says. “I bring a thermometer with me and my whole team has thermometers” and daily checks.
He also developed a checklist for his crews to ensure they follow proper COVID-19 prevention rules. Customers should create a list of questions for contractors, Yoder says.
Those might include:
- Are workers required to wear masks over nose and mouth?
- Will workers wash their hands before entering a home? Are they provided with hand sanitizer?
- Are workers tested regularly for COVID-19 or have daily temperature checks?
- Do workers try to maintain 6 feet of distance within a home?
Yoder advises homeowners to talk with a supervisor beforehand to ask about pre-visit testing and screening.
Ask about contractors' COVID precautions
When Yoder arrived at one client’s home, she asked him to wait by the door until she could take his temperature.
What to do When Workers Come Into Your Home
Best practices for dealing with contractors, repair people and cleaning services doing work in your home:
• Talk with managers before workers enter your home to determine what type of safety precautions they will take.
• Have a list of questions to ask contractors, repair experts and anyone else coming in to do work in your home around practices regarding masking, handwashing, COVID-19 testing and temperature checks.
• Maintain social distancing as much as possible. Only share a room with workers when necessary.
• When workers are in your house, keep a window open for ventilation and use a fan to direct air out and lower the risk of virus transmission.
“Make sure you are comfortable with who is coming into your house and the steps they have taken to ensure everyone is safe,” he says.
Contractors should wear shoe covers and gloves when they’re in the house, and put on a fresh pair whenever they enter, says Ashley Wood of Atlanta, author of Demystifying Your Health.
In addition, homeowners should interact with contractors or workers only when required, and stay 6 feet away. Close doors between the work being done and your location, if possible, and make sure workers wear masks at all times — even if you’re not in the room.
“You shouldn’t spend more time than necessary in the same room, since the virus is spread via exposure over a period of time,” Wood says. “The longer you’re in a space with someone, the higher your chances of contracting the virus.”
Keep a window open and use a fan to direct air out. This type of ventilation can help decrease the amount of virus droplets that stay confined in a space, Wood says.
In addition, ask contractors to wash their hands regularly, and provide hand sanitizer if they don’t bring any, Harris says.
If contractors are landscaping, roofing or making exterior home repairs and don’t need to enter your home, the main form of protection is masking for both of you when interacting, Wood says. The next best practice is to socially distance, she adds.
“After the contractor leaves, it’s a good idea to wipe down any surfaces that they’ve touched with disinfectant wipes,” Wood says.
Kathryn Vernon, 64, of Austin, Texas, recently had new flooring installed throughout her home. She hired contractors recommended by a trusted interior designer. Although they were in her home and did have to use the bathroom, she and the contractor teamed up to stay safe. She and the workers wore masks, kept the front door open and ensured a ceiling fan was on when they worked. Vernon allowed them to use the guest bathroom but kept the window open and sanitized it with bleach and other cleaners each day. They touched very few items or surfaces in the home, so she only had to minimally sanitize other areas.
Vernon says she felt safe with her approach, but acknowledged others might not. “I think it’s a personal comfort level,” she says. “You have to decide what is right for you.”
Same rules apply to house cleaners
If you have a house cleaner that comes in regularly to tidy up, it’s important not to get complacent and let your guard down, just because that person is not a stranger.
Take the same type of precautions you would when other contractors come into your home, says Roman Peysakhovich, CEO of Onedesk, a national cleaning company headquartered in Minneapolis. His company consulted with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safety measures.
“They told us masks the whole time, while you’re cleaning, while you’re talking, anything. The whole time from when you enter the home to the moment that you leave,” he says. The health experts also advised that Peysakhovich’s staff clean their tools between clients’ homes.
If a contractor doesn’t wear a mask properly or declines other COVID precautions, politely but firmly ask them to leave and reschedule the appointment, says Harris. That can be uncomfortable for some people, but it’s essential to prevent transmission of the virus, Harris says.
“It’s important to educate people,” Harris says, “and let them know we need to follow those rules.”