10 Tips on How to (Safely) Arrange for Home Repairs During a Pandemic

The last thing any homeowner (or renter) wants is to come home to a kitchen floor flooded by a leaking dishwasher, or a house that's sweltering because the AC stopped working. While these mini-crises are headaches whenever they happen, they're especially problematic during a pandemic, when you’re not thrilled at the prospect of plumbers or service technicians traipsing around your home. If you do need to call in a professional while a pandemic is raging, the following 10 tips will help keep everyone safe.

Stick to Essentials

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Essential repairs during pandemic

Before you start calling in pros, analyze the importance of the repair. You can probably put off having the carpet professionally cleaned until safer times, but if a pipe starts leaking or if the toilet stops flushing, it's best to call in a repair person sooner rather than later. Ask yourself whether a particular service or repair is necessary to protect your home or your health. If it’s not, consider waiting. If you do decide to schedule an immediate repair, both you and the tradesperson should take steps to minimize risk.

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Ask Questions and Offer Assurances

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Contractor protocol for pandemic

When calling to schedule a repair, ask whether the company is screening its workers by taking their temperatures, and find out whether they’re adhering to CDC guidelines that require workers to self-monitor and to not come to work if they develop symptoms. Likewise, a responsible company should ask you whether anyone in your household has been diagnosed with Covid-19 or has potentially been exposed to the virus.

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Insist on Protective Equipment

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Ask contractors to wear masks in your home

While most repair people will wear masks without prompting, it doesn’t hurt to tell the company in advance that you expect anyone working in your home to wear a mask. In the event workers show up without one, have clean masks on hand and ask them to put them on. If possible, to help reduce the spread of germs, keep a clean mask, disposable gloves, disposable booties, and hand sanitizer on a table just inside the entry.

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Reduce Risk Before the Visit

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Disinfect home before workers visit

It’s your responsibility to make your home safe. Not everyone who is exposed to the novel coronavirus develops symptoms, so even if you think everyone in your household is virus-free, you should still use disinfectant sprays and cleansers to clean the area where the repair person will be working. Clear away clutter and knickknacks, and remove large items that are difficult to disinfect, such as throw rugs, which can be put back in the room later.

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Create the Shortest Path

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Let contractors know where to go

If the repair person will be working near the back of your house, there’s no reason to have her enter the front door and wind her way through your home. Instead, let the company know in advance that you want the worker to enter through the door closest to where the repairs will be made. You can even lay down newspapers or drop cloths to indicate the path you want the repair person to follow.

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Protect the Work Area

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Protect work area during covid

While experts do not yet know how long the Covid-19 virus can live on surfaces, it’s a good idea to minimize contact with surfaces. To do this, spread newspapers, a disposable plastic drop cloth, or even an old sheet on the floor near the site where the repair will be done, just in case the worker will need to sit down to reach under a sink or a cabinet. Cover countertops as well to give the repair person a place to lay out his tools. 

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Make Hand Soap or Sanitizer Available

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Provide hand sanitizer to contractors

Frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the virus from spreading, so it makes good sense to put out soap and paper towels if the tradesperson will be working in a bathroom or kitchen, and to put a bottle of hand sanitizer in other rooms. Most repair people will appreciate your thoughtfulness and be more than happy to wash their hands. Remember to disinfect the sink and faucet later.

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Keep Your Distance

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Keep distance from contractors during pandemic

For your protection and for the worker’s safety as well, don’t hover around to see what’s going on. Practice social distancing of at least six feet as recommended by the CDC, or even better, stay out of the room altogether unless the repair person wants you to look at something or needs to get your opinion.

Related: 10 Homeowner Antics That Annoy Contractors Most

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Turn Off the HVAC

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Turn off HVAC when visitors stop by during Covid

The novel coronavirus spreads quickly through the air, so both you and any repair people will be safer if air is not being blown through your house. If possible, shut off your HVAC unit and don’t turn it back on for at least one hour after the worker leaves. As an alternative, you can cover the air registers in each room with squares of fabric held on by painter’s tape. Just as a cloth face mask helps reduce the spread of airborne germs, a register cover may keep germs from circulating between rooms.

Related: 7 Signs Your HVAC System Is Wasting Energy—And What to Do About It

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Request No-Contact Payment

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Use contactless pay during pandemic

When you schedule the appointment, ask about no-contact payment for the completed repairs. To avoid passing around potentially virus-laden checks, paper receipts, and invoices, some companies will allow you to pay by credit card over the phone or via the internet, and other companies may take peer-to-peer payments, such as Zelle or Venmo, which require downloading an app and then paying via your smartphone.

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Disinfect After the Visit

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Disinfect door handles during pandemic

After the repair person leaves, you should disinfect everything again, but if possible, wait a couple of hours to give any airborne germs a chance to settle. Throw away the newspapers and disposable drop cloths you used, clean all surfaces along the repair person’s path, and pay special attention to any surfaces that are likely to have been touched, such as cabinet knobs, faucets, or the sink basin.

Related: 12 Tips for Bringing Fewer Germs into the Home

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