How to Spruce Up Your Home Safely in the Time of COVID-19

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Home renovation has been booming during the COVID-19 pandemic. Home remodelers reported an increase in customer leads of nearly 60% in 2020. Homeowners have undertaken interior, exterior, and yard projects, but the leads through 2020 leaned toward exterior and yard projects.

Economists give a few reasons for the boom in home remodeling during COVID-19 including:

  • Disposable income: Homeowners were unable to spend money on travel, dining, and entertainment in 2020 because most entertainment venues were closed. They chose to spend the money on their homes instead.
  • Federal stimulus: Most taxpayers received two rounds of stimulus checks in early 2020 and early 2021. This economic stimulus performed as intended, with many homeowners spending the money on home renovation projects.
  • Time at home: With stay at home orders in effect, homeowners spent more time at home. Sprucing up their homes was a way to make their homes more comfortable and more entertaining for their time at home.
  • Necessary upgrades: Many businesses and most schools switched to remote work. Homes required technology upgrades and home offices to accommodate remote video conferencing.

Regardless of the reason, the boom in home remodeling shows no signs of stopping. As the weather turns warm and home renovation season heats up, you will see another wave of home remodeling projects.

But many people still have concerns with strangers coming into their homes during the pandemic. Although the spread of the coronavirus has slowed recently, new variants threaten to reignite the pandemic. Here are ten tips to spruce up your home during COVID-19:

Discuss Safety With Your Contractor

Regardless of how you choose to spruce up your home, make a point of discussing safety with your contractor before starting the project.

Some contractors, like roofing contractors, will take minimal measures to reduce viral transmission. They work primarily outside and will probably not spend much time inside your home. A conversation before you hire the contractor can clarify how much time your contractor and the contractor’s construction workers will spend inside the home.

Other contractors might need to spend extensive inside the home. Discussing the safety precautions the contractors use will allow everyone to set their expectations and avoid misunderstandings when the project begins.

Set a Budget

Setting a budget is critically important for your COVID-19 renovation project. If you are using your vacation budget to pay for your remodeling project, you probably have an amount of money you can spend already set aside. But if you do not have a budget in mind, consider how much you can afford to spend without putting yourself into difficult financial straits.

Remember that a bad economy can claim anyone as a casualty. No matter what your job is, you should have a plan in place in case you are furloughed or laid off. Financial advisors generally recommend that you have an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of your living expenses. Once you have set aside enough to cover yourself in case of emergency, you know how much you can spend to spruce up your home.

Once you set your budget, you can decide the scope of your project. For example, if your budget is relatively low, you might just choose to install new granite countertops. But if your budget is a little bit larger, you may spruce up your home with a full kitchen remodel, including cabinets, flooring, and appliances.

Shop Around

Many contractors are fully scheduled because of the remodeling boom. Subcontractors that provide essential work, such as electrical services, are in particularly high demand. Finding contractors that can spruce up your home within your budget and on your schedule may be difficult.

You have a number of resources available to find a contractor:

  • Referral: The best source for finding a contractor is friends or relatives who have had remodeling work done. They can refer you to their contractor. More importantly, you can see actual examples of their work before hiring them.
  • Online reviews: While online reviews are not always reliable, you can get a general idea of a contractor’s customer relationships from their reviews. People post negative reviews when the contractor failed to address their concerns or problems. A contractor that has few or no negative reviews is not necessarily better, but does keep customers happy enough that they do not post negative reviews.
  • State contractor board: Your state contracting board handles formal complaints against the contractors licensed in your state. Before hiring a contractor, you should consider checking the contractor’s licensing status with the state. Contractors with pending complaints, lapsed licenses, or past discipline might not be a good choice for your remodeling project.

Develop a Construction Timeline

Minimizing the disruption to your life and the amount of time that workers are in your home is even more critical during a pandemic. More time spent indoors with someone who might carry the virus will increase the risk of transmission. As a result, you need to develop a construction plan that sets out a timeline for construction, both inside and outside your home.

A construction plan benefits both you and your contractor. Your contractor can work more efficiently if he or she knows when your home will be accessible and when you can provide a block of time to work. At the same time, you can better protect your safety if your contractor can get into the home, spruce up your home, then leave.

Entire books have been written on construction management. Remember that you are not only coordinating your schedule and your contractor’s schedule, but also deliveries of materials and furniture. For example, if your new home office includes a custom desk from an online office furniture store, you will need to take into account the time to build and ship the desk in your construction plan. If your desk arrives before the home office is completed, you will need to store it until construction is complete. If your desk arrives too late, your contractor might not be able to check the fit of the desk with any other features in the office like bookcases and cabinets.

Consider Leaving Home

If your project will be extensive, you might consider leaving while your contractor is working to spruce up your home. Some reasons why you might want to leave the home during construction include:

  • Virus transmission: If you will have a large crew of construction workers in your home, the risk of viral transmission increases. Leaving the home until they are done can substantially reduce the risk of catching coronavirus from them.
  • Disruption to your life: Some projects can substantially disrupt your home life. For example, residential plumbing services might require your contractor to turn off your water for an extended period of time. Not only will this disrupt cooking, cleaning, and showering, it will prevent you from washing your hands to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • Efficiency: Leaving your home will allow your contractor continuous and uninterrupted blocks of time to work on your remodeling project. This will allow them to start as early as they can and stay as late as possible. They will be able to work without being interrupted by your kids or your dog. As a result, they will finish faster and get you back into your home sooner.

Consider Starting with Exterior Projects

Exterior projects are substantially less likely to transmit disease. Just as importantly, outdoor projects can increase both your enjoyment of your home as spring and summer arrive and the value of your home.

Some of the most valuable outdoor projects include:

  • Exterior paint: Exterior painting improves your home’s curb appeal. Curb appeal can increase the value of your home by 5% to 11%.
  • Front door: Like exterior paint, a new front door increases your curb appeal.
  • New roof: A new roof installation increases the value of your home. Equally importantly, an old, damaged roof can substantially decrease the value of your home.
  • Patio: A patio provides a place for enjoying the outdoors. Outdoor gatherings have a substantially lower risk of viral transmission than indoor gatherings. As a result, patios will have high usage through the rest of the pandemic.
  • Swimming pool: With many public pools closed, installing a private swimming pool will provide your family with both recreation and exercise.

Consider Starting with Yard Projects

Yard projects also provide substantial return on investment (ROI) and can increase the appearance and enjoyment of your home. Moreover, yardwork can provide you with exercise and outdoor activity when many alternative options for exercise are unavailable.

Some examples of yard projects that can spruce up your home include:

  • Lawn care: Fertilizing and aerating your lawn is relatively inexpensive and produces an enormous ROI. By spending a few hundred dollars on lawn care, the value of your home may increase by a few thousand dollars.
  • Trees: Planting trees can also have a high ROI. Moreover, trees provide shade and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Gardens: Whether you plant flowers or vegetables, gardens can spruce up your home and yard.
  • Pest control: The U.S. home and garden pest control industry grows by about 3% every year. It is understandable because pest control can improve the appearance of your yard and increase the value of your home.
  • Outdoor lighting: Outdoor lighting can improve the appearance of your yard and improve the safety of your home. Moreover, outdoor lighting can be built without increasing your energy consumption by purchasing solar panels from solar energy companies.

Improve the Safety of Your Home

One lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that good ventilation can improve indoor air quality and even reduce viral transmission. Conversely, bad ventilation can increase viral transmission by recirculating bad air.

Some of the upgrades that your air conditioning company can make to your home’s HVAC system include:

  • Install HEPA filters: HEPA filters capture particles as small as 0.3 micrometers. A virus is about 0.1 micrometers in diameter. This means that a HEPA filter is not adequate to capture viruses. However, viruses ride on dust particles and atomized water droplets. These particles are larger than 0.3 micrometers and can be captured by HEPA filters. This means that HEPA filters do reduce transmission.
  • Install UV sanitizers: Ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizers can kill viruses. Used in combination with HEPA filters, UV sanitizers inside an air conditioning system can kill the viruses riding on dust particles and water droplets when they are trapped inside the filters.
  • Install MERV-14 filters: While not for everyone, MERV-14 filters are used by hospitals to capture bacteria and viruses in the air. This system will capture most particles the size of a microbe.

Improve the Functioning of Your Home

While it is not as exciting, you can also spruce up your home by improving its functioning. You can hire a contractor to fix all those little things that do not work quite right.

Garage door contractors can help fix or replace your garage door that gets stuck part-way up. Furnace contractors can fix your furnace blower that squeaks and squeals whenever it runs. An interior painting service can touch up those spots where your furniture has worn the paint off your walls.

You can also fix those things that are not as quite as visible. Your ducts could be full of dust, debris, and even pests. Cleaning them can improve both the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, but also your health.

Similarly, plumbing that knocks and bumps might be full of scaling and require replacement. Hiring a plumbing contractor to inspect your plumbing system might prevent larger problems in the future such as clogged pipes.

When thinking about functional systems in your home, consider:

  • Electrical: Electrical repairs can increase capacity and safety.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing repairs can reduce the risk of leaks that can cause catastrophic damage to your home’s structure.
  • HVAC: HVAC is necessary for comfort and safety.
  • Structure: Water damage, wear, mold, and other pests can compromise the structure of your home.

Hire a Cleaning Service Afterward

Contractors usually tidy up after finishing work. However, to thoroughly disinfect your home after you spruce up your home, you should consider hiring a professional cleaning service. Some of the tasks your cleaning service should perform include:

  • Wipe down surfaces: Construction work produces a lot of dust. Whether it is sawdust from carpentry work or dust from air conditioning installation services, this dust can carry allergens, pests, viruses, bacteria, and even mold spores. Wiping down surfaces is necessary to prevent this dust from affecting your health.
  • Vacuum floors: Dust and debris can pose a safety risk. Stepping on metal scraps, screws, and nails can cut up your feet and cause tetanus.
  • Air cleaning: Air ionizers and air filtering systems can cleanse the air of chemicals from construction and ventilate an area. This can reduce the odds of viral transmission and exposure to dangerous vapors.

Home remodeling during COVID-19 is understandable. Just be sure to create a budget and stick to it. Plan ahead by setting a timeline and your expectations for cleanliness from your contractor. Choose projects that can be completed outdoors. Alternatively, consider leaving the house while your contractors spruce up your home. Finally, think through which projects to undertake and focus on those that improve the comfort, function, appearance, or value of your home.

By remodeling now, you should also be prepared to encounter busy contractors. The number of remodeling projects has increased dramatically during the pandemic. So, you should plan for long waits for materials and labor.

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