Three experts weigh in on necessary steps to a safe return to in-home remodeling. By Dianne M. Pogoda.
Many kitchen and bath pros have been working from home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been working in homes. As states have begun to open up and remodelers have resumed their in-house work, safety remains a paramount concern.
Bill Darcy, NKBA CEO, hosted a lively episode of “Brave New Business,” part of NKBA’s webcast series, offering key tips to ensure safety when returning to client’s homes, for both their crews and homeowners.
Three experts joining Darcy were Angie Hicks, chief customer officer at ANGI Home Services and cofounder of Angie’s List; Charlie Silva, president of Silva Brothers Construction in the Boston area and a TV personality on “This Old House,” and John Colaneri, designer/developer, TV personality and one of the “Kitchen Cousins,” whose show “Design Duo” premiered last week on EllenTube.
All agreed that very detailed and frequent communication — especially at the start of a job — is critical to ensuring a successful remodel. This is crucial under less challenging circumstances, and is especially so at this point in time. Managing expectations and keeping clients looped in on any possible delays minimizes surprises during the project.
“The pros who are doing really well are listening to their customers’ concerns around safety measures and re-entering the home,” said Hicks. These include communicating about social distancing, the PPE they’re using (like wearing a mask and gloves), extra cleaning, how they’re going to seal off the area they’re working in so they don’t interact with the family, how they’re going to communicate or hold meetings — text, phone, video-chat.
“There’s a real interest in video-chatting, so if contractors are thinking about adopting a new technology, there’s real opportunity here,” she added. “I tell consumers to talk to their contractors and not to be afraid to say what’s important to you about safety measures. If you lay that great foundation, the job’s going to go a lot smoother.”
Silva said his company had a number of jobs in progress when the pandemic lockdown hit, and in Massachusetts, remodelers were deemed “essential,” so his crews weren’t shut down. Still, some adjustments were necessary to keep everyone safe interacting with clients. His first move was making sure his workers were comfortable, and to ensure them that they were under no pressure to go into a jobsite if they had any reservations or compromised medical conditions to consider. He made a special point of keeping his workers as informed as possible as information became available.
Then, he focused on the supply chain, which for him was delayed by about two weeks. They tried to anticipate and order extra supplies and products he knew he would use, like pressure-treated lumber, wherever possible.
Colaneri, who was in the middle of his own home remodeling project when the crisis hit, said he and the contractors with whom he was collaborating tried to stagger their schedules so individuals worked on their own as often as they could, to try to ensure everyone wasn’t on top of each other.
He said the supply chain was a bigger issue — and the best advice he can give is to order materials as far in advance as possible. “Ordinarily, it might take two steps to get materials into the jobsite to be able to finish working,” he said, “but now it might take four or five steps. So there will be more hourly billing because we have to spend more time on things — and most clients understand that this is the case at this time.”
Additionally, he said all his contractors already had safety procedures in place, like maintaining social distancing and wearing masks, and at the end of each workday, they cleaned up to make sure the homeowners felt safe in the space.
Hicks said ANGI Home Services, parent of Angie’s List and Home Advisor, has been giving pros ideas about things they can do, and also rolled out some new tools, including a space on a pro’s profile page to detail the types of safety measures they’re taking on Angie’s List — “a new way to market yourself and your services” — and a video-chat function on the Home Advisor app, simply to make it easier for contractors who might not want to spend the time to institute a new program for online meetings.
Scheduling work crews in shifts or in a staggered manner has been somewhat of a challenge, the panelists noted, but all agreed that most customers understand that what might have been a four to five-week project is now eight or nine weeks.
“My clients are all OK with an extended timeframe because they’d all rather be safe than rush the job,” said Colaneri.
Silva circled back to being meticulous about ordering products and materials as being key to minimizing delays in the whole project.
“You don’t want to magnify a delay because you forgot to order a window,” he added.
To hear this or any other full episode, or obtain more information about the series and register for a future webcast, visit the “Brave New Business” home page here.
BNB moves to an every-other-week schedule for July and August. The next episode livestreams Thursday, July 9. Special guest host Kerrie Kelly, of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, Calif., will lead a discussion on Living in Place design, with a special focus on multi-generational solutions. This is a deep-dive into NKBA’s exclusive “Living Impacts Design” research. Her guests will be Jonas Carnemark, CKD, CLIPP, principal of Carnemark design + build in Bethesda, Md., and Jennifer Bertrand, AKBD, CLIPP, TV personality and principal of Jennifer Bertrand Design in Kansas City.