If you're like most people, you've gotten to know your home pretty well in the last few months. With nowhere to go, it has become your workspace, family gathering spot, restaurant, entertainment center, and, hopefully, a place to get some solace and quiet. You may have also noticed ways to improve your living arrangements, whether it's to add a new deck, install a fountain, apply a fresh coat of paint, or plant a garden. DIY projects tend to rise to the surface when you are reminded of them daily and have some free time.
Home improvement projects can be challenging, and properly adhering to COVID-19 safety measures make it even more difficult. Here are some things you can do to make sure your project is done smoothly, safely, and affordably.
Limit time in stores
Use your time in home improvement stores efficiently. Home improvement retailers, deemed essential, have remained open during the pandemic. This is good news for them, as the quarantine has ignited interest in home improvement projects. According to Adweek, Home Depot, Lowe's and Ace Hardware all have reported first-quarter sales growth.
But if you've visited recently one, you know that social distancing best practices aren't always the norm. They're often packed, and not everyone is wearing a mask or staying six feet apart. Chances are your improvement project may require a visit to one of these stores, so here are some suggestions for being prepared before you go:
- Make a list of what you need and don't stray from it (you can find the aisle and bay number if you look for items on homedepot.com or lowes.com first).
- Consider curbside pick-up, so you don't have to even go in.
- Wear a mask and keep six feet from other customers.
- Try to use the self-checkout if possible, to reduce interaction with employees.
- Clean your hands thoroughly after you check out with hand sanitizer and wash with hot soap and water when you get home.
Use reputable contractors
Hiring the most affordable home improvement company may not be the best choice, especially now. A good way to find a trustworthy contractor is to get recommendations from friends, check out the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), search Angie's List, or ask neighbors on Nextdoor.com. Provide a virtual walk-through of your project with potential contractors, and have them provide a video conference estimate. Once you decide on a contractor, make sure they not only adhere to the strictest social distancing practices but go beyond them. Here are some detailed recommendations for workers in the building trade provided by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition:
- Allow only necessary personnel admittance to job sites.
- Social distance on the job and minimize ride sharing to the site.
- Disinfect the site often and dispose safely of garbage and debris.
- Avoid sharing tools and equipment.
- Divide crews on major projects in two, so work can continue even if one group needs to self-quarantine.
Also, get a timeline of how long the project will take and make sure they stick to it. Minimize contact by keeping your family out of the room where the contractors are working.
Don't spend beyond your means. Just because you've identified the project you want to take on and have the time, that doesn't mean you have the finances to complete it. While a bathroom or kitchen remodel can add significant value to your home, it can be costly.
"There are many factors that should be considered when financial planning for a major renovation," says Charlie Schloegel, co-owner of Schloegel Design Remodel. "We challenge our customers to look at how long they plan to live in their house if neighborhood home values are increasing or decreasing, and the quality of nearby schools, among other things. We then look at comparable designs to help determine a preliminary high-level budget," says Schloegel. "And to save headaches and time, you should hire a design-build contractor, so there is only one contract and one single point of responsibility. That can be especially helpful if you want to maintain consistency not only with the project, but to ensure all subcontractors follow COVID procedures."
So how will you pay for your improvements? A popular choice for those with built-up equity in their home is getting a cash-out refinance
. A cash-out refinance replaces the loan you currently have on your home with a new, higher-balance mortgage. The difference between the two mortgages comes to you as cash you can use for home improvements. With rates as low as they currently are, a cash-out refinance not only provides you with the finances you need but may also lower your monthly payments.
You'll be glad you used this time to make a few home improvements. Just make sure you follow proper social distancing practices, hire the right people, and don't dig yourself into a financial hole.