Quarantine means spending way more time at home—and for some people, that also means noticing everything you want to change about your space. But is now a good time to take on a major renovation project?
Probably not, experts say.
“If you’re not already in the middle of a renovation, I don’t think right now is the time to start a big project,” says Katie Kurtz, a real estate agent in Minneapolis and home design blogger at Adorned Homes. “You could get into the middle of it and realize you need help with it, and you’re probably not going to be able to find anyone to come in.”
In compliance with social distancing guidelines, many contractors are limiting the number of people on work sites, which means projects are taking longer than usual, Kurtz says.
But even DIY projects come with challenges during a pandemic.
“Most stores only allow a handful of people in at one time,” says Casey Lyn Daneker, a real estate agent in Philadelphia. That means last-minute trips to pick up supplies could prove challenging—not to mention risky from a health perspective.
So, which projects should you avoid tackling during a pandemic? We asked the experts.
1. Anything that requires precious PPE
Personal protective equipment—or PPE—is in high demand and short supply right now, as hospitals struggle to gather adequate supplies for health care providers. Home improvement stores are also running low on PPE, which contractors and homeowners need to safely tackle projects around the house.
“Because masks are so limited right now, I don’t think people should be taking on projects that could take up mask supplies when they don’t need to do those projects,” Kurtz says.
That means now isn’t the right time to pull out your paint sprayer or begin a dusty new woodworking project, or any other project that requires PPE.
2. Sky-high projects on a ladder
Spring might seem like a natural time to clean the gutters, but think twice before you climb a ladder, says Laura Bierman, home improvement project coordinator at YouthfulHome.com.
“With nearly 20% of all fall injuries involving a ladder, the last thing you want to do is wind up in the hospital because you lost your balance,” Bierman says. “The issue with showing up to the ER these days is that you might end up catching something worse than what you came in with.”
3. Projects that bring too many cooks into the kitchen (or bathroom, or living room…)
As health officials continue to urge us to limit interactions with people beyond our immediate households, homeowners should avoid starting a project that would involve a long list of contractors, from plumbers to electricians to carpenters.
“Now would be one of the worst times to start a renovation project that requires a tradesman to come inside of your home,” Bierman says. “To mitigate health risks, avoid starting any projects that would require you to give additional people access to the inside of your home.”
4. Projects with heavy equipment or materials
In the good ol’ days (aka a few months ago), you could call up a few buddies to help you move a couch or carry heavy equipment up a few flights of stairs. But right now, it’s not a good idea to start any project that you can’t handle 100% on your own, since you don’t want to involve more people than necessary.
So postpone any major overhaul of your space that requires a lot of muscle, unless you live with family members or roommates who can help. Otherwise, your best bet is to stick to lightweight, low-impact projects where you can fly solo with confidence.
5. Noisy projects that annoy the neighbors
“With most people cooped up in their homes, we should all be striving to be good neighbors,” Bierman says. That means mowing the lawn, busting out the power washer, or sawing wood outdoors could disturb your neighbors who are trying to work and study from home (and, of course, juggle child care responsibilities).
“To be mindful of the current circumstances, I recommend either working on loud tasks after 5 p.m., on weekends, or not at all,” Bierman says.
6. Demolition that generates lots of garbage
If you decide now is the time to finally rip up old carpeting or demo a dated basement, you might find yourself stuck with the debris.
“Even a bathroom renovation could result in tons of trash, and with the current climate, it might not get picked up,” says Daneker, who says her own trash schedule has been modified in light of the health crisis. Your local dump may also be closed or have reduced hours.
7. Expensive projects that overly improve your home
Now that you’re cooking from home more than ever, it might seem like a good time to splurge on the high-end stove you’ve been coveting. But even if you can afford an expensive upgrade, you’re better off waiting until the economy recovers.
“We still do not know the ultimate effects that COVID-19 will have on the housing market and home values,” says Kristina Morales, a real estate agent and interior designer and stager in Newport Beach, CA. “The last thing you would want to do right before you sell a home is to invest a lot of money in home improvements and then suddenly home values fall.”