Can Builders Work On House Renovations?

Can households undertake renovation work to improve their home or prepare their home for sale during the second lockdown in England? Boris Johnson announced that England’s second lockdown will begin on Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December, with ‘stay at home’ guidance and the closure of non-essential businesses. But […]

Can households undertake renovation work to improve their home or prepare their home for sale during the second lockdown in England?

Boris Johnson announced that England’s second lockdown will begin on Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December, with ‘stay at home’ guidance and the closure of non-essential businesses.

But as the month-long lockdown looms in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there are still many questions about the new restrictions. However, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has cleared up some initial questions ahead of further guidance.

‘Tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, repairers of domestic appliances can enter your home. They will need to follow social distancing guidance that has already been published,’ Robert Jenrick confirmed in a Twitter Q&A on 31st October.

House moves are also still allowed to go ahead, construction sites can continue, hardware stores will remain open, and removal firms and estate agents can operate, Jenrick revealed.

Previous advice during the first lockdown in March allowed the fitting of new kitchens, redecorating, and other home improvement work which may involve tradespeople (builders, plumbers, electrician, roofer, landscaper, decorator etc), as long as safety measures were in place.

• Please read on for guidance issued during the first lockdown. We will update as and when more information becomes available.

Rules for tradespeople

There are rules for tradespeople to adhere to. They should follow the government’s safer working guidance and ensure they operate safely with strict social distancing measures in place. The government says:

• Tradespeople should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. If they are, works should be delayed.

• No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

• Tradespeople should wash their hands on entering the property. They need to use separate towels or paper towels, which need to be washed or disposed of safely after use.

• Tradespeople should minimise contact with homeowners and remain 2 metres apart from householders at all times.

• Tradespeople are urged to implement a buddy system and ensure that the same people work together where this is needed.

• Tradespeople should bring their own refreshments, but households should ensure they have access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards.

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    Hammer in bucket

    Roberto WestbrookGetty Images

    Joseph Brown, a senior architect specialising in domestic work at north London practice Amos Goldreich Architecture, previously told us that on his still-active projects, he’s implementing the following:

    • The site should be limited to as few workers as possible and all should be practising safe social distancing measures at all times (two-metre distance between each other).

    • The workers coming to the site will not be using public transport and will only arrive by car or van.

    • If the above cannot be sustained all works on site should be paused. The ongoing works should be reviewed to enable the above where possible.

    • Anyone showing even mild COVID-19 symptoms should not be on site and in line with government guidelines should remain at home for 14 days.

    What can homeowners do?

    modern extension built onto the side of a listed period property

    James OsmondGetty Images

    UK trade directory, Checkatrade, has worked closely with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to produce guidance for homeowners looking to carry out work in homes.

    1. Keep in contact: Regular contact with your tradesperson in advance of any home visit is important. Talk through details of the work being carried out and agree how risks can be reduced. And also keep in contact with suppliers for assurances that your deliveries will arrive as planned – as always, it’s sensible to wait for materials to arrive before commencing a project.

        2. Be honest: If you have symptoms of the virus, or if you have been advised to shield yourself, then only emergency or essential repairs should go ahead. Ensure you take additional safety measures by avoiding face-to-face contact or by staying in another room.

        3. Go digital: Checkatrade has introduced a video calling option on its website and is encouraging trade members to accept video calls through WhatsApp in order to carry out quotes.

        4. Take sensible precautions when work is carried out: Clean surfaces around the working area and in ‘high traffic’ areas such as door handles with disinfectant before, during, and after work is carried out. Internal doors should be kept open to minimise the touching of door handles, and make sure any shared facilities, like toilets or kitchens, are thoroughly cleaned after each shift. Where possible, keep children or pets in other rooms while work is carried out.

        5. Be mindful of your space: If work is taking place in an area you use frequently, such as the stairs or kitchen, consider ways to avoid using that space when work takes place. You should try to avoid too much face-to-face contact with the tradesperson in your home. You can also ask your tradesperson to bring their own mug, kettle or food to help keep contact to a minimum.

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        Protecting your project

        Empty Hall HDR

        © by Martin DejaGetty Images

        If closure is no option – for instance, if safe social distancing practices can’t be maintained, or the build team cannot work for any other reason, including illness – the contractor has a duty to ensure all openings are secure, boarded and watertight before leaving the site permanently. ‘Also, where possible, all access routes to a site should also be boarded and secured and materials safely stored. This is standard practice and should be unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic,’ says Joseph Brown.

        If your home ends up under temporary security protection such as boards and sheeting to cover missing exterior walls or roofs, you must inform your buildings and contents insurance provider. Failure to do so could invalidate your policy.

        Insurance details

        Your builders’ Public Liability insurance should be kept in place until any building work is completed, so check with them that this is happening. Go through the terms and conditions of your building contract with them – all reputable builders should not start a project without one. ‘The most important thing people can do at the moment is check the force majeure clauses in their contracts,’ Jake Newport, managing director of Finnmark Sauna which supplies and installs home leisure products, tells us.

        Leave it to the professionals

        painter with paint brush and roller

        Kanok SulaimanGetty Images

        Apart from finishing-off DIY tasks such as painting and decorating, never attempt to undertake any major work yourself. This includes structural alterations and gas and electricity installations, which should only be carried out by qualified and accredited individuals.

        If you do make an attempt, it will mean your project will not meet Building Regulations. The work will have to be re-done as a matter of urgency by a qualified tradesperson or you may invalidate your building insurance policy and/or face prosecution.Also, there are potential legal issues if you come to sell your home as you need certificates of completion to prove certain work – including gas and electricity installations – has been done by a professional. Find out more at gov.uk.

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