Telemedicine for Home Repairs?

Mr. Egan cleaned out the machine and turned it on. Surprisingly, it worked, although the clothes came out with a musty odor. But by the middle of April, the upstairs machine began leaking water from the back, even though it wasn’t in use, and the house began to smell of mold. Ms. Egan decided she’d had enough.

In early May, she called a local appliance company and ordered a new washing machine. The deliverymen arrived wearing masks and gloves. Ms. Egan asked them to spray their shoes with disinfectant. Carrying a heavy washing machine up a flight of stairs is hard work, and Ms. Egan worried about all the heavy breathing. “I felt badly for them, too,” she said of the workers. “I don’t know if we should be putting other people at risk.”

But once the washer was installed, and no one fell ill, Ms. Egan was relieved to have her laundry room back in working order.

Many contractors have put protocols in place for safely entering a home. Ron Potesky, who owns a Mr. Handyman franchise in Springfield N.J., with his wife, Christina Langdon, sends workers into homes with gloves, masks and disposable booties over their shoes. They also sanitize their van, tools and work area with a peroxide-based cleaner.

On the day of the job, Mr. Potesky asks the homeowner if anyone in the house has been sick recently. And his workers stay home if they feel unwell. He suggests that household members stay in a separate room and leave a clear path with doors open for workers. Homeowners should also open windows in the rooms where work will be done to increase ventilation, and wipe down surfaces that were touched after the service call.

“We have to think about the customer, but we also have carpenters who may be in their 50s. They’re as worried about going into homes” as customers are about them coming in, Mr. Potesky said. Despite the persistent anxiety, call volume from potential customers is now back to about 80 percent of normal, he said, after it “fell off a ledge” in March.

Sometimes, homeowners just need advice. Can the drip wait, or will it cause lasting damage? Or, what is that strange clanging noise in the walls, and can anything be done to make it go away? So just as telehealth has replaced the doctor’s office, some home repairs have gone virtual, too.

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