EVANSTON, Ill. (Qualified Remodeler) — Shelter-in-place orders in three U.S. States: California, New York and Illinois have deemed residential construction as an “essential” activity and therefore remodeling and home improvement contractors may continue to operate. Pennsylvania’s order is more restrictive allowing construction activity on an emergency basis. Significantly, building material wholesalers and retailers are also deemed essential in those states.

Bill Ward of the Home Builders Association of Illinois issued a statement that outlined the legal basis for residential construction to continue with business activity.  The only question is whether local building departments will still be open and issuing building and renovation permits.

“So, what this means is that we are still in business and you can also interpret that to mean that your material providers, subcontractors, and others services needed in the course of providing housing construction, repair, and remodeling should stay open, too,” says Ward. “But none of this will do us any good unless local governments keep open their building departments to do inspections on new construction, repair, and remodeling.” Ward is concerned because building departments were not specifically listed as essential government activities by the order that takes effect March 21.

Below is the governing language of the order from Gov. Jay Pritzker of Illinois, says Ward. “To find out if we are an essential business or operation, we need to go to Section 12: “Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Section 12 lists the Essential Businesses and Operations needed to be exempt from the Executive Order to “Stay at Home.” Paragraph “h” allows critical trades to stay open including: Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, Essential Businesses and Operations.

In New York, Gov. Cuomo’s order takes effect March 22. The language is clear deeming “construction” and “skilled trades” as essential. Additionally, businesses can petition to be added to the essential list in New York by filing paperwork that can be found here.

Pennsylvania’s law is murkier. Construction is non-essential, but is allowed in emergency situations. The list of essential and non-essential functions is found here.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order is clear that all construction can be construed as “essential”

Construction Workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)

You can read the full list of essential California businesses here.

Related Posts


Chris Rosseland
Chris Rosseland March 22, 2020 - 10:10 pm

This is so irresponsible. Sending workers in to occupied homes puts everyone at risk of contacting and/or spreading this virus. Obviously we need a little more common sense in the remodeling Industry.

Patrick OToole
Patrick OToole March 23, 2020 - 9:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your views Chris. Patrick O’Toole

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More