As you prepare for a major renovation, you will be rightly focused on finding a great general contractor, selecting materials, and figuring out costs. With all that on your to-do list, it’s easy to overlook plans for site prep and protection that can have a big effect on your home during and after the renovation. Here’s a look at ways to minimize mess and prevent damage with thorough site prep before work gets underway.
Discuss site prep and protection with your contractor
Contractors generally work with you on protecting the existing space, but such protections usually prevent damage rather than block dirt and grime. That is to say, your floors shouldn’t be scratched or dented, but they may be dusty, streaky, or even sticky—and will need to be cleaned up after the fact. It’s always a good idea to have a discussion with your contractor about your expectations for cleanliness over the duration of the renovation. As with many aspects of home renovation, what is included and for what price varies depending on the project and the contractor.
Decide whether to stay or go
Site prep is an important undertaking, especially for homeowners who are renovating just one part of their residence. It becomes even more important if you plan to continue living at home through the renovation. Staying put may actually cost more than clearing out completely. This is because of the extra time and effort that goes into set-up and tear-down each day: crews must first lay paper, hang tarp, and add any other protective barriers that have to be taken down at the end of the work day in order for the owners to use their home at night.
For example, if you are renovating the kitchen and your only bathroom, your contractor will need to make sure you can maintain crucial access to the facilities and be able to walk through to the rest of the house. On the other hand, a renovation in an unoccupied home allows the crew to leave the space in relative disarray at the end of the day and pick up right where they left off the next morning. For this reason, whether or not you leave while the renovation is ongoing is usually part of the initial conversation with your contractor to determine a project estimate.
Prep, protect, and seal
If you are undertaking anything other than a complete gut renovation, you can do the following to limit the disruption and minimize the mess:
Cordon off the renovation zone as best you can by hanging heavy-duty tarp (at least 6 millimeters thick) from the ceiling down to the floor to create a seal. Usually, this is done by applying masking tape across all sides of the tarp where it meets the ceiling, walls, and floor. Particles will fly through any and all gaps you leave, no matter how small. If you need a flap for entry and exit, you could consider applying an adhesive zipper like this one to your tarp. A double layer might be a good idea if there will be a lot of sanding or if you know that dangerous particles will be released into the air.
Within the reno zone, protect anything that you’re keeping—if the floors are staying, then cover them with construction paper (maybe even a double layer, as insurance against tearing). If you are keeping any appliances, cover them with tarp (again, leaving no gaps).
If the reno zone is in the center of your home, consider laying continuous paper or tarp through all the high traffic areas so that you don’t track dirt into the rest of the space.
Cover all furniture throughout the home (especially textile surfaces such as couches and beds) with a drop cloth or tarp while construction is ongoing during the workday. Even with the tarps up, you’d be surprised at how much dust flies around.
Seal up closet doors by applying masking tape to the gaps between the doors and the floor. Nothing more annoying than having to wash all your dusty clothes because you forgot to do this. (I learned this the hard way.)
Vacuum, preferably with a HEPA (“high efficiency particulate air”) vacuum at the end of each work day—you can rent one or discuss getting one with your contractor. HEPA vacuums are able to trap much smaller particles than normal vacuums.
If you have one, run a HEPA air purifier on high 24/7, and change or wash the filters frequently since they will be working a lot harder than usual. If you don’t have one, consider renting a commercial grade air scrubber for the duration of the renovation.
Open the windows! The more air circulates, the better.
The costs of prevention are fairly minimal (with the exception of an air scrubber rental, which can run you several hundred dollars depending on how long you need it) but important to identify and account for upfront so that you and your team are on the same page about expectations. And even with excellent containment, you’ll most likely need a dedicated cleaning after the project is done.