It’s unlikely The Clash were singing about a home renovation when they asked: “Should I stay or should I go?” Still, it’s an important question to answer when a work crew is coming to create your dream space.
It’s no secret that construction work can stir up old toxins—think asbestos and lead—and bring new ones into your home. One way to reduce your exposure to toxins is to move out during a renovation…but, of course, moving out can add to the budget and inconvenience of renovating. Also, it isn’t necessary for every project. There are many ways you and your general contractor can lessen the impact of a renovation—from installing drywall that converts toxins to setting up humidifiers—if you stay for some or all the renovation. Here are the questions to consider when making your decision:
What Are You Renovating?
Is your project a gut renovation? Are you only renovating one room? Is that room a bathroom or a kitchen? As always, there are hundreds of variables when making any home renovation decision. With a gut renovation that takes over the home, we recommend moving out. It speeds up the timeline and keeps you away from any toxins. If you’re not planning a total overhaul, staying for most of the renovation is a good compromise, although we always encourage clients to move out during the dusty demolition phase. For a small bathroom project, this means about two to three days.
Living Clean During and After a Renovation
If you decide to stay in your home during the renovation, you can limit the toxins by:
Using a drywall that actively removes toxins from the air. When formaldehyde meets CertainTeed Gypsum’s AirRenew Indoor Air Quality Drywall, the drywall absorbs and then converts the formaldehyde to a safe compound. Even after construction, it will continue to absorb formaldehyde released from everyday household items like cleaning products, perfumes, and air fresheners.
Getting a commercial grade air scrubber. These can be rented and are often used by general contractors to create the negative air pressure inside the renovation area. For an extra dose of clean air, put an air scrubber outside the area, too.
Placing air purifiers in each bedroom. Air purifiers might clean the air to a lesser degree than an air scrubber but are also easier to obtain and use. Get one from your local home goods store.
Using humidifiers to dampen the air and prevent dust particles from spreading.
Choosing paint and wood stains that are lower in VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are gases that man-made materials can dispel into the air. Think that new car smell.
Opting for hardwoods vs. carpeting. Carpet can have about 120 chemicals and release fumes for up to three years after installation. Instead, go for hardwood floors. If you already have carpeting, there are a few things you can do to clean green: remove shoes at the front door, vacuum twice a week, and steam-clean carpets with plain water.
Ensuring your general contractor gives your home a thorough cleaning with a HEPA filter vacuum, which can capture all the tiny particles. We clean as we go on our sites, and a more thorough cleaning is done at the end of the project.
Having a specialized company test your home post-renovation to gauge the level of VOCs and dust. Test results can take between one to five days after work is completed. The company conducts these tests in homes and workplaces.
Can You Stretch Your Budget?
The best time to have your answer on staying or going is as soon as possible. That way, you can include the additional expense for a hotel or a short-term apartment rental in your initial budget. One way to sweeten the deal is to plan a vacation for at least some of the renovation. However, that idea hits a snag if you’re keeping tight tabs on the work progress.
What is the Layout of Your Home?
Along with the scope of your project, the layout of your home could affect your decision. A renovation occupying one level of a multistory home can easily be separated from the remaining living space. If it’s a smaller apartment with only one point of entry, this becomes more difficult. If the general contractor team doesn’t have another way to get into the work area, of course, they are going to bring in dust on their clothing and in their hair. Renovations can create dust so fine a human eye can’t see it. That dust can also pass through a typical vacuum cleaner filter.
Contractors can take certain steps to reduce the spread of dust and toxins to other parts of the home. Likely, the renovation is sectioned off with tape and thick plastic. Negative air pressure also stops contaminated air from leaving the renovation zone whenever a worker exits or enters. A water mister can also be used in the renovation area; the damper air limits the dust from traveling around the home.
Can You Live Without a Bathroom or Kitchen?
Toxins aren’t the only thing to consider. If you’re renovating a kitchen and plan on staying, be prepared to order a lot of takeout (and add that expense to your budget). Or organize a makeshift kitchen with an electric hot plate and microwave with water from the bathroom sink. A bathroom renovation can be more tricky if you only have one. Sometimes you can shower before your contractor arrives. At other stages during the project, the bathroom will be unusable.
Every renovation has its share of decisions, and whether to stay or go during the work might be one of the more important. With planning and a realistic budget, you should be able to map out the right choice for your family, with a beautiful new space as the prize.