Lumber, cinder blocks, dirt piles, and holes. To children, a construction site can seem like a playground—even when Mom and Dad warn them about staying away.
Here are a few tips that will help keep your family safe-and your project running smoothly.
Keeping children safe
Home-remodeling construction areas can be very attractive to young children. Kids will often hang around work areas and ask the crew hundreds of questions. To keep the area safe, crews should restrict access to the areas they are working in by asking them not to pass the yellow tape. The homeowners and parents need to also take an active part in keeping children safe.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), recommends designating an area away from the work site for play and toy storage. Be sure to explain to your children which areas are off limits and that they should never play around with materials or with the contractors’ tools and machinery.
Communicating with your contractor is also very important. Before work begins, inform the contractor of the number of children in the house, their ages, and whether any are particularly mischief-prone.
Be sure to find out when large equipment and orders of building materials are being delivered. You might consider taking a family outing on those days if possible.
I’m sure this has never happened…but NARI suggests that parents do not leave children alone under a contractors’ care while going out to run errands. Your contractor is not your babysitter.
Control hazardous materials
Before your project starts, be aware of potentially toxic materials on the job site. Lead paint, asbestos, mold, and even dust could be health hazards during a remodel, especially if the project includes demolition. Keep children and pets out of areas where those hazards exist and away from toxic chemicals, such as paint strippers.
Make sure to ask your contractor what steps will be taken-to avoid creating indoor pollutants and how they will contain those that can’t be avoided.
Additional safety guidelines
- Assign separate doors – If possible, designate one entrance through which work crews carry tools and materials and another for you and your family to use exclusively during the project.
- Protect your pets – A dog or cat underfoot is a hazard to both you and your pet. Keep pets away from work areas, preferably in a closed room away from the supply-door entrance.
- Safely store tools and materials – Be sure your contractor keeps dangerous items, such as tools, ladders, and hazardous materials, out of children’s reach at all times, especially at the end of the workday.
- Securing the work area – Ensure that you or your contractor secure any holes or pits in the wall, floor, or yard at the end of the day.
- Hang plastic sheeting or tarps around the work area – This simple step helps prevent pollutants, dust, and debris from travelling throughout the house.
- Look for lead paint – The older your home, the greater the chance it has lead-based paint, a threat even if you’ve laid lead-free coats over it. If the paint is scraped, sanded, lead can become airborne and make it in to your body or contaminate the soil around your home. Children are especially vulnerable to dust that can get on toys and hands and, eventually, in the mouth. The first step is having the area tested for lead-based paint. The Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend home-use testing kits. Instead, it suggests hiring a trained inspector to test surfaces on-site. If lead-based paint is present, the agency recommends hiring a professional to prep the surface. The EPA’s brochure “Reducing Lead Hazards when Remodeling Your Home” offers suggestions on finding an inspector as well as information on what to look for in a remediation contractor.
- Mist surfaces – A fine coat of water sprayed on surfaces before sanding or scraping keeps dust from becoming airborne.
- Work outside – When at all possible, paint, stain, and finish building materials outside and bring them in after they are dry.
- Control carpet VOCs – Unroll and air carpets before installation, and use low-emitting adhesives if needed.
- Ventilate – Air out the work area and the rest of your home during and after a remodel. Position window fans so that they blow out instead of in. If your home has central air conditioning or heat, DO NOT run the systems when works are sanding or scraping. Also change the filters as often as once a week to keep dust from spreading throughout the house. The NARI also suggests that short getaways be planned while the home is airing out. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers guidelines on indoor-air-quality concerns during remodeling.
- Be aware of rodent droppings – Droppings are sometimes exposed during demolition and can spread viruses. Be sure to eliminate all of the droppings, taking proper precautions when doing so.
Deciding to remodel your house can be both exciting and a little frightening. You have a vision of how beautiful it will look when you are finished, but remodeling can be dangerous. All projects, big and small, have their hazards. As long as you take the proper precautions and educate yourself on the task at hand, the remodel should go pretty smoothly.