Monday, February 23, 2009
Safely, sanely living through your remodeling project
By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
Construction sites are considered one of the most dangerous work places in America.
Whole government agencies are dedicated to making them safer. So, how do you keep your family safe when your home becomes the construction site?
Although it is not always possible, the best approach when it comes to safety is to move out during construction.
Depending on the scope of the work, you could be displaced for three months to a year.
Besides safety considerations, the advantages of moving out are fairly obvious: You will not be living in the dust and noise of your remodel. Your contractor can tear into the project more extensively, shortening construction time and therefore saving you money. The contractor will also not have to clean the job site quite as much or worry about your dog getting out of the yard.
The disadvantages are also obvious: Renting a place is an added expense for your remodeling budget. (This is where taking advantage of close relatives comes in handy!)
Relocating also often involves a lot of carpooling to keep kids in the same schools, to attend the same church, to participate on the same soccer teams, etc.
However, most of our clients do not move out during their remodeling adventures.
Successfully living through the construction phase requires careful planning and coordination with the contractor in terms of what will be available when.
Certain areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms, are more critical than others. There is often more than one bathroom in a home, so contractors can arrange to redo one at a time. (This will add some expense because subcontractors will have to make more trips to the job site.)
Careful planning for a kitchen remodel can reduce the time the whole area is out of commission. For instance, leaving the old kitchen intact while the cabinets are built will shorten the time your family is forced to eat out.
Overall, your contractor is responsible for safety on his job site. He will take measures to separate your living area from his construction area.
This may take the form of plastic or plywood "walls." These walls contain dust and debris (to some extent) in the construction zone and define his territory. Though this is still your home, you enter into this space at your own risk and at his invitation. His first concern is his workers' safety, and your presence can interfere with this. Not only can you distract workers with conversation and questions, there are other pitfalls, such as bumping ladders, knocking over supplies and equipment, tripping on electrical cords, etc.
It is best if you restrict your visits to your job site to the evenings after the workers have left. You will need to exercise more caution than usual while walking through your home: Look up so you don't bump into scaffolding or boards used as temporary supports. Watch the floor, which may have holes big enough to be dangerous. Stay away from power tools, and be on the lookout for sharp protrusions such as nails sticking out of boards in the walls or floors.
Seeing your home being remodeled is an interesting and educational process; children are especially curious.
Be sure that they are always supervised when in the construction area. Large piles of excavated dirt are tempting (and dangerous) playgrounds, and newly framed roofs look like wonderful climbing structures.
Proper fencing on construction sites can help keep your children and the children in your neighborhood from succumbing to these temptations.
These safety issues should be discussed with your contractor prior to beginning your project. You should come to a clear understanding of each party's responsibility in the joint effort to make your remodeling project safe. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.