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Staying Safe During a Renovation—Remodeling Best Practices

Paul Rainier

There is a lot to be said for buying or renting a brand new or recently remodeled home. For instance, you can move right in and get settled since there’s little-to-no work to be done. There’s also nothing like the joy of making a home your own, both in planning and making your dream house become a reality. If you are looking at a remodeling or renovation project, it’s important to both understand the potential risks and know how to stay out of harm’s way. Consider the following home remodel tips & tricks to enjoy a safe and successful project.

Never Start a Remodel without a Plan

Not everyone is a planner by nature. When tackling a remodel, you must have a plan in place to avoid costs getting out of control, regardless of the size of the project. Enlist a designer if necessary but come up with a budget, goals for the project, and a plan of action for how long it will take and the order in which you will take on each job.

With a plan in place, you will be able to select your materials, furniture, and appliances in advance so there are no surprises later. You’ll also be able to consider things like your long-term maintenance requirements, energy efficiency, and how the styles you choose will remain fresh and not become outdated too soon. These are all important considerations for a pre-action renovation plan.

Include a Safety Plan

When planning for a renovation, it is important to consider safety, especially if you are doing some or all of the work yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind to make remodeling work much safer and less prone to accidents and injuries:

  • Wear appropriate safety gear, including full-coverage clothing, safety goggles, and a mask or respirator if necessary.
  • Use earplugs when working with loud power tools.
  • Use a safe ladder. For every four feet of the ladder, make sure the bottom is one foot away from the wall to maintain a safe angle.
  • Understand what current safety codes are for different aspects of the project, such as electrical work, and be sure your home is up to code.
  • Keep workplaces clean and put tools and any toxic materials away each night.
  • Keep kids and pets out of the way of the workspace until the job is done.
  • Know how to use tools correctly.
  • When in doubt about how to do something correctly or safely, bring in a professional.
  • Be aware of the risks of toxic materials, like lead or asbestos.

Remodeling and the Dangers of Asbestos

If the home you are working on was constructed before 1980, there is a very good chance it contains asbestos.

What is asbestos exactly?

Asbestos is a term applied to a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals composed of thin, needle-like fibers that insulate and “fireproof” materials. In most states, and under federal law, there are no requirements for testing for, or working with certified asbestos abatement professionals in small residential buildings. However, it is essential for your safety and those in and around your home that you take asbestos seriously. Here are some of the materials most likely to contain asbestos in an older home:

  • Attic insulation
  • Duct insulation
  • Linoleum and vinyl flooring, flooring glue
  • Caulking and window glazing
  • Siding
  • Roofing materials, more often on flat roofs
  • Plaster
  • Corrugated panels
  • Heat-resistant and fireproof materials around woodburning stoves
  • Some paints

Asbestos in these materials is not necessarily harmful unless you disturb it. The biggest risk of disturbing asbestos and setting loose the fibers that can cause mesothelioma and other respiratory illnesses comes from demolition. When in doubt about the presence of asbestos, leave it to the professionals. Certified asbestos professionals can find the asbestos in your home and abate it before you begin demolition.

Controlling Renovation Dust

A remodel kicks up a lot of dust, which is more than just messy and annoying. Dust can be harmful. Even if there are no toxic materials in the dust, it can cause respiratory irritation. It is essential that you manage the dust of a renovation project, not only for your own safety but for keeping the rest of the house clean.

For a remodel that doesn’t include the entire home, use plastic sheeting securely taped over doorways and holes to keep dust in one place.

For the entry to the room, use two overlapping sheets of plastic and limit coming and going through it, especially when sanding or doing other activities that kick up dust. It also helps to do a quick cleanup of dust at the end of each workday to prevent it from getting out of control.

Work Wisely with Contractors

For bigger jobs, it may be inevitable that you need to work with contractors or other workers to get the project done safely and well. The first important task you have when working with contractors is to select the best. Choose contractors with experience doing similar jobs, that have good references, that belong to professional organizations, and that are in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.

Before starting a job with a contractor, make sure you get a copy of the actual contract that is broken down to the very last detail. Not getting a contract or using one that is not specific is just asking for trouble and eventual legal problems. Once you have a contractor and contract in place, be a good homeowner. Work well with your contractors by being honest, communicative, and appreciative of what they do. A good working relationship will make the entire project run more smoothly.

Be a Good Neighbor

Renovations are hard on the residents, but also on nearby neighbors who have to put up with noise, dust, and an unsightly worksite. Warn your neighbors in advance about what will be happening in your home and let them know just how extensive it is so there are no big surprises. Let them know that they can contact you at any time with questions or concerns. Make sure you and any contractors keep the debris contained within your own space and don’t let it spill over to a neighbor’s driveway, yard, or into the street.

The best practices for completing a home renovation or even a small remodeling project are based on common sense. But it’s still easy to make a mistake or take a misstep that ruins your budget, alienates your neighbors, or even causes someone to be hurt. To avoid or at least minimize these negative outcomes, follow these steps. Be a careful planner and make all decisions about renovating very thoughtfully.

EDGEHomes Knows the Homebuilding Process Inside Out

If you’re worried about any aspect of the search for your future home, EDGEhomes is here to help. When you work with EDGEhomes, the choices are yours. Whether you’re looking for something more ready-to-go, or if you want to experience the homebuilding process with professionals you can rely on, we’ve got communities spread out along the Wasatch Front, allowing for flexibility and creativity across the board. For all things home-related in Utah, working with our agents and designers is the best way to go.