Yay, it’s renovation time! Yes, we’re completely aware that this sentence is likely to never have been uttered. No matter how much everybody’s looking forward to the “after” picture (and the feeling), renovation is never a time that offers plenty of fun. Especially if you opt for staying at home while the work is taking place. Apart from coming up with a new living arrangement (guestroom serving as a kitchen, anyone?), ensuring safety for you and your family is the crucial point. If you’re renovating at the moment, or thinking about doing it in the near future, here’s what you have to keep in mind to stay safe.
This is the best possible way to stay out of work areas and possible accidents: to literally stay away from the area where work is being done. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll stay somewhere else, at a friend’s, at your parents. While moving half of your belongings as if you’re going away for a six-month-long vacation, but actually just going two blocks away, can be a stress in itself, in the long run, it’s way less stressful than exposing yourself and your family to the hazards creeping at you back where the renovation takes place. If this is not possible, consider a compromise where you’ll move any pregnant women, children, and pets – all the way until clean-up is finished.
Be a Good Neighbour
This doesn’t actually have much to do with yourself staying safe, but you want the same for your neighbours, and you’d definitely want a heads-up if the case were reversed. Communicate clearly with your neighbours about the renovations: the how, the when, the how long, so they can take steps to protect themselves if necessary – and mark the date on their calendar to have something to look forward to. (Who else loves noise and mess next door that affect your daily life? Exactly!)
Some of the hazardous materials can be found in a building’s structure, and they include lead (in domestic lead paints, tap fittings and water pipes); asbestos (as flat or corrugated sheets for walls, ceilings and roofing, along with the water and drainage pipes, guttering and electrical conduit); treated timber, containing toxic chemicals; volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with fumes that can be toxic. Apart from these, dust contaminated with arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals can accumulate in ceilings, floors, walls, and soil. These are not easy to discover just by taking a look at them. To be sure, seek professional advice and have the materials tested by a qualified specialist.
Prepare the Work Area (or Stay Away, pt. 2)
If you’ve been notified that the dust is contaminated with hazardous materials – or if you have any doubts – lay plastic sheeting under the work area so as to prevent the dust contaminating the ground. Better be safe than sorry! To stop the dust from going into your house, it’s good to keep windows and doors closed at all times. It’s not an ideal solution, but you can get some fresh air during the night, when the work is finished. Being a good neighbour you are, you should also ask your neighbours to do the same. To make sure no pets or children go near the work area, where they can step on a nail, have something fall onto them or just pose a danger themselves (imagine a worker carrying heavy items and not spotting a child who just ran into the work area!), use steady and reliable barrier systems. It is crucial the little ones don’t find their way into the work area, and temporary fencing or a similar system will prevent them from doing so, keeping them away from the dangerous area.
Reach an Agreement with the Workers
This should be fairly easy, given that you are the boss, and that the workers have a common interest with you: safety for everyone. Many of these things are common practice, but if you notice your workers behaving differently, communicate your issues clearly. Ask them to not leave any tools overnight – or if they do have to leave them, to do it in a designated place that will be out of reach of children. They should also not be careless with tools, nails, materials, and garbage. Nobody wants a dog or a child reaching for a piece of wood and then stabbing themselves with a nail.
Agree on the Temporary Fixings
So you’re renovating a kitchen? Put simply, it means that you cannot use it as you normally would, so you have to come up with an alternative solution that will disrupt your daily life as little as possible. You cannot really put a stove in your bedroom and cook there, but a garage can be an alternative. Or you can order takeout for dinner every day and keep breakfast things in another room. Maybe it is time to invest in a small portable fridge? Whatever you decide on, make sure to let your whole family know the new arrangement, and how important it is to not enter the work area – especially for little kids. They need to understand that yes, we do not go to the kitchen anymore – and then seal and block the doors, use big colourful signs, and lead with the example. They won’t take you seriously if you pop into the kitchen every now and then just to fetch something.
With the right mindset and good precaution measures, you’ll minimize the risk for anything that may spoil the fun and joy of renovating. We know, we know, fun and joy is a great overstatement, but think of the fun and joy you’ll have once it’s all done. And it too shall pass.