Wrap Window Treatments
Most window openings that will be exposed to dust should be entirely covered with plastic. But for windows you need to open, cover the window treatments in plastic instead of removing them. Removing window treatments is risky business: Parts disappear; metal slats bend; fabric rips or gets dirty. And replacing damaged treatments can get expensive?if you can even find one that matches, that is. Tape plastic to the top of the casing, then tuck the plastic up underneath and behind it. Open the window to tape the plastic on the back of the treatment to the top jamb.
Don't forget to remove the screens. Screens and construction don't mix. One of the very first tasks of any remodeling job is to remove all the screens from any window or door that could be in harm's way. Label each one so they all find their way back to the right place. Wrap them in plastic and put them in some safe out-of-the-way location.
Friction-Fit Dust Barrier
Every remodeler knows that building a temporary wall covered in plastic is a great way to keep dust from migrating to other parts of the house. But here's how to do it in a finished room without damaging the surfaces. Wedge strips of R-11 insulation (3-1/2 in. thick) between the framing and the ceiling and the walls. The insulation creates a friction fit and holds everything in place without fasteners. The insulation also allows a little air to flow but acts as a filter.
Start by setting the bottom plate on the floor where you want it. Hold up the top plate with insulation on top of it. Have a helper wedge a couple studs between the top and the bottom plates every 4 ft. or so. Cut the studs 3-3/8 in. shorter than the wall. That allows for the thickness of the plates and leaves a 3/8-in. gap to squish the insulation. Install the plastic with a staple gun rather than a hammer tacker so you don't knock the wall over. Double up the plastic at the top for a more secure hold. Write 'Don't Lean on Wall' with a marker to prevent unfortunate accidents.
Paint-on Tub Protection
Marring a beautiful bathtub with a big, ugly scratch is not a good way to showcase a bathroom remodel. Protect a tub by covering it with a thick, tough rubbery coating. Tub protection products like this one are brushed or rolled on, and then peeled off when the job is done.
You'll usually need two coats. The product costs about $50 per gallon, and one gallon will handle two standard-size tubs. That sounds expensive, but it's cheap insurance to protect a tub that might cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Lay Down a Wood Chip Path
Some remodeling projects involve walking back and forth across a muddy yard that has no pavement or grass, and keeping that mud out of the house is a challenge. Temporary plywood walkways are one option to keep the muck at bay, but plywood seems to sink into mud and eventually becomes as dirty as the ground around it.
When wood chip paths get muddy, you can just lay down another layer. Wood chips work better than stringy mulch, and are relatively inexpensive.
Cover the Countertops
Any flat surface in a work zone inevitably becomes a workbench or storage shelf, even if that surface is an expensive countertop. Protect countertops from nicks and scratches by covering them in cardboard. Use clean cardboard and wipe the counter before laying it down. Tape the edges to keep out debris and to keep the cardboard from sliding around.
Protect Corners with Cardboard
A daily parade of building materials, tool belts and tools is hard on finished walls. Even the most careful worker is going to bump one now and again. Fi wall dingers is easy enough, but fi a bent corner bead can be a real pain.
Protect outside corners with strips of cardboard. You can cut them out of thick shipping boxes or buy a box of premade protective corners online. Be sure the cardboard extends at least 4 ft. high, and hold it in place with painter's tape, which won't ruin the paint when it's removed.
Sure, all thresholds will get beat up eventually, but why not avoid the wear and tear until after the work is done. Some new doors come with plastic threshold protectors. Keep those in place until the end of the project. Use tape to protect those doors that don't come with a protector, as well as existing doors that will be used a lot during the remodel. A couple layers of exterior painter's tape should hold up great.
Make Pathways All Over
Protecting the floor that leads from the work area to the outdoors is a no-brainer. But don't forget about the paths less traveled, like the one to the bathroom or to the room where the electrical panel is located.
Rolling out plastic floor protector is easy. It doesn't offer heavy-duty protection but is good enough for the occasional trip. Self-adhesive carpet protection film like this is inexpensive. Similar protection is available for hardwood floors.
Booties are Cheap and Easy
Avoid tracking filth all over the house with a pair of protective shoe covers. It's easier than untying and retying your shoes or boots when you need to run to a part of the house without floor protection in place. Booties are cheap and available at home centers.
Seal Off With Plastic
Dust goes everywhere air flows, so the key to stopping dust is stopping airflow. A loose curtain of plastic hung with a few strips of tape won't do the job. Instead, make your dust barrier as airtight as possible. Completely seal the top and sides with tape. Taping to walls is usually easier than taping to woodwork. If you can't seal the bottom edge with tape, lay a board across it. Light plastic (1 mil or so) is fine for most jobs. If you need to pass through the dust barrier, use heavier 4- or 6- mil plastic and add an adhesive-backed zipper. These are available at home centers and lumberyards.
Cover up Air Ducts
.Construction dust sucked into return air ducts can plug your furnace filter. Even worse, small particles can pass through the filter and coat every room in the house with a blanket of fine dust when the blower turns on. Air supply ducts can be a problem too—dust that settles inside will come blasting out when your heating/cooling system starts up. You can close the damper on a supply register, but it won't seal out dust as effectively as plastic and tape. Note: Turn off the heating/cooling system while the ducts are covered. Operating the system with restricted airflow can damage it.
Don't Buy Cheap Tape
Use a medium-adhesion tape for most jobs. These tapes have names like “Safe Release” or “Clean Release.” There are also low-adhesion tapes for delicate surfaces like wallpaper, and high-adhesion tapes for hard-to-mask surfaces like brick. A paint store often has the best tape selection. Remove the tape as soon as possible. The adhesive bond strengthens over time. Depending on the type of adhesive, masking tapes are meant to stay in place from one to 14 days. Check and heed the label.
Drive Dust Outside With a Fan
A fan blowing out the window helps to keep dust levels down, and it creates a slight vacuum in the work area. That way, any gaps in your dust barrier will let air flow into the work zone, but dust-laden air can't sneak into surrounding rooms. This works so well, in fact, that you may not even need a dust barrier for light-dust projects. Just be sure to close large gaps around the fan with cardboard or plastic so wind gusts don't blow the dust right back inside. For good airflow, you may have to crack open a door or window on the opposite side of the room.
Vacuum Without Raising More Dust
The exhaust stream from a shop vacuum can raise more dust than the vacuum sucks up. And small particles (like drywall dust) can sail right through the vacuum filter to form a fine dust cloud.
You can solve both problems with some extra vacuum hose: Connect a hose to the exhaust port and run it outside, or set the vacuum outside and run the hose inside. If you want a filter that traps even the tiniest dust particles, try a high-efficiency version such as the CleanStream filter. These filters are pricey ($25 to $35), but they're easy to clean and last for years. Ten feet of 2-1/2-In. vacuum hose costs about $20 at home centers. CleanStream filters are available at Sears, Lowe's and Menards. For other dealers, go to
Shield Floors From Scratches and Dents
Carpeted floors are easily protected from snags and stains with a heavy canvas dropcloth. Safeguarding hard flooring isn't so simple. A hammer knocked off a ladder can dent wood flooring, chip ceramic tile or even puncture vinyl, and heavy foot traffic will grind grit into the floor. For protection against falling tools (and just about everything else), cut sheets of 1/8-in. hardboard to fit the room and duct-tape them together at the seams. Also tape around the perimeter with masking tape so grit can't get underneath the hardboard and scratch the floor.
For quicker protection of hard flooring, use strips of rosin paper taped at the seams and around the perimeter. While rosin paper can't match the impact and puncture protection of hardboard, two or three layers of it provide good defense against scratches and spills.
A 4 x 8-ft. sheet of 1/8-in.-thick hardboard costs about $10 at home centers. A roll of rosin paper costs about $12 and covers about 400 sq. ft.
Protect Stairs Safely
Protecting stairs is tricky because you don't want to use anything that will cause a slip or trip. Rosin paper is a good choice for wood stairs because you can crease it over the edge of the tread and tape it securely around the entire perimeter. You can also tape separate sheets to the risers.
For carpeted stairs, use a long, narrow dropcloth (called a runner). Secure the runner by driving small nails right through the carpet and into the treads. A 4 x 12-ft. runner costs about $20 at home centers.
Wrap Doorways for Bump Protection
Remodeling means lugging tons of big, clumsy stuff through doorways and tight spaces and around corners. Even if an object isn't heavy, it's best to have a helper to steer big stuff through tough spots. With or without a helper, cardboard is a good defense against accidents. You can wrap door jambs with it, cover up wall corners, or even shield large sections of wall along main pathways.
To make sure the cardboard stays in place, crease it thoroughly to fit corners and don't be stingy with the masking tape. Doors can take a beating during remodeling too. The best protection is to remove them from the work zone. If removing a door isn't practical, clad it with cardboard.
Cover Baseboard With Cardboard
Whether you're moving a ladder or stacking 2x4s, it's all too easy to bang up baseboards. But protecting them is simple: Just cut strips of cardboard about an inch wider than your baseboard, set them against the wall and tape them top and bottom. If nearby walls are at risk, don't hesitate to tape cardboard over them as well. It'll save you from having to spend a weekend repainting.