Protecting your old house during construction

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Construction, Home Improvement Tips

There is no doubt: construction is messy business. Even installing a new doorbell can leave wood shavings and chips on the floor, dust everywhere, and tools scattered about. The bigger the construction job, the bigger the mess. Even if a contractor is quite vigilant about cleaning up -- and the best tend to be -- there will still be some debris or dust floating around. There will also be the ever-present danger of delicate woodwork or historical details being damaged.

How to protect your house during construction

As the owner of an old house, it's your responsibility to help make sure the worst doesn't happen -- that the priceless molding doesn't fall victim to an errant hammer swing, or that your hardwood floors stay safe from an accidental spill. By working with the contractor an implementing your own safeguards, living in a construction zone will become much easier. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Remove whatever you can. From window screens to that cherished carpet, if you can remove it from the area where work is being done, do it! Place the removed items in a very safe place far away from the chaos, such as a closed, detached garage or even up in the attic.
  • Invest in moving blankets. These heavy-duty blankets can work wonders to drape over railings, wrap around appliances and protect countertops. Tape them down with heavy-duty painters tape that will easily pull away from almost anything and leave no marks.
  • Cover high-traffic areas. Cardboard and heavy-duty tape are a great way to protect flooring, door jambs and even walls from potential 'oops' moments. Be sure to lay the cardboard completely flat so it doesn't create a trip hazard. You can get very strong cardboard sheets from the same local supplier that offers plywood and the like.
  • Highlight important areas. Using that blue painter's tape, put a huge "X" on glass doors and windows. This provides a visual reminder to move carefully while in that area. If you are concerned about a particular window or door becoming damaged, cover it up with cardboard or even thin plywood.
  • Protect what you can. When the dust of construction is flying, your furniture is vulnerable. Much of it should have been moved out, but those pieces that must stay in place should be wrapped very well in thin plastic sheeting. Tape that sheeting down to avoid trip hazards.
  • Pantyhose as a dust collector? It might seem strange, but it works: Rather than use expensive filters to catch the copious dust that will be pulled into the ducts and vents, use pantyhose to cover the forced air vents. It still allows the air to flow but you will be amazed at how much dust it collects.

Work with your contractor

Finally, remember to work with your contractor for the best outcome possible. Some will explain what they do to help keep your house clean and neat; if they don't offer this information, ask. Make sure their rules and typical method of cleanup extends to their subcontractors as well. When dealing with a historic home, it also pays to make sure their insurance coverage will replace or repair historical details that might be damaged during the work. The last thing you want is more work to be done later due to lack of care.