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Overview

The key to a smart remodeling project is efficiency. And in order to be efficient, you need to work fast, safe and clean. You have to contain the mess in the areas you’re working in, and protect those areas you’re not. You also need to think ahead and organize the job materials, both the new and the old. These tips will help your next project run smoother, save you time and money, and prove to your customer (or your spouse and kids) that you’re a true pro.

Blow the dust outside

Set a box fan in a window and blow the dust out of your work area. Wedge the fan into place with scrap pieces of foam and a few rags. For the best results, open windows beyond the dusty area or on the opposite side of the room to help keep the air moving in the right direction.

Protect finished flooring with hardboard

Rosin paper, cardboard and dropcloths are all legit ways to protect a floor—that is, until you knock your trim gun off the top of a 6-ft. ladder. If you really want to ensure that a floor stays dent and scratch-free, cover it with 1/8-in. hardboard. It’s pretty cheap (less than $10 a sheet at home centers), and as the name suggests, it’s pretty hard.

Cut the sheets with a circular saw or jigsaw, and to prevent scratches, make sure both the floor and the hardboard are perfectly clean before you lay the hardboard down. Tape the seams with masking tape to keep the dirt and debris from slipping through the cracks. When the job is done, pull up the sheets and save them for the next job.

Separate your lumber

When you unload lumber at a job site, set the studs, top plates and bottom plates in different piles. That way, every time you start a new wall section, you won’t have to move 20 studs to grab the top plate buried at the bottom of the pile. Also, moving lumber from one side of the room to the other is not an efficient use of time, so make sure your pile is located in a close but out-of-the-way location.

Pull those nails

A good rule of thumb: “Never let a chunk of lumber leave your hand until you’ve dealt with the nails.” If you’re going to reuse lumber from a demo job, make sure you pull the nails right away. If you aren’t going to reuse the wood, just bend the nails over. Stepping on a nail is a bad way to remember that it’s been 10 years since your last tetanus shot.

Faster concrete fastening

A concrete screw installation tool allows you to use one tool without having to switch between a masonry bit and a screw-driving bit. Just drill the hole and slip the driver shaft over the masonry bit and then sink the screw. If you have a bunch of concrete fasteners to install, it’s definitely worth the money (about $30 at home centers). The Tapcon version shown here is one of several brands.

Cover the return air vents

A furnace is an extremely efficient tool to spread dust from a room under construction to all the other rooms in the house. Sure, an expensive furnace filter may catch most of the dust, but it’ll also get clogged in hours, instead of weeks, and running a furnace with a clogged filter could result in costly furnace repairs.

Avoid these problems by covering the return air vents in, or near, the area where you’re working. If you’re kicking up a dust storm, shut the furnace down until that phase of the job is done, and replace the furnace filter once the whole job is done.

Use old paint as primer

If you have a bunch of old cans of paint that you’re confident you’ll never use again, mix them and use them as a drywall primer. When you mix several different colors, the result always seems to be a dark brownish/mauvy color. So you may want to skip this tip if the final wall color is going to be really light. Mixing different sheens doesn’t matter, but don’t mix latex with oil.

Know when to have it delivered

Before you load those 80 sheets of drywall onto your trailer and shear the axle on the freeway, ask about your delivery options. Most suppliers charge a fee, but you need to weigh that fee against your time, your gas and your back. Maneuvering 8-ft. sheets of drywall up a narrow stairway doesn’t make sense if a crane truck can deliver 12-ft. sheets right up to a second-story window. And humping 60 bundles of shingles up a ladder is just plain silly when you can have them hoisted right onto the roof.

Make big pieces

Tearing out drywall can be frustrating because it always seems to crumble into little pieces, and it takes a long time to demo a wall one handful at time. Take a little extra time to find the seams between the sheets, and cut them open with a utility knife. Then bust out a couple of holes for your hands to fit through. Instead of pulling super-hard right away, tug and wiggle the drywall away from the studs until the screw heads break through.

Be a smart packer

Renting a trash bin isn’t cheap, so take advantage of every square inch of it by strategically placing the debris in the container instead of tossing it in willy-nilly. Long boards should always run the length of the container. Set in large, hollow items like bathtubs or sinks open side up so you can fill them in instead of creating a void.

Use small pieces to fill in and around large ones. Think of the debris as puzzle pieces, each with its own proper spot. If your trash bin has a door, don’t park the bin so close to the house that you can’t open it. Walking in heavy items is a lot easier than lifting them over the side. Also, make sure you order the proper size. If you explain your project to the sanitation company, the staff should be able to suggest a bin size that’s right for your project.

Clean up every day

It’s tempting to leave the mess at the end of the day, knowing you’re just going to mess up the site again the next day, but a true professional leaves a job site clean. You may be the best at what you do, but your customers won’t be able to recognize your craftsmanship through all that filth, especially if it gets tracked around the house while you’re gone. Also, showing up at a pigsty is just not a positive way to start your workday.

Make a plastic passage

Hanging sheets of plastic from the ceiling is a good way to isolate a room that’s being remodeled. But instead of hanging one continuous sheet to keep the dust in, hang two and overlap them 4 ft. or so. That way you’ll have a handy door to walk through, which beats having to duck under the plastic every time you come and go. Lay a scrap piece of lumber on the bottom of the plastic to keep it in place.

Knock it off from the back side

Who says you have to pull drywall from the wall? If the drywall on one side of a wall has already been removed, pound off the other side from the back with a sledgehammer. You should be able to remove several large chunks at a time if you keep the blows close to studs and don’t pound too hard.

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