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Home Renovation Tips

Our team of professional remodelers tells you how to make your next home renovation project go faster with less mess. We include tips on tools and materials prep, project organization, home protection, and trash collection.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Home renovation tips: Limit the mess and get the job done

Two of the most common complaints thrown at remodelers in a home renovation project are the mess they make and the time it takes to finish the job. And even though remodeling projects are by their very nature unpredictable and messy, most jobs can be run more efficiently.

It's hard to work efficiently, though, if your home renovation job site is in shambles, you don’t have the proper tools on hand or you're making lots of unnecessary trips to the store for materials. The trick is to work smarter, not harder. The following tips can help save you time and money—and most important—your reputation.

Make a home renovation materials list

Home renovation is a fluid process. Unexpected situations arise daily. Whether you use a block of wood, a piece of cardboard or a notebook, always have a pencil and something to write on so you can keep track of the materials, tools and supplies you'll need to bring the next day.

Lay down a protective path

It's impossible to demo a wall or bust up a floor without making a mess, but that doesn’t mean you need to track that mess all over the rest of the house. The next time you have to tear out some carpet, cut several long strips, and use them as pathways to protect the flooring in other areas of the house. Make sure to flip the carpet upside down so the abrasive backing won't scratch the finish on wood floors. Canvas drop cloths are still the best method for protecting stair treads. A 4-ft. x 15-ft. drop cloth costs about $18 at home centers.

Bring plenty of garbage cans

Two stacked garbage cans don't take up much more room in the back of a truck than one, so why not bring at least two? Put them wherever the mess is being made—like next to the miter saw to drop in cutoffs. Think twice about buying the giant heavy-duty cans. For the same money, you're best off with sturdy medium-size cans that are easier to carry. Garbage bags work fine for stuffing in old insulation but little else.

Save those buckets

Buckets are a remodeler's best friend. They work great for mixing, hauling heavy debris, storing water, dragging tools in and out, organizing fasteners, setting stuff on, bailing water, sitting on. There’s a reason why home centers sell empty ones. Never, ever throw away a usable bucket!

Throw together a junk station

As soon as the major demo is completed, make yourself a junk station. Bring extra sawhorses, and throw a couple of boards or a piece of plywood on them. It’s smart to have a central location for your tools, fasteners, batteries and chargers, radio, beverages and whatever else it takes to get the job done. Having items scattered all over the job site floor makes cleanup harder, and wandering around looking for the stuff you need is a waste of time.

Install temporary lighting

Lighting is one of the last items to be installed on most remodeling projects, but it's hard to do a good job when you're working in the dark. Plug-in work lights take up precious outlets and are always being tripped on or moved around. As soon as you have power to the lighting receptacles, consider installing temporary lighting. Home Depot sells them as "Weather Resistant Sockets." Wiring them is as simple as turning a couple of wire nuts. They cost about $3 apiece.

Organize tools by the job

Knowing exactly which tools you'll need for every job is next to impossible. Organize your toolboxes and storage bins according to the work that needs to be done. A box for plumbing tools, electrical, drywall, etc. No doubt this will lead to owning more than one of the same tool. But you won't believe how much time you'll save having all the proper tools on hand.

Clear the room—completely!

So there's no place to store the pool table, treadmill or Grandma's baby grand—well, find a place! Working around furniture and other obstacles is a monster pain in the backside during major remodels—it just doesn't work. Moving a piece of furniture back and forth from one side of the room to the other is time consuming. Rent a storage locker.

Bring extra fasteners

Dedicate a toolbox just for fasteners. You may think you'll need only two different size screws to finish your job, but it rarely works out that way. And keep a variety of bits along with the fasteners; that way you’ll always have the right bit with the right screw.

Smaller compressors for smaller jobs

If you only have a few studs to nail in or a few pieces of base to install, why on earth would you haul that giant, heavy compressor around? Mini compressors are a must for smart remodeling. They're light and inexpensive and easy to carry right to the area you're working in. You can get this 1-gallon, 1-hp Senco at Lowe's for about $140.

Order early

It seems that every job needs to be finished yesterday, but don't even think about getting started until you know that all the materials will be there when you need them. Make sure you get a definite delivery confirmation on your flooring, cabinets, windows, doors and any other materials needed to complete the job. Starting a project a week late is better than waiting around for cabinets while the kitchen is torn apart and the homeowners are living in a motel.

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Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

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