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How to Protect a House During a Remodel

It's important during any remodeling project to safeguard the unaffected parts of the house from damage and filth. Here are some great tips on how to do it.

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Setting up a covering over a door during a remodel
Family Handyman

Don’t Make More of a Mess Than You Need To

One of the most important tasks of any remodeling project is protecting the parts of the house that are not being worked on. And that’s not easy considering the hundreds of trips back and forth with tools, materials and debris. And then there are the muddy boots, billowing clouds of dust and the occasional dropped tool (which always seems to drop sharp edge down on a finished surface).

We talked with Josh Risberg, a longtime remodeling pro, and he gave us some great advice. With his tips, you’ll be able to keep certain parts of the house safe and sound while productively tearing up the others.

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protect blinds with plastic wrap and tape
Family Handyman

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.

To be on the safe side, 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.

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Covering vents with filters
Family Handyman

Cover Registers With Furnace Filters

Covering registers will keep dust out of the ducts and furnace. Just don’t cover them in plastic. Blocking airflow to and from the furnace can put an excessive load on the blower motor. Instead, tape inexpensive furnace filters over the registers. The filters will maintain airflow while containing the dust.

It’s still a good idea to shut down the entire HVAC system while performing super-dusty tasks like demolition and drywall sanding. Be sure to continually check and replace the actual furnace filter as needed during that dusty work.

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Covering a wall with plastic poly
Family Handyman

Friction-Fit Dust Barrier

Building a temporary wall covered in plastic is a great way to keep dust from migrating to other parts of the house. Here’s how to do it in a finished room without damaging the surfaces:

  • 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 of studs between the top and the bottom plates every four feet 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.

Bonus Tip: Write “Don’t Lean on Wall” on the plastic with a marker to prevent unfortunate accidents.

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wood chips
Family Handyman

Lay Down a Wood Chip Path

Some remodeling projects involve walking back and forth across a muddy yard with no pavement or grass, and keeping that mud out of the house is a challenge. Temporary plywood walkways are one way to keep the muck at bay, but they tend to sink into mud and eventually become as dirty as the ground around it.

Instead of plywood, try laying down a path of wood chips. When you are done with work you can spread the wood chips around an unfinished yard and sod over them. And when the paths get muddy you can just lay down another layer on top. Wood chips work better than stringy mulch, and some varieties cost less than $4 per bag.

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counter top protection
Family Handyman

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. It’s important to use clean cardboard and make sure to wipe the counter before laying it down. Then tape the edges to block out debris and keep the cardboard from sliding around.

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tub protection
Family Handyman

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.

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wall corner protection
Family Handyman

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. Fixing wall dingers is easy enough, but fixing a bent corner bead can be a real pain.

Protect outside corners with taped strips of cardboard. You can cut them out of thick shipping boxes, or you can buy a FlexCorner box of 10. Be sure the cardboard extends at least four feet high and hold it in place with painter’s tape, which won’t ruin the paint when it’s removed.

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Family Handyman

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. Plus, booties are cheap and you can buy a lot of them at once.

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floor protection
Family Handyman

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 costs about 20 cents per foot. Similar protection is available for hardwood floors.

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door jamb protection
Family Handyman

Craft a Threshold Shield

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 will hold up great.