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Surviving The Dust

Part 12 Of Our Real Life Remodeling Journey

Publisher's Comments

The following story is part of a series of articles about my and my family's experience with our home's remodel. Links to the other stories are found at the bottom of the page.

You're probably wondering why the subject of dust is significant enough to make it into this series of articles about our home remodel. I mean, it's expected, right?

I'm including it because at least for us, it was something that was pervasive throughout most of the project and at times made us feel like we were chasing our tails trying to keep the rest of the house clean.

In other words, it means you'll do an awful lot of cleaning and you shouldn't be surprised when it never seems to go away.

The Dusty Operations

The amount of dust that's generated depends on the scope of the remodel and the types of tasks that are performed. For us, the main culprits were demolition, on-site wood floor finishing and drywall installation.

remodel dust

For starters, the demolition of our kitchen shook things up and threw a lot of dust and debris in the air. The combination of tearing down old drywall and cabinets and pulling up old floor boards generated a significant amount of dust. Once the dust is airborne, it has an amazing ability to dispense itself to all sorts of places.

Pulling up the old floorboards also sent a lot of dust and wood chips to the basement below. Our laundry room, my workbench and even some of the finished areas had a coating of dust. This was despite the contractor's best efforts to suspend some plastic from the bottom of the floor joists where there was no finished basement ceiling.

When the demolition was done the next major dust generator was the installation and finishing of the drywall. Cutting the sheetrock and installing it onto the framing contributed to some of the dust but the main culprit was all the sanding and finish work that was necessary to smooth out the walls and ceilings.

Since I had signed up for cleanup duties as part of our effort to earn some sweat equity, it was my job to get rid of all drywall dust in the work zone.

The problem with that stuff is that it's so fine, it literally sticks to things and is virtually impossible to sweep up. It gets suspended in the air and then gets into the heating and cooling ducts. It takes a powerful vacuum and/or a damp mop to get surfaces clean. Even after mopping and wiping the wood floor in a room adjacent to the drywall activity you could stomp your foot and see a puff of dust rise up.

One word of caution: if you get a significant amount of drywall dust on furniture, I'd recommend vacuuming as much off as you can with a soft brush attachment before swiping it with a dust cloth. We found that trying to wipe surfaces clean ultimately dulled them. I'm not sure how abrasive drywall dust is but it seemed to have some deleterious effects on various finishes.

The installation of our new wood floors and tying them into some existing flooring meant an on-site finish job. That entailed sanding and scuffing between finish coats before it was all said and done. If there's anything that could possibly rival the amount of dust generated by drywall, it has to be sanding an oak floor.

Containment Helps But It's Not Foolproof

Now at each step the workmen did their best to contain the dust in the work zone by hanging tarps and taping off doorways and the like. While it did help, it still wasn't enough. The dust was carried in the air as we walked around, pushing and swirling it to different areas of the house.

Our home's ventilation system did its part to distribute the dust too, despite the best efforts of the furnace filter to stop it. While it did do a commendable job it didn't stop all of it. I ended up changing our filter every couple of weeks because it got so dirty.

Even after the major dust-generating jobs were completed there were several items that needed touchup or rework, both on the walls and floor. Those tasks generated more dust and in no time at all we'd see a film of dust on our computer screens and furniture.

How To Fight Back

Our strategy for combating these dust storms involved doing our best to stay on top of the cleaning effort, making sure dusty areas were isolated as best as possible and protecting items and areas as best we could.

remodel dust

The other "weapon" was simply to gird ourselves for the onslaught of dust we knew was coming. We had been forewarned by a friend who had recently remodeled their home so we knew we'd be living with the dust and dirt for a while. (A good part of surviving a remodel is metal attitude - in my view, being mentally prepared for "life-NOT-as usual" definitely helps).

Many times during the remodel we vacuumed and dusted, not only to make the area clean again but to try and stop it from spreading. Getting rid of the dirt as quickly as possible after the job was done helped contain it.

Whenever there was a task coming up that we knew was going to create dust we made sure the work crew did their best to seal off the area. In some cases, furniture couldn't be moved out of the work zone so we made sure to cover it. Even though we expected the contractor to do his best to contain the dirt, we took a proactive approach by making it our responsibility to ensure it happened or going above and beyond to add some additional protection ourselves.

When some drywall work was necessary in a couple of upstairs bedrooms, we removed all the bed linens and pillows and put them in a non-affected room and closed the door. Then the bare bed and dressers were covered in plastic.

Finally we scheduled a cleaning of our ventilation system at end of the project with an outside firm that specialized in this kind of work. That way we wouldn't end up recirculating this stuff for months on end.

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