Sweeping with the Enemy

by Guest Blogger on October 24, 2011 · 8 comments

sweeping with the enemy

Dust: that most insidious byproduct of home projects. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or you hire contractors, home projects, by nature, occupy the spaces our families live in. These can range from paint and carpentry makeovers to full-fledged remodeling projects.

Regardless of the scope or depth of your project, dust is a common theme. From demolition work and gutting rooms down – to raw framing and simply repainting a bedroom – protective measures are required by either yourself or the contractors who are working in your home.

In rough work where rooms are being torn apart, the air being released from the stud bays behind your wallboard is sickening. Trust me on this. My wife and I have carefully restored an 1894 Vermont farmhouse. Wall stud bay discoveries can be downright disturbing. To spare you the details, it is sufficient to say that no matter who is performing the demolition – whether it is hired out to remodeling contractors or undertaken by homeowners – necessary protective measures must be taken; regardless of the age of your home.

PPE is industry code for personal protective equipment; meaning that those who are in direct contact with ground zero of the tear out work must be wearing NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) or OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) approved masks. This requirement is the bare minimum. From here, proper workspace definition is critical; whether it pertains to the living room, kitchen, master bathroom or a secondary bedroom. Isolation of this space is crucial. The use of ZipWalls is essential to prevent airborne dust from escaping the work zone and entering the unaffected spaces where residents reside throughout the duration of the project. Additionally, inside the isolated workspace itself, project ventilation must be established. This is crucial even if it’s as simple as providing a fan and an open window to exhaust the air out of the house. When the project is complete, make an extra effort to assure that the airborne dust that ended up on the fan blades themselves, never found its way inside the lungs of workers or occupants.

Next, keep the sweeping to a minimum as this is a sure-fire way to stir up dust. The whole point of dust containment is to either exhaust or capture dust before it can become airborne and settle on surfaces. Once this occurs, the dust can form a haze that is often undetectable until you clean

It is at this point the reconstruction begins. The same dust rules noted above should apply in both reconstruction projects and simple makeovers. The rules set in motion need to address airborne dust that can be created during finish work. Require a high set of standards for yourself and anyone you hire. Whether the work is ceiling, wall or woodwork related – all sanding implemented on surfaces can be done with world class dust extraction today. Full unit HEPA extractors (vacuums) are available for just about any project-related task from companies such as Festool; a dust extraction manufacturer that has had their vacuums independently tested for, not only HEPA filter requirements, but to assure that the seal between the filter and the entire unit operates to both EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) and HEPA specifications. The cost of this type of equipment is measured in the mere hundreds of dollars price range; a small investment to keep carcinogenic dust out of noses, throats, lungs and your home‘s ventilation system.

Finally, insisting on dust containment during home projects will prepare you adequately for your subsequent air purification and ventilation strategies. Ultra safe air quality control practices begin at the project level and should be standard procedure in our current society. Unfortunately, this is not always the case…yet. Dust extraction systems provide a value-rich and cost effective luxury item that your family should insist upon; regardless of who is doing the construction or remodeling work in your house.

Guest blogger, Scott Burt is a senior editor and monthly columnist in American Painting Contractor magazine. Scott blogs prolifically at www.topcoatreview.com.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Nyline October 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Great information Scott. Dust is something homeowners (and some contractors) never consider during their reno projects until everything is covered in it.


Scott Burt October 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Thanks Heidi. Dust control has been one of my missions this year.


Chris Haught October 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I agree with Heidi, and the health hazards can be great, especially in older homes, good information for homeowners and professionals!


Lisa & Ron October 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Scott – We are happy to have you here! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and first hand knowledge from projects you have worked on both personally & professionally. We all love the dramatic results of a home makeover…but many rarely consider the potential health hazards from both the type of products used and lack of preparation and/or protection. Looking forward to the continuation of this series!


John Howell November 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I have worked in many many homes as a painter and carpenter over the years and it never fails. The place I see the evidence of the original home construction is above the kitchen cabinets. Please get your 4 foot ladder people and take a look. You will not be disappointed. Nice blog!


Scott Burt November 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

John, isnt that the truth. On top of, underneath and behind refrigerators is always a humdinger too.


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