One of the most important and perhaps overlooked factors of any remodel project is dust containment. Dust containment is important because it provides a level of project protection not only for the occupants of the home, but also for workers. Dust containment also conforms to the new EPA standards relating to lead. Dust containment is often overlooked because it can be drastically different for the unique circumstances of each project, and perhaps, not as easy to quantify if it's something you haven't put to much thought into.

Chances are though, that you probably have already exercised some sort of dust control, maybe without even really thinking about it! Something as simple as putting down floor protection, hooking up the vacuum to your miter saw, or simply closing off a door to the area you're working in are all exercises in dust control. So whether you're doing these simple tasks, or practicing more complex containment systems, dust containment is becoming an ever-increasing factor in all types of construction—due to EPA safety standards, green building practices, and an increase in common knowledge of healthy living environments.

Back in the early part of my career when I was working for my father, I remember his relentless focus on keeping a clean and organized jobsite. This included keeping the dust from infiltrating the rest of the home, protecting floors, keeping material and work stations organized, and vacuuming every day! He believed that keeping a project clean and a home protected saved time and increased worker craftsmanship and mental attitude, but most importantly, we got positive feedback and appreciation from clients for respecting their homes.

Dust containment practice really hit home for me one day when a contractor I knew was doing a remodel. For whatever reason, he wasn't paying attention to where his dust was going. Apparently it ended up in the furnace system and spread a thick layer of dust through out a rather large home. The contractor had the responsibility of cleaning the entire home, which included removing furniture and cleaning the carpets, walls, and furnace system! All because the cold air return was left uncovered in the middle of the remodel, sucking in dust and delivering it through out the home.

Although this may be an extreme example, these real world experiences showed me that practicing dust control is cheaper and does save time in over all project management. I encourage you to use these true experiences as a motivation to learn and find ways to practice good dust control techniques to limit your liabilities and maintain healthy living environments.

It may seem complicated, daunting, or even scary, to think of dust control techniques. You have to consider EPA lead containment standards, your liabilities, the tools and materials needed, the difficulty of implementing dust containment into your business system—but I can tell you that once you've thought it through and tried it a couple of times, it becomes easy and even cost effective! Start simple and take small steps along the way. Purchase a couple of third-hand support poles and maybe a filtration fan. Much of the material you need for containment you've already purchased as project materials, so the initial investment is pretty small. The major investment is time—time in knowledge and in practice!

Where to start?

If you're a carpenter, project manager, or contractor, seek out and take the lead certification class. If you are an employee, becoming certifies in lead protection practices could increase your value to your employer. It's well worth it to a contractor to have an employee who possesses this knowledge.

Next, seek out the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. This is a group of people who believe passionately about our environment and green building practices. Every month they hold informative classes by professionals, located at the Phinney Neighborhood Association and ranging in topic from building techniques to the science of wall envelopes. The Guild is a wealth of knowledge and information!

Third, I recommend researching the tools you may need. Dunn Lumber sells dust filtration fans, telescoping poles like the third-hand support poles, the zip wall system, and vacuums rated for lead dust. Also, if you are dealing with lead, it's nice to have demo tools that are used only for lead applications and stored in plastic totes.

Fourth, look for places where you can purchase the materials you may need, either online or at your your local lumber yard. It's important to know what products are available and how to use them. For instance, Ram Board is a great floor protector and Masonite works well on top of that for further protection. Gorilla Tape is awesome for plastic-to-plastic joints.

Remember the most important part: Talk to your contractor and carpenter buddies and share what you've learned. I've found that learning from other practicing professionals is an excellent way to get real world, applicable knowledge.

Lastly, watch our video on building a simple dust containment system!