Dust control has become a serious matter in today’s construction environment. Dust control is important, not only for the long term safety of workers’ lungs, but it’s also important for homeowners’ health during any remodeling project. Now, with the knowledge of the harmful effects of lead dust, contractors have added procedural controls for containment if needed. Not only that, but good dust containment and control makes for a clean working environment, not only in the shop, but also on the job site. There is a plethora of vacuum attachments for tools, and tools that are now made for maximum dust extraction through attached vacuum hoses. So yes, compared to when I started out in construction, dust control is a science, and it has become a necessary step in any construction process.

Managing dust at the job site

What are the common things to think about when setting up dust control on a project? It might seem complicated, but it’s not. Sometimes you can’t see the dust, so it makes it difficult to be aware of, but, believe me, it’s there. The first step is to identify your working environment, and if you can cordon it off from the rest of the home with a plastic wall and zipper door, then do so. This creates a barrier between the working environment and the home’s living environment. It also makes the space to extract dust much smaller, making filtration fans more effective, because it’s a smaller space to work with. Also, think of a fan that is pulling the air from somewhere, and then delivering it somewhere—you will need to imagine how that movement is going to be effective through the duration of your project. With that, if there is dust in the air, the last component is how you are going to catch or filter the dust.

Setting up the fan

There are many different filtration fans for small construction projects on the market today. I have two HEPA filter fans, with rheostat controls and long 10” flexible hoses, that I use in a variety of projects. These are also rated for lead dust, and they really do work well. They are expensive, though, at about $900.00 each, but they are well worth it! In this video I’m showing how to use a cheap box fan, that you can pick up at any hardware store, and a furnace filter to catch most of the dust, as an inexpensive and easy dust control method. It’s best to set this fan in a window with a seal around it, to draw the air through the working environment and outside. The thing to remember here, though, is that the better the furnace filter, the better the dust catch will be. Also, be prepared to change out or vacuum the filter often, because once it gets clogged the fan isn’t as effective. Often times what we do is make a little shelf we can attach to the exterior of the window that the fan can sit on. We usually attach the fan to the shelf and seal the fan to the window, such as with plastic and blue tape. We do this so we can leave it set up and still be able to close the window after working hours to secure the home.

Monitoring the air flow

Another benefit to having a fan and moving the air, is that you are artificially creating a draft, so you can control the air movement. It’s very important that you create a negative air pressure area, compared to the living environment of the home. In other words, you’re attempting to draw air from the home into the work space and not the other way around. You can actually see this when your plastic wall bows into the work space and becomes tight. This is one way to monitor that the air flow is going in the right direction. If the plastic wall is kind of floppy or bowed toward the living space, I call this a back draft, and that’s not good.