3 Things to Ask a General Contractor About Residential Remodeling Dust

Be sure to ask during your initial consultation before your remodel project begins.

First, how much do you know about indoor air quality (IAQ)?

The awareness level of IAQ among homeowners has certainly improved in recent years. This is especially so when a resident of the home has asthma, allergies, heart disease or other serious long-term conditions.

​However, if you’ve never been around a construction zone or lived onsite during a residential remodel project, the prospect of quality IAQ conditions may be new to you, especially you’re entertaining your first remodel experience. Whether it’s a new kitchen, a remodeled bath or a new addition, here’s what you need to know.

During a home remodeling project, IAQ can be much worse than normal because of the excessive amount of dust that gets stirred up on the project every single day.​

It is no wonder that construction dust is the No. 1 nuisance issue during remodeling projects. It’s true for both the contractor and homeowner. During any remodeling project (no matter how small), the dust starts flying immediately and really doesn’t stop until after the project has been completed.It is safe to say that the demolition process alone produces countless pieces and particles of cement, silicates, lead, wood, insulation and dirt.

From there, dust continues to pile up from sawing lumber, sanding drywall and the cutting of tiles, countertops and flooring components. If unmanaged, dust will get everywhere: on floors, furniture, glassware, dishes, even toothbrushes. And even your pets!

The main issue

Harmful substances may get uncovered during the remodeling process, especially in an older home (and there are plenty of those in Seattle).

For example:

  • Dirt and debris of many sizes, including those you can’t even see
  • Organic matter like rodent feces and dead bugs
  • Materials such as drywall, cement and sawdust
  • Dangerous substances such as silica, asbestos and lead
  • Mold and mildew
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

A few dust facts

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart.”

The International Standardization Organization (ISO) reports that “dust particles are usually in the size range from about 1 to 100 microns (μm) in diameter, and they settle slowly under the influence of gravity.”

Smaller particles pose a greater health risk.
They can be inhaled and will settle slowly. Again, as the particle size decreases, settling time increases.
Meaning, the smaller the particle, the longer it takes to settle and the more likely they are to be inhaled into the living, breathing bodies in the home.

Minimizing the effects

Before beginning to work with any general contractor, ask and find out what dust management practices the company implements on the property. A few useful, but general questions may start off like these:
Do you cover parts of the house when it’s under construction?
Do you use an air filter, or filters?
I’d like to hear about the dust control systems and practices you put in place on the jobsite.Here are 3 dust-specific questions to ask before you hire your contractor:

  1. How much dust will your project generate?
    All projects produce dust throughout the process. You need to know the degree of dust that will be produced.
  2. How will the contractor preserve your home’s livability?
    You’re not alone in worrying about this. About 90 percent of homeowners stay in their homes during projects. The best contractors will have a dust control plan that includes the latest technology and best practices. Keep it simple for yourself, and them too… No plan? No deal.
  1. How will the contractor make the plan work?
    A simple box fan, a few sheets of taped plastic paper and a vacuum cleaner or shop vac won’t be enough. To really control dust, a contractor needs to use specialized tools to collect dust at the point of generation, while it is still airborne. For example, the BuildClean Dust Control System created for remodel and construction projects.

What else about remodel projects?
If you’re entertaining thoughts of a remodel project for yourself, consider downloading our Remodel Reality Check worksheet. Download yours today!

Remember to also follow our projects on Houzz, or follow and watch our progressive remodel live videos on our Facebook page.

In the mood for more reading?
Check out our blog: What Does it Take to Remodel a Basement?