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How to Care for Pets and Children During a Remodel

These strategies can help protect animals and children from hazardous materials, construction areas and stress

Laura Gaskill

Living through a remodel is a challenge, as anyone who’s been there can attest — but add kids or pets (or both!) to the mix and things get a whole lot trickier. How do you keep curious, active kids from getting hurt when there’s construction going on at home? What are you supposed to do with an anxious dog who won’t stop barking at the workers? Take a few deep breaths and then read this guide: We’ll tackle those questions and more.

Tips for Remodeling With Kids

1. Assign Separate Entrances for Workers and Family

This will help keep construction dust and dirt out of the areas you’re using, but also (and perhaps more important) it will help prevent workers from accidentally leaving tools and supplies sitting around in non-work areas. Choose an entrance for the workers closest to the construction zone to minimize foot traffic through the house, even if this means they use the front door and your family switches to the back, side or garage entrance.

2. If Hazardous Materials Are Present, Stay Somewhere Else

Any remodel is bound to include some potential hazards — but what we’re talking about here are serious hazards like lead paint, asbestos and mold. If one of these is present in your home, staying elsewhere while that portion of the work is being done is a good idea. If you or one of your children have health concerns like asthma or allergies, you may also wish to stay at the home of a friend or relative, or in a rental, to avoid construction dust.

3. Designate a Safe Place to Play

There are a lot of places you’ll be telling your kids it’s not OK to play, which makes it all the more important that you find a place where play is allowed. If you’re living within a smaller area of your home during the remodel, this might mean letting the kids “take over” a room usually used for another purpose — like the dining room or den.

4. Always Keep an Eye on Kids During Construction

As a parent, you know how quickly an active kid can decide to do something unexpected. Even if you usually feel confident leaving the kiddos playing happily for a few minutes while you wash the dishes or answer a call, it’s essential to never leave kids unattended during construction. Since it’s rare that construction workers will be on-site from sunup to sundown every day, try to plan your solo tasks for the hours before and after work is happening. And remember, even when work isn’t going on, your home is effectively still a work site, so it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant about safety.

5. Make Sure Construction Areas Are Cordoned Off Clearly

Yellow tape alone isn’t enough to keep curious kids out. Completely sealing off work areas by hanging plastic sheeting will help prevent kids from wandering in and will stop dust from traveling into your home’s living spaces. Where possible, also use sturdy child-safety gates to add another layer of protection from construction zones.

Tips for Remodeling With Pets

6. Find a Safe Place for Your Pets

Pets need to be kept away from work areas for their own safety and the safety of the workers. If your dog will be staying at home while work is going on, it’s a good idea to let the workers meet your furry family member. This can help workers see that your dog is friendly and will give your dog a chance to become familiar with the workers — which will hopefully lead to less barking. Depending on your pet and your home setup, here are a few options to consider:

  • Keep your pet in a closed room during the day — perhaps with access to a fenced run or catio.
  • Provide a securely fenced dog run or catio a safe distance from the construction, and consider lining it with privacy material to block your pet’s view of the work.
  • Board at a kennel for some portion of the time.
  • Drop off at doggy day care — you may choose to do this every day or only on days when major work is happening.

7. Keep Up Normal Routines

Keep up with your pet’s normal feeding routine as closely as possible. Cats and dogs (and other pets) are creatures of habit — which is why it’s especially important to keep up with your pet’s normal feeding and exercise routines as much as possible during a remodel. It’s not a good time to switch brands of food or treats, change the time of feedings or skip walks. And if you’re boarding your pet, be sure to provide the same food and toys your furry friend is used to having at home.

8. Know Your Pet

Some pets are especially sensitive to noise and can become upset while work is going on. If this is the case, find an area of your home as far as possible from the work zone where your pet can be. You might also consider playing classical music or running a white noise machine in their space while work is happening.

If there are windows in your pet’s room that workers walk by during the day, consider keeping the window coverings shut to ease the stress of constantly seeing strangers. If you know your pet will just not be able to handle the stress of the remodel, think ahead and make alternate plans. See if you can housesit and bring your pet with you, rent a pet-friendly Airbnb for part of the time or find a local pet “day care” service.

9. Get Pets Microchipped

Having a pet run away while construction is going on would be awful. Putting thought into how and where your pet will be cared for during the process can help make this less likely to happen — but just in case, it’s smart to have all pets in your home microchipped before work begins. Be sure cats and dogs are wearing collars and tags that include your current information — your cellphone number is likely the most helpful information to include on a tag. (And yes, that goes for your indoor-only house cat too.)

10. Prevent Escape

Kitties are notorious for sneaking out through the crack of an open door. Make it harder for this to happen by hanging a sign on the door that says “Keep closed: cat inside” or something to that effect. You may even want to place a chair in front of the door to prevent a worker from letting your cat out on accident. For the same reason, it’s important to choose a room for your cat to stay in that workers shouldn’t need to access at all — a bedroom or office out of the way of foot traffic would be ideal.

11. Beware of Fumes

If there will be floor refinishing going on, or anything else involving potentially harmful fumes, it’s important to give your pets a place to stay where the air is safe to breathe. Pets tend to be more sensitive to fumes than we are, so don’t trust that just because you don’t notice anything your pet will be OK. If you’re not sure if or when this work will be happening, ask your contractor to let you know the specific days so you can plan ahead.

12. Coordinate With Your Contractor

Talk with your contractor before work starts to share what you will be doing to keep pets and kids safe during the remodeling process, and strategize about what workers can do on their end to help make the process safer for everyone. Let the workers know how many pets you have, and make sure they have agreed to cover up holes and put away tools and hazardous items before leaving the site for the day. You can also ask to get a heads-up in advance of large-order deliveries and demolition days so you can plan a family outing or mini-getaway (pets included) during those times.

13. Get Outdoors
Getting away from the dust and noise of the remodeling site is essential for everyone’s sanity. Make sure to plan plenty of little outings to get fresh air and exercise. A visit to the dog park, a picnic in a scenic spot or even a neighborhood stroll can help everyone de-stress and decompress.

14. Deep Clean When Work Is Done
When the remodel is complete, your work is still not quite done. Even the tidiest crew will have left a film of dust and grime covering surfaces, and it’s important for little ones and furry friends alike that every surface is thoroughly cleaned of potentially hazardous dust before you officially move back in. Wipe down every surface and ventilate any area that’s been renovated by opening up all of the windows and letting the HVAC system run.

Your turn: What has worked for you when it comes to remodeling with kids, pets or both at home? Tell us in the Comments.

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