Living with disruption, and dust


SO FAR Dick and Nancy Councill have had it easy with the disruption of their lives during their two-story addition and renovation project. All the work has gone on behind a plywood wall between the former pantry and the former kitchen.

But now it's time to break through the wall into the existing space -- the former pantry -- that is involved in the project. When contractor Ron Nodine first tore out the existing kitchen, he reinstalled some of the old cabinets and appliances in the pantry space -- which at one time had been the house's kitchen.

Dick Councill said he liked his little temporary kitchen -- partly because when he's in it there's no room for anyone else, so he has it to himself. Up until now, he said, they haven't really been inconvenienced by the construction going on around them. The temporary kitchen was safe behind the plywood -- until last week.

Councill may not be as thrilled about the new temporary kitchen, which consists of the refrigerator and stove hooked up in the basement. An under-the-counter refrigerator that will go in the new pantry was ordered early and installed temporarily in the dining room to provide some first-floor food storage.

However, the Councills have known since the beginning that this stage was coming, and that they would have to "camp out" for a while, so they are being good sports about it.

There's no way to avoid some disruption when your house is being worked on. If you are finishing a basement or building a family-room addition, the inconvenience is minimal. If you are redoing a kitchen or bathroom, that is not the case.

Most houses only have one kitchen, so to remodel it, you have to do without it for a period of time. That means you have to live with a refrigerator and a microwave, and you eat out a lot. If you're redoing your bathroom and you only have one, you make arrangements with a neighbor or family member to use their shower. This will get old quick.

The key is obviously to minimize the time your facility will be out of commission. Don't start until all of the components to finish the job are readily available. If you tear out the kitchen based on when the cabinets are supposed to be delivered, for example, Murphy's Law will get you. The cabinets will be ready -- but the trucking company will go on strike. Or your cabinets will arrive on time -- but they're the wrong color.

Of course there are problems in ordering everything ahead of time -- such as where to store things as they come in and how to protect them from damage.

However, once everything is in and you're ready to begin, you have to look at protecting existing finishes and furnishings. Dust is the enemy, especially if there is plaster involved.

Start by sealing off the construction area with plastic. The seal needs to be as tight as possible. If you're putting tape on a good finish, use removable blue painter's tape. Don't use duct tape or masking tape; they will damage the finish.

Although it seems like a nuisance, it will be far easier in the long run to take the time to pack away knickknacks and other dust-catchers than it will be to clean every piece after the work is finished. Take pictures off the walls of areas adjoining the work space. Remove everything you can and store it in a safe place. If some furniture will remain, cover it up.

If you have a forced-air heating system, or air conditioning, be sure the system isn't running during dusty phases of the work, or it will distribute the dust evenly throughout the house.

If you have hardwood floors to protect, cover them with cardboard. Cabinet and appliance boxes are a good source. Tape the edges of the cardboard to other cardboard, not to the floor. The tape might pull the finish off the floor when you remove it.

The more precautions you take, the less you will have to clean or replace after the job is done. The fact is, some dust will penetrate your barriers no matter what you do. But by taking every possible precaution you can greatly minimize the mess.

The best part about this phase of the project is that it means the end is near. The drywall is complete, the doors and trim are installed and the painter will start tomorrow. The project is less than 30 days from completion. At this point, the pace and the excitement levels pick up again as the finishes are installed and the final product begins to emerge.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and a past president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at or Karol at Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Renovation checklist

Items done as of Feb. 5 to the Councill project:

-Stake out/excavate

-Pour footing

-Demolish roof

-Install drain tile

-Foundation walls

-Pour slabs


-Install windows

-Exterior doors

-Shingle roof


-Gutters and downspouts

-Rough HVAC *

-Rough plumbing

-Rough electrical



-Interior doors

-Interior trim

-Paint interior


Ceramic tile

Install bath hardware

Finish HVAC

Finish electrical

Finish plumbing

Install hardwood floors


Clean up

Final inspections


* Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems

Pub Date: 2/07/99

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