Keeping your kids safe is your number one priority. It’s tricky enough at the best of times, but imagine the stresses of ensuring a safe environment during a renovation. Children may be small and harmless, but they sure know how to find trouble, even when it might not be obvious to the adults in the room.
The best advice we can give you is to get on your hands and knees and scan the room to get a child’s-eye view. What can you see? Can you spot any gaps that your children can access? Have you covered all your bases? Are there trip hazards and trailing cables?
You could move the family to a relative's home or a hotel, but the reality is most families undertake a renovation while they live in the house.
So, with that in mind, we need to find solutions to help you childproof your home during a renovation. Let’s take a look at some suggestions you might find helpful.
Power tools are part and parcel of any home renovation. Saws, drills, sanders, you name it, they are probably being used in your home as part of the ongoing work. The best way to keep your kids safe is to fit stair gates to block their access to the areas where danger lurks.
Most kid’s toys consist of switches and pulleys, lights and funny sounds for cognitive development, so it isn’t hard to see why a misplaced power tool might look appealing to a small child. To them, it’s just a toy.
The contractors need to be left to get on with the job without the need to pack their tools away whenever they stop using them. It would slow the renovation and potentially spoil the working relationship between you and the professionals.
The only thing you could do was insist that they pack all the tools away to make the space safe for your children at the end of every working day.
Divide your home into safe zones and working zones. That way, you know where your children will be safe. Once you’ve established which rooms are off-limits, you can set to work making the protected areas as comfortable as possible.
Stair gates will help you block access to these hazardous areas, but you also need to keep the safe zones as interesting to your children as possible. Don’t pack away all their favourite toys and try and keep the living environment as normal as possible.
Also, the house will be full of strange sounds and people. Your secure zone should be a barrier to all the upheaval. Of course, all of this depends on their ages, so smaller children will find it more challenging to cope.
Have a conversation with your contractor before they start the renovation, establishing the safe zones in the house and why. The more you communicate with the builders, the more they understand what you want, which minimises misunderstandings.
If you can, make the safe zone a room or two with outside access. This stops the contractors from using the same entrance as you, preventing them from walking through the protected area.
We spend so much time dealing with the physical dangers to our children during a renovation that we seldom give much thought to the air quality.
Dust and other particulates circulate throughout your home, causing your children to inhale possibly hazardous material. Air pollution is such a problem in our daily lives, so the last thing you would want to do is expose your little ones to more harmful pollutants.
You could cover all surfaces with dust sheets and install plastic sheeting over doorways between the working space and your safe zone to minimise the spread of the dust. If you're renovating during the summer, encourage the contractors to open as many windows to let the dust escape.
If your renovation is happening during the winter, encourage the contractors to close as many doors to slow the dust from spreading inside your home.
You could also invest in an air purifier and set it running 24/7 to remove all the impurities in the atmosphere. If you can get one with a HEPA filter, it will remove 99.97% of all dangerous particulates to a size of 0.3 microns. To put it in laymen’s terms, that is microscopic.
Just remember that with an increased level of dust, your filter will need regular replacement or cleaning, depending on the model you buy.
During a renovation, dust spreads to almost every surface, including carpets, curtains and soft furnishings. Protecting your children doesn’t stop after the work is done. By covering high-traffic areas of the home and all the hard and soft surfaces, you are ensuring that you minimise the danger further down the line.
Kids like to crawl and touch things, and just like any inquisitive creature, they like to use their mouths. You’d be amazed how much dust you will still be lifting months after the builders have packed up and gone home.
Investing in a good quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter should help you clean up, but the best way to deal with the problem is to avoid dust settling in the first place.
Small fingers find tiny holes, so to avoid any injuries, use socket covers that snap into place to stop your little ones from finding electrical outlets. Likewise, keep an eye on loose wires and cables. These are usually coloured and so may look attractive to young eyes.
Try and encourage your contractors and electricians to cap off the wires and use insulation tape when performing any electrical tasks. It is unlikely that any professional worth their salt will leave your electrical system live while there are exposed wires, but mistakes do happen.
While we accept that building sites are haphazard and full of dangers, the tidier you encourage your contractors to be, the fewer dangers there are. Screws, nails, saw blades and other sharp implements are commonplace, even after the builders have gone home for the night.
If a contractor knows they are working on a project for a month, they will soon establish your home renovation as a place to store all the tools and equipment they need. All you can do is make it clear that you have to live in the house with young children when they leave at night, so keeping a clean workspace is helpful.
However, we wouldn’t encourage letting your child have free reign in the areas where the home remodel is taking place. But as realists, we understand that occasionally mistakes happen, so if they do, at least you’ve minimised the risks.
The truth is no one likes living in the middle of a building site. It’s hard enough staying sane without taking into account the needs of your little ones. Holding down a full-time job and trying to raise a family while renovating your home is a balancing act.
However, keeping your child safe is the single most important thing you can do when you are in the middle of a renovation. So, if you want to undertake a major building project in the near future, start planning the childproofing now.