Clean Up After Renovation & Minimize Mess During Construction

by Carol Wang

Renovation cleaning tips to protect your home from particles and paint fumes, and your floors to furniture

home renovation clean up

As you prepare for a major renovation, you will be rightly focused on finding a great general contractor. Other items on the list include selecting materials and figuring out costs. With this long to-do list, it’s easy to overlook plans for site prep and protection. It can have a big effect on your home during and after the renovation. Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors offering support through project completion, outlines the ways to minimize mess and prevent damage with thorough site prep before work gets underway; plus tips to clean up after a renovation.

Discuss site prep and protection with your contractor

Contractors generally work with you on protecting the existing space. However, it’s mainly to prevent damage rather than block dirt and grime. That is to say, your floors shouldn’t be scratched or dented, but they may be dusty, streaky, or even sticky. They will need to be cleaned up after the fact. You’ll want to discuss with your contractor your expectations for cleanliness over the duration of the renovation. What services are included and for what price varies depending on the project and the contractor.

Decide whether to stay or go

Site prep is an important undertaking, especially for homeowners who are renovating just one part of their residence. It becomes even more important if you plan to continue living at home through the renovation. Staying put may cost more than clearing out completely. Extra time and effort go into set-up and tear-down each day. Crews must first lay paper, hang tarp, and add any other protective barriers. These all have to be taken down at the end of the work day in order for the owners to use their home at night.

For example, if you are renovating the kitchen and your only bathroom, your contractor will need to make sure you can maintain access to the facilities. You’ll also need a pathway to walk through to the rest of the apartment. On the other hand, a renovation in an unoccupied home allows the crew to leave the space in relative disarray at the end of the day. The next morning, they can pick up right where they left off. For this reason, whether or not you leave during the renovation is usually part of the initial conversation with your contractor to determine a project estimate.

Prep and protect your home, and seal the construction site

If you are undertaking anything other than a complete gut renovation, you can do the following to limit the disruption and minimize the mess:

  •  Cordon off the renovation zone by hanging heavy-duty tarp (at least .8 millimeters thick) from the ceiling down to the floor to create a seal. Apply masking tape across all sides of the tarp where it meets the ceiling, walls, and floor. Tension rods can also help hold up heavy tarps. Particles will fly through any and all gaps you leave, no matter how small. If you need a flap for entry and exit, consider applying an adhesive zipper to your tarp. Add a double layer if there will be a lot of sanding or if you know that dangerous particles will be released into the air.
  • Within the reno zone, protect anything that you’re keeping. Floors should be covered with construction paper (maybe even a double layer, as insurance against tearing). Cover window treatments or appliances with tarp (again, leaving no gaps).
  • If the reno zone is in the center of your home, consider laying continuous paper or tarp through all the high traffic areas. This will prevent dirt from tracking into the rest of the space.
  • Cover all furniture throughout the home (especially textile surfaces such as couches and beds) with a drop cloth or tarp.
  • Seal up closet doors by applying masking tape to the gaps between the doors and the floor. Nothing more annoying than having to wash all your dusty clothes because you forgot to do this. 

Clear the air

  • Vacuum, preferably with a HEPA (“high efficiency particulate air”) vacuum at the end of each work day—you can rent one or discuss getting one with your contractor. HEPA vacuums are able to trap much smaller particles than normal vacuums.
  • If you have one, run a HEPA air purifier on high 24/7, and change or wash the filters frequently since they will be working a lot harder than usual. If you don’t have one, consider renting a commercial-grade air scrubber for the duration of the renovation.
  • Open the windows! The more air circulates, the better. 

The costs of prevention are fairly minimal (with the exception of an air scrubber rental, which can run you several hundred dollars depending on how long you need it) but important to identify and account for upfront so that you and your team are on the same page about expectations. And even with excellent containment, you’ll most likely need a dedicated cleaning after the project is done. Read on for how to approach a deep post-construction clean. 

How to approach your post-reno deep clean

Unless you explicitly build it into your contract, extensive cleaning is typically not part of your contractor’s job. The industry standard is “broom-swept,” which usually involves vacuuming up larger bits of debris and then running a broom across the floor. Anything beyond this (including cleaning up common spaces such as hallways and elevators) will need to be specifically arranged, and will most likely incur additional costs that you’ll bear as the homeowner.

Renovation clean-up services

Whether you moved out or stayed put in your home during the renovation process, you’ll need to arrange for a deep post-construction clean up once that last drawer pull is attached and the final coat of paint applied. Homeowners can undertake the deep clean themselves or outsource it to one of the many companies that focus on this service. Thumbtack shared that the cost of a deep clean isn’t necessarily determined by the size of a space but by the level of effort. A 3-bed, 2,000-square-foot home costs $250 to clean on average, while a 1-bed apartment starts at $110. Post-construction cleans will cost more so you can expect to at least double these numbers for a deep, post-construction clean. 

Clean-up steps after renovating:

Usually, a post-construction clean up will include the following:

  • Sweep and vacuum all surfaces, including ceilings and walls
  • Sweep, mop, and disinfect floors
  • Vacuum all upholstery
  • Wipe down doors, knobs, baseboards, moldings, and hardware
  • Thorough wipe-down and sanitization of bathrooms and kitchens (including appliances, cabinets, and counters)
  • Dust, vacuum, and wipe-down of all window interiors including sills and frames
  • Dust all ducts, grates, vents, blinds, ceiling fans, and lighting fixtures
  • Clean all hardware hinges and handles, shelves, and cabinets
  • Clean inside all closets
  • Removal of all remaining trash and debris (although your contractor should have removed most of this as part of the contract)

If you’re trying to decide whether to tackle clean up after a renovation yourself or to outsource it to the experts, ask the following questions:

  • Do you have the energy and time?
  • How long will it take you?
  • Do you have any money left in the renovation budget you could put toward the clean? (Or better yet, build it in now if you haven’t started!).

Different circumstances will determine who does the job, but a thorough clean is crucial. All kinds of particles are released into the air during renovations, including various toxins, mold spores, silicates, and ultrafine dust that can damage your lungs. Freshly applied paints, lacquers, and primers also give off fumes. Given the possible dangers to your health, the hefty price tag for a proper clean may well be worth it!

Read about Sweeten homeowners who left their homes during their renovation—and those who stuck it out.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

Explore other stories