When we think of demolition, we mostly think of the process for removing the old material from the site of a remodel. However, demolition has additional components, such as identifying items that will be reused and carefully removing and storing them; protecting surfaces that will remain within the demolition zone; and setting up systems to control dust and debris from entering unaffected areas of the house. In addition, during the demolition phase, you may need to identify hazardous materials and plan for their removal, control access to the area and set up refuse removal services.
As a general rule, federal rules can be viewed as a minimum standard while state and local authorities can add additional and more restrictive regulations. The following discusses safety considerations that apply to the remodeler. These are general in nature; check your state, local and current federal regulations to ensure compliance.
- A first-aid kit adequate for the number of workers and type of work being done should be present at every jobsite. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation (1926.50 (c)) requires at least one person on each job have a valid Red Cross First Aid card. These cards are good for three years and require six hours of instruction.
- A currently inspected fire extinguisher rated not less than 2A must be available within 100 feet on each jobsite involving 3,000 square feet or less, with an additional extinguisher for each additional 3,000 square feet or fraction thereof.
- During the course of construction, alteration or repair, form and scrap lumber with protruding nails and all other debris must be cleared from work areas, passageways and stairs in and around the building. Citations for sloppy housekeeping are among the most common violations issued against remodelers.
- Safety meetings should be conducted on a regular basis to maintain everyone’s awareness of the hazards involved.
- Safety Data Sheets (SDS) must be available to all workers who are exposed to any hazardous materials. SDS are written by chemical manufacturers for the chemicals they produce or import. Their purpose is to communicate information on the recommended safe use and handling procedures for that chemical. Employers are required to assemble and provide unhindered access to the SDS collected for all chemicals found in a work area.
- If the client is residing in the house while you are conducting your remodeling project, be sure to alert them to the presence of the chemical(s) and the SDS binder.
- If working in a home built before 1978, be sure to comply with all the requirements of the federal or state EPA RRP requirements.
- Before you cut into finish surfaces, always shut off electrical, water and gas service to that area. Start slowly and proceed carefully.
Containing the Mess
One of the keys to a successful remodel is managing the mess. Torn-out plaster and drywall are nasty stuff to handle and worse to breathe. The dust gets everywhere, and the volume of debris is overwhelming. If you’re sloppy as you remodel, you’ll pay later; finished floors are particularly vulnerable to grit that isn’t swept up and to nails that go astray. Lathe with nails sticking out creates a hazardous workplace.
Whatever the scope of your job, conserve existing surfaces whenever possible. Remove any details that might get damaged, and cut no wider or deeper than you absolutely must. You’ll have less to repair later and fewer inadvertent cuts into wires, pipes or the framing itself.
There are occasions when you’ll need to reuse door and window trim that needs to be removed. How you remove it will depend on the surrounding walls. If the walls are in good shape and will be used with little refinishing, run a joint knife between the wall and the trim to break the paint seal. Then, gently rap a flat bar behind the trim near the nails preferably. Pry up along the entire length of the trim, raising it a little at a time. Remove the nails by pulling them through the trim piece from the back. Number the trim as you remove it to aid in replacement. Store the trim in a dry, out-of-the-way place so that it will not get damaged.
If the wall will be removed but the trim is being saved, use a reciprocating saw to cut it free. Use a flat bar to raise the trim as described above. Then, use the saw with a metal cutting blade to cut the shanks of the nails.
If you’re cutting a big hole—say for a skylight or you’re just gutting the ceiling—try to remove it in manageable sections. If the joists are exposed above, look in the attic first. If it’s insulated above your cutout, move insulation over to the next joist; use a dust pan to shovel it if it’s loose insulation. This will save you a lot of mess later.
Tearing Out Old Surfaces
As is recommended for ceilings, cut out manageable sections 2-feet-square and remove them with the plaster still keyed to the lath. Remove all the nails sticking out of studs if you will be putting up new drywall or plaster. Now is also the time to remove wires or pipes within if that’s part of your plan.
Demolition can be a very messy phase of remodeling. It is most important to be safe and maintain your jobsite as cleanly and organized as possible. Plan the sequence of your demo and systematically conduct your demolition phase. |QR
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