How Do You Clean Up After Building Work?

As a commercial cleaning company, Pristine clean up after building works on a large scale, working on projects ranging from the construction of new warehouse facilities to factories, offices and retail premises. Of course, cleaning up in these situations requires specialist equipment, trained teams and the relevant accreditations such as ConstructionLine, CSCS (The Construction Skills Certification Scheme), SafeContractor, CHAS, Achilles and PASMA (Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ & Manufacturers’ Association Ltd).

Of course, our knowledge can be easily transferred to the residential situation and this article has been produced to help homeowners clean up after building works in their own home. As many homeowners decide not to move but to extend and renovate or refurbish instead, builders are busy with extensions and home renovation projects across the UK. This is an exciting time for homeowners as their dreams of that lovely new extension, kitchen, bathroom or even loft conversion start. Of course, all building work, and even decorating, can generate dust and the home gets dusty and dirty. There is no getting away from it, but the extent of the cleaning can be reduced and then the cleaning will be easier. So, let’s get into it; how do you clean up after building work?

Well, before the work even begins, it is worth preparing for the cleaning that will be required after the construction work has been completed. There’s no doubt that building work creates dust, rubble, debris and potentially damage so it pays to prepare ahead of time. The preparation will reduce the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do after the project is finished, as well as protect you from dust, toxins, and carcinogens.

Preparation checklist

Speak to your builder about ways to minimise the dust and debris before they even start. Take a look at our preparation checklist for ideas:

  1. Partitions – When undertaking an extension for example, consider whether temporary partitions; temporary walls or plastic sheeting and masking tape, can be added so that dust from the building work does not enter the rest of the house. Even a wall partition will not stop the dust completely, but it will help reduce the amount of dust going into the rest of your home, so it is well worth discussing with your builder.
  2. Access routes – Review with your builder how workers will access the premises and if possible, avoid access to areas not involved in the building work. Many builders will also organise their own toilet facilities to avoid workers using yours.
  3. Impact on the rest of your home – It is also worth discussing with the builder what impact the work might have on the rest of the property. As an example, if you’re having an extension built, and there will be new structural steel beams (steels) added to keep the house stable. The addition of these steels may lead to some movement in the rest of the house which may lead to extra repairs of cracked walls and additional decorating you may not have originally considered. Hopefully, the builder has, and it’s included in their quote, but better to be prepared than have a nasty shock. Of course, any work like this will simply add to the dust and cleaning required.
  4. Your facilities – Discuss issues around access to kitchen and bathroom facilities if you are having some major work completed. You will need to work closely with the builder to make sure you can still prepare food and that you will have running water and electricity as needed and certainly in the evenings. Even consider co-ordinating your holidays at the most appropriate time; at the point when the building work is at it is most disruptive to you.
  5. Move everything out of the work area – common sense but don’t forget to prepare for the arrival of the builders by removing everything from their working area. Think about the items in your home but also the items that you have in your garden if they are going to be using this area too. Move any precious plant pots to another area or store them in a shed. Agree with the builder whether they will have access to your shed or whether they will need to store their tools and equipment separately. Think about where to store items in the rest of your house, and whether you’ll need access to them during the construction period.
  6. Keep the air flowing – perhaps a strange one, but if possible, keep the air flowing by opening windows, as this will help any builders dust flow out of the house rather than settling on surfaces and floors.
  7. Covering furniture, floorcoverings and electrical items – protect your furniture, carpets and personal belongings by relocating them where possible and by covering them with plastic sheets when they are close to the building work. Electrical items can be damaged with dust so relocating or sealing them in bags is a good idea.
  8. Cleaning equipment – prepare for the cleaning early by making sure you have all the equipment you might need. The essentials we would recommend include:
    1. Dustpan and brush
    2. Sturdy brush with hard bristles and a brush with soft bristles
    3. Mop and bucket
    4. Powerful vacuum cleaner ideally with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter as these filters trap smaller particles. Depending on how severe the dust and dirt is, you may want to hire an industrial vacuum cleaner.
    5. Extra filters if your vacuum has a filter
    6. Dust mask and goggles maybe needed for the initial clean
    7. Protective gloves
    8. Cloths including micro-fibre cloths
    9. Polish and window cleaner
    10. Cleaning solutions of your choice which can include an antibacterial cleaning fluid. For natural cleaning products consider lemon juice, white vinegar, baking soda and more. Check out our blog on Top cleaning tips with your cupboard contents for more information.

Now you are set for the arrival of the workers and your dream renovation is underway.

During building works

As the works gets underway you really have two options. If the dust and rubble is reasonably well contained and the rest of the house is reasonably well-sealed, you could choose to halt any further cleaning. However even with a well-sealed construction site, dust will accumulate. It’s strange how it seeps through, but it does. You may not want to clean daily but here at Pristine we do recommend that you keep on top of the dust. Of course, this is your choice, but if you want to maintain some sense of order and cleanliness a little cleaning on a regular basis will certainly help.

If possible open windows to allow your home to air as the work is taking place. This will help with the dust as well as any smells related to the construction such as paint.

Top tip – before the builders take down any plastic sheeting or temporary wall make sure they’ve given the new extension for example an initial clean. This will help to reduce the amount of dust that goes into the rest of your home when they remove the partition.

Also if you’re having building work done and have a regular window cleaner, you are best pausing the service while the building work is happening, so don’t forget to get in touch with them. If you have a regular cleaning company clean your house, talk to them also about whether they can continue to help or whether you will pause their services also.

Post building works – the big clean up

The partitions are down, and the building work is complete. You can enjoy your new extension, bathroom, or kitchen. Well not quite, so as now is when the cleaning really begins. No matter how careful you’ve been during the building work you will need to deep clean throughout your home, and especially in the new extension or kitchen or bathroom as well as all the rooms and hallways nearby.

If you’ve completed an extension, you will also need to tidy up the garden and make sure any passageways are cleaned too.

Our post building work cleaning checklist is as follows:

  1. Remove the larger rubble and debris – This will most likely be inside your home and in the garden. Most builders will complete a ‘surface’ clean, but there will be some rubble and debris to remove, maybe even some cement, bricks or even the odd tool. We’ve even come across Stanley knife blades in the garden of one building site so get rid of the big rubbish wearing protective gloves.
  2. Sweep carefully – We recommend a hard brush for sweeping it all together outside the home and then a soft broom, and dustpan and brush for collection and disposal of debris inside the home. In the home, this can lift the dust up, so it makes sense to open the windows and wear a dust mask and goggles. The reason we recommend sweeping initially is that we don’t recommend vacuuming until the bulk of the dust and debris has been removed. Otherwise there is the potential of too much debris and dust for the cleaner to handle, and then you would risk damaging your cleaner beyond repair. Ideally you now want to wait and let the dust settle before you embark on the deep clean. Once the dust has settled start cleaning from the ceiling down to the floor, cleaning everything thoroughly.
  3. Walls and ceiling cleaning – dust from the building work can cover the walls and ceiling so clean them. Be careful not to just use a damp cloth as this could damage the paint especially if it has been painted recently. In this instance, you can use a duster or dry cloth, and use the cloth to move the dust down and off the walls and ceiling. We would recommend a dry cloth for walls and ceilings generally.
  4. Unpainted walls – if you have unpainted walls, you can use a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove any dust.
  5. Painted walls – firstly wait until the paint is completely dry. You can then use a duster to remove any dust that may have accumulated. If the wall has been painted a while ago you may need to use a damp cloth, but you need to be careful not to damage the paint, and it will depend on the type of paint used. Satin and gloss paint will of course clean more easily than matt paint which you need to be very careful cleaning. Again, a duster would be more appropriate for a matt paint. You’ll need to check the paint manufacturer’s guidelines before using a damp cloth or use it in a small test area first.
  6. Wallpapered walls – a dry or slightly damp cloth will generally work well to remove any dust especially with textured wallpaper.
  7. Skirtings – as you progress to the floor, don’t forget to dust the skirtings. You may need to do this a second time after any vacuuming that maybe required on the floors. With skirtings a damp cloth will do the job well but again avoid the paint work and don’t use a cloth that is too wet or you risk splashing the paint work.
  8. Lights and light fittings – as you work on the walls and ceilings, don’t forget to clean any light fixtures including light shades, ceiling fan blades or other fittings. Use a glass cleaner for any glass. To clean them thoroughly we would recommend that light fittings and bulbs are taken down to be cleaned.
  9. Cupboards and hard surfaces – if you’ve had a new kitchen or bathroom fitted, and for any renovation work, you’ll want to clean the cupboards. Start by vacuuming any chippings or dust inside the cupboards, and then use a damp cloth to remove any dust not picked up by the vacuum cleaner. For cupboards in kitchens and bathrooms you may want to use an antibacterial solution or natural cleaning products. Wipe all hard surfaces from top to bottom including countertops, shelves, doorframes, and any hard furniture in your home. Use the appropriate cleaning solution and for furniture consider using polish too.
  10. Curtains and blinds – you may need to take curtains down and get them washed, either professionally or yourself depending on how dusty they have become. Check the cleaning instructions for the curtains too. If they aren’t too dusty, we would recommend vacuuming them gently to remove any dust, and if they do need washing you are best removing the dust with a gentle vacuum first. Blinds can be dusted using a microfibre cloth. Simply open the blinds, and dust from the top and working your way down to the bottom. If you vacuum has a soft brush attachment you can use this to remove dust, if you can adjust the power of the suction to a low setting too. Alternatively, there are lots of gadgets available for specifically cleaning blinds. However, in truth a cloth will do the job.
  11. Soft furniture – upholstered furniture, even if covered with plastic sheets, will have trapped some dust and small particles. Vacuuming the furniture is the best approach, making sure that you use the appropriate vacuum attachments. Remove the cushions if you can and vacuum carefully and thoroughly. If your sofas have removable covers, you can opt to wash them following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  12. Windows and windowsills – cleaning the windows includes cleaning the window frames, windows and windowsills and is generally quite a task. If there are traces of paint on the window, you will want to remove the paint. You can remove paint splashes with nail varnish remover and a cotton pad or bud but be very careful not to remove the paint that’s in the right place. If there’s a lot of dust on the window frames and windowsills, firstly using the appropriate vacuum attachment, vacuum up as much dust as you can, before using a cloth. Once any superfluous paint has been removed you can wipe down the window frames, polish the windows with window cleaner and a cloth or paper, or alternatively use lukewarm water with three tablespoons of white vinegar, and a cloth moistened with the solution.
  13. Carpets – vacuum your carpets. You may want to complete an initial vacuuming as soon as the workers have left and then vacuum again when you’ve removed all the dust from the walls, ceilings, furniture, etc. The choice is yours, but you don’t want to allow dust to become too embedded in your carpets. Vacuuming early will also prevent any potential staining of your carpets from dirt or dust. We would therefore recommend two vacuums: an initial one for all flooring at the start of the deep cleaning process and then a further one at the end. To clean and brighten rugs and carpets, dip a brush in a solution of 1 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon of water – of course do this after removing any dust. Your vacuum cleaner will work at its best and will be less likely to breakdown if you check your filter on a regularly basis. This is particularly important when you are vacuuming a significant amount of dust and dirt left from building works. The filter is likely to need cleaning more often so keep a close eye on it. A good vacuum for the removal of builder’s dust is one that has a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter as it traps more of the smaller particles, making the cleaning process faster as you’ll not need to vacuum as many times to get the dust up.
  14. Hard floors – vacuum hard floors after sweeping and allowing the dust to settle. We recommend sweeping first with a soft bristle brush as this will reduce the likelihood of issues with your vacuum cleaner due to dust blocking it up, as well as prevent damage to your flooring. You want to remove as much of the dust as you can firstly by sweeping and then by vacuuming. Then mop, using your preferred cleaning product, making sure it is compatible with your flooring. If you have new flooring, make sure you’ve read the manufacturer’s instructions and buy the recommended type of cleaning solution. You may need to mop more than once after the builders have been in. For a natural floor cleaning solution, you can use one litre of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice (or white vinegar).
  15. Air vents – If you have air vents in your home, you’ll need to clean the air vents and filters, or even replace the filters. Dust and debris will get into the air vents and filters even in rooms that weren’t involved in the extension or renovation works so check all vents and filters. Changing filters is important in reducing the amount of dust in the air as inhaling dust particles can be serious and lead to respiratory issues and allergies. To clean vents and filters, remove the vent coverings, clean the vent covers with your preferred cleaning solution and water, or a diluted lemon juice solution. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions either clean the filter following the instructions or simply replace the filters.
  16. Removing unpleasant odours – to remove unpleasant smells from the building work. You can of course open all the windows and let the fresh air in, and this is certainly recommended. A simple tip to reduce the smell of fresh paint is to pop a bowl of baking soda in the room that’s been painted as baking soda will absorb the smell.

The final cleaning task, before you can enjoy that beautiful new extension or renovation is to clean and maintain your cleaning equipment. Giving your equipment a quick clean will ensure they last longer. As an example, don’t forget to rinse out the mop thoroughly so it’s nice and clean for the next use. Make sure it’s dried out before stowing away in your cupboard and definitely empty your vacuum bag and if need replace your vacuum’s dust filter or wash it, again checking the manufacturer’s instructions.

Now you can enjoy your lovely new extension, kitchen, bathroom, or attic conversion… wonderful.

Please do check out our other blogs related to cleaning in the home as there are plenty.

In the meantime, if you’re having large scale commercial building works completed and need a quality commercial cleaning contractor with a wealth of experience, with clients including the NHS, B&Q, Daewoo, Balfour Beatty, Shepherd Construction and the Kier Group, as well as all the accreditations, why not get a quote today.

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