Save on Pinterest

How to Keep Things Clean On a Construction Site

Keep your construction gear sparkly clean and your jobsites tidy with these pro cleaning tips.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

1 / 12
Laying down carpet and drop cloth to protect floors and carpet | Construction Pro Tips
Family Handyman

Lay Down a Protective Path

It is impossible to demo a wall or bust up a floor without making a mess, but that doesn’t mean you need to track that mess all over the rest of the house. The next time you have to tear out some carpet, cut several long strips, and use them as pathways to protect the flooring in other areas of the house. Make sure to flip the carpet upside down so the abrasive backing won’t scratch the finish on wood floors. “Old-fashioned’ canvas drop cloths are still the best method for protecting stair treads.

2 / 12
cutting tile on a bucket connected to a vacuum

Cut Down on Dust

The amount of dust created while cutting tile with a grinder is not just an annoying nuisance- it is potentially dangerous and could cause long-term lung problems. Here’s a simple way to limit the amount of dust you kick up into the air while cutting through tiles. Use a hole saw to cut a hole the size of a shop-vac hose into the side of a five-gallon bucket. Then stick the end of the hose into the hole and turn the vacuum on (after making sure that it is set to suck air in and not blow air out). Once the shop-vac is running, use the top of the five-gallon bucket as a cutting station for your tile. You might end up with a little dust in the air, but most of it will be sucked down into the bucket or into the vacuum itself.

3 / 12
A vacuum vented out of the window to prevent dust buildup | Construction Pro Tips
Family Handyman

Exhaust the Vac Outside

Want a sure way to kick up a bunch of dirt on a remodel site? Switch on a vacuum. The exhaust air is guaranteed to blast filth all over the place. Prevent this ironic tragedy by pumping that dusty air outside with an additional hose hooked up to the exhaust port.

4 / 12
sanding drywall off of a drywall knife

Get Rid of Caked-on Drywall

In the best case scenario, drywall knives get cleaned pretty much as soon as all of the mudding work is done. Drywall mud is (obviously) much easier to clean up before it dries and hardens. But sometimes life gets in the way and that best-case scenario just doesn’t happen. But don’t worry if you end up with knives that are so coated in caked-on mud that they’ve become practically useless. Instead, take out your favorite drywall sander and get to work. Pick a grit around 120 and just sand off the dried-on mud exactly the same as you would the mud off of a wall. Just make sure you aren’t too aggressive and don’t end up damaging the blade.

5 / 12
Laying down sheets of hardwood to protect floors | Construction Pro Tips
Family Handyman

Protect Finished Flooring With Hardboard

Rosin paper, cardboard and drop cloths are all great ways to protect a floor- until you knock your trim gun off the top of a 6-foot ladder. If you really want to ensure that a floor stays dent and scratch-free, cover it with 1/8-inch hardboard. It’s pretty cheap, and as the name suggests, it’s pretty hard.

Cut the sheets with a circular saw or jigsaw and, to prevent scratches, make sure both the floor and the hardboard are perfectly clean before you lay the hardboard down. Tape the seams with masking tape to keep the dirt and debris from slipping through the cracks. When the job is done, pull up the sheets and save them for the next job.

6 / 12
Wrapping up a tube of caulk with duct tape | Construction Pro TipsFamily Handyman

Save “Ruined” Tubes of Sealant

When a cardboard tube of caulk, adhesive, or sealant gets wet, bad things tend to happen. Namely, the water lessens the integrity of the tube and once pressure is applied the tube can split open, creating a giant, sticky mess. To avoid this, wrap any cardboard tube that has become wet with a layer of duct tape. The tape will reinforce the tube and hold everything together. The tube can then be used as normal with no fear of a caulk or sealant explosion.

7 / 12
removing lint from a paint roller

Roll Some Tape on It

Here’s a quick and efficient way to remove lint and other small debris from the polyester on a paint roller cover. Stick the end of a roll of tape on the bottom of the toe of your shoe and roll it out to about waist level. Now, with the sticky side of the tape facing you, just roll the paint roller repeatedly up and down the tape. Any lint should be caught on the surface of the tape and your paint roller will be left fluffed and spotless.

8 / 12
Vacuuming up dust as you cut | Construction Pro Tips
Family Handyman

Vacuum While You Cut

If you’re cutting or drilling drywall, you’ll have to drag out the vacuum sooner or later anyway. So do it now and suck up the dust before it spreads. If your plans include sanding lots of drywall, consider buying a HEPA filter, which will catch even the smallest particles. Standard paper filters trap only the larger particles while your vacuum blasts the rest throughout the house.

9 / 12
Cans of acetone and spray foam on a table | Construction Pro Tips

Remove Spray Foam

Applying spray foam can be a sticky proposition. No matter how careful you try to be, the stuff always seems to find its way onto surfaces it is not supposed to. If you’ve created an unintentional sticky mess, clean it up with acetone. A little acetone squirted on fresh foam will dissolve it instantly. No acetone on hand? Acetone is what most nail polish removers are made of. But make sure you get to the foam before it hardens. If you wait too long, there is only one way to remove it, a whole lot of scrubbing.

10 / 12
An isolation chamber made from poly and clamps | Construction Pro Tips
Photo courtesy of ZIPWALL

Create a Dust Isolation Chamber

Remodeling contractors, listen up! Buy a set of four Zip Poles for all those dusty jobs that you need to isolate from the rest of the house. You can quickly set up a temporary wall or booth with the telescoping poles and hang some poly. The poles clamp the plastic against the ceiling by pushing against the floor. For most jobs you’ll need four of the 10-foot steel poles. Longer aluminum poles are also available. You can buy Zip Poles on Amazon or at your local tool supplier.

11 / 12

Avoid Mixing Mayhem

Mortar mixers spend the day churning powder into mud, and in between batches, the material can harden and clump. While this likely won’t affect the performance of the mixer, the hardened bits tend to break from the blades during mixing, which can lead to unevenness in the flooring or clogged trowel notches, which affect flooring product adhesion.

The key is to be proactive. Keep a bucket of clean water near your mixing station, and run your mixer in it directly after each batch, to clear the blades. Then let the blades stand in the water while you use up the fresh batch of material.

12 / 12

Get Slap Happy

While a shop vac is in use, particles tend to accumulate on the filter surface. On filters that increase surface area by incorporating a series of folds, material can build up and clog those nooks and crannies. This build-up not only forces your shop vac to work harder but it limits suction and reduces the lifespan of the motor.

Simply slapping the handle of the unit after turning it off can dislodge some of the debris before it has the chance to compact, causing it to settle in the bucket and potentially preserve the cleaning power of the vacuum.