December 22, 2021

Site Protection Principles

Site protection…Does anyone love setting this up or breaking it down? For example, when you land a new job do you think to yourself, “Man, this one is going to be so much fun to isolate and protect?!” No one loves this part of our job, but there are a few things that make it more palatable for me.

Call me crazy, but I really enjoy the fact that I am getting paid for this mundane task. This includes the setup, the breakdown, and the materials. Requiring my customers to fund this portion of the renovation simply feels right to me. I also truly appreciate having an isolated work area for myself, my tools, and my materials. Being able to walk onto the job and immediately get to work without being distracted or bothered is quite enjoyable and equally as productive. I suffer from anxiety. I do not like to worry, although I am fairly proficient at doing so. I really value the peace of mind that I get from protecting my customers’ health, their family, and their home. Lastly, I am particularly fond of only being responsible for cleaning my work area at the end of each day; not the rest of the home, the staircase, the front walkway, the neighbor's walkway, the family dog, and so on.  

It just so happens that I was on a consulting call the other day speaking to a young man about how I approach the site protection portion of my business. He mentioned breaking down his protection daily, shaking drop cloths, and vacuuming the home each and every day. He explained to me that one of the reasons he broke down protection daily was because he felt as though it was a nuisance to his customers' lives. A few key details stuck out to me during this conversation. I will elaborate below.

  1. Setting up and breaking down protection daily is inefficient, costly (generally to us as contractors, not homeowners), and simply a pain in the ass. When you are creating your budget or estimate for a project, are you budgeting an hour each day to clean the home? Are you paying your employees for their time doing this? Are you funding that portion of the renovation or is the customer doing so? If not, it seems as if everyone is getting paid and benefiting from this service, BUT you!
  1. How clean are drop cloths that we use for demolition if we are merely shaking them out and then laying them down the next day? This is not a stab or dig at this young man, simply a consideration. I did the same thing for years. When it comes to health and safety, there are better options on long term jobs than drop cloths. Lay out something that is easier to clean, safer under foot, and more permanent than a dropcloth. In my opinion drop cloths are for paint. They are slippery, unsafe on stairs, need constant adjustment, and don’t provide adequate protection.
  1. How much time would you save if you had protection in place that reduced the need for cleanup and breakdown outside of the workspace each and every day? My goal with site-protection is to confine my workspace to the area I need for the job and any potential staging/storage. For example, if I need to frame a wall and only allow enough space for two bodies and the wall, what will I do with all the materials? The vacuum? The lumber? Those items will have to be stored outside of the work area and then you will have to clean that area each and every day. If I plan my containment to allow for not only the work, but the setup and storage, then I do not have to clean the hallway, or the closet, or the bedroom next door. I am not in and out of that workspace 100 times throughout the day creating a mess.
  1. Your protection should be set up in a way that your customers would be frustrated if you removed it rather than left it in place. If your plastic walls are loose, haphazardly installed, or appear to be serving no purpose, people will wish they were not there at all. I would be annoyed if I could not use a specific area of my home because there was plastic set up, but still dust and debris throughout the home. At that point, just pull it down and make a mess. At least I would have my space back. Why have protection up if it is not doing its job? If you set up your protection in a manner that not only looks good, but is obviously serving its purpose people will appreciate the effort and be grateful that you took the care to protect their home (their biggest investment).

If a portion of the protection becomes damaged, replace it. Take your time and set the tone for the job. When someone walks in and sees how immaculate your site protection is, it will instill confidence, trust, and faith within your customers throughout the duration of the project.

  1. Charge for your time and materials. Site protection takes time. The materials cost money. The setup and breakdown is not fast. Make sure you have a line item for the cost of doing so. Even if the cost only covers your time and material, the amount of money you will save either paying an employee to clean up at the end of the day or the time it will take yourself to do it, will be worth the effort and then some.

I am certain that this article has not served as the catalyst for a steamy love affair with you and site protection. I sincerely wish I could magically make it more enjoyable. Truth be told, the point was not to glamorize or romanticize it, but rather shed light on how valuable it can be to you, your business, your employees, your subcontractors, and your customers. How valuable you may ask? Valuable enough that site protection days prove to be the most profitable days during a project for me. Valuable enough to save me hours or days of cleanup throughout the course of a renovation. Valuable enough that I am sitting here writing this article for you!

- Tyler Grace