Construction dust created during home renovations or remodeling can harm families, so take proper precautions before, during, and after the project.  

Before you start, determine if your home as lead-based paint or asbestos:

Some older homes that may have lead-based paint (built before 1978 or before 1960 in New York City) or asbestos (still may be in construction materials like insulation), consider hiring an EPA certified professional to determine if lead or asbestos is present. If lead or asbestos are present, hiring an EPA certified professional to do the work is recommended, since extra precautions are required to safely do the job. This is especially important if you are planning an extensive renovation or if there is significant disrepair. 

For repair work not involving lead and asbestos, use these simple steps:

  • Keep the work area separate from your living space. 
  • Use plastic sheeting to cover doorways to the work area, floors, furniture and other items that may collect dust.  
  • Close the vents or seal them with plastic so dust does not travel to other areas of your home.
  • Make a plan so your family does not have to use the space being renovated until all work and clean-up are complete. If this is not possible, stage the work so that your family is out of the home during more risky phases of the job,including final clean up.
  • Besides dust, there are chemicals and equipment that can be harmful.
  • Store materials safely and securely, out of the reach of children. 
  • Keep children out of the work area.
  • Work wet to reduce dust.
  • When paint removal is necessary, mist surfaces with water before sanding or scraping.
  • Avoid dry sanding, dry grinding, and heat guns to remove paint.
  • Wet clean frequently (damp cloths, wet mops).
  • Wear a dust mask to prevent breathing in dust.
  • Where paint removal is necessary, mist the surface with water before removing the paint. 
  • Avoid dry sanding, dry grinding or using a heat gun to remove paint. 
  • Avoid using paint strippers with the ingredient “methylene chloride”, which is toxic to users.  
  • Make sure the lids are secured tightly to prevent off-gassing of solvents and open windows to increase ventilation. 
  • Use disposal practices for paints, solvents and other materials. Read the product label for information on safe disposal.
  • Allow good air flow during and after the project (e.g., open windows, use exhaust fans that vent to the outside).
  • Take care to avoid blowing dust around the home with fans. Fans should be arranged to blow the air from the work area to the outdoors (an “exhaust fan”).
  • Follow these ventilation tips from the EPA for healthy indoor air during home renovations.
  • CAUTION: When dealing with lead-based paint or asbestos, the work area should be completely sealed off (including the windows) and other precautions need to be followed.
  • Clean wet – use a wet mop and wet cloth/sponges to clean dust from surfaces. If water from wet cleaning gets dirty, replace it with clean water. 
  • Throw out sponges used for cleaning rather than reusing. 
  • Wet wipe the tops and bottoms of work shoes before leaving the work area so you don’t track construction dust into living space.
  • HEPA vacuum and/or wet wipe plastic sheeting, floors and other surfaces when the job is complete. 
  • Wet clean with a wet mop or wet cloth daily and at the end of the job, including plastic sheeting. Once cleaned, sheeting should be folded inward, then bagged. It can be discarded in normal garbage.
  • Throw out sponges used for cleaning rather than reusing. 
  • Wash work clothes separate from family laundry and wet wipe the top and bottom of work shoes. 
  • Keep the windows open to ventilate the work area for a few days after work is complete, especially if paint or solvent odors are a problem.


Be lead safe! Lead paint was used widely in homes built before 1978 (or before 1960 in New York City) and can still be in the underlayers of paint.  Unless environmental testing shows otherwise, assume your paint contains lead and use lead safe work practices.

US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA): (to find a certified contractor, click on ““Find a lead-safe certified firm”)

NYS Department of Health (DOH):

Asbestos:  Asbestos may still be found in a wide range of building materials, regardless of the age (ex: pipe insulation, roofing tiles and shingles, patching compounds).  The only way to confirm that the material does not contain asbestos is to have it tested.

USEPA:  (to find a certified contractor, click on “Hire an asbestos professional”)


Choosing safer products: Environmental Working Group (EWG) – Guides on selecting healthier materials for your home (for everyday use, renovations, and home building):