Q: We are building an apartment in the basement of our house to provide extra income, and I am trying hard to keep things clean to no avail. We saved some money in the budget by allowing the workers access to a bathroom on the main level, and they are tracking dust and dirt everywhere. Even the rooms they don't enter are dirty. I can't keep up with it all, and it's stressing me out. Is there any way to keep things cleaner?
A: Remodeling or having any kind of work done in your house is exciting, but as you're finding out, extremely disruptive and stressful, even in the best situations. Many people think they can handle it and become beyond frustrated long before the project is done. Those who haven't lived through a remodeling project often don't believe their friends' horror stories.
If the budget allows during big or extra-messy projects, such as refinishing hardwood floors, I often recommend people move out. The dust alone, not to mention the mess and disruption, can be awful and potentially toxic, especially in older homes. Even if you can't see the dust, it's there and you're breathing it, so anyone with allergies or sensitivities should consider moving out for the duration.
For you, it sounds like you are watching your finances carefully. So if moving isn't an option and you can't afford to rent a portable restroom for your workers to keep them (and the dust on their clothing) out of your home, there are a few other ways you or your contractors can minimize the mess in your living spaces. Verify that all the openings between your living space and the sections of your house being remodeled are completely sealed. This includes doorways and stairwells, of course, and the ductwork, vents, and outlets and switches.
Ask if the workers can use a fan to move more of the dust to the outside, and keep your windows and doors closed as much as you can. Enforce a shoes-off policy, or provide shoe covers outside the door for workers. Add inexpensive rugs at this door, inside and out, and along the entire path to the bathroom. Vacuum all that regularly, and you can get rid of them when the project ends.
Taking a mini-vacation from the mess can help you clear your mind and your lungs a bit while renewing your goals and excitement about why you started this process in the first place. Treat yourself to a spa day, take your family to a hotel for a night or two, or visit family or friends. I wish you the best with this project.