Animal-friendly remodeling

Here’s how to keep your animal companions safe and comfortable during home remodeling projects — without sending them to a kennel.

When planning a home remodeling project, whether you’re having one room painted or redesigning the whole kitchen, you probably make a checklist of everything that needs to be done. You move the furniture, take down pictures, and rearrange your schedule to be there when the contractor arrives.

But what about your dog or cat? Have you thought about how she’ll react to the changes and upheaval in her environment, not to mention all the noise, new smells and strange people invading her territory during the remodeling process?

If you share your household with an animal companion, it’s important to consider her comfort and safety when home remodeling projects are underway. Add the following nine tips to your to-do list and everything will go more smoothly for both of you.

1. Your pet, your responsibility!

First and foremost, remember that the contractor is not a babysitter for your animal. It isn’t his job to make sure she has water in her bowl or that she’s let outside at 2 pm. If you are going to be in and out when workers are in your house, and/or don’t have time to watch her when you are home, consider having a family member or friend look after her for the duration, or check out daycare. Most areas offer daycare services for dogs on a daily or hourly basis.

2. Introduce her to the workers

Any type of design project is going to require “strangers” coming into your home. This can cause a lot of stress in dogs and cats since their primary job is to protect their people and property. If your animal is easy-going and good with people, introduce her to the workers before the project starts. This will help establish the contractors as “friends.”

3. Give her a “safe room”

If you can’t find alternative care for your companion during working hours, designate a room apart from all the commotion where she can be safely and comfortably confined while work is in progress. Construction sites, big or small, are fraught with dangers for curious animals. Open paint cans, nails and screws, hammers and saws can all be accidents waiting to happen. If your animal is the sociable type who prefers to be part of the action, cordon off the work area with a baby gate so she can keep tabs on what’s going on without getting under anyone’s feet.

4. Use a different entrance

If possible, establish a separate entrance for workers to come and go as they need. This helps keep the commotion at bay as tools and equipment are being brought into the home and construction waste removed. Having a separate entrance will also help prevent your animal from getting outside by accident.

5. Keep her calm

If your dog or cat is stressed by all the noise and upheaval, there are several ways you can calm her down. Flower essences such as Mimulus, Aspen or Bach Rescue Remedy are simple and effective at lowering anxiety and fear. Just add a few drops to her water, or apply the essence neat to her ears or foot pads. Lavender essential oil is another excellent de-stressor. You can use a diffuser or apply it diluted to your dog’s coat. (Essential oils are not to be taken internally, or used on cats.)

6. Use plastic sheeting

Make sure workers place plastic sheeting and/or tarps around the work area. Plastic sheeting should be hung in the doorways of any room being worked on to prevent pollutants, dust and other debris from spreading through the house. Airborne particles can cause upper respiratory irritation or trigger allergies in both people and animals. Ask your contractor what steps he takes to minimize indoor pollutants, or contain those that can’t be avoided.

7. Beware of lead

If you live in a home built before 1975, lead paint may be cause for concern, even if it has been covered with coats of lead-free paint. If you scrape, sand or heat lead paint, the lead can become airborne and pose a hazard for anyone, human or animal, who comes in contact with it. If you think lead paint may be an issue during your project, hire a trained inspector to test the surfaces to be worked on.

8. Limit toxins

Make sure the contractor uses low or no VOC materials whenever possible to cut down on emitted chemicals and toxins. Paint is one of the biggest “offenders” for off-gassing indoor spaces, and so is carpeting; it off-gasses toxins and chemicals into the air upon installation and removal. Make sure the installer unrolls the carpet before it is delivered to your home, or at least before it is brought inside. This will help air it out. Also make sure the installer uses a low or no VOC adhesive to secure the carpeting (or any other flooring). Our animal companions are closer to the floor than we are, so are more likely to suffer the effects of off-gassing from flooring.

9. Keep it tidy

After the work day has finished, it is vital that the contractor secure the work area. Dangerous items such as tools, ladders and hazardous materials should be tidied away and put out of reach of your companion. Any holes in the walls, floors or yard should also be secured to prevent any four-legged family members (or two-legged for that matter!) from falling in. With some careful planning, you can rest assured that your dog or cat remains safe and sound during your remodeling project, and look forward to enjoying your new surroundings together!


Check off these additional tips during construction:

Mist down all surfaces before sanding or scraping. This will help keep dust from becoming airborne and being inhaled by you and your animal.

Work outdoors whenever possible. This will keep mess to a minimum inside the house, and reduce the risk of your animal getting into trouble.

Ventilate the space, even in winter. Even if you are doing a “green” remodel, dust and other particles will still be a problem. Position fans so they exhaust out instead of in.

Run your HVAC unit when contractors are sanding. Change filters once a week to keep dust from spreading through the house. If your project takes only a couple of days, change the filter once everything is finished.

Be wary of rodent droppings that might be exposed during demolition. They may spread hantavirus, which can be deadly for animals and people.


DeAnna Radaj is the owner of Bante Design LLC, an integrative lifestyle design company that fuses Eastern and Western philosophies. She is a nationally recognized speaker and author and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows.. DeAnna is also an avid adventure traveler and an exhibited nature photographer, and lives in Milwaukee with her dogs.