How to childproof your home during a renovation

Renovating the home you are living in presents a number of safety hazards to even the most cautious renovators. We often overlook the dangers that renovating a home can present to children. Find out how to make your renovation safer if you've got little ones poking around.

toddler playing with tools
By Jason Burgess

Is renovating with a young family really doable?

When the walls are off and the dust is flying during a renovation, a house is less a home and more a perilous assault course for toddlers and young children. But renovating with the kids may be less of a nightmare than you think.

How do I identify potential risks?

Health and safety are paramount to any renovation project. If you are planning to live-in during a renovation, then family welfare should come before all else. There are some simple fixes that can be achieved to keep your loved ones safe.
First things first, check the condition of the house to see if it is suitable to live in during a renovation.
Identify potential health issues. Mould, lead paint, dust and, asbestos will impact on indoor air quality, exposure to these may be detrimental to your family’s health. Once the dangers have been isolated consider renovating in stages and walling off the area of the house where work is taking place.
Get down on your hands and knees to the eye-level of a toddler. This will give you a clear picture of the risks apparent to any playful infant with an inquiring mind.
Then think like a child. Consider what is within reach, what looks tempting and imagine all the places a crawling, toddling, or walking child might access, while your back is turned.

What are the daily risks?

Falls, burns, poisoning, drowning, airway obstruction and road traffic accidents are the most common causes of unintentional child injuries, in and around any home. Maintaining a tidy building site then is fundamental. Ensure all areas remain organised and remove all clutter off the floor. Wipe down residual dust and ventilate renovated areas at the end of each day.
Consider everything from power points and power leads; unused tools, handbags and tool belts, hot drinks, matches, lighters, heaters and fireplaces, animals, animal food and water -be that in a pet bowl or a paddling pool- as potential dangers to an adventurous child, particularly those under five.
Clear away tripping hazards. Tape leads down and cover with rugs. Avoid rugs at the top or bottom of stairwells; repair or replace worn carpet or worn treads, ensure stairs are well lit, fit a toddler-friendly handrail and ensure that the balustrades are not climbable. Install safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs but make sure these are not climbable because as soon as children are able they will start to scale anything they can get a purchase on.

How can the kids safely have fun while work is in progress?

Create a safe haven away from the mess and the action. Decide on one room that will be left to last and make that the child-zone. Make it fun. Install their books, toys and TV and fit a safety gate to keep them out of harm’s way. Factor in a quiet place to nap or sleep too.  
Where possible outside, make a contained play space away from excavations, construction, cars and roads. Pretend the renovation experience is a camping adventure. And, remember when feasible, recharge your all batteries by taking the family for breaks away from the construction site.

What are some of the safety features I should consider going forward?

Position all sockets for appliances high and away from the edges of benches to mitigate the risk of dangling electrical leads. Install safety plugs into unused sockets that are at child height.  An eye-level oven and a stovetop with controls at the rear will keep little hands away from hot surfaces. Where possible use rear elements when cooking and always turn pot handles to the rear.
Fix toddler-proof locks on low drawers and cupboards. Anything sharp like cutlery or dangerous items such as plastic and drawstring bags should be kept in high cabinets or drawers with latches. Do the same with all glassware.
Children are great climbers. Secure free-standing furniture, cabinets, bookcases and televisions to a wall. Place weightier items on lower shelves or in bottom drawers to make furniture less top heavy. Once kids are up on their own two legs they are also careless sprinters. Reposition furniture and/or fit corner bumpers over sharp edges like arm rests, table corners and legs or other hazardous edges. Move floor lamps behind furniture.
Keep window blind cords out of reach, use cord tidies, clips or ties to safely stow any looped cords or go for a cordless version. Store remotes in high drawers. Tape their battery cases. Button batteries are easy to swallow and highly toxic.
Install safety gates across doorways particularly on entry points into the house and across the kitchen and bathroom. Ensure they are fixed to the wall and not collapsible. A possible permanent solution to entry points are stable doors that can be locked at the bottom and open at the top.
Fit deadbolts on external doors and install locks on the laundry and garage doors. Latched cupboards and mirrored high cabinets will keep medicines and cosmetics safe in the bathroom. Lockable cupboards in the bathroom, laundry and garage are a must for storing chemical nasties. Also, in the bathrooms lessen the risk of injury by choosing rounded edges on tapware and bath-ware. Remember, kids can drown in about an inch of water, empty the bath and sink after finishing and be aware that even toilets present a potential risk. Fit a toilet lock on the lid of the toilet. And, avoid scalding with a tempering valve on the hot water system set at 55ºC or below.
To counter the risk of tiny sprinters running into sliding doors or full-length windows, choose a joinery design with a horizontal divider or for a temporary alternative add removable vinyl stickers at your child’s height. Fitting window stays will restrict how far windows can be opened. Do not place your child's cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a fully opening window.
A garage should always be kept locked when not in use particularly if it is accessed from the house. Install a sensor on automatic garage doors to prevent them closing on little heads.
Looking to create the ultimate family home? Check out some superb ideas here A home design perfect for children

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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