We bought our first house in March 1982, and our first son was born just a few months later.

So when we had accumulated enough money to do some needed work on the house, Nick was about 10 months old. Although he already a well traveled youngster, he wasn't prepared for three weeks of home remodeling, with his mother out of town on business for two of them.

In college, we soccer players often told the better-financed football squad to "eat nails." I spent three weeks of renovation trying to keep Nick from doing the same thing.

Whether you hire out or do the work yourself, you need to determine early on how a renovation job will affect the kids.

There's much more to consider than just inconvenience, although a change in routine will likely play a major role in even small remodeling jobs.

When you deal with any topic, there's a big difference between what the professionals recommend and reality. We'd like to assume that everyone cares as much as we do about everything, but, to be honest, a lot of workers look at a job as a way to earn money, and completing it quickly as way to move on to the next job.

So when Everett Collier, the president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, urges that you "communicate with your remodeling contractor openly and let him or her know what to expect while working in your household," he is making assumptions about the people who work in your house.

He also makes assumptions about the children who live in your house.

"Inform [the contractor] about your children, their ages, their behavior patterns and how mischief-prone they may be so the contractor's crew can be safety-aware at all times," he says.

I'll readily acknowledge that it is tough to predict the behavior of anyone under 100, let alone those between a few months and 18 years.

Job-site cleanliness was an issue cited in a recent survey commissioned by Kimberly-Clark.

Sixty percent of contractors said they put down tarps or drop cloths to minimize the mess before starting a job. Ten percent wear protective clothing, such as gloves, coveralls or masks, to keep clean.

Fifty-six percent of home improvement customers said contractors generally cleaned up everything and left their homes immaculate, while 26 percent said their contractors usually left a mess.

By contrast, 90 percent of contractors said they clean up everything after finishing a job. Only 1 percent confessed to packing up their tools and leaving the cleanup to the customer.

The standard contract usually calls for a house to be "broom clean" before the contractor and his crew leave for the day, but I've only seen one person -- a friend from Ireland who worked in her parents' bed and breakfast from age four -- who truly could clean a space spotless with only a broom.

Brooms create dust, so you should specify use of a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner designed for job-site cleanup at the end of every day.

And before you let the children loose after the contractor leaves, make sure you check the work area itself for any stray debris.

Children should stay out of the work area anyway, until the contractor and crew have left for good.

Everett of NARI recommends talking with the contractor about where tools and materials will be stored, who will be responsible for cleaning the area, and what sections of wall or floor can be covered at the end of the day.

"Ask to be notified on days when the remodeling crew will be carrying in large pieces of equipment or building materials and plan an activity for your children that day," he says.

You need to talk with your children as well, and be sure both they and you can anticipate the number of workers likely to be in the house at a given time, and the general work hours.

Consider how close the work area is to your child's room or play area, and if necessary, designate a new, safe area for play and toy storage.

It's also important to set safety rules that they will need to follow while the work crews are present.

If possible, designate an entrance for workers' use only, and advise your children never to use that entrance. This will help keep children out of the contractor's way, and vice versa.

Be aware of environmental hazards. Lead paint is often found in homes built before 1978 and can be especially detrimental to young children. Find out if and when your remodeling contractor will be using hazardous chemicals and work with them to devise a proper ventilation plan.

And don't ask the contractor or his workers to baby-sit your children. That's your job, not theirs.

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