Best Practices for Temporary Protection of Finishes

Mitigating risk in hospitals, sterile jobsites

The construction process has countless stages, both inside and out, that can take months or even years to complete. Whether the project is large or small, residential or commercial, each of the construction pieces is sure to overlap, challenging workers to temporarily protect finishes that continue to be subject to foot traffic, weather or just “plain ol’ dirt.”

Because superintendents cannot afford to replace or repair already-finished areas, they are responsible for providing crews with procedures and products that prevent any dings or damage.

A simple way to prevent damage to finishes is to limit construction traffic in as many areas as possible. A fair amount of damage happens by casual contact during the final stages of a project.

“We pre-punch and lock-out rooms and facilities as soon as they are available, posting them as ‘complete, no traffic,’” says Rick Lund, general superintendent for Kraus-Anderson. “Scheduling trades efficiently, coordinating deliveries so that we receive them only as they are needed, removing any unnecessary equipment tools and materials and keeping a clean site from day one are all things that contribute to a culture of quality that is critical in avoiding damage.”

Regardless of the project, perhaps the most commonly protected area is flooring. In large areas where crews work over finished flooring, plastic rolls (which come in 100-foot sheets) generally do the trick, while in higher traffic areas, a heavier paper floor protection, such as flooring 5 poly, is best.

But when work is performed in hospitals, medical facilities, laboratories, technical environments or other sterile jobsites, more stringent processes and projects are required because the risks can be substantially higher.

Hospitals and sterile jobsites
Last year, HealthPartners broke ground on a new 130,000-square-foot neuroscience building in St. Paul, Minnesota. KA is constructing the building, which is the largest freestanding neuroscience facility in the Upper Midwest. Superintendents and project managers well understand that extra precautions need to be taken. Lund says all KA’s workers are thoroughly instructed to use these practices through ICRA training provided by its local carpenters union, as well as the ASHE program.

“In these settings, it is paramount that we provide a clean and sanitary environment and, in many cases, a germ-free and sterilized jobsite,” says Lund. “We work closely with our clients to use all measures to eliminate any possible contamination that could be introduced either internally or externally.”

When creating clean microclimates, Lund says it all starts with controlling airflow and dust migration. During construction, dust and airborne bacteria – to name but two – are hazardous and, in some work areas such as healthcare facilities, these contaminants can carry serious health risks and subsequent consequences.

In sterile areas such as hospitals, Lund says his crews work in a negative air environment. “We use a portable neg air machine, as well as pre-manufactured panels or custom-made panels to keep all construction contaminants contained.”

In these sensitive settings, KA uses sticky mats to keep off dust and dirt from finished floors, particularly those that are common for all entries to work areas. The mats come in 25- or 50-sheet packs and are quick and easy to use—simply tear off the top sheet when it is dirty and continue with a new, clean one.

Crews use foot covers to keep all finished areas clean; some workers may have to wear disposable clothing to make sure dirt and dust are not carried into work areas.

“On the neuroscience project, we used poly carpet protection in the halls, and a combination of poly and hard board to protect the main entry, where the heaviest concentration of work remains,” said Lund. “During and after the removal of protective practices, we do a rough clean of the entire area, wiping down surfaces, vacuuming carpet and wiping down floors —all in preparation for the  final cleaners. Depending on the type of project, we hire professional cleaners to clean all surfaces, sanitize work areas, sterilize lab and hospital facilities and wax floors, preparing them for operation.”

After carpeting is installed, flooring poly 1 works well in areas of high foot traffic and keeps carpets clean. The poly has a light adhesive back to hold it in place while crews work. A heavier, non-stick flooring 3 poly, secured with painter’s tape, works best on wood flooring.

Other protection   
Lund also suggested several other techniques and products to protect sensitive areas. For door jamb protection, a collapsible cardboard cover is cost-effective, easy to use and reusable. Cardboard corner protectors are used on finished walls. They are molded to clip onto the corner with an adhesive and are reusable. Also, his crews use a liquid tub protection in the restrooms. The product is sprayed on the tub once it is set but before the walls are sheetrocked. Then, it’s peeled off during final cleaning.

Final clean
Good practices to note while supervising the final clean include designating an area to unpack and wipe down items before setting them up, bringing them in over protected flooring wearing gloves and shoe covers. This works well with office furniture, loose furniture and window coverings. Keep cardboard and paper out of the finished spaces, as well as food and beverages. Spray and wipe horizontal surfaces, utilize HEPA filters on the vacuums and use as little water on flooring as possible. When rooms are complete, close and lock door(s) to control access to finished spaces. If there is any artwork on walls, ensure the dust is caught with a vacuum or an envelope taped to the wall.

Superintendents need to make every minute—and dollar— count. Protecting finished flooring, doors and casework from dirt or damage in any environment will save time and money. And when work is performed in a sterile jobsite, the direct and indirect risks are much higher.

Article provided by Kraus-Anderson Construction Company. Visit

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