kid construction

How can you keep a remodel safe and kid-friendly?

Running, jumping, exploring, falling…children bring a lot of excitement to our homes.

They also bring a lot of safety and functionality concerns. For homeowners that have children, what should they know about keeping their homes safe and kid-friendly for their little ones? We’re turning directly to our home experts for the final word on the subject…

Why We’re Asking:

Children bring a lot of joy to our lives…but also a lot of concerns. Since safety and functionality are quite different between a child and an adult, different considerations need to be made when remodeling our homes. Even if we aren’t in the market for a major remodel, there are still small changes we need to make when children are present, such as baby gates, outlet protectors, and cabinet locks.

Thus, we want to know directly from the experts how children factor into the remodeling process. We’re turning to the experts for help and asking them to weigh in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the raw, unedited answers directly from the experts. It also gives you, the homeowners, an opportunity to ask the professionals for clarification directly. This is the forum to find out what children-friendly elements should homeowners consider during a remodeling project.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

How do kid-friendly elements factor into a remodeling project?

What children-friendly elements should homeowners consider during a remodeling project?
From design to lighting or plumbing fixtures and materials to health concerns, how is remodeling different when creating a space for a child (or one that will be heavily used by children)?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

  • Steve Mickley @ AIBD 09/30/11

    To assist with this week’s blog-off, I enlisted the help of some of our country’s top home design experts, the Professional members of the American Institute of Building Design. Ultimately, I sensed a consensus that was best described by Mike Battaglia, “I’ve seen kids get stuck in their underwear…I don’t care what the adult world thinks there is to protect kids. There is little we can do to protect ourselves from ourselves.” Or is there?

    Major areas for concern are the stairway, landings and balconies. Incorporating guard rails that are slightly higher than the building code mandates helps to discourage climbing. The baluster arrangement should take into consideration the ability, or rather the inability, for a child to climb. In addition, newel posts should be substantial enough to accept gates that restrict a child’s unsupervised passage. Tony Weremeichik created an attractive solution by designed a sliding gate at the top of a stair. The gate slid into the wall like a pocket door and was constructed of the same material as the balusters.”

    Other creative ideas from Jason Offutt, Kim Gilpatrick and James Bozeman include child bedroom windows with safety glass. Often beds are placed under or adjacent to windows and a jumping event gone out of control can be tragic. As a side note, window design affects natural light which is very important during childhood. Just as dangerous are fireplace glass doors which along with safety glass could be made safer with an accompanying flush hearth. Additionally, installing a front entry air lock to prevent a child from opening a door to a stranger or a child from escaping to play in the street is smart. Another great idea is to design a private space for the litter box. Even without any children yet, a dedicated kitty room is a great idea for an expectant mother who must be extremely careful around feline waste as well.

    Finally, kitchens are often incorporated as an extension of the Family Room space. Therefore, Jannis Vann suggests constructing kitchen counter tops with rounded edges to avoid nasty unintentional head injuries as excited young ones play through the house. For those of us who aren’t as vertically challenged, some bruised hips might be avoided too.

  • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 09/30/11

    The safety of children in the home is a priority since things can happen so quickly. Any home may have a child visit and simple steps can help lower the risk that someone is injured. The gates, locks and childproofing help; but beyond that the tamper resistant outlets and plug strips are great to incorporate into a remodel. Turning down the temperature of the water heater can keep kids from accidently burning themselves and it’s so simple to do.

    Consider adding seating area designed for small people and big people to take off shoes, a lower set of hooks to hang up kid’s jackets next to the doorway you enter from. Design an area in your entertainment center for toy storage and kids books that the children can access themselves. This is great for families with kids or grand children. Adding organizational tools like these not only help keep the clutter down but also help teach kids to responsibly care for their own belongings.

    In the last five years or so we have seen a huge number of great durable, cleanable and UV resistant fabrics and carpets to choose from. Quarts materials for countertops that can be easily cleaned with antibacterial products without damaging the counters help keep the young and the elderly healthier. Using low VOC paints and products will help keep the entire family feeling better too.

  • Rob Jones @ BuildDirect 09/30/11

    I would say that one of the first elements of the whole ‘kid-friendly’ piece is encouraging a sense of ownership to the home. To me, this is the most important part of adding a kid-friendly atmosphere. So, I suppose the main approach should be about being very deliberate about who the kid in particular is, leaving room of course for that kid to grow as well. I think we tend to think of kids as these homogeneous beings who all have the same needs. But, they’re still people, even if they’re growing up. So, if the kid is contemplative, and likes to read or indulge in artwork, then a space dedicated to this is probably appropriate. If the child is sporty, or extrovertively energetic, then maybe an outdoor space is a project to put on the agenda.

    To me, spaces should be personalized, suited for the values and lifestyles of those living there. This absolutely extends to kids.

  • Jim Gates @ Quality Filters, Inc. 09/30/11

    CAUTION!!! Make sure that your construction project is kid-lung friendly.

    Before I studied air filtration, when we tackled remodeling projects, my attention to blocking dust was to avoid the pain of cleaning up. Now, I realize that the more detrimental nuisance is not what lands on the dozens of picture frames in our den, but the airborne particles that end up in our respiratory systems.

    Demolition stirs up an releases into the air harmful, breathable, particles that were contained within walls or covered by flooring. Some pollutants like mold spores are visible to the naked eye. The most harmful particles that carry viruses, bacteria, etc. that sink deepest within the lungs of our little ones are visible only when viewed with a microscope.

    I am sure you sense that I could go on for pages evangelizing clean air, but I will stop and give a few ways you can protect yourself and your children.

    1. Install a new, clean, high quality HVAC air filter and replace frequently until the project is complete. The frequency depends on the amount of dust.
    2. Switch the system’s fan from “auto” to “on” and let it run continuously.
    3. Make sure your contractor isolates the remodeling area (if possible) with plastic tarps and ventilate well.
    4. If mold is found, until remedied, find another place to stay.
    5. When the project is complete, replace your air filter again and keep your fan set to “on” for a few weeks to catch any remaining airborne particles.

    Remember, you can either buy a filter, or be a filter. Invest a little bit more, change them often, and protect your family.

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 09/30/11

    I want a home to be people friendly no matter what age they are. Outlet covers and cabinet locks for the little ones for sure and that’s the stuff we take care of after. I think our homes and our remodeling projects should be safe for all of us. Unfortunately sometimes they are not. Really, How we consider health and safety for our children should be the benchmark for us all.

    Make sure the remodel will be handled well: Lead Paint, vermiculite, asbestos are all materials that can be in older homes. Professionals identify these items and handle them appropriately. A certified home energy advisor looks out for this when looking at a home and when considering remodeling it’s a wonderful time to have a comprehensive home assessment.

    Reconsider what is ‘safe” in the home already: cleaning chemicals under the sink, or stored in a closet. It’s part of the air we breathe and that really matters to us at GreenHomes as it should for your kids as well as the entire family.

    Heating appliances and Carbon Monoxide: furnaces, boilers hot water heaters and ovens can all produce CO. It’s good to have them checked by someone who is informed, and to have CO detectors. Certified individuals and companies make this a priority.

    Make sure that whatever is done is done right and handled well. I always encourage folks looking at remodeling to not lose sight of the big picture, health, safety, comfort through efficiency, all things we want for our kids even us grown up ones!

  • Scarlet of Family Focus Blog 09/29/11

    Kid-friendly elements factor into a remodeling project by giving us added reason to make green choices. Kids are so much more sensitive to things like air quality and pollutants that they make things like no-VOC paint a must.

  • Terry Peterman @ Electrical Online 09/29/11

    I’m going to answer this from the perspective of safety factors that you can integrate into your remodeling project

    One of the most interesting, yet least thought about safety aspects within the home are the innovations in the evolution of smoke detectors and alarms. Smoke alarms have been mandated to be a part of the home’s safety system, and testing monthly and replacing the batteries with the change of seasons is something that is discussed annually with Fire Safety Week. Whether or not this gets done is another subject. All I can say is “do it”! However, have you given any thought as to the effectiveness of the typical smoke alarm signal?

    Studies have found that children, the elderly, people under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who are sleep-deprived, have difficulty awakening to the beeping of hallway smoke alarms. These studies have shown that only 46% of children aged 6 to 15 woke reliably to traditional smoke alarm signals. Some manufacturers have reacted to this information and created an alternative to the generally accepted alarm tones. They have developed a detector that allows parents to record a personalized message in their own voice, instructing children to wake up and escape safely during a fire emergency. This human voice alarm was developed in response to documented research showing a familiar voice consistently awakens children from deep sleep.

    These same studies show that a smoke alarm that used a recorded familiar voice like a mother’s or father’s urging these children to wake up woke 100% of the children in one minute or less. Another benefit is that a familiar voice alarm helped children stay calmer in a traumatic situation.

    While in the renovation process, it’s a great time to upgrade your home’s receptacles to the now mandated tamper-proof receptacles. These TR receptacles are designed to only allow the simultaneous insertion of an electrical plug into an outlet. If a child (or misguided adult) attempts to insert an object such as a small screwdriver or a paper clip into just one of the slots, the mechanism inside will physically prevent this from happening, avoiding a potentially harmful electrical shock.

    While you’re at it, take into consideration all the necessary safety precautions and devices available to prevent small children from climbing up and pushing out the screens on upper floor windows. Common sense goes a long way here. Protecting our children is our responsibility and should be taken very seriously. No one should have to endure the pain of causing harm to or losing a child, especially if the cause was preventable.

  • Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, CKD, CBD @ Dig This Design 09/29/11

    There is nothing more important than child safety and it should always be considered. One of the number one child accidents is drowning. The first that comes to everyone’s mind is drowning in a pool, which is the most obvious. There are many ways to protect children from drowning in a swimming pool. There are sirens that alarm if something enters the water. Child safety fences have become a code anytime a pool is constructed. You should also apply a buddy rule to make sure no one swims alone. The less obvious is any standing water. Many toddlers have been injured by buckets of standing water. If a young toddler were to fall head first into a bucket they may not be able to get out in time. Never leave a child unattended in a bath tub. If you have a child’s portable wading pool in your backyard be sure it is empty and put away unless it is being used and supervised by an adult. Have removable ladders on above ground pools to not allow access by children.

  • Lynn Schrage - The KOHLER Store 09/29/11

    When I design bathrooms for children, I always consider whether the products or space configuration will be intuitive and safe. These are two of the design principles of universal design and apply to all ages and abilities, not just children.

    For instance single control faucets may be easier for kids to use with one lever, but are not as intuitive when it comes to adjusting the water temperature as independent hot and cold controls may be. I encourage young families to consider a widespread faucet for kids. I often recommend the KOHLER® Bancroft faucet collection. The larger lever handles are easier for kids to grip and this faucet collection features a smooth design so tooth paste is easy to wipe down.

    If you are planning a bath/shower, consider adding a hand shower on a slide bar arm as the main shower head. A handshower makes rinsing soapy heads in bath much easier and can double as an adjustable height shower head as the kids begin to mature. The KOHLER® Cast Iron Bellwether® bath is another great choice for parents. This bath has slightly larger ledges, 4” front and 3” back, providing a more comfortable perch for parents bathing young children and functional storage space for shampoo bottles and bath toys. It also has a Safeguard® slip-resistant surface.

    Consider a full length mirror – it makes grooming easier and fun for kids. They will be less inclined to climb on the toilet and vanity to peer into the mirror. I would still plan regular height vanities – pull out units or step stools can be incorporated when the kids are really young. Avoid the trap of downsizing the elements as kids grow up fast.

  • Lindsey @ Unique Home Solutions 09/28/11

    For the safety of children, the first thing any parent should do is make sure the contractor they choose is lead paint certified. Whether the scope of the remodeling work is small or large, interior or exterior, the threat of lead paint is very much alive among homes built prior to 1978. Lead paint is harmful to adults and children, yet many people are not aware that lead paint is prevalent in their home. Because kids can be active, we advise that you choose a contractor who understands their customer’s safety is a priority.

    The EPA stated that lead can enter a person’s body if they touch lead dust and then transfer that dust to their mouth, eat paint chips or soil that contains lead, or breathe in lead dust. A lead paint certified contractor must use lead-safe work practices and block off the area in which they are working, minimize the dust as much as possible and clean up thoroughly; at UHS, this means using a HEPA Vacuum and containing trash particles in plastic at all times.
    Keep children away from renovation areas in general. Areas under construction can be dangerous in ways other than lead; objects can fall, sharp tools may be lying around, old material can break during renovation. These dangers in addition to the potential of lead should be a red flag to parents. We suggest taking your kids to the park for the day while your home is under construction or at the very least, make sure they stay in an area of your home that is furthest away from the renovation area.

  • Bill Riggs @ Riggs Construction 09/28/11

    Doing a “kid friendly” remodeling project can mean many different things to different people, and that meaning can drastically affect how the project will be designed and built. If the family’s definition of kid friendly is safety, the project could include components which are, in essence, temporary, such as the incorporation of gates on stairways. Kid friendly could mean selecting items like flooring and wall surfaces for their durability and ease of maintenance and cleaning. Or, kid friendly may simply mean that mom wants the kids involved in certain chores like setting the table or dusting, so in this case, we think about designing in storage areas where the little ones can reach cups, napkins, dust cloths, etc.

    That being the case, when we think about a home being kid friendly at Riggs, we always go back to the core questions of our design-build process which involve issues like:

    • How are you going to live in the house?
    • What types of activities are going to happen at home?
    • How do you foresee your lifestyle changing during the time you live in the home?

    We then come up with a plan and a design that will function well for the family today and into the future. It might mean designing a space to catch book bags and soccer balls today, which will someday transform into a new hobby space. It could mean incorporating less expensive items into the home while the kids are still little and apt to break things, and planning for more permanent components when all the spills and play are over. And remember, grandparents are looking for kid friendly features for the grandchildren in their homes too!

    Regardless of what kid friendly means for each family’s home, the ideas are fully explored in the design process. That way, no one is guessing and we create the home that works for the family today and well into the future.

  • Kris @ HouseBuying Tips 09/28/11

    Remodeling project for a kid’s room? Lucky kids! My parents allowed me to choose (or at least help choose) the paint colors and that’s about it.

    Seriously, it is a good idea to make a a kid’s room the right size and shape for kids, and to make it safe for kids. The only consideration is to be careful not to go overboard, because some day you might need to sell the house and you don’t want the area to be a turn-off for adults.

    For example, when house hunting we found a nice house with 2 bathrooms. The only problem was that we could not find the second bathroom. We looked upstairs, downstairs, and still no bathroom. Then one of my kids called out “I found the bathroom”. What a surprise. It was a kid-sized bathroom stuck in a closet! Needless to say, it wasn’t a practical second bathroom for a family with 3 kids, so we didn’t buy the house.

    Quirky may fit your personality, but it is not always a good idea.

  • Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk 09/26/11

    A better question is “How Do UNIVERSAL DESIGN Elements Factor Into Remodeling Projects?” It’s less about designing homes and products that are kid-friendly, senior-friendly, or accessible and more about making things usable by anyone regardless of size or ability. That requires designers to think more about usability, safety, styling, and value, but isn’t that what we want from products?

    More importantly, universal design expands the addressable market (i.e. increases profit). People without kids don’t want homes that scream “designed for kids” just as many others don’t want homes that say “I’m old and frail.” They just want homes and products that work for them. Anti-scald, lever-action faucets, for example, are kid-friendly and accessible at the same time. And zero-step entrances work well for roller blades, strollers, wheeled luggage, disabled visitors in wheelchairs, or those who had a accident and are temporarily in a wheelchair or on crutches.

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Surfside 09/26/11

    If you will have toddlers in the house and expect to be using gates, it is a great idea to install permanent gates in the home. Wooden slatted gates, painted to match the white trim, can be permanently mounted on doorways between rooms, or at the head and foot of stairs. They are so much more sturdy and attractive than the plastic, store-bought ones. If you have a casual, cottage style home, try picket fence sections for a touch of cottage charm. In a formal home, wrought iron gates are beautiful for a stairwell with iron railings. Just be sure to measure and situate the gate so there are no gaps large enough for a baby to be trapped – less than 3″ on the sides, and no more than 1″ off the floor is ideal. If you have a pattern like pickets on top, make sure they are high enough to be away from clothing being caught. A smooth, straight top is the safest if your child is a climber..
    This is a great idea for pets as well, to keep them away from formal areas or in the laundry room when the weather is wet outside.
    For family kitchens, it’s nice to have a built-in banquette so you can squeeze in more kids if needed, and to use for lounging and relaxing in the kitchen – just pile with pillows. I also like to use a fully upholstered wing chair at the kitchen table, so parents can sit and work comfortably while supervising homework and cooking. Making the kitchen extra-comfortable with the right furnishings is like adding another living room to the home; and making things safe for babies means less running around for mom and dad.

  • Dawn Ohnstad @ Ohnstad Homes 09/26/11

    Simply put, even if you do not have kids, the decision to do things to your home which will be a concern for families with children will hurt future saleability.

    In a tough market, or in any market, to successfully sell, it is smart to think in terms of appealing to the largest possible audience with all changes to your home. So, doing things to eliminate families with children will limit your number of buyers.

    For instance, if you do a huge new great-room addition on the back, and this eliminates all of the open space in the backyard, you have not added value, but traded value. Instead, compromise and be sure that you have as much space in the room as possible, while still retaining a play area in the yard.

    Another example in bathroom design would be selecting a pedastal sink. A pedastal sink looks wonderful, however, if there are kids, cabinetry and storage in a bathroom is essential for ease of living. Moms need a place for tub toys, different toiletries, baby items etc. In this case, a good compromise would be to do a sink with a fabulous faucet using a piece of furniture for the base. This will give you a designer look without sacrificing space for bath items.

    One of the most common “ant-kids” item I have seen buyers react poorly to, is the choice of white carpeting throughout the main areas of the house. Instead, a great alternative “clean” look is a low profile carpet with the look of jute. This will be fashionable, without making the space look as though kids are not welcome.

    If you don’t care about what happens when the day comes to sell, then go for it with lots of white, clear glass, no yard and any old sink you like! But, if you do, then just be thinking a little bit like a “mom” when choosing!

  • Ed Del Grande - triple master plumber, licensed contractor and LEED Green Associate 09/26/11

    How do kid-friendly elements factor into a remodeling project?

    I believe that “kid-friendly” elements are very important for a young family to factor in to any home remodeling project. But, to a limit and keeping in mind one very important element when it comes to children. Kid’s grow up fast!

    With that in mind, budget and the depth of any “kid-friendly” project should be kept at bay. For example: For a child’s bathroom, you can get a children’s toilet, like the small ones they use in grade school restrooms. However, that may not be a good investment for a remodeling project in your kids bathroom. No matter how cute it will look, in just a few years the child can outgrow the toilet.

    The smarter investment would be to install a standard toilet with a “kid friendly” seat. The Kohler “Transitions” toilet seat is a great choice for a children’s seat, and it easily converts to an adult seat with a flip of the lid. This way, as the child grows older there’s no need to replace the toilet, or even the seat! It’s smart planning like this that will return the best investment for your “kid-friendly” projects.

  • Melissa Galt @ Melissa Galt Interiors 09/26/11

    I’ll never forget the client who hired me years ago to design her great room|kitchen|foyer and the dictate was that the foyer had to accomodate her 12 and 16 year old playing basketball and rollerblading! Yes, interiors do need to work for the whole family. And I made this one work.

    What I find is that what works well for active kids is even better for less active adults. Keeping rooms open and uncluttered so there is room for play is important and for adults it means plenty of room to relax and put your feet up.

    I’m a big advocate of no sharp corners on tables, countertops and more. It doesn’t always mean round or oval, but definitely what is called “clipped.” This means you don’t have to wrap your tables and more in child friendly padding, instead the sharp corners simply aren’t there.

    When glass is used, I make sure it is tempered and extra thick to avoid that feeling of fragile and breakage.

    Fabrics for upholstery and even drapery are best when durable and low maintenance yet still super soft and comfortable. I use a lot of chenilles (“poor man’s velvet”), wovens, and leathers. These don’t show the dirt at the surface, (leather gets a patina over time) and wovens are typically more durable than printed patterns which can abrade over time. Making cushions reversible also gives double duty.

    Furniture pieces that are flexible like an ottoman that is also a coffee table and that has storage for toys or extra cushions can be a life saver with the extras that kids like to keep around.

    When you include child safety, storage, and play considerations in design, it often makes better design over all as it is more flexible, fun, and long lasting.

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