9 Tips for Surviving Your Renovation

Are you about to embark on a large home renovation?

The U.S. home improvement industry is emerging from its downturn, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and many homeowners who put off maintenance and improvements are starting to spend.

As you anticipate your construction, take time to prepare for the rough road ahead, especially if you plan to live in the house during the work. Be warned: The noise of demolition, nail guns, sanders, and power saws will unnerve even the calmest of souls. The dust will go everywhere—it will get in your clothes, your bedding, even in your food. The smells of demolition, adhesives, cut wood, paint and sealers will waft through the house. If moving out isn’t an option, here are some tips for surviving the noise, dust, lack of privacy and various other stresses.

1. Move stuff out.

Move furniture, rugs, electronics, knick-knacks, art, window treatments and clothing not needed during construction. You will have less to clean, more space to live, and reduce the possibility of damage. Consider renting a POD, borrow space in your friend’s house, or have movers store items.

2. Create a decent temporary kitchen.

Plead with your contractor to keep a few of your old cabinets, stove, even your kitchen sink to set up your temporary kitchen. Having one will allow you to live like a normal human. Just say “no” to using the powder room sink and a hot plate!

3. Dust wipes are your friend.

Keep a supply of dust wipes available in all your rooms. These mighty wipes are a necessity to grab the daily coating of dust. Have plenty of paper towels on hand and a spray bottle of water and vinegar for wet cleanups.

Pictured: Christy’s finished home post-renovation

4. Pick stuff out long ahead of time. 

Choose your appliances, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, tile, countertops, light fixtures, paint colors and wallpaper. Use Houzz to help guide your selections. This will ensure you don’t slow down the process. Use your budget as a guide.

5. Wrap it.

Buy plastic in all sizes. Wrap every piece of furniture and tape the plastic to the bottom of each piece. Cover beds during the day. Remove or wrap fabric window treatments. Use sticky plastic to cover wall-to-wall carpeting and stair runners.

6. Establish work rules. 

Prior to the project start, coordinate with your general contractor to guide all workers. Make sure to have a firm policy for work hours, smoking, access to your home eating areas, disposal of trash, restroom use, daily cleanup, loud music, etc. While it is a worksite, it is also your home.

7. Make friends. 

Most of the guys working in your home are hard-working, skilled family guys with good values. Give them credit for what they do. Offer homemade treats (made in your decent temp kitchen!) and coffee, or cold water and ice on the hottest days.

8. Be available.

Establish a regular time every day to deal with the inevitable issues that arise, especially if you have an old home. Set this time up with your contractor and make it a priority, even if it is a text conversation. If possible, be onsite every day to check progress and maybe even catch something before it becomes a problem.

9. Stick to your budget. 

The stress of renovating is enough without the additional worry of running out of money. Don’t even look at the $8,000 bathtub if it isn’t in your budget. Make this clear when you shop. Plan for lighting, painting, audio/visual, carpeting, furniture, window treatments and security. According to Jim O’Brien at O’Brien Landscaping & Co., consider “a budget of $20,000-25,000 for a walkway, small patio and basic landscaping items, like grading, sod, mulching and minor plantings. All of this depends on size, scope, etc.”

Keep your eye on the prize—your beautifully renovated home—as you endure noise, dust, fumes, lack of privacy and a few unpleasant surprises. Plan ahead for the long haul and the process will be tolerable.


Photos by Christy Coughlin