Living Through Remodeling
A Homeowner Survival Guide
Imagine having a hoard of strangers over for a demolition derby in your living room. The rules of the game are: They are allowed to come and go when they want to, and each player is permitted to make as much noise and ruckus as he or she likes while doing mysterious things in an atmosphere that seems like barely controlled chaos.
Now you are starting to get a sense of what a major renovation feels like.
But this noisy, gritty process doesn't necessarily mean you will be tearing out your hair. With a little advance planning, it is possible to live through even major renovations with your sanity and good nature largely intact.
Work Out the Job Rules in Advance
Your project manager will sit down with you and go over the "ground rules." He is then responsible for getting the word to all workers and contractors who will come into your home. He will make sure that every subcontractor receives a copy of the rules and will usually post a list of the rules on the premises so that everyone can refer to them.
The work rules should cover the following:
- The earliest and latest hours for working. Typical work hours are from dawn to dusk. If you have special requirements, or you just need a break once in a while, spell out the hours when work is not allowed. Do, however, expect to make an exception here and there, especially where critical tasks absolutely have to be done.
- Smoking areas: Odds are very good that at least some of the craftsmen on your project will smoke. If you have special concerns about smoking, you need to let us know.
- Entrances: Generally workmen will use an entrance closest to the project site. Where possible we prefer an entrance not frequently used by your family — even to the point of building a temporary entrance where needed. Craftsmen will use only the designated entrance. Your family should use it as little as possible to avoid mishaps.
- Keys: Unless you intend to be on-site at all times work is being done, we will need keys to your house. Except for very unusual situations, only the project manager will have a key and is the person responsible for it. If he needs to give it to someone to get into your house, he will make every effort to let you know. Do not give out keys to any workman unless you have discussed it with the project manager and he approves.
- Storage: There will have to be storage on-site for tools and materials. If possible, we will store tools inside the house. Where not possible, we will bring on-site portable tool storage. We will also need to discuss where materials may be safely stored with minimal disruption to your use of the premises.
- Parking: We try to park at your home only those vehicles that are absolutely required. But this may mean as many as 5 or 6 vehicles at one time on rare occasions. We will not operate heavy trucks on your driveway due to the possibility of pavement damage, and generally do not allow any vehicle to be parked in your driveway. But if there is no other parking, we may have little choice. If special parking permits are required, we will obtain them from the governing entity. If you have a neighbor who will be upset by trucks in front of his or her house, please let us know.
- Children and Pets: Children and household pets must be kept out of the construction area for their safety, the safety of our personnel, and to minimize disruption on the job site.
- Off-Limits Areas: All parts of the house not involved in the project are off limits to all of our personnel unless you specify otherwise, the exception being bathroom facilities. Any of our personnel in an unauthorized part of your home should be reported to the project manager immediately.
- Bathrooms: For a large job expected to last several weeks, we will bring in a portable toilet. Otherwise, we need to arrange for toilet facilities for the crew during the remodeling.
- Music: We do not allow the playing of radios or recorded music on the project site except through personal earphones.
- Cleanup: The site will be picked up and swept up each day. Trash will be removed, and tools and materials stowed. We do everything we can to keep waste in its place and out of the way. But there is no way to avoid a mess when remodeling. We want to work out a plan for handling waste materials so they will be routed away from sensitive areas, such as gardens or porches. Trash is hauled away on a regular basis.
- Signs: We may post one sign in your yard during the remodel, two signs if you are in a corner house. We need to know where you prefer it to be set — if you have a preference.
Plan For Everyday Living
Your house may be in shambles for weeks, but you will still want hot meals, a warm bed, a daily shower, and clean clothes. Have a plan for how you are going to continue your life as normally as possible during the remodeling.
Moving Out: If you can afford a local hotel or have friends or family nearby, there is a lot to be said for just removing your family out of the war zone. Other people move out for parts of the job or give themselves periodic weekend breaks. Even camping out in a recreational vehicle on the property may be an option.
Living In: If you can, or must, live at home during remodeling, plan for it before work begins.
- To prepare for a kitchen makeover, move your microwave and refrigerator to a place where they can still be used. Set up a makeshift kitchen. Be sure to keep a can opener, coffee maker, microwave, utensils and other such items accessible. Stock up on disposable plates and cups.
- If the water will be turned off for long periods of time, order bottled water and scout out a place for showers — the health club, for example.
- A bedroom may even become a combination living room/kitchen for the duration.
- Plan some meals at your favorite restaurants — take the opportunity to try out new restaurants.
- Spend an oocasional weekend at a romantic bed and breakfast inn.
- Don't try to keep an immaculate house. It's just not going to happen during construction, so don't drive yourself crazy. Do your normal cleaning and tidying up, but realize that there will be constant clutter and confusion until it's done, and make that mental adjustment. Postpone that thorough cleaning until after we have gone.
Protect Your Belongings: Remove pictures from walls and store fragile items away from the work area. Lock up or remove valuables. Construction dust is insidious and inevitably will travel to other areas of your home. Computers, electronic equipment, and furniture should be covered or removed. Keep expensive telephones out of the remodeling area. Roll up area rugs and store them out of the way. Seal clothing and linens in plastic bags. We will tape plastic sheets to doorways, windows and air vents to seal off rooms where remodeling is underway. If we are building an addition, we will not break into the main house until the last possible moment so most of the mess will be outside for most of the project. If floors need protection, we will see to it that they are covered up. If you have any special protection requirements, you should let your project manager know as soon as possible.
Protect Your Plants: If we are going to be working in and around your garden or shrubs, you need to move those plants. Before we start, decide which plants you want to save. Saving plants during a remodel means digging them up and potting them; or digging and heeling them in some place away from the construction site. Let us know which plants might be damaged. We do all we can to protect them, but keep in mind that if we are digging a foundation three feet from your clematis arbor, some damage is almost inevitable.
Involve Your Neighbors: Let your neighbors know as soon as possible about a major remodeling that may create noise, congestion and traffic problems. Tell them what you are doing and how long it will take. Invite them to come over and look at progress from time to time — they are going to be curious, especially if their house has the same layout as your house. We will do our part by making certain they are disturbed as little as possible and that any trash that blows in their yards is picked up promptly.
Avoid Air Pollution: When working with your project manager to determine the project timetable, he will identify periods when glues, finishes, or other noxious, odorous or toxic materials will be used. We will make certain the premises are properly ventilated during these periods, but you may want to escape to a motel for a while. If anyone in your house has asthma or a severe allergy to dust, mold or fungus, it would be best if that person was not around at all during the renovation.
Don't Rely on the Timeline Exclusively: We will give you as accurate a timetable as we can. But don't rely on it exclusively. Check frequently to see how the work is actually progressing against the timetable. Your project manager updates it as frequently as he can, but his first priority must be doing the work, so it may be out of date by several days. Many variables can have an impact on the length of the project. Things over which we have little or no control will cause some delays. Weather, delayed factory deliveries, out-of-stock materials, and myriad other things can sabotage even the most careful schedule.
Expect Loss of Utilities: At times we will have to turn off your electricity, gas or water. We will make every effort to let you know when we must do this, but sometimes the lead-time may be very short. Fortunately, the outages are also likely to be short — just a few minutes in most instances. Long outages will be noted on the timetable so you can plan for them.
Prepare for Mood Swings
Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions. Your initial excitement will nosedive once the mess, noise and organized confusion of remodeling begin. At different stages in the process, itís perfectly normal for your feelings to go up and down. Expect it to happen. Just remind yourself that your original enthusiasm will return with interest when the remodeling is finished and your beautiful new space is ready to use.
- Be Patient: A major remodeling is a constant source of little irritations. Stay calm and be patient with us and your family. If it really starts to get to you, and it just might, consider one or two days off. We can work around you for a while.
- Take Time Out for Fun: Take some time for fun and relaxation. Remodeling can be all consuming. It can leave you tired, stressed, and not your usual cheerful self. You really need to schedule some restful and fun times during the process. One night a week or more often as needed. Consider it therapy.
The project manager needs to know how to contact you at all times. If you do not have a cell phone with you, we will lend you a pager. No doubt after going through our extensive design and planning process, you believe every possible contingency has been considered. Unfortunately, it just ain't so. Things always come up that require you to make decisions. If we can't find you, all work may come to a halt until we do.