Remodels are fun at The Beginning (when the arrival of a crew and the removal of a wall means, “This is really happening!”) and at The End (when all that planning, hard work and check writing results in a fantastically revamped living space)–but, in the middle, they can be full of so many twists, turns, and travails, that your sanity feels at risk.
If you can move out, do. But if you plan to stick it out at home during your remodel, here are some tips for survival.
Choose wisely: If you go the contractor route, go for the best reputation, not the lowest bid. Ask around. Check references. Visit an ongoing job and speak to the owners of a house that was remodeled long enough ago (over two years) that if the work was shoddy, problems would’ve already arisen. Remember, cheap labor is only cheap until you have to pay to redo it.
Your contract should include a scope of services, a timeline estimate, payment terms, an outline of what materials will be used, and what is and is not included. If you have any special requests such as no radio playing or smoking on the premises or, “If you deposit debris on my rose garden, I will come unglued!”now is the time to state them. As the job progresses, email any requests or changes so you have a written record. This will help avoid, “But I thought we said…” discussions later.
Stick around: Now is not the time to take a vacation. Even if you think you’ve thought of everything, there will be unforeseen issues and you will need to be available to make design decisions, pronto, lest your job comes to a screeching, time-and-money-gobbling halt.
Image source: thekitchn.com
Rise and design: Crews generally like to begin at 7 am. To avoid a discussion about surprise dry rot while standing in your pajamas, blinking the sleep out of your eyes, prepare to become an early riser.
Not so fast: Until walls are opened, you just don’t know what will be found. Hopefully not mold, dry rot, or galvanized pipes, but there will likely be something. Brace yourself. Problems aren’t usually solved immediately and kitchens can take months to redo–no matter what you see on television.
Plan ahead: Permits take time, ditto anything ordered from Europe or with the word “custom” in front of it. To avoid costly delays, have your design planned down to the last slow-close hinge and make sure materials are on site, ready for installation, before the installer arrives. You don’t want your plumber standing around tapping his foot, and counting dollar signs in his head, while you’re on the phone tracking down your back-ordered faucet!
Casa camping: Preserve one area as your sanctuary from all the noise, dust and strangers who have invaded your home. A makeshift kitchen can be set up in a garage or laundry room. (Freeze meals ahead of time.) A toaster oven, hotplate and paper plates will become your new best friends. If you’re remodeling bathrooms, do one at a time so you do not find yourself signing up for a family YMCA membership just to keep up with personal hygiene.
Here, there, everywhere: Dust will happen. Work areas should be sealed off with plastic sheets and painter’s tape or, better yet, plastic sheets with a double-sided zipper. Remove and store what you can, especially fragile items and sensitive electronic equipment.
Vacate the premises: Stay away when chemical-laden materials (adhesives, paint, stain, etc.) are being used. Really, isn’t this the perfect excuse for a much-needed hotel getaway? There will be times when your electricity, gas, and water will be shut off. Plan accordingly.
Your furry family: If you find the sound of a jackhammer unbearable, imagine how it affects Fido’s ears! At least you know why that stranger is making loud noises. Fido doesn’t. Warning: Your otherwise fenced yard may be opened for heavy equipment to enter. With doors removed or left ajar, startled pets may flee or run right into dangerous machinery. Create a safe haven indoors with toys and blankets to burrow into when the volume cranks up. And prepare to leash up the dogs for around-the-block potty breaks more times than you’d ever thought necessary.
Warn thy neighbor: Loud noises, too many parked trucks and an unsightly dumpster in your front yard can make your neighbors turn their noses up at you faster than you can say, “porta potty fumes”. Informing them in advance, offering invites for sneak peeks, and even providing a thank-you-for-your-patience potted plant at the end will go a long way towards keeping the peace.
This post has been adapted from my column Design Intervention that appears every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.