How to Survive a Renovation

Make a plan and stick to it to help ensure that your home renovation runs smoothly.

A renovation is like a journey you take with your contractors, your family, and even your neighbors. As with any journey, preparation is everything.

Notify your neighbors
Talk to your neighbors well in advance if you are planning a major renovation. They'll appreciate knowing about potential construction noise and when to expect extra vehicles parked on the street. They're also more likely to be cooperative about things such as allowing a builder to rest ladders on their lawns if they've been included in the plans.

Work with your contractor
Make sure you have solid communication with your contractor. You are trusting this person with your major asset and your sanctuary. You need to know that he or she will be there for you if a problem arises.

Be sure to check in with the site supervisor on a daily basis. If you have a partner, run all major questions by each other before giving the contractor a final answer. Discuss concerns with your contractor as soon as they arise. Don't wait for 'the right moment.'

Set a timeline
Talk to your contractor about the various steps and stages of the renovation. Usually, with an addition, the foundation is dug first, then the floors and walls are roughed-in and the roof is shingled before breaking through to the existing part of the house. Be aware that exterior work goes fairly quickly relative to the more detailed work inside.

Ask your contractor to outline what the work involves and present a realistic timetable. Experienced contractors know to build in a time-cushion for the unforeseen, and you should include a 10-percent cushion in your budget as well.

Make choices in advance
Choose everything before the work starts -- sinks, cabinets, toilets, tiles, colors. You don't want to have to take time off work at the last minute to run around to design stores. If choosing colors is not your thing, consider hiring an interior decorator. He or she can advise you on how to choose paint colors that harmonize with tiles and cabinetry, and how to ensure color flows from area to area.

Once you have plans you like, try not to make major changes during the building process. Most people make small alterations as the work progresses, but choosing to enlarge a closet or add a skylight once the work is well underway can mean frustrating delays waiting for supplies, as well as considerable extra expense. A major change midstream can cost twice as much as it would cost if it were factored into the original plan.

Be family-friendly
Try not to make any major life changes, such as starting a new job or having a baby, during a major renovation. If a big change does occur just before a planned project begins, consider postponing the work.

Involve older children in the planning stages so they feel part of what is going on. Plan to spend quality time with younger children off-site, swimming or at a library program. Work out playtimes with neighbors and family so young children don't feel bored and cooped up.

Try to move out
If possible, move out during construction. Perhaps you could you live with relatives or rent a place nearby. It might be a good time to take a mini vacation or send kids to camp. Also, consider boarding your pets at a kennel or having them stay with friends until your house is settled.

If you must stay
Set up a temporary kitchen with a hot plate, microwave and a small fridge. Many people choose the laundry room so they have a water source and can wash their dishes in the sink.

Construction dust is inevitable. On most large jobs, a renovator will build a temporary wall and put in a plastic doorway between the new and existing part of a home. But don't expect it to keep out the dust. Take down your drapes and cover, or even store, your good furnishings. When the renovation is complete, many contractors will come in and clean the whole house as part of the job.

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