Around the House: Surviving A Renovation Part II:  Living Through It 

Bathroom Before

If you’ve taken my advice and planned ahead for a Renovation, you and your contractor are armed with a meticulously thought out Construction Timeline and you know precisely when your tiles need to be onsite for installation.  You’ve set up a bulletin board that the entire work crew can reference, complete with elevations of your soon-to-be renovated Kitchen, samples of the backsplash tiles, and a photo of the marble slab you’ve picked for the island.  The crew already knows which side of the street to park on and to use the side door through the garage.  You’ve done your homework, and you’re ready to say goodbye to your forest green granite countertops and maple cabinetry.  It’s time to renovate! 

In other words, it’s time to share your home with a whole new family – your General Contractor and his team. 

Having a variety of workmen coming and going from your home at various times of day isn’t exactly serene, and as friendly and professional as they may be, over time it can be quite taxing on your regular routines (and rugs!).  There are a few things you can do to make sharing your home with multiple craftsmen easier on everyone involved and to help manage everyone’s expectations throughout the process. 

Having a designated weekly or bi-weekly check in with your Contractor will help you keep abreast of changes to the schedule and the order of who is coming into your home and when.  It also helps to cut down on you calling him in a panic when a plumber shows up instead of a painter.  Despite having a detailed Construction Timeline, dates can change for a variety of reasons and, contrary to popular belief, they are not necessarily your Contractor’s fault!   For instance, if a lighting fixture’s shipment is delayed or it arrives in the wrong finish, your contractor may push off the electrician who was scheduled to spend a day installing multiple fixtures.  Rather than have to charge you for 2 separate electrician visits, the contractor may push off the electrician until the correct fixture arrives.  While it may seem like the project has stalled, it may actually just be a way in which your contractor is preventing you from being charged an entire extra day of labor.   Try to designate a specific day and time each week – or every two weeks – that you can connect with your contractor and get the up-to-the-minute schedule. 

Bathroom After

If your Contractor doesn’t object, ask him to provide his subcontractors with your cell phone for simple, timely communications.  Most contractors want their craftsmen to contact them first if there are any changes to plans, and the contractor will then communicate with you.  However, there are instances when it’s more efficient – or necessary – for a tradesman to call you directly.   The tiler may want you to Ok the pattern he’s laid before he sets it or the plumber may need to warn you not to flush a toilet UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES while he runs to Home Depot.  It’s best to get this sort of information before you arrive home from a long commute and find a note stuck to your toilet. 

I also suggest having a stocked refreshment station on site with a “Help Yourself” sign on it.  Keeping a basket out with some hand wipes and simple snacks like granola bars, pretzels, and water bottles is not only a nice gesture, but it just might keep a hungry painter on site instead of disappearing for an hour to pick up Taco Bell.   Be sure to leave a waste can next to your snack basket so wrappers and empty cans and bottles can be easily disposed. 

These simple practices can go a long way in establishing an open relationship and clear communications between you and the crew working in your home.   Depending on the extent of the project, these are the people you’ll greet every morning for weeks or even months, and genuine friendships can develop.  I’ve seen a tiler walk the family dog when a client was late getting home from work.  I’ve worked with a carpenter who made it a point to take his lunch breaks with the family’s housebound grandmother.  And a general contractor I work with frequently spends every Thanksgiving with a former client.   

Living through a renovation isn’t always easy, comfortable, or quick, but it can be a positive experience if you keep communications open and choose to do it with the right team. 

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