DIY

10 Tips for Living Through a Home Renovation

April 23, 2018  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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We’re currently remodeling our master bathroom, and by that I mean, we actually hired a team of contractors to do the work (our first time ever doing that!) This bathroom renovation isn’t the first major remodel we lived through in our home, in fact–it’s our last! But we’ve only done a couple like it, where our entire lives kind of get flipped upside down.

The photo above is from the Pittsburgh kitchen we did in 6 days. But our own kitchen remodel, we did in 7 weeks and made a make-shift pantry and kitchen in our front room during that time. When we ripped up all the flooring on our entire main level, we moved all of our furnishings and belongings downstairs and lived underground for 6 weeks. But this time feels a little different than those because we’re not the ones doing the work. Which is wonderful, but adds an element of…alertness? to the entire thing that can leave you somehow just as exhausted at the end of the day.

Before I get into the tips we’ve picked up along the way of living through a remodel, I want to share one big mistake we’ve made. Since we’re not the ones physically doing the work in our bathroom remodel, we thought we could continue at full speed with our other obligations, renovations and work. We signed contracts for big projects. We started tackling a room at our cabin (an hour away) at the same time that’s due this week! In my head, I thought since the bathroom was taken care of, we could fill our work calendar with all the other things we usually do. And that was a mistake.

Regardless if you’re doing the work yourself, or hiring it out, a home remodel is still a lot of work and effort! It still requires your attention and I’d recommend clearing your schedule of as many extras as possible before beginning.

Here are 10 more tips for living through a major home remodel. (Would love to hear any additional ones you have in the comments!)

1. Make a calendar with your contractors. Before we started, we sat down with our contractors (We’re working with Doug’s Repair for all you locals–can’t recommend them enough!) and we looked at dates and set a start date and a goal end date. Then, they filled in what would happen every day and gave us a copy of the calendar. This has been so incredibly helpful! Not only does it help set expectations across the board, but it helps us see if we’re still on track and what’s coming up. (Like, windows this week!)

2. Have a section of your home that stays in order and clean so it can serve as a sanctuary away from the job. Remodels are messy and if you aren’t mindful, it can spill into other areas of your home. But, by making an effort to keep the other spaces in our home clean and tidy–heck, light a candle and buy some flowers if it helps!–we are still able to enjoy our home even with a holes in the ceiling and drywall dust a room over.

3. Pack up what you don’t need from the room. In the case of our bathroom renovation, we packed away clothes, shoes, and bathroom supplies we could live without for a month. But maybe it’s furniture, kitchen supplies or decor in your renovation’s case. Whatever it is, packing it up and storing it is a lot better than stuffing it in another room, unorganized. And bonus, when the renovation is over, you may not need all the extra after all.

4. Make sure you have everything on hand before you start. (Or at least ordered with delivery dates in sight!) I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Plumbing always seems to take forever to arrive and they are likely going to need it very first. Waiting on supplies to be delivered messes up the renovation calendar and causes expensive setbacks. Besides final decor pieces, having everything you need for the remodel in your home, and organized (I love to label the boxes with what is inside) will keep everyone sane and happy.

5. Cover areas with dropcloths or tarps during work days to help combat dust. One of the main questions I get asked is, How are you handling all the dust?! Our crew is really amazing at making sure everything is tarped off before they start working and they always clean up before leaving for the day. That doesn’t mean our nightstands aren’t covered with a layer of dust, but it also feels manageable. I also thinks it helps to expect dust. With an active crawler, I know that vacuuming and a dust mop are a part of my daily agenda throughout the renovation.

6. Make sure you have extra money in your budget. When we got an estimate of what the bathroom was going to cost, we saved 25% more before starting. And I’m so grateful we did! Not only is it good for any surprises (we were so sure they were going to find mold, but they didn’t! However, they did find some standing water in one of the toilet pipes that needed fixing.) But it is also nice to have for extras that come up that maybe you hadn’t thought of. Like, when our contractor brought up the idea of a recirculating pump (more about that in this post) that ended up costing us $500 extra, but was so worth it and we had the money set aside already.

7. Take pictures every step of the way. Obviously we’re going to take pictures because we’re bloggers, but blogger or not, taking before, progress and after photos help create a history of the project. They can be used down the road to help sell or price your home. They can gauge progress (when you’re having one of those days where it feels like nothing is happening!), they can even serve as a reminder of how things were wired, laid out or put together in the case of future repairs.

8. Keep up on your daily routines. One thing we’ve been super mindful of is making sure our girls don’t feel the stress of the remodel seep into their routines, and in turn, it has helped us stay pretty level headed, too. Because our contractors arrive and leave at the same time every day, that has become part of our routine just like making meals, bath times, homework, naps–it all MUST GO ON. It’s easy to fall into the eat out every meal, skip the gym or stay up late when part of your life/house feels so out of sorts, but sticking with as much of the normals as possible has really cut down on a lot of stress for our girls especially. I don’t even think they realize mom and dad don’t have a bathroom right now. Ha!

9. Stay organized, but be forgiving of yourself. Even with all the parts of the bathroom labeled in boxes, a calendar of bathroom check points, unnecessary things boxed up until it’s all done, our daily toiletries lined up in the hall bathroom linen cabinet and our room lined with clothes hung on rolling garment racks–there are still times when I feel overwhelmed. And that’s okay. Part of being forgiving of yourself is recognizing you’re in a stressful situation, but also understanding how fortunate you are to be getting a brand new ______!!


10. Be present. Peek in a lot. Ask questions. It’s your house! 
One of the first things I said to the contractors working on our bathroom was, “I’m very invested in this project, if there’s anything you’re not 100% sure on, please ask.” It opened up a great line of friendly communication that I really value. Don’t be afraid to peek in on your project (I do ALL DAY LONG!) or ask questions or voice concerns. Almost every morning, I meet with Scott, our main contractor, and go over a short list of questions or concerns about things that either Chris or I noticed or thought. Whether it be the shower head height, a new thing I read about soft-closed pocket doors or a mix up with shower valves. And he makes sure all the concerns and questions are resolved. He also consults with us all day long, on every detail which I truly appreciate. In the end, it’s your home–Speak up!

We’d love to hear if there is anything in your experiences you would add!

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What do you think?

  1. Useful and practical tips on living through a home renovation. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  2. Terrica Arden says:

    Thanks for the read! I was so tense about my home renovation and how it would turn out but thanks to Tremblay Renovations who understood my concerns and cooperated through the process. Their services are as good as their customer dealing skills. I’m really satisfied to choose best home renovation services Ottawa for my house.

  3. Mike says:

    Thanks Admin for your efforts, I appreciate your post, These tips are very useful. Thanks for sharing. Keep Posted! I would love to read more from you.

  4. Pretty practical tips and useful. I love practical tips instead of generic ones. Because practical tips tend to come out from real-time experience.

  5. It is no doubt a complete mess when you are renovating your home and i like your idea of getting done with one half of the home while leaving the other half livable.. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips.

  6. Jake Beals says:

    Having everything on hand will save a great deal of time. Sure you will need to get some extras, but for the most part, we have found its best to get all the material before starting.

  7. Kristy J. says:

    You are the boss since it was your house that was renovated, yeah this is true. As much as possible, you have to be on the site always while the contractor is doing the project.

  8. Awesome shots in this post! Great remodel too : )

  9. I think you break down what it truly means to do a home renovation, especially rooms like a bathroom or kitchen. Having an idea like organizing your materials and layout is a priority with home remodeling. Also, making sure as homeowners that the budget make sense and is reasonable to your desires. It can get stressful when discussing your budget but in remodeling, every penny is a value to your home. It’s best to do it right for sure!

  10. Pretty realistic and useful tips regarding home renovation. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  11. Mike says:

    Great article! Thank you so much for educating us on this, really appreciate all the tips! I’m in the remodeling business myself and I love reading this kind of posts. Keep up the good work!

  12. Floor Horror says:

    Great tips! Too bad I’m reading at the the end of a flooring project and didn’t do 9 of the 10 things suggested. I’d also like to add, because I’m experiencing it, is to be clear with the workers about what cleaning up means to you. We’ve been tripping over tools, cords, trash, and even (his!) shoes left at the end of every day. My dogs keep finding things to get into plus he’s using every room to keep boxes of tools, shop vacs, doors, and pieces of baseboards, it goes on and on! Calgon take me away!!!!

  13. All the tips you mentioned above was excellent and informative about home renovation. Keep on sharing.

  14. Oliver Ray says:

    I like your idea of creating a calendar with the contractors to know what is going to happen next. Knowing what is going on might allows my wife to clean or prepare for the next day’s agenda. When we do a remodel in the spring we will have to consider using a calendar with contractors to make sure the remodel doesn’t make our house the dust bowl.

  15. Allen says:

    Even if you are hiring a professional, you should consider how the renovation is going to impact your home life. For the do-it-yourself renovator with a full-time job and family commitments, home projects can quickly become overwhelming.

  16. Kitchen remodels don’t have to cost a fortune! With all the resources on the internet, like blogs like yours, there are so many options for awesome kitchen remodels.

  17. panos says:

    I love your work great advice. We did our renovation in London by ordering our kitchen and our wardrobes from http://www.wood-and-glass.com

  18. This come right on time as me and my girlfriend we’re moving in the summer, thank you!

  19. Ana says:

    Having lived through a full year of renovations with my contractor husband, I agree with all your tips!

    The one thing I’d add though is to be respectful of giving the contractor and the team enough physical and mental space to work. It will look like a messy, terrible disaster till it doesn’t, but you have to trust that they know what they’re doing and looking over their shoulder constantly will add more stress for both sides.

    • Julia says:

      This is such a good point! There have been times we have done renovationS for other people where as soon as we got into the thick of it, their stress and almost distrust that it was all going to come back together was palpable. It made me feel awful and actually stressed me out, even though I was very confident in our plan.

  20. Albert W. says:

    What about the recirculation pump?

    • Julia says:

      I mentioned it because it was something that came up that was a great addition we were happy we had some extra money to get it.

  21. KLR says:

    Great points!

    My addition would be to trust yourself and your taste. The two boldest statements in our home – our Olive Wood by Glidden paint color in the dining room and Petal Pusher in gold in our hall (by Oh Joy, Hygge and West) – gave me the most anxiety going up, but make me so happy.

    In each case, I went to bed half-done with the project, worrying I made a huge mistake. Woke up giving the project a second look and remembered exactly why I chose what I did.

    I remind myself to trust my taste, I picked what I did (finishes, paint colors, wallpaper) for a reason. It will work.

  22. Christine says:

    These are great!

    I would add:

    – expect the unexpected so it doesn’t upset you when it happens. There will inevitably be some delays and unexpected issues that will impact budget, design, timeline, etc. If you expect these things to happen, they’ll hopefully be less upsetting when/if they do.

    – look at your inspiration pictures/design plans often to remind yourself what the end goal is and that all the mess/unrest will be worth it in the end!

    • Karen says:

      Your second point is SO TRUE! We completely renovated our kitchen (and more), and not 6 months after completion had a flood in the kitchen. That was in January, and our concrete slab is STILL (today!) too wet to install the hardwoods! We moved back into the kitchen, and are living around concrete floors, some cabinet damage, and missing baseboards. I look at post-reno/pre-flood pics to remind myself how great it will look (again!) and that we will get (back) there!

  23. Lu says:

    You found a great contractor… I wish I had known these tips before we went through a major renovation… Can’t wait to see the finished bathroom…

  24. Cailan Matthews says:

    Wish I’d had this advice a year ago before we started kitchen/two bathroom remodel and garage addition. We thought it would be a great idea to schedule our summer vacation(s) during the planned remodel. It was just too tempting to escape all the chaos! But such a mistake. Our contractor really needed to be held accountable to come everyday and yes, I missed lots of mistakes and chances to voice my preference by not being around. I’m thankful things didn’t turn out worse, but I’m sure it did cost us more. Also, having a schedule with your contractors like that sounds like a dream! I wish we had done that to not only keep contractor accountable but there were so many days he suddenly needed a decision from me and I had no idea we were at that point in the project. Knowing what is coming up so you can be prepared would be invaluable. So much wisdom in all your advice!

    • Tarynkay says:

      Yes to this- we also scheduled a bathroom gut remodel purposefully for when we would be out of town for two weeks. The guy we hired assured us it would be more than enough time. We talked to him on the phone daily, he sent very promising update photos, and all seemed as if it was on track.

      Well, we came home to our toilet sitting on the front porch and the bathroom completely gutted but not even close to being put back together. If we ever hire out another house project, we are going to be there in person closely supervising!

  25. Lara Small says:

    Oh boy!
    I’ve commented before saying we’re Reno-ing our bathroom that matches the floor plan of the lowes remodel you guys recently did. Well it’s been Over a month! It is strictly just us tho, and I am rounding 8 months pregnant and my husband works full time so it’s mostly just weekends….
    It is a serious adjustment tho! We haven’t been so great with dust barriers, but I’m trying to be forgiving on myself since it’s our first complete remodel. Finally seeing some light tho as we painted this weekend (both the bathroom and nursery, ha!).
    Your list makes a lot of sense and I certainly could have prepped better, but gotta look forward!
    Thanks for the post!

  26. Michelle says:

    These are great tips! We’re in week two of a kitchen/hall/half bath renovation and yes, it’s messy! We were very mindful to set up a purposeful space as a temporary kitchen and invested in things like a hot plate to help make our daily lives easier and cook at home more. In this case, part of the work is by us and partly by contractors for permitting reasons, but we fully hired out a bathroom addition a few years ago. In both cases, I find that I need to be available and present to answer questions and keep things moving in the right direction. It’s your house and your money after all so don’t be afraid to be present and ask questions!

  27. Karen says:

    These are great tips! We lived through a 5 month kitchen/dining/living/family rooms renovation it was intense. Overall, we’ve been renovating our house for over a year now. And YES – even with a skilled general contractor, a renovation is a lot of work – emotionally, logistically, and financially. You have to be committed and present. It’s a wild ride, but so rewarding at the end!

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