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Living Through a Home Remodel – A Survival Guide

I own almost a 100 year old house. Through the many home remodeling projects I’ve learned a few things about dealing with and surviving a home remodel. Here are some suggestions:

1. Be realistic – not optimistic. So your contractor says the project will take __ number of weeks to complete. Although he/she may not say it, this is a rough estimate and is typically not a guarantee that the project will be finish in this time frame. Instead, make your plans based upon adding 10-15% wiggle room to your contractors estimated time for completion of the project. For example, if the estimate is 12 weeks for completion, plan on about 13 – 14 weeks for completion instead of the estimated 12 weeks.

2. Come up with a survival plan. In our case, we knew we’d be without a bathroom upstairs for a number of weeks. This meant that we had to make plans to use the bathroom downstairs although our bedroom is upstairs. Inconvenient, but we were glad to have a second bathroom. I made sure to move some supplies downstairs instead of us having to run up and down the stairs. When we were remodeling the kitchen, we moved the refrigerator and microwave into the dining room, and I cooked things that could be microwaved instead of us eating out all of the time (which can get old real fast). This can also be a great time to visit relatives or friends (that is when your contractor is not working). A change of scenery or environment can really help one to endure a home remodel.

3. Be organized. Another survival tip is to be organized. We made our upstairs foyer the work station/storage area for the project (it’s a huge area so this was convenient). The basement was used for cutting tile, wood, etc. In other words, there were three places to work – the bathroom, the foyer or the basement. This ensured that at least a portion of my home was left in tact.

4. Try to have everything you need for your contractor accessible before he/she starts. This can save you time and money. Make a list and check it twice. List everything that you will need for the remodel, i.e., plumbing, flooring, fixtures, wallpaper, paint, etc., and note when you purchase it and/or it was delivered. Also, check to make sure it is the right item. We assumed the order was correct, and in the midst of the remodel had to return the plumbing fixtures and wait for a reorder. This cost us about 3-4 days. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is in the midst of a remodel, the 3-4 days felt like forever. Also, don’t assume that the items you want will be in stock. A couple of things that we wanted were on back order and had we not followed this tip, we would have had a huge problem with our contractor because the delivery took 6-7 weeks. Instead, we did not even schedule our contractor to begin work until 90% of our items were purchased and delivered.

5. Be respectfully open and honest with your contractor and his/her crew at all times. Remember they are in your employ. If they are playing their music to loud, let the crew leader know. Deal with a problem as soon as it comes up. For example, one discussion I had with my contractor was in regards to tardiness. I explained that I understood that things occasionally come up causing one to be tardy; nevertheless, I requested that he call should he need to be late. From that time on he always made sure to call me if he was going to be late and this made for a very positive relationship.

6. Try to thoroughly examine your contractors work at the end of the day. As I stated above, being open and honest will make for a good relationship between you and your contractor. A good policy is to go over the work that your contractor has done at the end of each day. Ask him/her to show you what has been completed. If you are not pleased, be honest about that. It will be easier for him to address this problem earlier than later in the project.

We all love a new kitchen, bath or bedroom, but we hate the process of remodeling. These tips can help make for a more positive remodeling experience. Let me know if you have any other tips as we are sure to remodel again (always a project to do in an historical home).

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