My Convertible Life

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remodeling 5: Tips for Prospective Remodelers

Let me be clear up front. Today's post is not going to filled with tips about HOW TO remodel any part of your home.

This is about how to SURVIVE while someone ELSE remodels the home you are currently living in. Because I sure as hell didn't lift that steel beam up into the ceiling. And in case you're wondering, all those 2x4s are, in fact, supporting the upstairs above my family room in that photo. Yikes.

Actually, my first tip would be to NOT live in your house while it's being remodeled. Go to the beach for a couple months. Travel around Europe. Move in with your parents. Get a hotel room. Whatever it takes not to live in a half-destroyed house with two young children.

Because in real life, it's not at all like Divine Design, where Candace, Chico and HunkyCarpenterPaul make it all beautiful in 30 minutes. It's messy and chaotic and loud and exhausting in ways you cannot predict.

But if moving out is not an option (and it wasn't for us), then here are five suggestions to help you weather the insanity that is home renovation.
  1. Hire people you trust. See Monday's post for my recommendations. These people are going to be in your house all day long for weeks at a time -- you can't be there every minute (and trust me, often you won't want to be there). If you can't trust them in your home while you're gone, then don't hire them. And if you don't think you can stand looking at them regularly for the next four months, don't hire them either.
  2. Get organized first. In order to renovate the downstairs of our house, we had to move most of the stuff that normally lives in those rooms and stash it upstairs. This created a whole new level of chaos in all the bedrooms and the upstairs hallway. If we'd been smarter (or taken more time), we would have cleared out all the extraneous stuff first, had a big yard sale and made a few runs to Goodwill before we started boxing things up and storing them in every corner. The more you can get rid of or at least get sorted, the better you'll be during and after the reno.
  3. Select materials early. Before anyone starts knocking out walls or tearing up floors, go ahead and make as many decisions as you can. Pick out your cabinets, appliances, flooring, paint colors, hardware, counters, whatever -- that way everything is ordered and waiting when your crew is ready to install. Many of the delays in our project were caused by us, not our crew, because we didn't always plan our decisions ahead.
  4. Recycle the old. We filled an entire dumpster in two months with construction debris and demolition from the house. Blech. Thankfully, we also sent a lot of things -- cabinets, light fixtures, hardware -- to the Habitat ReStore. And Progress Energy paid us $50 (that's them paying us, not the other way around) to pick up our old fridge and recycle the parts. Some of our crew even took things home with them if it was something they could use. Anything you can keep out of the landfill, do it.
  5. Have a Plan B place. You absolutely must have a safe place to go when you really need to get out of your house -- particularly if you have a toddler who needs a nap during the day and can't sleep through the wrecking crew lullaby. My sweet friend Ms. S gave us her house key and an open invitation to make her home our own while she was at work -- this was particularly brilliant since her daughter is close to Pippi's age, so we could borrow her crib (and now her big girl bed). On more than one occasion, we napped, cooked, ate and played at her house, even when she wasn't there.
The good news is that it will eventually end. And today, where once there was only 2x4s, a steel beam and a pile of brick rubble, we now have this (as-yet undecorated) view...


  1. Timely! Thanks! Just had the contractor here to look at the closet. But actually, I am looking forward to a parade of workmen coming in early in the morning and watching them try their best to ignore H who will be sitting in his underwear on his bed playing with his iPad and wearing his "who gives a crap?" look. It's gonna be fun!

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