Whether you're painting your kitchen cabinets or ripping the whole kitchen out, renovating is exciting. Not as exciting is the mess that's created, the potential issues with contractors, and the mad scramble to come up with more money when something goes awry. While you can't avoid every unpleasantry associated with home renovations, you can prepare well to keep yours as pain-free as possible.
Depending on how extensive your renovation is, staying in the home while it's going on can be horrible. And, trust us when we say that this is one of those things you only think you can get through easily if you've never been through it before. A little time at a friend's house or in a hotel instead of cramming your family into a bedroom or basement with one bathroom to share and a makeshift kitchen will make your world so much better.
Don't hover...but don't fail to check the work from time to time
True story: We had our floors redone last month (Goodbye, ugly tile and concrete where where foundation work had been completed, Hello luxury vinyl plank!) and we had to face this reality head on. While we didn't want to be in their face all day, paying attention at key points uncovered areas that needed to be addressed. What we learned is this:
Finding that perfect balance is key to establishing trust with your contractor while also making sure the work is up to your standards. And, in the end, having cookies and other treats in the house makes everything better.
Concentrate on safety
If you are staying in the home and you have kids or pets (or both), you'll want to make sure your contractors leave their work area as clean as possible and don't create hazards with their equipment. On the first night of our flooring installation, our contractor left his tools - including two saws - in an open area, which our dog quickly discovered (Everyone is fine, but he got to spend the rest of the night in the bedroom!).
"While working in your home contractors should be willing to remove all tools at the end of each day. At the least, equipment should be stacked out of the way (and out of the reach of young kids)," Art Donnelly, former chairman of the board of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, told Parents. "You can even request that your contractor set up temporary walls to shield your kids from the work site and reduce the amount of dust filtering into your living quarters."
Budget more than you think you'll need
It's always going to cost more than you think. Setting aside an extra 10 percent - at least - will help you avoid a freak out and a panicked search for more money in the middle of your reno.
Invest in a good vacuum
And a carload of Swiffer dusters. Whether you're having your floors done, adding a room, or redoing your kitchen, it's gonna get dusty. And it doesn't matter how well your contractor cleans up after the job is done—it still won't be up to your expectations.
Don't pay upfront
A contractor who asks for payment before work has begun could be a red flag. You don't want to get duped, nor do you want to work with someone whose cash flow problem becomes your problem. Paying for materials as they are purchased is common and payment arrangements that include paying for a portion of the work at certain completion markers are sometimes worked out, but if it feels off, don't be afraid to stand your ground.
Do your research
Even the most trusted referrals require further research. Perhaps the company is under new management since your friend used them or standards have dropped over time. Google the company and check reviews online before you move forward.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Our project was almost derailed by a simple miscommunication that was, thankfully, discovered and worked through but that could have derailed the entire flooring installation.
"Ninety-Nine percent of problems are caused by breakdowns in communication," said CAVDESIGN. "Don't overwhelm your contractor with bits of paper and random suggestions. Instead, organize your thoughts, schedule a time, and go over any questions point by point. Then send a line-item list of what was decided upon so there is a clear paper trail."
Pack up your valuables ahead of time
Yes, you want to protect yourself from theft. But you also want the things that are important to you to be safe from getting bruised or broken. If your contractor is moving furniture for you, it behooves you to take care of anything that's an heirloom or that would devastate you if it was damaged during the renovation.
Check outside when the renovation is done
Some contractors clean up the work area better than others. There might be an errant piece of tile or a few wood pieces you're not aware of on your front lawn because you typically come and go through the garage. But you can be sure your neighbors will be aware! If you've already pushed the limits of their patience with the constant sound of power tools, now's the time to make sure your front yard isn't an eyesore.