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Renovation Solutions: How to survive a renovation

Published: Friday, Aug. 10 2012 4:45 p.m. MDT

After: Living through the remodel was painful for this client but in the end it was worth it to have a beautiful new kitchen.

Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group

Many of those who remodel choose to stay in their home while it is being renovated. In terms of saving money, this isn’t a bad idea. It is definitely more cost-effective than renting a place for the few months your house will be torn up. However, this decision is not an easy one to live with; it will test your patience to the max!

Many of our clients know first-hand how hard it is to live through a residential remodel. Here are some hard truths and some helpful tips those clients have given us. These people have coexisted with a construction zone and lived to tell about it.

Truth: There will be dust.

Tip: Get over it.

We said there will be dust. We meant there will be a lot of dust.

We try to warn our clients that construction is messy and loud, but they don’t really understand what that means until they are in the thick of it. They get that it will be dusty, but what they don’t realize is that the dust travels to every part of the house.

In one case, the dust was so bad that a client of ours had to replace his furnace because it was choked with dust. They were remodeling in the winter, so the furnace was on continually during construction.

Another client said the dust almost drove her crazy. She said that she finally just had to change her attitude. “All I could do was grin and bear it,” she said. Grin, that is, and keep vacuuming until the contractors were finished.

Truth: You may have no kitchen for months.

Tip: Get creative at meal time.

A kitchen remodel is one of the most common types of remodels we see. If you are remodeling that part of your house, you will definitely miss the days of having a fully functioning kitchen. It is not uncommon to be without a kitchen for six weeks or more.

Living in a house without a kitchen is doable, but it isn’t easy. One client with this particular challenge said she was planning to cook outside on the BBQ during those six weeks to avoid eating out every night. The problem she didn’t foresee was the aforementioned dust, which made it difficult to find a clean area to prepare food. She did do a lot of grilling, but she also had family close by.

“We spent a lot of nights cooking and eating in my sister’s kitchen,” she said. “We survived because we had somewhere to run to when we couldn’t stand eating out another night.”

Truth: Your house is a construction zone and will be dangerous at times.

Tip: Take safety precautions to protect your family and pets.

Your house is not a sanctuary during construction. It is literally a construction zone and should be treated as such.

You probably don't need to wear a hard hat in your own house, but you should be aware of hazards. If you have small children or pets, be careful to pick up any runaway nails. Most contractors pick up the job site every day, but if you are there all the time, you will be living with power tools, building supplies, holes in the floors and wall, exposed wires, and so on. It is best to distance yourself from the work. Doing so gives the workers space to execute your project and keeps your family safe.

Truth: It will be noisy, and the noise will make you crazy sometimes.

Tip: Have an escape plan.

Many of our clients have told us finding somewhere to go to get away from it all helped them get through a renovation.

Some kept one room in the house free from boxes and clutter. Here, you can somewhat escape the chaos of construction by simply closing the door.

While one part of the house is being worked on, other parts of the house become more like a storage unit. Unless you actually store your furniture and possessions off-site, many of your rooms will become a catch-all for boxes, furniture, accessories and everything else. It is important to keep at least one area free from all that mess to provide a calm space amid the chaos.

Others find sanctuary in a nearby neighbor or relative’s house. If you want to go elsewhere, watch for hotel and resort weekend specials in your area. Find a port in the storm.

Whether you get out of the house completely or close off the clutter, having a safe, calm place will help you remember that the construction will eventually end. Fortunately, it doesn’t last forever, though it may sometimes feel like it.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and cofounders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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