Your Renovation Survival Guide
Updated: Jul 15
Image by Anna Kireev commissioned by The Home Design Studio
"By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin.
When undertaking any renovation work to your home the key to success is to prepare both mentally and physically.
When working with external contractor/s they often assume that you understand what to expect. The building process is second nature to them, so they forget that the disruption to your day to day routine is affected. This may be the first time you’ve had major works carried out, even if you’re not a first timer its easy to forget what’s involved in the process.
Let’s be honest; starting any project on your home has a major impact on your life, both financially and emotionally, so the most important thing is to have perspective. Just remember that each milestone brings you one step closer to your dream becoming a reality. Whether it’s entertaining in your new kitchen or taking your first shower in the en-suite you’ve always wanted or seeing your child’s face as they see their new room in the extension you’ve just had built for the first time.
Here’s our top 5 tips to surviving the chaos…
TIP #1 – KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT
You’ll develop the patience of a saint with having to manage your day to day routine, the contractor/s, children, grandchildren and other random people coming and going, it will feel overwhelming from time to time but just remember you’ve got this covered!!!
Expect things not to always go to plan. There will always be unexpected challenges. Hang in there, there’s always a solution and your contractor/s will be used to solving these types of issues. With a clear plan of how to bring the project to completion and faith in the people you’ve hired, the end will soon be in sight.
The contractor/s will feel like part of the family, sometimes you might even feel like you talk to them more than your own.
Renovations are very fluid projects so changes are inevitable, this means adjustments will be made to your planned quote to reflect this (up or down). This could be due to unforeseen circumstances or generally design/specification changes to your original plan. Any alterations and costs should be made clear by your contractor/s and reflected in up-to-date quotes, so everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
To avoid any unnecessary surprises with costs, make sure you talk everything through with your contractor/s from the start to ensure changes are minimal.
Delays can/will happen. Renovations are complex projects and changes or delays in materials/orders can add extra time to the process. Changes that you may make from your initial design and quote can impact timings as well so make sure to be as clear as possible from the beginning and keep the lines of communication open with your contractor/s to ensure these are minimal and can be managed as efficiently as possible.
Once your project comes to an end, all the stresses and strains, the early mornings and the disrupted routines will all be a distant memory.
Any permits should be arranged by your contractor/s. Chat through what will be required so you know from the start what to expect and any additional cost that you may not have factored in initially.
When starting a job there’s often lots of waste/rubbish to dispose of, the contractor/s should arrange this for you and have a skip scheduled for the work. This is generally included in your initially quote, but always ask.
TIP #2 - ITS ALL ABOUT THE COMMUNICATION
Once the design and cost have been agreed, and the deposit paid, it’s time to discuss a date for the work to be carried out and the expected plan of action.
Ask as many questions up front, this will help you feel more in control and less stressed about the comings and goings of people in your home, here’s a few examples:
What time will the contractor/s start work?
What time do they finish work?
Will we need a skip?
Will I be without water and or heating and when can I expect this?
Will there be a point where I won’t be able to cook or use the toilet?
Clarify who the best point of contact is to ensure all queries go through one person. If the contractor/s have an office/showroom it’s sometimes better to call them directly so your message is passed on and dealt with efficiently. The project manager may be dealing with other clients at the same time, so this is sometimes easier to ensure your query isn’t lost in the pipeline.
As you won’t be the contractor/s only client you have allow them time to respond. If it’s changes to a plan, they may need a few days to make alterations and check delivery or stock with suppliers. If it’s just a query, then 24hrs is generally a reasonable amount of time to wait on a response.
TIP #3 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO SET BOUNDARIES
This is your home, your space, so make sure you let the team working in your home know where they can and can’t go. Clearly outlining rooms that are out of bounds will minimise any unnecessary mess.
Your contractor/s will need a place to store any tools and materials required for the job, outline from the beginning where this will be. A garage or spare room works well.
If you’re lucky enough to have more than one toilet, consider designating one to the team working on the project. If not, make sure you outline any ground rules, for example, making sure they know not to use your best towels – time to bring out the old tattered ones hidden at the back of the airing cupboard. Remember it’s your home so if you’d rather they didn’t use the toilet speak to your contractor/s before your work is scheduled to start so a portaloo can be arranged (this will generally be incorporated into the cost of the job so make sure to make this clear from the start to minimise unexpected fees).
TIP #4 – BE PREPARED TO PREPARE YOUR HOME
Preparing your home prior to renovations being carried out is a must for your sanity!
Dust and dirt will get everywhere, and I mean everywhere, especially at the start of a project when existing fittings are been removed:
Make sure you keep all doors shut around the house. Roll up old towels and place them at the foot of your doors to stop dirt finding its way in the nooks and cranny’s.
Speak to your contractor/s at the start of a job to find out what protection they’ll supply. Can protective covering be put down on the carpets, can they get anything to cover up doorways when doors or walls between rooms are down?
Become a hoarder of old sheets on the run up to the start of you project so these can be placed over furniture to minimise mess.
Move any fragile or precious items (photos, ornaments, artwork electronics etc.) that you may have in the room or in the high traffic areas where the works being carried out. This will minimise any damage due to accidents or the amount of dust and dirt that can collect on these items.
Try and move large furniture into rooms away from the work. It will make the clear up after a lot more manageable. Anything that can’t be moved cover over with plastic sheeting and or dust sheets or discuss what your contractor/s can do to help.
Agree with your contractor/s where they can park. If there’s any areas on the street they should avoid (warn them of any difficult neighbours) that’s equally important. Most projects will require a few different tradesmen which could mean a couple of vans at your property at anyone time. It’s just as important to make sure they can park as close as possible to minimise wasted time backwards and forwards with materials from the van.
TIP #5 – INVOLVE THOSE AROUND YOU
Neighbours can be tricky to handle; you’ll have the ones that get onboard and are excited for you, and those that will go above and beyond to make your life difficult. Before starting any work make sure you speak to the people on your street (especially those that you know can be more awkward). When people feel like they’re involved in the process they’re less likely to cause any unnecessary issues/complaints.
Renovations can take their toll on your marriage/relationship it’s important for yours and your partner’s sanity to be on the same page from the beginning. Talk through the work and what you both want and don’t want, what you expect from your contractors and most importantly who will take the lead on the project. It’s easier for your contractor/s and for you if they deal with one person directly so information and direction isn’t misinterpreted.
It’s amazing what positive reinforcement does. If your contractor/s are doing a good job, tell them, this way you’ll always know if any problems occur, they’ll go above and beyond to get it done when you need it.
If you have pets, it’s important to either keep them well away from the working areas or arrange for a pet sitter. It can be a really distressing period for animals due to the noises and the disruption to their routines.
Children can be effective just as much as everyone else. Make sure you include them in the discussions, let them know what to expect, and explain any changes to everyday routines and how you’ll tackle these together. Most importantly let them know where they can and can’t go in the house to ensure they don’t find those hidden tools when the team aren’t working.
I hope this helped. Just remember the end result will always be closer than it feels I promise.
If you have any questions about the process I'd love to hear from you.