6 Tips to Survive Living At Home During A Renovation


You’ve hired your contractor, created a budget and settled on a start date.  The initial pieces of the renovation puzzle are in place, but now it’s time to decide whether to live at home amidst the work or move out.  For some of us, adding the expense of a short-term rental or intruding on family and friends for months just isn’t possible.  So how do you make it work?

1)  Maintain at least one ‘work-free’ room.

You simply cannot stay at home if your project does not allow for a space that is unaffected by the renovation.  Whether it is a bedroom, a study or a dining room, you’ll need an area that can be sectioned off from all of the dust and debris that will accumulate.  If you can’t fit a bed in that area, well you might be out of luck for sleep!  The size of your renovation will certainly dictate your decision to stay or go, but if getting out isn’t an option, create a space that is free and clear from work areas.

2)  Organize, organize, organize.

Organization is the key to maintaining your sanity during a renovation.  You’re bound to feel ‘shut out’ of the parts of your home that are going through demolition.

Pre-plan as best you can.  Will you need a clear path to access your bathroom?  Is there a section of your home that you can set up for cooking?  Where will you store all of your glassware, dishes, pots and pans?  Will you need access to closets that are in work areas?  Where will you store all of the components prior to installation?  By being diligent in readying yourself for your project, you’ll find that the post clean up and reorganizing will take half as long.     

3)  Make a plan for meals.

If your kitchen is part of your renovation plan, understand that you’ll be without it for weeks.  Thus, solutions here revolve around either budgeting for a rather hefty amount of eating out or creating space to set up a temporary kitchen.  Purchase an inexpensive microwave (or use one you already have) for low cost meal solutions.  If you’re replacing your refrigerator, it’s a great idea to keep your old one around until the very end of the project.  Plug it in somewhere out of the way, and you’ll be able to keep and use those perishables.  As far as dishes go, you’ll certainly need running water to wash them.  If the bathroom sink or tub isn’t available, spend just a bit extra on paper plates and plastic utensils.

4)  Keep conversations with workmen to a minimum.

One advantage of staying at home throughout a renovation is being present to make immediate decisions.  You’re able to oversee the work and very often catch issues before they occur.  However, too much getting in the way can impede progress.  There’s a natural tendency to want to “check in”.  It’s your home after all, and you want to make sure everything is being done to your satisfaction.  Keep in mind though that the more time you spend talking to individuals on the work crew, the less time they’re spending completing their tasks.  Be in touch with your contractor about updates and mistakes or if there’s a foreman on your project, make them your point person for all issues.  By channeling information through one source, you’ll save yourself time and money in the end.     

5)  Anticipate a short term accommodation.

It happens during most renovations.  Water lines are shut off.  Toilets are removed.  Bathtubs are taken out.  Electricity gets turned off.  So plan accordingly.  If you’re working with one bathroom that is included in the project, you’re likely looking at a night or two without the toilet.  A shower may be out of service for much longer due to tub replacements, pipe changes, dry walling and tiling.  Manage your timeline with your contractor to keep those bathroom breaks in check.    

6)  Plan for delays.

If your renovation is completed on time, consider yourself very lucky.  Surprises almost always pop up, and you can rarely anticipate them.  Be realistic, and plan well upfront with your contractor.  Remember that delays happen mostly due to poor planning and preparation.  If you’re waiting on materials, you ordered them too late.  If your electrician isn’t available on Monday, you waited too long to schedule them.  Very often, renovations tend to linger towards the end of the process.  Contractors start new jobs, and small tasks left in your home may end up on the back burner for scheduling.  Continue to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and stay on top of pushing everyone to that finish line.      

Whether it’s a couple weeks or a few months, there’s no doubt that occupying your home through a renovation is no easy feat.  There’s a sense of displacement that comes with the territory no matter how much you try and prevent it.  Ready yourself beforehand, plan for a longer haul than expected, and remind yourself that after your renovation is complete, falling in love with your home all over again makes it all worth it.