If you read our blog, you may recall me mentioning that we are starting a huge renovation project at our home. We moved into our “new” home in August of 2014. The house was built in 1929 and the family that preceded us had been living in it for 40 years. Many of the original features are intact (some are charming and others not so much). We are remodeling the home to suit our needs as a 21st century family. In phase one, we are taking on garage level and remodeling it to include a guest room, home-office and laundry room. When that is complete, we will begin phase two and remodel the upstairs living space to give the kitchen, bathrooms and master suite a much-needed update. We are planning to live through the construction, living upstairs when the contractors are downstairs, and moving down when the contractors move up.
Getting your home ready for a major remodel is time consuming. Inevitably you are packing up some (or most) of your belongings and will not see them for an extended period (in our case, more than nine months). We are in the process of doing just that, so I thought it might be useful to put together my list of critical things to consider.
Packing and storage. For us, the most critical rooms to pack are our kitchen, bathrooms and home offices. I like to start the process by making a list of everything we store in these rooms (this will be useful when considering other design choices down the road). Then, I think about how long the project will take and what I can live without during that period. For example, do I really need to make homemade ice cream, or can the ice cream maker go into storage? How much do we really use the blender anyway? Do we really need 5 serving platters and service for 12 (since most likely we won’t be entertaining when the house is torn apart)? You have to be ruthless and, as you can see above, the process results in many, many boxes.
As far as the location of storage, if you have a room that you do not need during the project, store your things there because it is free (during one kitchen remodel we piled boxes up around the perimeter of our living room because our kids were small and we weren’t spending much time in the space). But, if you don’t have extra space, consider whether you want to rent a storage unit in a self-storage facility (you’ll be responsible for transporting your items), hiring a moving company to pick up and store your items, or using a pod service. We are going with the latter option – the “pod” will be delivered, we pack it ourselves, and the company takes it away. Because our project is staged, we are thinking about how to pack the pod so that we can access the items we need at the mid-point without unpacking and repacking the entire container.
Parking. Most likely, your contractor will want to protect his tools from being stolen and from the elements. Assuming this is the case, you may have to sacrifice your garage for the sake of the project. So, consider purchasing any necessary parking permits. The last thing you need to add to your construction costs are parking tickets.
Laundry. Again, you may lose your garage and if your washer and dryer are located in the garage you will need to consider what you will do about laundry. Lucky for those of us in SF, there are a number of pickup/delivery laundry services. We recently tried the getwashio.com laundry service. (Link here.) The scheduling app was easy and the clothes were clean, but the clean laundry was delivered 12 hours later than expected. I assume this was a fluke, but next time we will try their competitor Rinse.com. (Link here.) Hopefully they will be more prompt.
Dust. Consider how to minimize the dust. In our case, we are going to seal off the heater, vents, and stairwell to the lower level. Since we have pretty mild winters in San Francisco, it shouldn’t be a problem to grab an extra blanket at night. If you live someplace with colder temperatures, it is definitely something to consider when scheduling your project.
Separately, plan ahead for cleaning up the rooms of the house that will be “untouched” during demolition. If you use a housecleaner, schedule some extra time in the first weeks.
Delay. When you are living through a project, the clock is ticking from day one. So, what can you do to avoid delay? On some level, delay is inevitable. You never know what you are going to find when you start opening up walls and there is always some surprise (especially if your home is almost 90 years old). One way I like to avoid delay is by making my design decisions and ordering the fixtures, tile, lighting, etc., before the project begins. I don’t want to find out that the tile I love is backordered when I am in the middle of construction. The other thing I like to do is ask for a week-by-week schedule from my contractor. That way, if I see that we have not completed something on time, I can talk to him about how to make up the time someplace else.
Unfortunately, you cannot plan for everything during a remodeling project. There will be surprises, frustration, and there will be days when you ask yourself if it is all going to be worth it. Hopefully, if you have planned ahead to make your life as easy as possible during the construction, you will make it through relatively unscathed and be ready to enjoy your newly remodeled home.