The plans are approved, the contract is signed and work on your home renovation is about to begin. But you’re nervously waiting for the demolition to start and the dust to start flying – literally! Here are 10 things to expect during the renovation that can allay your fears and prepare you for what lies ahead.

1. Expect a noisy mess!
photo messy renovation

A renovation can be a noisy, dusty mess!

There is going to be dust everywhere and incessant noise. The sound of nail guns, power saws, compressors and the constant chatter of workers are all part of the daily ritual. If you normally work from home, try to find somewhere else for your own peace of mind.

To control dust, a good home renovation crew will put up temporary zip walls or even compression walls to keep the dust out of the other parts of your home. Another way to limit the dust particles is by putting in air filtering systems called air handlers, which are designed to pull the dust out of the air and duct it to the outside of the house. If possible, heat the house without your furnace, or completely block the warm-air and cold-air return vents in the construction area, so you’re not pulling dust from there throughout the house. Before blocking ducts, call an HVAC company to make sure your furnace will still work effectively.

2. Consider moving out! (No, really! Or at least take a vacation during the crunch period.)

Renovating is a dirty, dusty business, and living in a construction zone with drywall dust on your pillow can be stressful… especially when you can’t even launder your dusty pillowcase because the water is turned off! Consider moving to the in-laws, the grandparents, an extended stay hotel with kitchen or even rent a home on Airbnb or VRBO. But if you are bound and determined to live in your home while it’s being overhauled, please read on.

3. If you’re staying put, find alternate spaces to perform daily routines.

If you’re doing a kitchen makeover, you likely won’t be able to use your fridge, stove, sink or dishwasher. So you will need to find another space in your home to do all the regular kitchen chores. Maybe that means moving your microwave to the garage or washing your dishes in the bathtub – whatever works for you! But you’ll need to designate zones for cooking and cleaning up or else things may get ugly. On the plus side, you can plan on dining out a lot more!

4. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Your first decision is the most important one – whom to hire? – and that’s covered in our second chapter. But once the reno begins, there’ll be dozens of seemingly trivial questions that need to be answered quickly. On any reno, ‘the devil is in the detail’, so be ready to answer: Where to locate the dimmers, potlights and power outlets? Which style of faucet? And of course, which of these 14 beige paint chips do you prefer for the powder room? So be decisive. Or delegate smaller decisions to your architect. Every time a decision is delayed there is a knock-on effect that may delay downstream activities that have already been scheduled.

5. Expect the unexpected.

Nasty surprises are bound to occur when demolition exposes hidden problems, especially in an older home renovation. These include asbestos, irregular framing, and antiquated wiring or plumbing that doesn’t meet current building codes. Make sure your budget includes a contingency to cover the cost to correct these issues.

6. Delays.

Let’s face it, stuff happens – trucks break down, people get sick, and sometimes fixtures ordered from the factory take seven weeks instead of four. When delays happen, stay positive, shift gears to focus on another part of the reno instead.

7. Change Orders.

Change orders capture the things that clients decide to add or change during the reno. So when you decide you must have natural stone instead of laminate countertops, you can bet a change order is on the way.

But try to minimize changes to the original plan. Once your home renovation is underway it’s so easy to envision how to make it even better. Resist this temptation! It may add significant cost and time to the budget. And sometimes the contractor will be unable to satisfy your desires because of other jobs in his pipeline. For those added touches you absolutely must have, carefully track all agreed-to changes in writing on a ‘Change Order’ form. This will avoid disagreements at the end of a job that has exceeded the original budget.

8. Take photos.
photo before-during-after

Take photos throughout your reno

Take photos before, during and after the reno. If you’re feeling down mid-reno, take a look at the ‘before’ pictures to remind yourself just how far you’ve come. After the reno is done you can add these photos to the review you write on to help tell your story… a picture tells a thousand words!

9. What you should expect of the Contractor.

Here is a general ‘Code of Conduct’ you should expect from your contractor and his crew:

  • Punctuality. Agree on what time the crew will arrive and leave each day.
  • Respect. They should clean up after themselves each day and show respect for your neighbours and their property.
  • Empathy. They should minimize disruption to the rest of your home, especially dust and noise.
  • Professionalism. No profanity or crude language; No smoking in or around the property; No loud music with explicit lyrics. These are just common sense, really.
10.  … and what the Contractor should expect of you.
  • Communication. First, agree on how best to contact each other – text, phone, e-mail or in-person. Don’t assume they know your concerns, but don’t nag either. Schedule regular recurring meetings for updates. Inspect the work after each major step to address any issues before the next step begins.
  • Decisiveness. Refer back to point 4 above.
  • Prompt payments. The Contractor must manage his cash flow to make payments for materials and his sub-trades, so be sure to adhere to the payment schedule in the contract. And let’s face it, NSF cheques are a nuisance to everybody.
  • Pets. Lock up, or temporarily relocate, any pets that could get in the way of the work. Renos can be stressful for Fido too!
  • Be hospitable. Offer a selection of drinks and snacks during the day – it will create an environment where they’ll want to do great work for you.

About our Survival Guide

Home renovations, whether upgrades, repairs or new construction, are a reality most homeowners face at some point in their lives. While there often seems to be an endless supply of independent contractors or companies available to do the work, finding the best one for the job can often pose a challenge. Although online resources exist for homeowners, there has yet to one that addresses the entire process from start to finish. So the experts at HomeStars have developed a comprehensive guide to help homeowners along every step of the way.

Read our earlier instalments: Getting Started on Your Renovation , Selecting the Right Contractor , The Contract , The Permit

Stay tuned for our final instalment: What to expect AFTER the renovation

Posted by David Bounsall