should you live through your renovation?
Updated: Sep 6
It's the million dollar question we get asked all the time as we're helping our clients plan their renovation: should I attempt to live through this?!? Well as you'd expect, it's a complicated answer based on so many factors. Your life situation, the length of time, your threshold for dust, just to name a few! Here are some things to consider...
The size of your project is the #1 factor. If you're renovating your master bathroom and can share one with the kids for a couple of months, that's a no brainier. Just stay! If you're going to be without a kitchen for three months, that starts to get a little trickier. You can only eat SO MUCH microwave Ramen. Remodeling the entire downstairs of your house? That is when you're really going to want to start weighing the pros and cons. If every moment of your life at home is going to be impacted by the construction, it's time to consider whether temporary lodging might be for you.
If you decide that you don't want to live through your renovation, you'll need an extra funds per month to stay somewhere else, whether that be an extended stay hotel, Air B&B, or a home rental for the duration of the construction. Staying at home takes that out of the equation. You may have family in town that will let you crash with them, but that comes with it's own set of issues! Staying through your renovation can save you some money, but it does come at a cost, including...
Little known fact - if you live through your renovation, it will take longer. And not just a little bit longer. In this un-scientific estimate based on my experience, I'd say it can add about 25% more time to the length of construction. Why? Well, there are a couple of factors like...
OK guys, I mean this with all of the love and empathy in the world, but you living through the renovation will slow things down because of YOU. And before you think I'm throwing stones, it would be completely true of me too. The more time you spend on the construction site, the more questions you will have. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of questions! "When will [insert miletone here} get done? Is that how it's supposed to look? Why was nobody on the jobsite yesterday? Well, seeing this halfway done now I'm not sure that's what I want. When will the electricians be here next?!" On and on and ON. And hear me, it's fine to have questions. You definitely want to know what's going on and have an open line of communication with your contractor so that you are comfortable with the process and get the end result you're after. But there are just going to be days where work doesn't happen because of scheduling and inspections. And other times where the contractors are working through an issue and they would maybe be able to work through it faster if they knew your ear wasn't listening from the next room! Working through those things are what construction is all about, and why you hire an expert in the first place. It's typically a WHOLE LOT BETTER for all involved if those contractor conversations happen weekly and not hourly.
If you are living there, especially with children, and the construction area isn't fully separated from your living space, the contractors will need to clean the work area each evening before they close up shop, picking up saw blades, nails, and anything else that can harm little people. All of that takes time at the end of the day. Time that could be spent laying another room of tile or getting another wall framed. And even still, an active construction site is always going to be dangerous, no matter how great a job the trades do at keeping things tidy. Definitely something to consider if you have curious kids (or pets). And if anyone at home has bad allergies or asthma issues that would be triggered by dust, that's a recipe for disaster.
There is absolutely no getting around this - construction is MESSY and UNCOMFORTABLE. Demo creates more dust than you can possibly imagine. There can be hours or days without electricity, air conditioning, or running water. You will have things that belong in one room crammed into other rooms and in your way. It's like camping, but for months. Doesn't that sound FUN!?!? Well, it isn't! Ha. If I could wave a wand and somehow make living through a renovation more tolerable, I would wave it until my arm fell off. But it's just hard. And if you're someone who can handle some mess, then it may totally be for you. But if you're more of a Four Seasons gal than a Camping In the Wilderness gal, you might want to think twice about it!
If you travel a lot for work and are only home from time to time, it really may not effect you much at all! But if you're a homeschooling family or work from home full time, let's just say get ready for nail guns shooting into concrete literally every time you try to take a conference call. On the other hand, living in a temporary space that's 45 minutes away from all of your life activities - school, work, gymnastics, family, whatever - might prove to be more of a pain in the rear than just enduring the renovation will be. Only you know your tolerance in that arena!
SO... WHAT DO I DO?!?
Well as you can imagine, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. But I'll share these final thoughts:
Consider a hybrid solution. Move out during the worst bits, which include demolition, times you'll be without consistent electricity and power, during painting, and floor refinishing. Anything that is super stinky or super dusty might be a great time to take a little weekend getaway, cash in some hotel points, or go visit grandma and grandpa.
Don't move back in too soon. If you do decide to seek shelter elsewhere, no matter how tempting it is, DO NOT MOVE HOME TOO SOON. Often because of budget or just plain old being tired of sleeping somewhere else, homeowners are always tempted to come home about 2 weeks before a project is finished. Your body and your family and your stuff are going to land right in the middle of what is usually the final sprint. It will be endlessly frustrating for you that dust will be covering everything as you are trying to get settled. And those final punch list items (paint touch ups, attaching baseboards, installing cabinet hardware, etc.) will just take that much longer. It's so much better to wait and then have your house totally to yourself and not have a bunch of extra people in it!
But honestly, if your project is large and if you can afford it, just move out. Renovations are stressful and not being faced with it every moment of every day is a luxury. It might not be doable for your situation, but if it is, you will thank yourself!!!
And, for a humorous little peek into what our DIY kitchen renovation looked like (and how it grew to be a BIT more than we had planned), check out this post.
This was by no means a comprehensive list of considerations, so please leave a comment and share your experiences and tips below!