One of the best things about being a co-host on HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds is that a client’s indoor quality of life can go virtually uninterrupted while major updates happen outside the home.
But don’t be mistaken: I’m no stranger to the everyday compromises of living through full-scale interior renovations. I began my career as a house flipper and have lived through the rubble… from being forced to shower at the gym to washing dishes in the bathtub. I’ve also worked with plenty of homeowners who have been subjected to the same circumstances.
Suffice to say, I’m here to tell you that yes, it’s possible to renovate and stay sane! Here’s how.
The contractor-client relationship is a coveted bond of trust, reliance and companionship. You need each other to make this work. Start by having three different companies quote your project. You need to see what’s out there before you “swipe right” and choose your person. Trust your instincts and don’t base your decision solely on price. Imagine if you could get references from your dates before meeting them for dinner – well in this case, you can and you should.
Create a Sanctuary
If you’re unable to move out during the renovation, use plastic to protect areas that are not being renovated (tip: opt for a plastic zipper tarp for sealed doorways). Make sure to designate either an untouched space or a fully finished room as your sanctuary, which you’ll need in order to stay sane after a long day of work.
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned demolition day? I’ll tell you who doesn’t: the guy whose contractor didn’t turn the furnace fan off before starting. He hates demo day because he has dust all over his space. When dust is flying through the air, close exposed vents and shut off that furnace!
Get Extra Protection
If you’ve ever been through a renovation, chances are there’s that one scratch on your new floor that you spot every time you walk past it, which could have been avoided. Negotiate extra site protection with your contractor before things begin, as well as throughout the reno process as finishes are installed. Accidents happen, but fewer do when you’re protected and prepared.
Create a Makeshift Kitchen
Build a temporary kitchen using old cabinets in a different area of your home – you’ll thank me later. Even a basic counter set up with snacks, coffee and a toaster oven will make a difference.
Seek a Stand-In Countertop
If you’ve opted for a sparkly new stone countertop like the one pictured above, you’ll run into a dead period where nothing happens; the cabinets are in and the countertop company has taken templates of the space, but work is stalled until the countertops arrive, usually 10-14 days later. Two weeks is a long time for sub-standard living, but if you have a good relationship with your contractor, he may install temporary 1/2″ melamine countertops and a makeshift sink so you can use the space while you wait.
If your kitchen is out of commission during the reno process, prepare yourself with healthy take-out options to make dinners easy. And plan more meals out with friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with!
Take a Vacation
Oh, and that family vacation you’ve been meaning to book? Take it, enjoy it and let your contractor battle the demons behind your walls. This option isn’t for everyone, but if you have faith and trust in your contractor or designer, it can save your sanity.
Set Aside Funds
Renovations are always more work than you think, and most run over budget. Make sure you have a contingency fund so you aren’t strung out when surprises arise – because they will.
Envision The End Goal
Remodels are stressful, there’s no doubt about it. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember, this too shall pass. Reference your inspiration photos and visualize your first dinner party in your beautiful new space.