In the second of my two part series on home renovations, my talented sister-in-law Amy Colton offers her tips for DURING CONSTRUCTION. (See BEFORE RENOVATION tips here)
1-Plan For The Pets
If you are living in the home during construction be sure to make a plan for your pets. The first day our dogs chased a bulldozer around the mud in our back yard, we realized we needed a plan. While the workers loved our pups (except when our male “marked” one of the men’s leather tool belts), it was just easier when the dogs went to live with our son for a few months.
2-Meet the Contractor Every Day
Know what is happening every day. I scheduled a meeting with our contractor for the same time each morning, and he walked me through what would be accomplished that day.
3-Check Progress Daily
Keep a measuring tape handy and check the progress at the end of each day. Reference your house plans and notes often and make a list of questions so you can be sure to address any issues with your contractor. Ask questions if you don’t understand something or want to make a change. Remember, it is MUCH easier to make changes before drywall goes up!
Unlike new construction, renovations come with the inherent issue of “we didn’t know until we got in there.” Your flooring is rotted under the bathroom tile you removed, the wiring is not up to code, the ceiling beams need reinforcing since you removed a support stud. All these things mean more time and more money but knowing it is a possibility can help alleviate stress.
5-Answer A Zillion Questions
Be prepared for questions. There will be what seems like endless questions on issues about which you have no opinion. Do your best to think through your choices (with input from your advisors – architect, contractor, designer) because you will be the one living with it. Do you want to replace the 40 year old insulation in the renovated rooms, where do you want the light switches, where do you want the HVAC vents, what color grout, and on and on.
Be clear about what you are responsible for and what your contractor and/or designer are responsible for. Are you ordering the hardware or are they? Are you buying the light fixtures or are they? Are you scheduling with the wallpaper installer or are they? There are grey areas so it is important to ask questions and take notes!
You may not be able to drop what you are doing and run to the house at any time, but you don’t want the project delayed because the workers need an answer to proceed. FaceTime, texting pictures or just a phone call can help keep the project moving forward.
8-Be Prepared For Delays
Even with the best contractors, some sub-contractors work under what we started calling the 80% rule.
They complete 80% (or less!) of the work, then leave to do 80% (or less!) of someone else’s job. They come back a day or two later to (hopefully) finish the work at your house but they are missing a part and it has to be ordered. Or the part is broken or is the wrong size. They forget to bring the tall ladder, the right wrench or the jigsaw so they have to come back yet again. But it is already Thursday and they decide to wait until next week to return and finish. This is when your patience starts to shred and you are glad you hired your contractor. You have to trust that he will keep your job moving forward, while reassuring you everything is ok so your head stays on your shoulders.
Be generous with your praise of the work. And not just at completion, but all along the way. Many of the builders and subs are real artisans and are proud of the work they do. And you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.
Occasional snacks, coffee, Gatorade or treats are always happy surprises for the team at your house. Especially at the end of a project when you are VERY ready for it to be finished.
11-Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is the key to a happy relationship with your contractor.
Be clear with your expectations but ALSO be realistic, flexible and nice. Ask questions along the way to avoid crises in the end. Sometimes issues come up that are unavoidable. For example, the cooktop vent we selected protruded into the office behind our kitchen resulting in one less shelf in the new office cabinets. We were bummed, but it was unavoidable.
ENJOY your beautiful new space!
Our construction project took 6.5 months, rather than the estimated 4. The price tag was higher than the bid, though many of the added costs were upgrades we made.
Over all it was an exciting and fun experience, and we have new friends for life in our contractor, Salem Forsythe, and all his team. To say nothing of a fantastic group of handymen on call! We LOVE our newly renovated rooms (and the small new space we added), and the project was very well worth the time, price and emotional energy!