How to survive the bomb zone of home renovation

A dust-covered, kitchenless building site has replaced your home. Solution? Move out!

Doing up the house: it may take the builder longer to complete renovation with you in the house, and he will cover that in his price too. It could be worth asking him how much you would save off the contract price if you give him “zero occupancy”.

Doing up the house: it may take the builder longer to complete renovation with you in the house, and he will cover that in his price too. It could be worth asking him how much you would save off the contract price if you give him “zero occupancy”.

 

So you are planning a renovation, your architect has transferred your dream space from the figments of your imagination, on to to A1-sized paper, added a bit of flair along the way, and its only looking out of this world. Granted the project has grown in size from the initial “just a new kitchen with the layout jigged about a bit”.

Now you are taking down the supporting wall to the dining room to get that open-plan feel, retiling the floor and putting in roof lights.

Still, “all the work is concentrated to two rooms and I can make do with the microwave in the utility for a few days and I’ll hardly notice the builders”. Right?

Wrong.

Renovation, even in a small and meagre offering, can be very obstructive and intrusive, and more often than not it involves the kitchen. The heart of the home, the engine room, where dinner is cooked, where homework is done.

I have experienced this from all angles. As a builder where occupants have stayed put thinking, “It’ll be grand”; as a builder where occupants have vacated and left us to it; and as a self-builder where I have stayed put through it myself.

If you have the capacity to vacate to somewhere relatively close by, then it’s a no-brainer. Pack up what you need and leave, let the builder tape up the doors where little to no access is required, protect the floor coverings and get stuck into it, and hopefully he’ll get the job done sometime not too far away from when he said he would.

Really it’s the extent of the renovation that dictates this decision, but that line is very blurred.

Kangos vs PJs

If you are taking away an existing kitchen structure to extend, then I would say you have to move. For everyone’s sake. You will soon get fed up of either being woken up or trying to get yourself out the door while a building crew are going about their day behind the plyed-up door that used to lead you to your essential morning coffee. And vice versa, it’s not the most settling of sights for the crew to be greeted by you in your PJs going about your morning rituals just when they want to get busy with the kangos.

The line becomes less clear when small internal structural work includes tasks such as new floor tiling, new kitchen cabinetry, a bit of replumbing and a new lighting and socket layout, and a small amount of plastering and painting. Now, for sure there are circumstances where you just can’t move. The budget may not allow it and you may have no in-laws around to bunk with, or maybe you just couldn’t entertain that thought anyway. And if that is the case, and you are staying put, then there are a few things you should know.

First, it isn’t going to be easy. Just because you camped for three nights and used a portaloo once in Stradbally doesn’t make you Bear Grylls.

With no functioning kitchen, too many takeaways, the occasional spell with no mains water, a ground floor that’s a maze of your packed boxes of paraphernalia, and washing your dishes in the bath for four weeks, it’s enough to test even the most Zen of minds. The real problem though will be the dust. The incessant dust. Even with thorough site protection, dust will gather around your home. Don’t underestimate the amount of cleaning you will have to do. You will more than likely be starting your day by blowing dust out of your bowl or coffee cup, and that’s on the other side of the taped-up door.

Also, be aware that it will probably take the builder longer to complete the project with you in the house, and he will cover that in his price too. It could be worth asking your builder how much you would save off the contract price if you give him “zero occupancy”. It might cover self-catering accommodation for a week or two.

Frozen food

If it still doesn’t make sense for you to vacate, ask your builder for a temporary mains water sink and cooking hob (if possible) in an alternative room. Be organised. Having a stock of prepared frozen meals will offer some reprieve from too many takeaways.

Renovating is a stressful, noisy and messy time, and that’s before you have to make all those decisions that come with a refurbishment, so it’s best if you can have as much of this done as possible prior to the start date.

There will be a day when you want to just call the whole thing off, but keep reminding yourself of the end result. It will be worth it. If you do decide to stay put, good luck to you . . . and your builder.

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