As an architect and homeowner who is currently remodeling, I thought it would be fun to write a blog post about living in your house as it is being remodeled. Here are some of the pros and cons as I see it and some helpful “how-to” info to keep you sane.
Be realistic. When deciding whether or not it will be possible to remain in your house while it is being remodeled consider some of the following:
Project budget: The price of remodeling is more than just construction costs, there are architectural design and structural engineering fees as well as costs associated with permitting and inspections. Staying in your home while remodeling can reduce the overall project budget by eliminating the cost of temporary housing during construction.
Project complexity: staying in your home while remodeling can add complexity to the methods and sequence of construction. Discuss with your contractor if the added complexity of remaining in your home during construction would extend the construction schedule thereby offsetting the potential savings earned by not moving out.
Personal standards: Have a frank discussion with yourself and family about what it will mean to live in a construction site for an extended period of time. Remodeling is a stressful process and adding in the daily noise, mess and inconvenience created by construction activity may be too much to handle.
Toxic materials: Old houses can contain some pretty bad stuff, lead and asbestos being the most common contaminants. If you suspect toxic materials exist, discuss with your contractor, perform the necessary testing and find out for sure. If remediation is necessary, make a plan to be out of the house during the toxic material removal. Similarly, some materials can have a toxic period during installation like the finishing for hardwood flooring. Again, arrange to be out of the house during the finishing of hardwood floors.
Have a plan. Begin by engaging your general contractor with a thorough conversation about the feasibility of living through the remodel. Discuss the full scope of work and its impacts on your ability to remain living in the house. If you both decide it is possible, here are some things to consider:
Scope of work: It will be easier to stay if there is a clear boundary where the new construction begins and ends. Being able simply stay out of the construction zone is best and can include creating separate access for contractors and residents. Tracking construction dust and debris throughout your living zone on a daily basis, ugh.
Mechanical systems: Does your home have forced air heat? Ducts can provide a route for dust to travel between spaces you may have thought were isolated. Remember, since you are staying in the house, the heat has to stay on. Speaking of heat, what time of year will your remodel be happening? If your project involves replacing HVAC equipment, you may be without heat or A/C for an extended period.
Cooking and cleaning: If you are redoing the kitchen consider the following; doing dishes in a bathroom sink is pretty unpleasant. Access to another sink – laundry, utility or otherwise can be a life saver. If you do not currently own these, I would suggest investing in a portable electric countertop burner and toaster oven. Both can be had for under $100. It is pretty amazing what you can cook with these two simple appliances. Grilling outside is also a great way to cook with less dishes and mess.
Finally, communication is really the most important part about living through a remodel. Having good, clear communication with your contractor will allow you to plan properly and minimize the disruption of living through a remodel.