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Wouldn’t it be great if you could say hello to your home renovation—and goodbye to your house at the same time? That would allow you to leave behind all that construction mess while your place gets a face-lift.
Alas, most of us can’t afford to pay for a mortgage and a long-term rental, leaving us to juggle trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy (and sanity) while living in a home during a renovation.
So whether you just moved into a new home that needs work or are finally tackling your long list of renovation projects, we put together a list of pro tips to help you survive a live-in renovation. Here are six expert insights you’ll want to know.
1. Set a timeline
The first thing you’ll want to do when planning for a renovation is to set a start date—and an end date. Although it’s likely to change, having a rough timeline in place will help you track your project’s progress and help you plan financially (and logistically) for it.
“Figure out what needs to happen first,” says interior designer Raf Michalowski, of Meble Furniture. “Then plan out the order of renovations so that if something isn’t going as planned, it won’t affect the progress of other sections.”
For example, you might be on a tight timeline to finish the messier aspects of a renovation (like installing wood flooring) before your new furniture arrives.
Keeping realistic expectations of long projects will help you avoid snafus like a truckload of new furniture and nowhere clean to store it.
2. Break down large tasks
Start mapping out the big-picture tasks before your project truly kicks off. And then figure out the baby steps it takes to get there.
“It’s important to break down larger projects into smaller tasks and order them based on priority,” says DIY expert Tommy Mellow, of A1 Garage Door Service.
So if you’re redoing an entire kitchen with all new appliances, map out where they will go (and what electric or plumbing work needs to be done to accommodate them) before you start building cabinets or painting walls.
3. Prep your space
Whenever you’re renovating a space while living in it, it’s essential to ensure the projects don’t affect your daily life more than necessary.
“You can prepare for the dust and noise by covering furniture and sealing off areas of the home,” says Mellow.
To protect your home, invest in protective plastic barriers like ZipWall (which is just what it sounds like). These handy plastic dividers will help contain the mess to just the areas under construction.
Other ideas include getting throwaway booties (to avoid messy footprints) or strategically placing mats for wiping dirty shoes.
“Also, communicate with your contractors to ensure that the project stays on track and that you have access to the areas of the home that you need,” says Mellow.
So don’t renovate every single bathroom in your home all at once. And make sure you have spaces to eat, work, and rest.
4. Plan your work wisely
Another critical aspect of keeping your project on schedule while maintaining some semblance of a regular schedule? Planning when and how the work will happen.
“Schedule noisy or disruptive tasks when they will least affect your daily routine,” advises DIYer Benas Leonavicius, of Home Caprice. “And remember, it’s OK to take breaks and step away from the project when needed. Your home is still your home, not just a construction site.”
Besides keeping noisy tasks time-boxed, it’s also a good idea to think about big-picture stuff, like any holidays or life events. Remodeling projects can often be delayed by several weeks, depending on product and contractor availability. So don’t plan to host Thanksgiving dinner the week after your dining room is scheduled to be completed!
5. Keep it safe
Don’t lose track of your overall health and safety when you enter the trenches of a long home project.
This might be as simple as wearing protective gear or keeping tools and toxic chemicals away from pets and kids.
“And ensure that your contractors are cleaning up after themselves and not leaving loose nails all around your home,” says home expert Stephane Achille, of House and Tech. “Also, get the air purifier up and running. A high-capacity air purifier is an essential investment for any remodeling projects that include putting up new walls or taking them down.”
6. Find accommodations in advance
If you plan to have any work done that involves painting or other chemical fumes, it’s a good idea to sleep elsewhere for a few nights. You can save some money (and stress) by making these plans ahead of time. Talk to friends or family who can host you, or consider booking a hotel.
“For some remodeling projects like floor refinishing, it may not be feasible to live in your home while the work is taking place,” says Achille. “The smell of the varnish is unbearable.”
Coordinate with your contractors to better understand when specific tasks will take place, then schedule your absences around that. Try to book your stay with hotels with free cancellation policies. That way, you can avoid paying any additional fees if plans change.