Renovation: prepare the house + yourself

July 21, 2015

Part 2 in my Renovation Tips Series
Our renovation went smoothly, and I attribute it first to the luck of choosing a good contractor, one who considered schedule and budget as mandates and not “suggestions.” But there are other “musts,” too. So, in Part 2 of “How to survive a renovation”, I’m talking about the things you need to consider — and do– before you start, in order to have an easier time of it.  It comes down to this advice: prepare the house and yourself.

Zip lock the renovation area

The best advice I got was to plastic wrap the renovation area with zip doorways to minimize dust in the rest of the house. Our open floor plan made that more difficult, but we had a zip closure between the hall (our bedrooms area) and the renovation space, and another between the  foyer and the living/rom dining room, the temporary home to our refrigerator.

Yes, zip closures are more expensive than just hanging plastic, but they really did reduce dirt and dust. Worth every penny.

Cover furniture and lamps in adjacent rooms

We bought thin plastic sheeting from a home improvement store and covered everything. This absolutely minimized dust. A must-do.

Empty walls and shelves in adjacent rooms

This was probably overkill, but during drywalling, we didn’t want vibrations to cause pictures to fall or to get dust on upholstery and every knick-knack. So we boxed up the belongs in the rooms adjacent to the kitchen and family room, then covered the boxes with thin plastic wrap. We have no regrets–cleanup was a breeze.

Decide how you are going to live during renovation, namely, where you will prepare food and where you will eat.

Our guest bathroom served as home to the coffee maker, while M’s office held the microwave. We set up a tiny table in the guest room for meals.  It was crowded and a pain in the you-know-what, but we knew it was temporary.

What will you eat?

Our kitchen was being renovated, so we had no stove, no pots and pans, no way to really wash them even if we could get at them. Breakfast was simple–cereal, milk, yogurt, fruit. But for everything else, we either did takeout or microwaved a packaged dinner. A real lifesaver was Whole Foods’ prepared food bar. No question it was pricey, but when we wanted a hot meal and didn’t want to go to a restaurant, that was how we rolled.

Tools-8018163-MedPrepare yourself

The way I looked at it, we could either bitch and moan the whole time or go with the flow. We went with the flow and had no regrets.

We knew that snafus in schedule, budget and work were common in renovation, so we expected them. A few did arise, but nothing that we couldn’t swing. Attitude is everything during a renovation.

Every renovation we know of that has gone bad has done so because of a contractor’s screw-up and usually that he or she fails to take responsibility for it. We can’t emphasize enough the need to go overboard in interviewing contractors and checking their references. Today’s online forums allow customers to have their say and we absolutely did our due diligence. We were thrilled with our contractor. Of course, you can do all the necessary research and still fall victim to some bad luck or a bad attitude. Still, spend as much time as possible researching contractors for yourself. Do not go on a friend’s recommendation.

Once renovation begins, workers will find things that require more budget to fix. In our case, the big, pricey discoveries were that gas lines weren’t run to our fireplaces and more electrical circuits were needed to bring the house up to code.  These weren’t cheap, but we evaluated the pros and cons of making each investment and then decided to go forward.

Next renovation post: our renovation, before and after!

64 comments on “Renovation: prepare the house + yourself
  1. Amy says:

    It’s been a year since our renovations were complete. There were plenty of headaches, but we are glad we had the work done. My advice is to make sure you go with your gut. The construction company we went with had a good reputation, but they didn’t show up the first time for the estimate and showed up late the second time. Why on earth we went with them, I don’t know. The lateness continued. Delays. The finished product is good, but I do wonder if someone else would have done a better job all the way around. Live and learn. I’m glad you’re enjoying your renovations.

    • Your experience reminds me of the adage, ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ But i know why you didn’t change. I have a story coming on that with my designer.

  2. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    When our new kitchen was under construction we set up camp in the laundry room. Well, set up the microwave. Somehow we made it through a few months with only the microwave for cooking.

  3. Haralee says:

    Great tip about the zip closures, and attitude! The dust has really annoyed me in clean-up when we have had some work done and your suggestion would have done better than just the plastic.

  4. I’m reading this as there is banging and hammering going on outside my door, and I’m waiting for a plumber to come and replace a toilet and shower faucets. We are in full remodel! We have been going out to dinner, invited by sympathetic friends or walking up the street to one of 40 restaurants nearby. Thankfully we have a refrigerator and coffeemaker – that’s about all I need. We are definitely going with the flow – there’s no other way to survive remodeling.

  5. Ruth Curran says:

    We are in constant construction zone for the foreseeable future. I did the kitchen first though and have it as my safe zone. Everything we care about is locked away out of harm’s way. Great tips.

  6. Sheryl says:

    I could have used this when we went through a major renovation years ago…but I must admit, I liked being without a kitchen for a time. No cooking to worry about!

  7. T.O. Weller says:

    We purposely bought a property with a shell of a house on it. The whole thing is being finished, all at once. What better way to get the house that we truly want? But, in the meantime, we have to survive it all … there’s only so much money, and paying for separate living quarters for two months wasn’t in the budget.
    My biggest survival tips:
    1. Keep your sense of humor: we laugh at anything, when ever possible. Our little dog helps.
    2. Drive away when necessary: visit family, friends, the library … where ever works to get away and regain your balance and perspective.
    3. Keep your eye on the prize: samples of my selected ceramics, paint colors, counter tops, cabinetry, and hardwood are all together in one place where I can see them at any time. I was even sure to rescue them from the house before the drywall began.
    4. Ease up on yourself: things that you normally do will be harder to do … and sometimes impossible. I haven’t been able to keep up with all of my writing, particularly my blog. I’m living in a trailer/tent so, seriously?!? But that’s okay. It will be there when you’re ready to come back to it.

  8. Heather says:

    This is great! We are looking at replacing the flooring in our home sometime over the next five years, so is good information to have. I didn’t think about separating the work zone from the other areas but it makes perfect sense.

  9. My brother was a builder for many years so I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories where he has had to come in an repair work that was not completed properly in the first place. I’m so happy yours went so well. I can’t wait to see the before and after pictures.

  10. Liz Mays says:

    I’m with you on the sealing off the area. I didn’t do that well enough before and all the dust shut down my furnace!

  11. Although we are not yet in for a home renovation for a few more years, these tips that you mentioned are very good. It is a difficult time to be in a home while repairs are on going, but always remember that it will all be for the best.

  12. Wonderful tips on preparing for a renovation! I know these well as we have done almost everything under the sun in our own home. The one tip I would add to this list is to be sure you give a family member or friend a key to your home. Sometimes emergencies come up and if you have a subcontractor helping you out on a few projects and cannot get across town to let him in, or if he’s locked himself out after leaving for lunch, it can be very stressful. I just rushed across town last week to help out my daughter with her subcontractor because she forgot to have an extra key made to let him in – and she works out of town. Thanks for sharing your projects with us! It will be exciting to see what happens next…

  13. Janie Emaus says:

    But in the end you have a lovely new place to cook. I’d love a larger kitchen. But instead, we may put in a pool!

  14. I haven’t had to live through a major renovation yet. I know that in the next few years, we will have to do a few things to our house. I’m not looking forward to hiring the right contractor but I plan on doing my research first. I always read reviews and get word of mouth recommendations.

  15. This gives me a kind of PTSD just remembering our whole-house renovation. I hope never to do that again!

  16. Elizabeth O. says:

    These are awesome tips. It’s great to hear that yours went well. I hope you will post some photos next time.

  17. CourtneyLynne says:

    These are some great tips! I just did a bunch of painting in our house and omg covering everything so very important

  18. Manu Kalia says:

    Sounds like I’m getting a huge renovation this year. This is huge help.

  19. Lisa Rios says:

    These are all great tips for renovation. We are already planning to renovate our home for this summer. These advises would be very helpful for us. Will definitely share this post with my husband to work out these great ideas.

  20. Lexie Lane says:

    With renovations it’s always hard to tell when it’s all truly going to end. So the situation you will live in is definitely important!

    • Be careful to keep your color choices aligned with the home’s architecture. In other words, don’t add cottage garden-type flowers to a bed in front of a starkly modern home. Certain plants are grown because of their interesting and colorful foliage, such as hosta and coleus, and are better suited to more modern homes. If you have questions about what to plant, consult with the experts at your local nursery.

  21. The right contractors may come cheap or expensive. Don’t rely on the price but check their previous projects and reviews.

  22. Such great info, Carol! We recently added on to our master and the existing master became a new bathroom and walk-in closet. The zip-tie doors would have been great. Dust was everywhere. Our contractor was well known from our church. My hubby is a former master carpenter and literally came home from work every day last fall and corrected some of the work. Even though we felt our contractor was competent, his workers were not trustworthy. It was a stressful time!

  23. I wish I had read this before we started our renovation! Here in France this sort of thing can go on forever…years even. Having a plan to minimise the impact (especially of the dust (summer) and mud(winter) sounds like a very good idea.

  24. Anna Palmer says:

    Oh the dust. I follow all of your tips and still dry wall dust.

  25. Kaitlyn says:

    All of your points are spot-on! Going with the flow is an excellent outlook to have. Visiting prepared food bars is a great tip!

  26. Robert Gill says:


    Thank you for sharing with us.Home renovation is one of the most common and famous way to add a new look to your home. Many homeowners are become very serious for home renovation, you have share here useful and also effective tips for home renovation in efficient way. Use a good paint for your home because painting is one of the easy and best way to give a great and new look to your home and you can also do it yourself.

    I think your tips are very relevant. These tips will be helpful for those people who think home remodeling is stressful work.Looking forward to that kind of post by you.

    Robert Gill

  27. Some renovations is a must and must be done properly by professionals with good feedback’s from past customers.

  28. What a masterpiece. I love the pattern and design. We’re definitely gonna do something like that on our decks. Great job.

  29. McKenzie says:

    This is amazing advice. Thank you for sharing! Trying to minimize the amount of dust traveling through the house is a must!

  30. Always go for reliable contractors on renovating and fixing your homes and masonry services.

  31. John Mahoney says:

    I liked when you talked about planning how you will live while renovating your house. It makes sense that keeping this in mind can help you find the best way to make changes to your home. I can see that contacting a professional to help you can prove useful and safe for your family.

  32. Steps NJ says:

    It can create an appealing image that can cater to your changing needs such as for entertainment purposes or in cases of parties.

  33. Adding up some cool design on your house like these really pops out and adds some more value to the house.

  34. Some renovations is a must and must be done properly by professionals with good feedback’s from past customers.

  35. Raymond Grey says:

    I really appreciate the insight here in this post and confident it’s going to be helpful to me and many others. Thanks for sharing all the information and useful tips.

  36. Selene says:

    Wow, awesome post! Definitely some very helpful tips, sealing off the area is certainly an essential. You don’t want the rest of your house getting nasty and adding to your stress. Thanks for sharing!

  37. You have to be extra careful, so ensure that you have hired the best contractor that can meet your expectations for your chosen renovation projects.

  38. And unless you have been formally trained in how to install new doors, then it is best to hire one of the many professional companies.

  39. Wow, amazing post! Definitely some very helpful tips, especially how you are going to live during renovation? Keep on sharing more stuff like this. 🙂

  40. Esther Diaz says:

    Great points! Thank you for sharing this. I’m planning to do some renovation for this year. Anyways, great read! Awesome post.

  41. Arthur says:

    Hello The dust has really annoyed me in clean-up when we have had some work done and your suggestion would have done better than just the plastic.

  42. Carolyn says:

    Being prepared mentally is a must,as is being prepared for dust, more dust, and some more dust months after the job is done!

  43. Ella Walker says:

    With redesigns it’s in every case hard to advise when it’s everything genuinely going to end. So the circumstance you will live in is unquestionably vital!

    It’s extraordinary to hear that yours went well. I trust you will post some photographs next time.

  44. Afrin says:

    Nice! thought. We all know that if we follow all ideas carefully so definitely get the best result. In the renovation process make sure don’t waste a large amount of money.
    If you plan for renovation in the right way so, you can save your time and also money.

  45. Archant NZ says:

    In renovating your home, it is important to consider also on what kind of stories to tell in that renovated area, so you could picture out the designs and the things to add after.

  46. Alex kevin says:

    Hey! Thank you for the article,
    I like your idea very much I am also looking for home improvement ideas and now I will follow your instructions, thanks a lot for sharing

  47. Thanks for the post! How much does it cost to completely renovate a house?

  48. Renovating a house is a lot of work. It needs to be done properly and safely to make sure of the quality of work.

  49. The professional contractor accepts responsibility. Not to mention, the years of their experience and knowledge. They definitely understand how a home is built and what process is better if you chose it to be remodeled.

  50. Very informative! For an idea of how to maximize a space for Rooms,kitchen etc. Usually the lights that meant to put in a cove and emphasize a wall is called Cove lighting.

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