DIY Building & Installing

Where to Live When You Renovate

Here's how to decide whether to move out during construction.
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How Much Mess Can You Stand?
Do you want to live in a work site? Do you want the sawdust sneezes every morning and plaster dust on your blue suit at the office?

Demolition is loud, dusty work and a taste of things to come. At best, the mess is a hassle and, you may discover, too much to live with. If you haven’t already made arrangements, it’s not too late to go live someplace else for the duration of construc­tion. Think about it this way: you know how black clothes always seem to attract lint or dandruff? Then how will you feel if your whole life has lint on it? The lint will actually be sawdust and gypsum dust, but believe me, it’ll be omnipresent. If you have the option, live somewhere else. At least figure out with your contractor when in the process the plumbing won’t be working, the roof will be open, or other basic com­forts unavailable to the residents, and arrange to be someplace else then. If you plan to stay in the house, you need to expect the arrival of workers at an early hour. Some may want to work into the evening, too. The life of the house will be disrupted. Prepare yourself and your family.

How Big is Your Remodeling Project?
If your remodeling is the sort that won’t take more than a day or two—refacing the kitchen cabinets, say, or adding a deck or patio—then moving out of your home is probably quite unnecessary. On the other hand, if you are putting on a big addition or if major plumbing work will put your bathrooms out of commission, you should make arrangements to live someplace else for a time.

What Quality of Life Issues are Important to You?
This is an important quality-of-life issue. Don’t just dismiss the notion of mov­ing out as too expensive. Don’t resign yourself to living with the mess, noise, and dis­order without giving the alternatives due consideration.

Look at it this way: A prolonged home renovation project is a tremendous dis­ruption in the life of a household. No, it isn’t up there with such stressors as a major illness, a death in the family, or a job loss, but it is among the most stressful circum­stances a relationship or a family can face. Everyday patterns and schedules will be out the window. Financial worries are inevitable. Especially with small children, there may be significant safety concerns. The peace and quiet of your home sweet home will be shattered.

Options for Where to Live During Remodeling
Now, you do have some options. Staying with friends or family is an inexpen­sive one. Taking a room (or rooms) at a nearby hotel is a more costly alternative. For a major job that will take a month or more, renting or subletting an apartment or house nearby may make sense.

How about going on vacation while the work is being done? I know people who’ve done that and come home to completed work, relieved at not having had to live through the process. But I also know others who returned to a job that was less than perfect, and who have regrets that they weren’t there to supervise construction. Don’t go away for the duration of construction unless you are comfortable with leav­ing the supervision entirely to your designer, contractor, or construction manager.

If you insist upon taking the grin-and-bear-it approach, do yourself a favor. At the very least, develop a back-up plan that will allow you to escape for a few days. Per­haps it’s simply a matter of segregating a small sum to pay for a few days in a motel when the frustration peaks. Have a conversation with an old friend whom you’ve been promising to visit—a weekend away will give you a break from the action.

In talking the construction process through with your contractor, ask him what he thinks. If you learn the house really won’t be habitable for a time, add another line item to the budget for alternative living accommodations. Your marriage or relationship, even your mental health, may depend upon it.