If you’re planning a major home renovation and thinking about living on-site while the work’s done, it’s important to make sure you know what to expect. Staying in the home you are working on has several advantages, including saving money, you are always nearby for builders’ queries, and it also means the property is more secure than if it is left vacant. As your home insurance can be invalidated if you leave the property empty for longer than 30 days, it pays to stay put unless you make arrangements with your insurer first.
We won’t lie and say living on site is easy, but understanding what’s involved will mentally prepare you and hopefully give you some renovation survival tips along the way. We’ve come up with a list of the good the bad and the ugly, as advised by the people who’ve been there and done it.
At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer a wide range of home renovations.
So what are your temporary housing options if renovating?
Live with your relatives
For some, this will be the standout option but is only possible if you have family living close to your job and, ideally, the building site. Also, dependent on having a solid relationship that can withstand the stress of co-living. Cost? Negotiable.
An arrangement between the sitter (you, the renovator) and the homeowner (who needs someone to live in their home while they are temporarily away). Contact housesit agencies to register your interest, location and timeframe. Cost? Minimal, usually just an agency registration fee. The sitter typically lives rent-free but may have to walk pets and sometimes the timings won’t fit your renovation’s timings.
Again, it depends on timings and location but may work a treat if looking for a flexible short-term accommodation solution without big overheads. Works best when an established household of occupants welcomes the renovator’s contribution to rent and living costs but is not dependant on it. Cost? Negotiable depending on the length of stay and room occupied.
This will give you somewhere private to sleep and keep you’ close to the action’ of the renovation. But it will mean noise from 6 am, and you may be in the way of the builder too. Cost? 10s of 1000s of dollars to buy a new van although you may sell it post-build.
Good in theory, except can end up as expensive (or more) as renting a home on the open rental market, reports Upton. And location may be restrictive because parks are usually on the fringes of cities. Cost? $100s per week, though long-term rentals may attract a discount.
Short-term rental homes
May work if the timings and locations suit but most landlords expect a minimum six-month lease, which may be too long for smaller renovation projects. Cost? Variable. The medium weekly rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Melbourne CBD in 2014 was $397; more if furnished. Times that by 26 weeks (six months) and that adds another $10,322 to your renovation budget.
Practical tips on how to make home-life easier during renovations:
- Make allowances in your budget for measures to alleviate the pressure of living in a renovation.
- Moving out of the home, at least during critical stages of the renovation is the ideal. “If your budget doesn’t stretch to pay for alternate accommodation, consider house sitting. There are a number of websites offering house sitting opportunities.”
- Access to wet areas is critical: “You need to make plans for meal preparation, washing and storing of clothing and bathing.”
- For kitchen and laundry renovations, a covered veranda, pergola or garage is a lifesaver. “You can set up an outdoor kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher and barbeque and laundry by relocating your washing machine.”
- If you have more than one bathroom, the project can be staged so there is always one in operation. If not, and your only bathroom is knocked out, you must find an alternative. “For adults, showering at the gym can be a good option, but with smaller children, you will need to find alternate accommodation for about ten days while the bathroom is out of action.”
Looking for home renovations Melbourne? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered.
How to Decide Whether to Stay or Go During Your Renovation
For renovations big and small, homeowners all have to answer the same question: Should you find an untouched space in your home and live through the construction, or pack your bags and go?
The most obvious consideration is actually more complicated than you might think. Yes, it will cost money for a rental, but it can also cost money if you stay and you’re in the way. Some home professionals charge more for projects where clients stay on, knowing there will be additional costs in clean up, a rush to get mechanical work done so that plumbing and electrical services aren’t interrupted, and things as simple as lengthy daily conversations on-site with homeowners.
This is a calculation best done in concert with your professional and with a heavy dose of reality. If you’ve never visited a house undergoing a renovation, now is the time to do just that so you can get a clear idea of how much of your home will be affected by what you have planned.
The type of project can immediately answer the stay-or-go question. If your roof is coming off for a second floor or your house is being raised up, you will likely want to move out. These kinds of renovations make it impossible to heat or cool a home effectively and generally involve cutting off plumbing service, electricity, heating and air conditioning. If you know that a very large blue tarp will be part of the plan, consider that your invitation to an alternate dwelling.
Work that includes more than half of your home or that affects all of your bathrooms and kitchen will pretty much rule out staying in the home as well. Most families can get by without a kitchen, but having no bathroom means nowhere to clean dishes or yourselves. And a single room to sleep in does not need a homemaker.
The key with pets is keeping them away from the part of your home that’s under construction. Temporary doors can help, but sometimes the incessant noise and activity can be disturbing to cats and dogs even if they are physically separated from the work area. Professionals are just as worried about your pets as you are, but you should know their limits. Some contractors actually ask for special contract clauses stating that they will not be responsible for the pets if they escape.
Children are often fascinated by the work going on. But if you spend a lot of time engaging carpenters in talk with your kids, costs will add up quickly. Also, workers at your home cannot be asked to stop making noise at nap time (remember, you are paying them hourly), so if you have a young child, you need to find an alternate place to nap or bite the bullet and rent.
A temporary kitchen can be just the thing to get you through a kitchen renovation. A hot plate, microwave and toaster oven are great for makeshift food production. Preparing and freezing meals ahead is very effective, provided that the renovation scope allows you to keep a freezer on. But making four to six months’ worth of meals can be daunting. Homeowner Jennifer Bartlett made and froze food for two months before the renovation so she wouldn’t have to eat out every night. This required purchasing a new freezer, but it was a solution she was happy with during her kitchen renovation and home office addition.
Do not underestimate how this may wear on you over time. Washing your dishes in the bathtub might get old after a few weeks. And even with thorough site protection, expect dust to collect around your home. It’s worthwhile to ask your home professional to run a dust extractor to filter out the dust for the duration of the project.
It’s possible to strike a happy medium by staying away from demolition until the plasterboard phase and then moving back in. By waiting until the plasterboard phase is complete, you avoid the messiest, dustiest and noisiest portions of the project. This usually happens two-thirds of the way through a project, and that translates to possible one-third savings on a rental. But your place will still not be move-in ready.
Having to go even if you stay
Some renovation work requires zero occupancies even if you are able to stay for most of the project. Finishing hardwood floors generally means staying away for at least a day on at least two separate occasions while the fumes dissipate, for example. So even if you camp out at home during most of the construction, know that you may need to leave during certain times anyway.
Peace of mind
If you stay, you can be assured that you will be intimately aware of the state of your home. Going away has its benefits too. Homeowner Peter Langmaid’s whole house renovation was completed earlier this year, and he stands by his decision to leave. “My advice for major renovations: budget for a rental – it’s less painful if it doesn’t feel like an additional expense – and leave,” he says. “The renovation will occupy plenty of your time; no need to wallow in the day-to-day activities.”
Tips for living through a major home remodel.
Although the ends gloriously justify the means, the process can be challenging — especially if you need to live in your house (LIYH) while it’s being renovated. The good news is that a little bit of planning, creativity, and flexibility go a long way to help transform an otherwise uncomfortable and inconvenient situation into one that’s manageable and even memorable for you and your family.
Hitch Property Constructions has the best range of renovations services to help you create your dream house.
Make a calendar with your contractors.
Before we started, we sat down with our contractors (We’re working with Doug’s Repair for all you locals–can’t recommend them enough!), and we looked at dates and set a start date and a goal end date. Then, they filled in what would happen every day and gave us a copy of the calendar. This has been so incredibly helpful! Not only does it help set expectations across the board, but it helps us see if we’re still on track and what’s coming up.
Have a section of your home that stays in order and clean so it can serve as a sanctuary away from the job.
Remodels are messy and if you aren’t mindful, it can spill into other areas of your home. But, by making an effort to keep the other spaces in our home clean and tidy–heck, light a candle and buy some flowers if it helps!–we are still able to enjoy our home even with a-holes in the ceiling and drywall dust a room over.
Pack up what you don’t need from the room.
In the case of our bathroom renovation, we packed away clothes, shoes, and bathroom supplies we could live without for a month. But maybe it’s furniture, kitchen supplies or decor in your renovation’s case. Whatever it is, packing it up and storing it is a lot better than stuffing it in another room, unorganised. And bonus, when the renovation is over, you may not need all the extra after all.
Make sure you have everything on hand before you start.
Or at least ordered with delivery dates in sight! I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Plumbing always seems to take forever to arrive, and they are likely going to need it very first. Waiting on supplies to be delivered messes up the renovation calendar and causes expensive setbacks. Besides final decor pieces, having everything you need for the remodel in your home, and organised (I love to label the boxes with what is inside) will keep everyone sane and happy.
Cover areas with drop cloths or tarps during workdays to help combat dust.
One of the main questions I get asked is, How are you handling all the dust?! Our crew is amazing at making sure everything is tarped off before they start working, and they always clean up before leaving for the day. That doesn’t mean our nightstands aren’t covered with a layer of dust, but it also feels manageable. I also think it helps to expect dust. With an active crawler, I know that vacuuming and a dust mop are a part of my daily agenda throughout the renovation.
Make sure you have the extra money in your budget.
When we got an estimate of what the bathroom was going to cost, we saved 25% more before starting. And I’m so grateful we did! Not only is it good for any surprises (we were so sure they were going to find mould, but they didn’t! However, they did find some standing water in one of the toilet pipes that needed fixing.) But it is also nice to have for extras that come up that maybe you hadn’t thought of. Like, when our contractor brought up the idea of a recirculating pump (more about that in this post) that ended up costing us $500 extra but was so worth it and we had the money set aside already.
Take pictures every step of the way.
We’re going to take pictures because we’re bloggers, but blogger or not, taking before, progress and after photos help create a history of the project. They can be used down the road to help sell or price your home. They can gauge progress (when you’re having one of those days where it feels like nothing is happening!), they can even serve as a reminder of how things were wired, laid out or put together in the case of future repairs.
Keep up on your daily routines.
One thing we’ve been super mindful of is making sure our girls don’t feel the stress of the remodel seep into their routines, and in turn, it has helped us stay pretty level headed, too. Because our contractors arrive and leave at the same time every day, that has become part of our routine just like making meals, bath times, homework, naps–it all MUST GO ON. It’s easy to fall into the eat out every meal, skip the gym or stay up late when part of your life/house feels so out of sorts, but sticking with as much of the normals as possible has cut down on a lot of stress for our girls especially. I don’t even think they realise mom and dad don’t have a bathroom right now. Ha!
Stay organised, but be forgiving of yourself.
Even with all the parts of the bathroom labelled in boxes, a calendar of bathroom checkpoints, unnecessary things boxed up until it’s all done, our daily toiletries lined up in the hall bathroom linen cabinet and our room lined with clothes hung on rolling garment racks. There are still times when I feel overwhelmed. And that’s okay. Part of being forgiving of yourself is recognising you’re in a stressful situation, but also understanding how fortunate you are to be getting a brand new.
Be present. Peek in a lot. Ask questions.
It’s your house! One of the first things I said to the contractors working on our bathroom was, “I’m very invested in this project if there’s anything you’re not 100% sure on, please ask.” It opened up a great line of friendly communication that I value. Don’t be afraid to peek in on your project (I do ALL DAY LONG!) or ask questions or voice concerns. Almost every morning, I meet with Scott, our main contractor, and go over a shortlist of questions or concerns about things that either Chris or I noticed or thought. Whether it be the shower head height, a new thing I read about soft-closed pocket doors or a mix up with shower valves. And he makes sure all the concerns and questions are resolved. He also consults with us all day long, on every detail which I truly appreciate. In the end, it’s your home–Speak up!
You’ve gone through months of cold and wet weather, frayed tempers, stress, feeling unsettled and the ups and downs of renovating, but once that final finishing touch is installed and your house becomes a home, you’ll breathe a deep sigh of relief and realise that it was all worth it.
You’ll appreciate every inch of the structure and know the effort that’s gone into achieving the end result. You’ll soon be inviting guests around to tell them all about how proud you are – all visitors welcome, finally.