If you told me 10 years ago that I would purchase a complete fixer-upper and renovate it, I would have called you crazy. I like new things, shiny and clean. Yet here I am, deep in “Phase II” of our mid-century renovation. That’s right, renovating it once wasn’t enough. You see, open concept is good in theory. But as each birthday and gift-giving holiday passed us by, we realized we needed a playroom. We’ve upped the ante with this renovation: not only did we add a kid, but we were living in the house during the bulk of construction (insert horror-face emoji). Although the project isn’t complete, I thought I would provide some key survival tips for those of you crazy enough to embark on a renovation of your own.
1. Don’t Do It
Of course I’m kidding. But do the research and make sure a home renovation is right for your family. With both renovations, my husband and I talked it through ad nauseam. We researched homes in our neighborhood to make sure we weren’t pricing ourselves out. I also checked our other desired markets to find out if a turnkey house existed that was more suitable for our family. In the end, we both agreed that our house is long-term and we want to make it the best it can be to meet our needs for the next 10, 15, maybe 20 years.
2. Do Your Research
Not only should you research your market, but it goes without saying to research your architect, builder, subcontractors, etc. Our rule has always been to get at least three quotes for any home project. If you don’t personally know people that have used the builder, ask for references and call them. Request addresses of homes they’ve built or are in the process of building and, if possible, visit the job sites so you can see their work firsthand.
3. Expect the Unexpected
Even if you hire the best, most expensive builder in town, no renovation will ever run perfectly. The contractor in the movie The Money Pit is always in my head repeating “Two weeks, two weeks.” Our delays started while they were digging our foundation and hit rock. At the very least, weather can be your renovation’s worst enemy. We’ve been stalled on and off for weeks due to rain. Just remember, the finish-by date is always an estimate.
4. Involve Your Kids
I swear my oldest son’s love of trucks began at age one during our first renovation when the mini-excavator was dropped at the house (yes, I know all the proper names of heavy machinery now). While construction sites aren’t ideal playgrounds for young children, I feel it’s important to keep your kids involved during the process. Make it fun and exciting — after all, it is exciting! Lots of changes are taking place, and it can be comforting for them to see and hear what is going on. Buy them a hardhat and toy tools, and introduce them to the workers. Our son is four now and his brother is two, so obviously the older one is much more involved. We recently let him pick out the new color for his room, and we keep him up-to-date on the project.
5. Have a Support System
There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to renovations. Whether you’re redoing a kitchen or an entire house, there will be meeting after meeting before and during the renovation. Our kids have been present during many of these meetings, but there are certain places I refuse to take them … or have taken them and never will again. Note: lighting showrooms with glittery breakables and stone warehouses with thousand-pound slabs standing upright are not great places for rambunctious toddlers. If your kids aren’t in daycare or school, line up family members or sitters. I’m very fortunate to have family in town, and they’ve been so supportive that we’ve actually been living with my parents for the past two months (more on moving back in with your folks in another blog!).
6. Keep Your Kids Busy
I’ve found the best remedy for renovation blues is distraction. Luckily, the bulk of our renovation has fallen over the summer, so I’ve been able to keep the kids busy. We frequent the regular places like the pool, hiking trails, and library but have added in new adventures. If possible, get out of town for a few days (or weeks!). My husband and I planned a beach vacation to keep us away from the construction site for a few days, and we are thinking about going to Atlanta for a weekend. (You can also consider a girls’ trip with kids … I’d recommend it!) I’ve been taking the kids on day trips like berry picking, Tuscaloosa’s Children’s Hands-On Museum, and Huntsville’s Botanical Gardens. Anything to keep us busy and keep our minds off of the renovation.
7. Cut Everyone Some Slack
Renovations are stressful for everyone. There will be fighting, maybe some tears shed not only by the kids. Change is tough, but it’s important to remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your family is a team, and a lot of understanding is a necessity. Don’t take to heart what was said in the throes of selecting light fixtures. I have to constantly remind myself that this renovation isn’t just stressful on my husband and me, but the kids also. When we were living in the house, it was in disarray with people coming and going, loud banging, and machines. Naps were hit or miss with all the noise. Right now they are displaced, living at their grandparents’. Of course they are going to be irrational at times; kids are on a normal day. Hence, tips #4 and #6.
8. Make Time for Yourselves
It’s so easy to let a renovation become all-encompassing. We feel like we are living and breathing all things construction, and we aren’t even doing the work ourselves. It’s so important to make time to do things that don’t involve the house. Not only should you do things as a family, but as a couple and also by yourself. It’s inevitable that you’ll talk about the renovation when you’re on a date, having a family day, or when out with your friends, but getting out and away from it is the first step. You’ll feel refreshed when you re-enter the war zone … I mean, construction zone.
So, if you’re still considering a renovation after reading this, I’m here to tell you I’m still alive and don’t regret moving forward. It won’t last forever and it will be worth it in the end!
Have you had a similar experience? How did you remain sane during a major renovation project?