Every time I see that TikTok with the “This is the way I live…” song, I think I should make one that shows our remodel life. Because the reality of it is, this IS the way we live. If it’s not flooring torn out waiting for new, it’s patched up drywall waiting for a coat of paint, or a partially torn-off deck waiting for lumber prices to go down. There is ALWAYS a project around our house.
Most of the time, we are living the DIY life, but there are a handful of bigger remodel projects that we bring in the professionals for. We are just celebrating the completion of a few major projects that resulted in eight consecutive months of having contractors in our home. Yes, we were in survival mode at the end but kept our eyes on the finish line. Luckily, this round of remodeling went a whole lot smoother than some of our other hired projects. That’s largely because we have had our share of bad experiences that forced us to learn a few things.
1. Put your patient pants on.
This one is first and foremost for a few reasons. You simply cannot go into a remodel expecting everything to happen quickly, or even as expected. It’s time for deep breaths, the realization that the decision to tackle a remodel will consume your life for the time being, and more deep breaths. Patience factors in all the way at the very beginning stages when you’re waiting sometimes weeks at a time just for estimates.
Once you have a plan in place, you may be waiting on materials due to the ongoing supply chain issues–for instance, custom cabinetry is currently shipping anywhere from 12-20 weeks out. (Lead times are getting better according to my husband in the cabinetry industry!)
Patience is key ALL the way through. It’s just not possible to rush a remodel despite what HGTV is telling us. Just like that old saying goes . . . you can have it fast, you can have it cheap, or you can have it done right, but you can’t have all three at the same time. Fast is usually at the bottom of the list in my mind!
2. Hire a reputable contractor.
This seems like a gimme, right? Well, if you’re new to the area or have never had the need for a contractor, it can be overwhelming to try to find one. Just because your neighbor has a buddy who is a contractor doesn’t mean that contractor is your buddy. When you asked in your neighborhood group and ten people recommended someone, take into account that it might have been mostly their friends and family tagging them.
Do. The. Research. It’s absolutely okay to ask for recommendations from friends or in groups, but dig deeper. Your contractor needs to be your new best friend. They are coming into your life for what could be several months or more. You want to be able to say in the end—no matter the outcome—that you made an educated decision.
- Google companies and contractor names—and don’t stop at the first few listings.
- Read their Better Business Bureau page.
- Check Facebook and Google reviews.
- Ask for references, and call them.
- See if you can find info on them through Angi, Home Advisor, or Houzz (some of these are paid sites which may or may not be worth the extra investment).
When a contractor calls you right back, promises they can start your job right away, and then they have the best price in town, consider WHY. Why aren’t they busy? Why are they lowballing? Did they miss some of the details? Don’t let a cunning salesperson talk you into any decision pertaining to your home without researching their business practices because you are desperate to get the work done. Been there, done that. Do not recommend.
3. Ask for a timeline, but realize it’s always loose.
Always, always ask what the timeline for completion is before signing on the dotted line. Most contractors I’ve worked with won’t give a firm completion date, but they can give a start date and a rundown of “expected” work and about how long it should take. It’s also extremely important to know if they will be dedicated to your project or if they are also working on other projects at the same time.
Once the project is underway, you should see a general contractor at your house regularly—checking on progress, overseeing work crews, and directing subcontractors. Discuss the expected timelines each week so that you’re in the know and involved each step of the way. Subcontractors are all scheduled in separately and each step is usually dependent on another step to be completed, so this can throw off timelines depending on each one’s calendar of availability.
4. Understand the scope of work.
Depending on what kind of remodel you are doing, you and your spouse both should have a solid understanding of the full scope of work. That way, either of you can answer questions from contractors as they arise. The more you know about the process, the more you will be able to follow along and anticipate next steps.
On any given remodel project, there is a general order of events. Demo, rough mechanical work (rough plumbing, rough electrical, HVAC if needed), drywall, flooring, and so on. Knowing the basics of these steps will prepare you for what and when contractors and subcontractors will need access to your home, when your electricity might be temporarily off, or when the water will be turned off for a day.
5. Know that you’ll be cleaning. A lot.
The cleaning, oh the cleaning. It has almost driven me mad. Besides the constant in and out foot traffic, sawdust, and paint splatters, the drywall dust alone is enough to make me think twice about ever drywalling anything again. It creeps everywhere—under couches, into cushions and carpets, and even finds its way into cabinets and closets. It has to be vacuumed before mopping, and then you have to mop more than once because it leaves a lovely slurry of cloudy film all over your floors. So fun.
When I was more inexperienced, I took the stance of “it’s just going to keep getting dusty, I’ll clean at the end.” I know better now. It actually IS more work to let the dust pile up, and it’s really not that healthy for your family. I’ve learned that keeping main surfaces clean helps keep the dust contained so that it doesn’t continue getting tracked through or blowing into other areas of the house. Once it’s all done, THEN you deep clean. Then you move couches, wash windows, shampoo carpets, have ducts cleaned . . . whatever parts your project requires. In my case, it’s all of those. My enthusiasm for this task is lacking, and I really wish we had worked a professional deep clean into our budget.
With all of that being said, talk to your contractor in the beginning about the expectations of what they clean up versus what you clean up. They should do a general cleanup every day, including things like vacuuming up new dust and keeping debris/tools out of any areas your family will be using while the workers are away. Ask that paper or plastic be put over floors where foot traffic is high. Have the crew hang visqueen or plastic sheeting as room dividers. Nothing will keep things 100% clean, but it will help.
6. Check your sanity.
I say this lightly, but please, don’t take it lightly. A remodel will test you in all the ways. It will test your communication with your spouse. It will test your people skills with contractors and subcontractors. It will test your ability to cope when things don’t go as planned. It will test your anxiety, your OCD, and your mood swings. It WILL test you. Be ready for that, and ready to address it. Please do not feel shame in admitting if a remodel is negatively affecting your mental health. It is completely NORMAL to experience anxiety or even depression during a remodel!
Above all, just remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Someday, your project will come to fruition and you will be able to take pride in the end result. And, you’ll probably learn something along the way! Living through a remodel isn’t easy while you’re in it, but the rewards are oh so sweet. Just keep singing . . . “this is the way we live.”