Don’t wait for the dust to settle
Preparing for a home renovation is an undertaking—no matter how big. But there’s an aspect to the before-and-after process that can feel particularly uncharted, simply because pre-reno prep goes by the wayside. And we’re not just talking about all the clean up.
Decision fatigue is hard enough without having to navigate home renovation chaos. “It can be hard enough to plan the design, let alone have the mental capacity to make a plan for how you are going to live during construction,” says Jessica D’Itri Marés, a designer from Thousand Oaks, California. “You don’t want to have a design decision be influenced by the energy it took to get to your clothes.”
Designers Gina Gutierrez and Regan Baker, from the San Francisco Bay area, agree. For home renovation to go smoothly, you need a plan that goes beyond covering a few things in plastic. Whether you’re renovating a bathroom, a kitchen, or a closet, here are six steps to get ready before the dust starts to fly.
Get (somewhat) comfortable with chaos
Renovation is a financial and an emotional investment, Gutierrez tells her clients. The change in routine is often as disturbing as the demolition itself. “Get comfortable with feeling out of sorts,” she says. “The lack of privacy and a lot of mess—especially dust—that can also be an adjustment.”
As for the debris, all of the designers say: let it go. “There is not much you can do to prevent a thin layer of dust from settling over everything, but you can do a lot to minimize it,” Marés says. “Utilize zipper doors on hallways, and doors between a renovation area and the areas that are not being renovated. If the room is not being used regularly, place a towel or cloth at the gaps between the door and the floor, and close vents.” Cover all of the floors with paper, and if you’re living in your home during the project, dust daily, Gutierrez adds.
Setting realistic expectations can help you prepare for curveballs. Gutierrez suggests allocating 15 to 25 percent of your overall budget for surprise issues. She also advises setting up weekly check-in meetings with your design team to help you embrace upcoming changes.
Donate, sell, or reuse
What’s the the one thing that stands out in “after” photos of a home renovation? The lack of superfluous stuff. Take time to figure out what can be trashed, donated, sold, or upcycled as part of prep. “You can sell your old cabinets, therefore making some money to put toward something new in a kitchen update,” Gutierrez says.
The items you decide to keep in the soon-to-be-renovated-room should still be stored, however. “Pack nonessentials as if you were moving,” Marés says. “Carefully wrap glass, don’t make boxes too heavy, cover securely, and label so you can find things easily when you put it all back.”
If you have a lot to sort through, which would be the case in a full-home or multi-room project, Baker suggests hiring a professional organizer. “This person can create an inventory of your belongings to ensure every item has a place in the new home,” she says. “In fact, if you can afford a lifestyle management company that offers professional organizing and relocation services, it’s a great way to let one team oversee things.” Whether you organize yourself or hire an expert, create a comprehensive list of your packed items for easy retrieval.
Should you stay or should you go?
“We always recommend moving out during any renovation project, if it’s feasible,” Baker says. “The dust, noise, and overall characteristics of the project may prove difficult to live with.” This is especially true if you’re undergoing a renovation that blocks you from using a kitchen or bathrooms, and if you’ll be without comfortable bedrooms for an extended period of time. Gutierrez has a rule: if more than 60 percent of your home is being renovated, or if you cannot easily divide your house into a living area and construction area, pack a suitcase.
Talk to your contractor to help facilitate the live-in reno if you do decide to stay. “Have your contractor set up a plastic wall with a zipper to separate your living area from the construction area,” Gutierrez says.
To deal with less than convenient circumstances, Marés suggests looking at stay put like “camping or a sleepover.” She says, “If your kitchen is one of the areas under renovation, the first thing you need to take care of is setting up a temporary one: a bookcase for a pantry, a hot plate, and a coffee station. For bedrooms, get a garment rack and cardboard drawers.” Marés has stored things in a garage, in a separate room, even outside in plastic tubs under a tarp (for short-term projects).
Get a pod
While it is possible to move furniture into a room untouched by the reno, or to wrap everything—truly everything—in plastic, it’s probably easier to rent a storage pod. Marés advises keeping the pod in your driveway or in front of your home for easy access. “Storing your belongings throughout the renovation is definitely a must,” Baker says. “Professional movers are worth every penny.” Not only will this ensure that your things will stay clean, but it can also help your contractor from navigating an obstacle course—no one wants to trip on a toy box while holding a screw driver.
Stay safe and secure
Given that new people will be moving in and out of your home, it’s a good idea to have a security plan. Store valuables in a secret place—just don’t forget about them. “Buy an in-home safe to protect documents, and use a video doorbell to monitor deliveries while you’re away,” Gutierrez notes. “It’s also wise to install smart locks that can be easily reprogrammed to grant access to contractors for limited periods of time.”
Account for all of the materials
Starting a renovation before all of the materials arrive is a pricey shoulda-coulda-woulda experience you can prevent with prep. “I always tell my clients not to demo until they have as much as they can on site—even down to outlets and switch plates,” Marés says. “You might think it’s okay if you have 90 percent of your items picked out, but not choosing a single sconce can hold up the entire operation. The electrician won’t know how high or low to place the electrical box, which holds up drywall, which holds up mudding, painting, trim, carpentry, cabinetry, trim, and so on.” Overseeing every last detail equals more peace of mind.