Ten Tips for Staying Sane While You Remodel: Plan Ahead to Maximize Safety and Minimize Disruption

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  1. Schedule a pre-construction walk through with your contractor because if you are planning even a minor remodeling project, your home is about to become a construction site. Decide where they can drop lumber and store materials and where you and the crew will park for the duration. Where does the trash get stashed? And where, if at all, is smoking permitted? Which bathroom will be available to the crew?
  2. Discuss how the contractor will protect floors and carpets in areas of the house that are not involved in the construction from dirt and dust. Pack away antiques, fragile and/or valuable items. Consider sending window treatments to the dry cleaner or packing them away for the duration.
  3. Temporarily close off the job site from the remainder of the house. A plywood or plastic blockade keeps the kids from being in the wrong place at the wrong time and cuts down on the dust and dirt that inevitably gets dragged into the areas you are still living in.
  4. Collect on babysitting favors. Don’t wait until you’re in the thick of things to call on friends and family who might be available to help with the kids. Pre-plan play dates for your kids off-site. Or try to schedule the project to happen during the summer months when the kids can be away at camp or visiting grandma or Aunt Liz, at least during the most dangerous phase of construction, usually from the start of demolition until the walls are enclosed.
  5. Make sure the fence is in good repair. And that latches and locks are in working order before the project begins if you’re relying on existing fences and gates to protect neighborhood kids from harm and you from lawsuits.
  6. Make plans for pets too. Don’t assume your dog will behave well during the stress and general upheaval. Contractors can’t carry long lumber through a gate or door without propping it open, which means the dog could run off unless he’s securely leashed or in a pen. Confine indoor cats to an out-of-the-way room with food, water and litter. Tape a large sign on the door at eye-level to alert everyone that the cat is temporarily in residence there.
  7. Set up a temporary kitchen. But not in the bathroom or you’ll disrupt the two most crucial family spaces at the same time. Better possibilities: the laundry room, basement, garage or even the deck in the summer months. Don’t discard the old refrigerator. Move it to your temporary kitchen. Ditto for the base cabinets and countertop. Keep cooking utensils in covered containers so you don’t have to wash them all before you cook each time.
  8. Simplify life for a few weeks. Live on soup, sandwiches, salads and take-out. And use disposable paper or plastic plates and cups. If you must cook, plan meals that can be prepared in an electric fry pan, the microwave and/or a charcoal grill. (Always set up outdoors.) If you have time make up a few of the family’s favorites (meatballs, chili, meatloaf, a casserole) ahead and stash in the freezer in microwavable containers
  9. Don’t move back into your new space too soon. Wait until the project is completely finished and for the construction dust to settle a bit or you’ll clean shelves and everything you put on them four times.
  10. Most importantly, keep your sense of humor. If you can implement these suggestions they’ll go a long way toward helping you stay sane during the exciting, but messy process of remodeling.