Renovating your home is uniquely different from building a new home. With renovation, your home becomes the worksite. You live side-by-side with the project from start to finish. Once construction begins, you’ll probably long for simple pleasures like a dust-free home or a fully functioning kitchen or bath.


Consistent and open communication between you and your renovator will enhance your understanding of the project, provide an opportunity to exchange ideas, and ultimately help to make the experience a positive one for everyone involved. To facilitate this process, you need to:

  • Determine whom you and your renovator should contact for daily decisions or an after-hours emergency. For example, your contact may be the lead carpenter for the job, while the renovator’s contact could be your spouse.
  • Designate a backup for each contact person to assure continuity in anyone’s absence.
  • Create a place in your house where the contact persons, can leave messages for each other (a securely anchored notebook is a good idea since it is less likely to disappear).
  • Speak up. If you are uncertain about any aspect of the project, be sure to let the contact person know.

The Pre-Construction Meeting

One way to ensure the success of your project is to plan for and actively participate in a pre-construction meeting. This allows your renovator to clarify procedures and explain how the job will progress. It also offers both you and your renovator an opportunity to prepare for these issues that may arise later. You should think of this meeting as a forum for all participants to define their expectations and agree on the anticipated outcome.

Some of the issues you may wish to cover at this meeting include:

  • Will you allow your renovator to place a company sign on your property? Remember that, in addition to being a marketing tool, signs help contractors and suppliers locate your home.
  • What areas of your home will be off limits to workers?
  • Does your house have an alarm system? Will workers need a key or will someone always be there?
  • How will you ensure that your children and pets stay out of the workspace?
  • How will trash removal be handled? Where will the renovator locate the dumpster on your property?
  • Does the renovator anticipate any interruptions of utilities during the project? If so, when and for how long? At certain stages of construction, the project may affect basic household necessities like water and electricity. Will you need to vacate the house at any time?
  • What are your expectations regarding clean up? Will sweeping be sufficient for a daily cleaning, or will you need a more thorough cleaning in order to use the space?

You should also use the pre-construction meeting to establish guidelines for the renovation crew working on the project:

  • What times will workers begin and end work at your home? Be sure to consider the neighbours as well as household members.
  • Where can workers park near the jobsite?
  • Will you allow workers to use your phone for local business calls?
  • Will bathroom facilities in your home be available to workers?
  • What is the renovator’s policy on smoking on the jobsite?
  • What is the renovator’s policy on the use of profanity? If you are especially sensitive to this issue, you should let your renovator know.
  • Will you allow workers to play their radios at a reasonable volume? Are there any stations or programs that you do not want played?

Preventing Renovation Fever

The train-station atmosphere of a renovation project can lead to renovation fever. The main symptom of the temporary affliction is feeling a loss of control that results from disrupted routines and the impact on your personal space. The best way to prevent this fever is to prepare well, remember that “this too shall pass,” and focus on the progress being made. A few other suggestions from renovation pros:

  • Prepare for inconvenience. A renovation project can turn your home and – on some days – your life upside down. A kitchen renovation will, of course, affect meal planning. But a little ingenuity and some culinary shortcuts can lessen the impact. Set up temporary cooking quarters by moving the refrigerator, toaster oven, and microwave to another room. Arrange a dishwashing station in your laundry room. If the weather is warm, fire up the grill and dine alfresco.
  • Designate a safe haven in your home where you can escape from the chaos and commotion.
  • Guard against dust. During a renovation project, dust has the unfortunate tendency to appear everywhere from lampshades to plates stacked inside your kitchen cabinets. To keep out as much dust as possible:
    • Seal off doorways and stairs
    • Turn off central air or heating when workers are sanding
    • Stock up on extra furnace filters so that you can change them often
    • Have deliveries made through a designated entrance
    • Use doormats and temporary floor coverings where appropriate
    • Remove anything that might get damaged by the dust or at least cover it with plastic drop cloths that are taped shut
  • Maintain a sense of humour. Remember that certain things are out of your control and it’s best to laugh rather than upset yourself about things like the weather or delayed delivery of materials.
  • See the renovation process as an adventure. Tell the kids that you are “camping in” and transform inconvenience into fun. Along the way, celebrate as different stages of the project are completed.