How to Reduce Construction Chaos

Thinking about the dust and construction mess going on for months is enough to send shivers of dread down the spine of just about everyone contemplating starting a remodeling project. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the headaches and inconveniences that go along with construction. If you’re about to embark on a remodeling, here are some tips to make your life a bit more placid:

1) Talk with your contractor about the daily procedures to be followed during construction. For example:

  • What will the hours of work be?
  • What areas are available for storing materials?
  • Will he have keys to the house? The security code to the alarm system?
  • Will a toilet be available for the contractor to use? (If there will be only one toilet in the house available during construction, consider having the contractor provide a portable toilet.)
  • What will you need to do to keep children and pets out of the work area?

2) If your kitchen will be out of commission during the remodeling, consider setting up a temporary kitchen. A hot plate, a microwave or toaster oven, and a temporary sink can make cooking, if not enjoyable, at least possible. Also, invest in a supply of paper plates.

3) Make sure that the contractor’s clean-up activities occur on a daily basis. When checking a contractor’s references, ask “How clean did the contractor keep the construction area?” Most top-notch contractors prefer a tidy workplace.

4) The contractor should provide a dust barrier, such as a plastic sheet, at doorways to the construction area, and promptly clean up any dust or dirt that gets past.

5) Most contractors are honest, but with the variety of people going in and out of a construction project, it is prudent to store a valuable jewelry collection or gun collection elsewhere during the duration of the project. And it’s just common sense to have the locks re-keyed after a project is finished if many people have had access to the keys.

6) Get a written construction schedule from your contractor prior to the start of construction. This will let you know when the project is starting to fall behind as early as possible, so that you and the contractor can discuss ways to get the project back on track. Also, a written schedule should highlight any periods when you might be without a bathroom, electricity, or water, so that you can plan ahead for the inconvenience.

7) As a last (or better, first) resort, consider renting a different home for a few months. For a major project, the cost can be relatively insignificant compared to your sanity, or your marriage. However, as tempting as it may be, don’t leave town! Your presence is definitely needed because of the myriad of decisions you’ll have to make during construction.

5 Replies to “How to Reduce Construction Chaos”

  1. Richard, as someone who is starting a construction project, I love these tips. Our contractor just gave us a written schedule, so we can see approximately when different things will happen–and when we should expect to pay what. I appreciate that.

    1. Excellent start for a contractor! The real key is monitoring the schedule closely, so that you know as soon as possible if the project is getting off track. And updating the schedule periodically as necessary. Once the project is several weeks behind, it will be too late to do anything about it.

  2. Hi Richard — great suggestions! They are just finishing up the remodel of my kitchen and great room, and I had followed many of the things that you suggested. Having paper plates and plastic silverware was helpful since I couldn’t remember where I packed anything. Also, I learned after the first day, when I couldn’t find the cat, to leave him and the dog in the basement and to tape a note on the door to keep it closed. Thanks for your ideas,

    1. Yeah, dealing with pets can be a major challenge during a remodeling. Turns out animals don’t really like construction noise, and will just take off when they can. This is one aspect that most people don’t consider before getting into a remodeling. I often encourage renting a place during the construction period, but many rental places don’t take pets. And boarding a pet for 6 months can get to be expensive, too.

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