By Philip Saich
Picture the scene: you’ve set your heart on a wholesale home renovation and can visualise the end result, with you and your family relaxing and enjoying the beautiful new space you’ve designed. It’s an idyllic scenario but in reality, it’s unlikely to come to fruition without a few challenges and sacrifices, not least of which is the inevitable disruption that the renovation will bring to every aspect your home life.
One of the first questions to answer is whether to move out or live in during the project. Every renovation project is different, but as Kelley Malcher of Surrey builders, Refresh Renovations, explains, the optimum solution is without a doubt to vacate the property. ‘When we start discussing a renovation project we definitely encourage the client to move out if at all possible,’ says Kelley. ‘Living on-site can add as much as 10-15% to the labour cost of a project, as we will need to account for cleaning up and locking away any tools and making sure that fundamental services such as heating and running water are all still available. Keeping the site tidy and safe can add an hour at the beginning and end of each day, and the cost of that quickly mounts up. It can also prolong the schedule, which isn’t ideal for either party.
‘That said, if it proves impossible for a client to move out then we do our utmost to create a comfortable environment for them. This might involve sectioning off living areas, setting up a temporary kitchen and providing uninterrupted access to running water, especially if the renovation is going to take several weeks. But all-in-all we’d strongly recommend moving to alternative accommodation during the entire project as it may ultimately turn out not to cost a lot more than living on site.’
Living on-site may be unavoidable, however, so what are the main areas to consider to ensure you survive your renovation with your family unit and personal sanity intact?
As with any home renovation or major project, planning is key. With a major renovation, you’ll probably be making considerable changes to the plumbing and electrics, so it’s important to plan how you will continue to wash and eat, as well heat your home, especially if your renovation spans the winter months. It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality but a detailed schedule of works will enable you and the renovation team to understand what needs to be where and when so that you can plan your living space around the requirements of the project. Part of the planning process should also include pre-warning any neighbours who will be affected by the renovation work, largely the coming and going of contractors and the noise that will be created. It’s logical to ensure that every relationship in a renovation project remains cordial to reduce the risk of delays and petty disagreements.
Even the best-managed renovation projects can be stressful at times, so the sleeping arrangements – not just for the adults but also for any young children – are a critical issue if you’re going to live on-site. With tradespeople at work, sleep routines will doubtless need to be refined and it may be necessary for everyone to sleep in the same room. If the opportunity to convert a garage or garden building into a temporary bedroom is available, it can be advisable to take it as a lack of sleep can help to derail a project and cause arguments. If there’s space on your plot, a fully-equipped static caravan can be an excellent alternative to living within the project’s four walls.
It’s also important to ensure that you have a protected area for food preparation and consumption, especially on a long-term renovation project. It’s tempting to eat out or order in, of course, but those costs can soon spiral and are rarely factored into the final project costs. And looking ahead, regular restaurant and takeaway meals can create a dangerous precedent... At the very least it should be possible to rig up a microwave, fridge and kettle, or even a portable oven with hob, but if your project is set to last more than a fortnight, it’s worth considering a temporary kitchen. And if the weather permits, a barbecue grill is a great way to prepare simple meals and escape the dust and noise, albeit temporarily.
There’s nothing like a nice warm shower or a soak in the bath, in particular, if you’re surrounded by building work and all the dirt and dust that it can generate. If possible, work with your contractor to keep an area with running water available throughout the project and identify a suitable location for the washing machine and tumble dryer in order to avoid several trips to the laundrette.
By staying on-site you’ll be living through every detail of the renovation, so it’s helpful to have a tranquil area where you can escape and recharge if you can arrange it. It won’t necessarily be quiet – especially when contractors are at work during the day – but somewhere clean, tidy and cosy in which to kick back and relax can be invaluable when the project is in full swing. Should living on-site become impractical or intolerable, a back-up plan can be a lifesaver whether it’s living with family or friends, or – if the budget will stretch – spending some time in a local B&B or hotel.
It goes without saying that undertaking a renovation project will require you to remove your furniture and possessions from the areas that are being refreshed and that they will need to be stored somewhere. Although it will add some cost, it’s sensible to consider secure off-site storage for as many items as possible in order to maximise the living space you can utilise. Taking time to pack and label storage boxes is always beneficial as you may need to find items that you thought you could live without. You may also decide to be selective as to what returns to your renovated, clutter-free space and it’s easier to dispose of items if your boxes are clearly marked. To alleviate unnecessary costs, you could consider sacrificing the garage to storage or – if it’s not being renovated - boarding out the loft to create extra capacity.
Site safety will be a priority for any contractors involved in the renovation, and it should also feature highly for you and your family. Young children tend to be fascinated by tools and construction, so the temptation to wander around the site and touch things is high. If you’re living on site, it’s vital to keep an eye on all family members to ensure they avoid breaching any Health & Safety regulations during the project.
Whether it’s streaming boxsets, downloading music or gaming, the whole family will want to stay online so it’s advisable to ensure that your Wi-Fi signal will stretch to any areas you’ll be frequenting throughout the renovation. And if there’s a significant amount of stripping out to be done, it can be worth liaising with your phone provider, unless you’re planning only to use your mobiles.
Your contractor will have Public Liability insurance, but it’s crucial to work with them to ensure that you’re covered for all eventualities, including accident, fire, flood, stolen property and damage to a neighbour’s property.
Refresh Renovations UK are builders in Surrey offering design and build home renovation services. To discuss your home renovation or extension, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.
For more inspiration, check out some of our past projects