Living Through A Home Renovation: 7 Things to Know

Living Through A Home Renovation: 7 Things to Know

In the 14 years I’ve known my husband, we have spent more time living through a home renovation than living in a completed home. When we first met, he was living in a house he was renovating to flip. I spent a lot of time with him in that house while it was under construction. We had absolutely no kitchen for a long time. There was dirt and dust everywhere and we basically lived in 2 rooms of the house.

We lived in that house for a short time after it was finished before we moved into the house I grew up in and began renovating it as well. The projects in that house weren’t of the same scale, but still, we tore up carpet and replaced it with hardwood flooring, painted kitchen cabinets, removed a lot of 90s wallpaper, and more. Again, we lived in that house for a short time before moving again.

This time, we moved across the country and found the perfect little farmhouse where our family could grow. Well, we found the perfect property with lots of buildings and space, but the house itself left a lot to desire. Looking back at the pictures of that house, I am surprised my husband was able to convince me to go for it. But the property was perfect and we knew, over time, we could make the house into our dream home. We have lived in this home for 9 years now and we are just now in on our first year of living in it without any form of construction going on!

So, from my years of experience, I’m here to share some words of wisdom and personal antidotes about living through a home renovation.

1. You Will Change Your Mind and Design About the Renovation A Million Times

Take your time developing the plan for your project. Think about the different options. Maybe take several months to toss ideas around. Do some research and find inspirational images. In my experience, the first design idea was never what we did in the end. With almost every project we’ve done, we’ve had at least 3 iterations of what it would look like. And the final outcome was always the most amazing of all the ideas we had along the way.

We debated what to do with our kitchen remodel for years. Every so often, my husband or I would get a new idea. We’d stand in the kitchen and share our thoughts, take measurements and lay tape on the floor to visualize the plan. And then we’d take a few months to think about it before coming up with another idea. My husband really wanted to flip our dining and kitchen spaces. I didn’t want to do that for a long time, but then I finally agreed. Even then it took several iterations to come up with the perfect design. It took us years, but that time was well worth it because we ended up with my dream kitchen in the perfect spot!

The transformation of my dining room into my new kitchen. This was a 5-month project, but since we were putting this kitchen in a new spot I was able to keep the original kitchen while this was being built. I was never without a fully functioning kitchen during this remodel!

When we were building the addition on our house, we came up with various designs ourselves before hiring an architect to design the plans. Then we sat on that design and thought about it for a while. One day I had an idea to change it and we asked the architect to revise the plans. What we ended up with was absolutely perfect and I’m so glad we didn’t go with our original design.

2. It Will Cost More Than You Expect

When you’re planning a project, the first thing to think about is your budget. Then probably double what you’re expecting to spend. Or be prepared to change your plan to meet your budget.

Every single project we’ve done has cost more than we thought it would. When we first come up with an idea, we’d speculate how much it would cost. Without fail, when we actually priced it out, it would be at least 25% more than we thought (usually closer to double). Sometimes we moved forward with those plans and found the funds for the extra cost. Other times, we had to make adjustments to our plan to make it fit within our budget. It’s still possible to get what you want, but you may have to make some changes or sacrifices to get there.

3. It Will Take Longer Than You Plan to Complete the Renovation

I don’t believe we’ve had a single project finished in the timeframe we anticipated or planned. My husband is a do-it-yourselfer so we’ve hired out very few of our projects. This contributes to our timelines always getting extended. Work and family have a way of “getting in the way” of construction projects. But even when we’ve hired things out, we’ve sometimes experienced delays.

For example, my husband once tore out all the flooring in our house in anticipation of installing new hardwood floors. We were literally down to the joists and subfloor, but then the store we purchase the hardwood from had a delay…and another delay…and another delay. Our baby daughter (who was not yet crawling, thankfully) was dropping food on the floor and it would fall through the cracks of the subfloor into the basement! It was crazy. I don’t remember how long we lived like that before the flooring came in, but it was months!

When we started building the addition on our house, we found out we were also expecting an addition to our family. I made my husband promise me the construction would be finished before our baby arrived. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. The night I ended up going into labor, I had taken our 5-year-old shopping for the day because we had contractors in the house spraying insulation. I didn’t want either of us breathing that in. Then there was the day I had to get a 5-year-old and newborn out of the house for the day by myself because the drywallers were sanding and making a huge mess!

Delays are something you just can’t control. So be flexible. Learn to roll with the punches and keep the finished project in sight to keep you going when you’re living through a home renovation that feels like it will never end.

4. It Will Be a Mess to Live Through a Renovation

As I just mentioned, construction is a messy endeavor. Some projects or parts of a project are worse than others. You can tape off the construction areas of the house with plastic to keep the mess to a minimum, but even then, the mess will spread. Dust gets everywhere. If you’re a total neat freak, living through a home renovation might not be for you. That leads me to my next piece of advice…

5. Have a Backup Location to Stay During the Renovation

We have lived in our homes through all of our renovation projects. I’ve suffered through the mess. Washed dishes in the bathroom. Entered the house through the back door, had dinner in the living room, etc. But there are certain times you just can’t be in the house and will have to find somewhere else to stay.

We have hardwood floors in our home. When they were first installed and every time we’ve made a layout change to the house that required flooring changes, it meant the floors needed to be sanded and stained. The mess and fumes require you to leave.

So, be prepared to stay at a friend’s house, with family, or a hotel for times you need to leave the house in the short term. Or, if living through the mess just isn’t for you, make alternate living arrangements for the duration of the construction. But wherever you plan to stay, make those arrangements with #3 in mind…it will take longer than you expect, so be sure wherever you’re staying is prepared for it to be for longer than you initially think.

6. You May Fight & Disagree Along the Way

Home renovation projects, big or small, can cause disagreements between you and your significant other or even other family members. Everyone has an opinion and different ideas of what would work or look the best. There were many times my husband and I disagreed about things … from little things like fixtures to bigger things like the design of the addition to our home. As you’re going through a renovation, it’s important to pick your battles.

Would I have liked to have the tile I originally picked out for my kitchen backsplash? Yes, but my husband didn’t really care for how it would look and the extra effort it would take for him to install it. We discussed it at length over many weeks. I pouted. I tried to convince him. He researched and came up with another option to propose. And in the end, I love my kitchen backsplash the way he did it.

7. You Will Absolutely Love it in the End

As I mentioned several times already, every time we get to the end of a project, I love it more than I even thought I would. The road is long and sometimes bumpy, but if you can see your way to the end, it’s worth it. That little 1920’s outdated farmhouse my husband convinced me to buy is now perfect in every way (well, I would really like the paint the living room). We are finally done with all forms of construction on our home and we’re going to relish that for a while before starting anything again!

Left: Our 1920’s farmhouse when we purchased it in 2012.
Right: Our finished dream farmhouse today. It’s been a labor of love!

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates

Trista Gangestad

Originally from Florida, Trista Gangestad and her family moved to CO seven years ago and live on a small hobby farm with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. She and her husband have 2 daughters, the oldest of which was born with Trisomy 18, a chromosome disorder. Trista has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and worked in Communications and Event Planning for more than 10 years before becoming a mom. Now looking forward to getting back into her career, she recently formed Hello Pumpkin, a freelance business providing promotion and design services for small businesses. Trista is also currently writing a memoir of her experience raising a special needs daughter. When this busy mom has time for herself, she enjoys sewing, crafting, shopping, drinking “candy coffee” and watching guilty pleasure TV shows.

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