The truth about living through a major reno
If the heart of the home is the kitchen, then disrupting it can only lead to chaos, right? Yes and no (but mostly yes). When moving into our new house last April, we decided right away to tackle the kitchen first, but we also put in new hardwood floors, new entryway tiles and new exterior doors – all in six months! Maybe you’re considering a big renovation and want to know what it’s like to live through it. It’s definitely doable, but there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind.
COVID-19 has created some real issues around supply chain, specifically with raw materials and overall demand for goods. This means manufacturers, suppliers and retailers aren’t able to get items in as fast as they normally would, creating a frustrating trickle-down effect. This could mean not being able to find a simple part at the hardware store, or having to wait an extra month to get an appliance delivered.
I can’t count the number of delays we’ve had (due to things out of our control), and it’s probably been the most frustrating part of the entire process. Eight weeks into our kitchen reno and we were a little behind schedule. The latest being not enough backsplash tile, so depending on what our contractor can find, we may have to wait longer as more gets ordered in. Delays are an inevitable part of any reno process, especially now.
Be patient and persistent
The second part to that first challenge is – if you plan to live through your renovation, you need to be patient. It can be frustrating to be at home and have to listen to hammering all day or be told the lighting fixture you wanted is on back-order. Remind yourself it’s all part of the process.
You also might need to be persistent when it comes to dealing with various trades or contractors. Ask questions. Keep clarifying details. Don’t settle with something if you’re not happy. At the end of the day, it’s your home and your money, so it needs to be done right.
Plan to order in more meals
In preparing for the kitchen reno, I had heard you should budget for eating out the entire duration, which would obviously get very costly and something we didn’t want to do. Instead, we were able to keep our old appliances, set up a temporary kitchen in our living room, and used a sink in the basement to clean dishes. By week three, we were over carrying a bucket of dirty dishes downstairs into our dark and unorganized, cellar basement.
Since the takeout options in our area are limited, we tried to keep up with our home cooked meals, keeping them as simple as possible. Originally, we planned to freeze meals ahead of time, but that didn’t happen. Cooking fatigue definitely set in (partially thanks to quarantine life), so we ended up ordering in once or twice a week. Personally, I think if you have the space, a temp kitchen isn’t a bad idea. You’ll thank yourself, especially if your reno goes longer than planned.
Keep the lines of communication open
The amount of people you need to communicate with for a reno is extensive. So far, we’ve worked with an interior designer, flooring company and installers, a contractor, plumber, electrician, cabinet designers and carpenters, a window and door carpenter… the list goes on. Even with a contractor helping to manage our kitchen, there were times we needed to connect directly with a trade to clarify details or add another task. There are so many small decisions and questions that come up with every project, so being in close touch with everyone means you know exactly what’s going on and can make sure nothing is missed.
Your stuff is going to be in the way
The one good thing about upsizing when you want to reno, is there’s less stuff you have to move out of the way. We put a lot of our furniture into our garage and we didn’t unpack all of the kitchen, keeping only the essentials, knowing we’d have to repack them for the demo. I also ended up selling a bunch of items that I didn’t love or have the need for anymore. If we had more things, I think we definitely would have had to get a storage pod. My only tip: Resist the temptation to buy too many new, large decor or furniture pieces early on.
Moving out might be the only option
There were a few months where we had no daycare for our toddler, my husband and I were both working from home and we had renos happening. It was extremely chaotic. During the hardwood floor installation, I ended up spending a week at my mom’s house in Ottawa because it was going to be too disruptive for my daughter’s sleep schedule and we didn’t want to keep her upstairs all day while the work went on downstairs. Based on how loud and dusty it ended up being, it was a smart move.
We also had to spend a night in a hotel when our entryway tiles were installed, since they needed a full 12 hours to set and are literally in front of our staircase to go upstairs – and the location of our bedrooms and both washrooms (the washroom really being the critical room we needed access to!). Depending on what type of renos you’re doing, moving out may be the only option, so it’s something you need to consider during your planning stage.
Celebrate every step of the way
There have been many times during the process where I feel… “I want this renovation over,” or “Ugh, this and that still needs to be done.” Then I remember how many things we’ve already completed and improved.
When you’re living through a renovation, you’re living through the parts they fast-forward on TV – the days when nothing gets completed or the un-sexy stuff that gets you to the Pinterest inspo pic. On the days I get frustrated, I focus on what has been done and remind myself that it will all be worth the wait once the project is completed.
A writer and editor for more than a decade, Stephanie Gray has covered everything from luxury travel to modern parenting challenges.
Her work has been featured in publications including Glamour, Elle Canada and Best Health.
She recently bought a century-old home north of Toronto, in need of updates, which she’s taking on with her husband (and toddler in tow).