Steps In Handling Home Remodeling Projects How to Take Care of Your Neighbors When Remodeling When planning a remodel, there’s already a ton on your plate — like managing the budget, making seemingly endless design decisions and accepting that a whole team of workers will be traipsing across your property. But it’s also important to think about how the work is going to affect your neighbors. After all, remodeling projects are disruptive even under the best of circumstances. And at worst? Well, you’ve probably heard some horror stories. It’s worth taking a few extra steps to stay in the good graces of the folks who share fence lines, street parking, smiles and waves from the front porch, and possibly even corn on the cob with you at summer block parties. Consider this guide your blueprint for framing those necessary neighborly conversations so that you can get the remodel you want without stepping on too many toes. Do Your Homework Certain projects (like tear downs and additions) may require that you notify neighbors in advance. Your remodeling pro ought to be able to fill you in on the details if that’s the case. Even if it’s not legally necessary, it’s still a good practice to keep neighbors informed if you want to maintain positive relationships in the long term. When you’re getting ready to approach your neighbors with news of your upcoming remodel, the more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the more comfortable they will feel with the project. Know the answers to these questions before you approach your neighbors: When will construction start? How long do you expect construction to last? What types of equipment will be used on the site? Will there be extra vehicles, port-a-potties or road closures to consider? Are your plans in keeping with the character of the neighborhood? Reach Out in Advance When you let your neighbors know about your remodeling plans, be prepared for a range of reactions. Some folks might be excited and curious (“We’re thinking of remodeling too! Who are you using?”), while others may be indifferent or even hostile. All these reactions are OK. Just focus on listening attentively and with empathy: Often that’s all it takes to bring the temperature back down. Along with your in-person chat, give your neighbors something in writing that includes the key details discussed and contact information they can use to get in touch with you during the day. Things to Ask Your Contractor Before You Start Your Project Remodeling or building a new home is a big financial and emotional investment. It can also be a big investment of your time if you want to be closely involved in the decision-making. Knowing what to expect before the project gets started will help you better prepare for the process What Is Our Schedule? A schedule is more than just a start and end date. Having a schedule that outlines tasks and timing will give you a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines for things such as tile and countertops. It will also give you a benchmark so that you know if things are slipping by a day or two. Who Will Be Here Every Day? Depending on the size and structure of the company you hire, the answer could vary widely. Many remodelers use a lead carpenter system, where a staff member (sometimes called a superintendent) is responsible for day-to-day work on-site, and often swings a hammer as well. Ask your contractor direct questions about who will be responsible for opening and locking up, who will supervise subcontractors on-site and whom to call on a daily basis with any questions. How Will You Protect My Property? This is a conversation best had before demolition, not after you come home and find dust all over the house. There are a number of dust-containment measures that can be taken, and talking about it ahead of time will provide you with a clear idea of how the construction area will be cordoned off from the rest of your home and how you’ll be able to move through your house. There’s also the issue of stuff — all the books, furniture, drapes, delicate vases and paintings on the wall. It’s helpful to remove them all from the construction zone. This includes anything hung on walls or sitting on shelves in adjacent rooms, since they can shake loose from persistent hammering. If you leave them as-is, it will cost to have them moved and moved again to keep them out of the way, and you risk damage in the process. It’s better to move it all at once and know it’s safe and sound How to Donate or Recycle Home Remodeling Materials Visit any remodeling project during its demolition phase, and you might think that those piles of broken concrete, asphalt, wood, drywall, brick, metal, glass and more are just junk heaps destined for a landfill. Not so fast. Many construction and demolition materials can be reused and recycled. And doing so reduces greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the need to produce and manufacture new materials. Recycling home remodeling materials eases strain on local landfills. Who wants those to get any bigger than they have to? The following is a short guide to donating and finding construction and demolition materials. Every city has different organizations and methods for disposing of and recycling waste, so consider this a jumping-off point. If you’re working with a general contractor or other remodeling professional, ask him or her about how your old building materials could be reused, recycled, donated or disposed of in an environmentally conscious way. And inquire about how you can reduce excess material waste during construction. If you’re doing the work yourself, there are still plenty of options for getting rid of your construction waste besides putting them in a landfill. What Building Materials Can Be Reused and Recycled? First off, it’s good to know what can be reused and salvaged, and what can be recycled. This list is from the U.S. Green Building Council, which recommends trying to reuse or salvage first. Once those options are exhausted, turn to recycling. How to Care for Pets and Children During a Remodel Living through a remodel is a challenge, as anyone who’s been there can attest — but add kids or pets (or both!) to the mix and things get a whole lot trickier. How do you keep curious, active kids from getting hurt when there’s construction going on at home? What are you supposed to do with an anxious dog who won’t stop barking at the workers? Take a few deep breaths and then read this guide: We’ll tackle those questions and more. Assign Separate Entrances for Workers and Family This will help keep construction dust and dirt out of the areas you’re using, but also (and perhaps more important) it will help prevent workers from accidentally leaving tools and supplies sitting around in non-work areas. Choose an entrance for the workers closest to the construction zone to minimize foot traffic through the house, even if this means they use the front door and your family switches to the back, side or garage entrance. If Hazardous Materials Are Present, Stay Somewhere Else Any remodel is bound to include some potential hazards — but what we’re talking about here are serious hazards like lead paint, asbestos and mold. If one of these is present in your home, staying elsewhere while that portion of the work is being done is a good idea. If you or one of your children have health concerns like asthma or allergies, you may also wish to stay at the home of a friend or relative, or in a rental, to avoid construction dust. Designate a Safe Place to Play There are a lot of places you’ll be telling your kids it’s not OK to play, which makes it all the more important that you find a place where play is allowed. If you’re living within a smaller area of your home during the remodel, this might mean letting the kids “take over” a room usually used for another purpose — like the dining room or den. Always Keep an Eye on Kids During Construction As a parent, you know how quickly an active kid can decide to do something unexpected. Even if you usually feel confident leaving the kiddos playing happily for a few minutes while you wash the dishes or answer a call, it’s essential to never leave kids unattended during construction. Since it’s rare that construction workers will be on-site from sunup to sundown every day, try to plan your solo tasks for the hours before and after work is happening. And remember, even when work isn’t going on, your home is effectively still a work site, so it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant about safety. Questions to Ask Before Committing to an Open Floor Plan Open floor plans are great — they can make a home feel larger and airier, create multifunctional spaces and make it possible to live in a smaller space. But the truth is, they aren’t for everyone. Designers have been reporting that some clients have a hard time with this setup, whether it’s because of TV noise, a desire to hide kitchen messes from view or a need for a quiet place to read or work. Before committing to an open floor plan for the first time, answer the following questions to see if it’s for you. Do I Want to See All the Public Spaces in My Home All the Time? Looking at a beautiful and tidy space like this makes it hard to imagine wanting to put up walls. If your home is one where you like to spread out papers for work or projects, where you prefer to let the kitchen cleanup wait until after you’ve enjoyed the meal, or where kids leave lots of toys strewn about, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if looking at that stuff will make you feel compelled to constantly neaten up, an open layout may not be for you. Is a ‘Not-So-Kitchen-y’ Kitchen for Me? Within an open floor plan, the kitchen is usually in full view of the dining and living areas. One of the comments I hear most often from designers working within an open plan is that they have designed the kitchen to look “not-so-kitchen-y.” This can mean it has features like open shelving or windows instead of upper cabinets; an island with a waterfall countertop to provide visual separation; storage concentrated on one wall; or appliances camouflaged by panel fronts. Do you like to keep your herbs, spices, cooking utensils, small appliances and other items out on the countertops? Do you prefer a traditional kitchen look over a sleek camouflaged one? Do you like to leave your kitchen cleanup until after the party is over or gather for meals at the kitchen table in a cozy space? Then consider other layout options in addition to an open floor plan, and imagine your lifestyle in each. Open plans may be popular, but a closed-off kitchen certainly is not a bad thing — you can close the door on the mess and enjoy your time with your family and guests without feeling as if you should be washing pots and pans and putting everything away.