10: What to expect when you remodel

Alison Johnston General

Share this Post

I am finishing up a wonderful project for a client who recently moved into a home. They moved in … and then started the remodel. And as wonderful as it is going to be for her and her family, it has been a tough process to live through.  Here is the letter I wish I had written at the start of their journey.

Dear Client,

You have decided to remodel! This is a wonderful process where you can create spaces that exactly reflect your family and your needs. It’s so exciting! But it is a little like childbirth. They don’t exactly give you all the details ahead of time. If this is your first time, here is what to expect.

  1. Early. You will have strange men showing up at your door at 7am (and sometimes before! They like to get a jump on the traffic.) You will not be able to be in your pajamas, nor will you be able to have a quiet cup of coffee before they come. Welcome to the 6:30am alarm.
  2. Empty. After hectic and loud weeks there will be weeks where no-one shows. A whole week with your house torn up and the work seems stalled. This is normal as the contractor is doing his best to schedule all of the trades, but the plumber isn’t always free the exact week you need him. Frustrating as all get out. Enjoy the break from the noise.

  1. Me? You will be asked to make so many decisions. Even with a good design team and contractor, they will want to know (from you!) if you want that light switch 3” to the left or 3” to the right? Arrrgh! And every decision seems like it may make a huge impact. I mean, what if you make a mistake?
  2. Money. I know you set aside a budget. I hope you added a 10% contingency. I hope you added another 10%. See #5. Enough said.
  3. Surprise! They opened up your walls and found old wiring. They ripped open your floor and found dry rot. Any time you are working with an existing home there are always conditions that are not apparent until the work starts. (Cross your fingers on the asbestos — that one is nasty.)
  4. Time. Is that tile delayed again? How do these people stay in business? The beauty of the home construction industry is that almost everything is custom and specifically produced for your home. But that is also the ugly side as production delays and product damage are a regular occurrence. Trust your team; they can fix it.
  5. Stuff. Where is your stuff? It’s in boxes, in rooms you cannot even walk through. Christmas ornaments accidentally go to storage? Well, this is the year to make old fashioned popcorn garlands and paper snowflakes and watch Elf. True story. Happened to me.
  6. Dust. You cannot imagine the dust that painting creates. Ok, it’s not painting, but prep. Be prepared to clean and clean and clean again.
  7. Family. This is a very personal process. And everyone has an opinion. Try to set regular times where you can discuss your options. Leave the remodel discussions off the dinner table and give yourself time to talk about regular life. So how do you survive this?


      Yoga might be a good idea. Or Vodka.


10. Patience: However you manage it, be nice to yourself. Understand this is a huge strain on you and your family. Laugh. Take yourself out to dinner. It does end. You will love your home. It’s worth it.