I’ve just survived my house being torn apart and rebuilt. And I got through it alive. Even with the complications of living with 3 roommates and 2 dogs. Although 1 dog did die halfway through the remodel… and the cops got called once…

Remodeling a house takes a toll on its occupants. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, what a first world problem. He got his house redone and had to put up with some dust.”

But getting your house torn apart complicates everything. You want to go to the restroom? Better go to the mall because the contractor had to shut your water off. You want something warm to eat? Well, the only appliance you have is the microwave tucked in the basement. There’s a hairdryer in the bathroom, too I suppose… Uh, oh, there’s a tornado coming! Better put your car in the garage! Oh, wait it’s full of kitchen cabinets and appliances to be installed next week. I guess you’ll have fun watching your car get hammered with hail stones. Want to relax? Too bad, contractors apparently enjoy working even late at night – while blaring their 80’s rock music – while coming to ask you questions/tell you random stories every 10 minutes.

The house is a 3-level built in 1998. It hadn’t been updated much since it was built so my live-in landlord wanted to change that – drastically. We got new flooring throughout, a completely new kitchen, a wet bar downstairs, a gym, added ceiling fans, new front porch, widened driveway, new hot water heater (it randomly went out after construction began), landscaping, and 1 bathroom redo.

Needless to say the house looked like a war zone for almost 3 months. The house is beautiful now so it was all worth it. To me, at least. As a tenant, my costs were actually lowered during the remodel since living standards went through the floor. So I didn’t have to pay for those quartz counter tops. Because I’ll probably buy a fixer-upper in the future, I did pay attention to what went well and what didn’t. I learned a lot. So why not write a post about it?!

The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest memory. -Mark Twain

Tips for Living through a Whole Home Remodel

Become a Minimalist Prior to the Remodel

Because I’m a minimalist already, this was easy for me. But my roommates HATED moving all their stuff from room-to-room as carpets were pulled, baseboards installed, and walls painted. Life was miserable for them.

Park Your Car Far from the House

Contractors come and go at random times throughout the day. Some bring trailers, some bring multiple people and multiple vehicles. Because I bike to work each day and my car lost its space in the garage, I parked it a block or so down the street for the duration of the remodel. There’s nothing more annoying than having to move your car multiple times a day. But beware, some old lady reported my car as a suspicious vehicle. Some people… the cop and I both had a laugh about it. My little white car with no tint did look pretty scary, I guess.

Check Ahead of Time if the Water Is Working

One time I didn’t check. Halfway through my shower, while singing and getting all lathered up with soap, the water shut off.

Know There Will Be Surprises

The hot water heater broke one day before I had to leave for a baptism. And because I was working late, I waited to shower until the last possible minute. This time, the hot water heater had broken. I felt like I was participating in a 10-minute long ice bucket challenge.

As I mentioned, one of the dogs died during the construction process. The mini husky had a respiratory condition (a genetic defect in the breed). Perhaps it was irritated by the dust in the house, who knows. And while my live-in landlord was away at the vet, the contractor installed the cabinets. He finished quickly because he wanted to surprise her. When she came home from the dog funeral, she was thrilled – for a second. Turns out they sent the wrong cabinets. The oven door would hit the refrigerator… the appearance of the cabinets were different… it was awful. She ended up having to replace all the cabinets at an extra expense – the cabinet company said she should have looked at them before having the contractor install them. That’s why all boxes should be opened and inspected before installation.

Outsource What You Can

You don’t have time for everything! Heck, even Mr. Money Mustache hired a crew of laborers to put up the drywall in his home.

Keep Your Pets Quarantined

Animals get curious about what’s going on. It’s best to keep them quarantined to rooms that are without construction crews. It’s better for everyone’s safety and sanity.

A Happy Contractor Is a Helpful Contractor

My landlord paid one guy extra with high quality booze so he would work nights to finish faster. I also believed because he liked my landlord, he did a better job.

Buy Groceries That Will Work for You

This was such a pain! I keep my grocery budget at $75 per month. And I kept it that low even through construction. Sure, I was getting $75 off rent each month because of the hassle of living in a war zone. I could have added that to my food $$$. But that didn’t seem like a worthy challenge. So I held steady at $75. But it was hard because eating at $75/month means you cook a lot from scratch. It’s hard to do that when you have no kitchen to work in. I also keep my carb intake to a minimum and dislike eating out. Our refrigerator was still plugged in – in the living room. So I ate tons of salads, sandwiches, fruits, I still even made my bread from scratch (although washing dishes in the shower felt so disgusting). And I didn’t increase my normal restaurant encounters, either.

Logistics!

This remodel could have been done in 1/3 the time if we had better coordinated the delivery of materials and their installation. Far too often, the house would be full of materials that wouldn’t get used for weeks. Install teams should quickly follow the arrival of raw materials. Each part of the installation process should flow like a well conducted orchestra. It should go flooring – cabinets – appliances – counter tops – finishings. But far too often it went… flooring – wait 2 weeks until cabinet guy can come – appliances (whoops they haven’t arrived) etc. etc.

Shut off HVAC When Possible

Mind the house temperature. If the doors and windows must be open, shut off the HVAC. Also, make sure all the windows and doors get closed at night. An installation guy once left a window wide open through the night that no one noticed. A lot of A/C $$$ wasted.

That’s how your survive a remodel from a tenant’s perspective. The police were only called out once and only 50% of our dogs died.