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American Homeowners Association



Before the Remodelers Stampede through Your Home

When you start a remodeling or repair project, you're inviting strangers as well as plenty of dust, noise and disruption into your home. It's like someone decided to have a frat party at your house. But don't forget you're the boss--you can keep your home from feeling like Animal House. You just need to set the ground rules and enforce them with a little tact and diplomacy.

Any project is going to involve some disruption to your life. A major remodeling or renovation requires teams of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters... whose mission is to rip, saw, smash, hammer, glue... not to mention eat, go to the bathroom, take cigarette breaks and do all things people do at the workplace. So get ready! You can help their jobs go more smoothly, and minimize the chaos and disruption they cause by preparing in advance.

First, consider sleeping away from home temporarily at a relative's or friend's house, or motel room. If you stay at home, the secret to avoiding friction is communication. Do it early and often. Start with your general contractor who is in charge of the subcontractors. Make sure he is aware of your concerns for your sanity. The first thing to establish is work hours. Find out when tradespeople are going to arrive so you don't wake up to someone hammering on your wall. Remember that the workday is typically 7 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m.

In addition, start developing some guidelines for your contractor to provide to employees and subcontractors who are accountable to him for what they do on-site. But don't be surprised if you have to self-police workers who are not his employees.

Dos and Don'ts

  • Telephone. Request that workers try to limit personal use of the phone. Of course, someone might need to make a business call to a supplier or the home office, and that's perfectly OK. Ideally, if you have an extra line for a modem, hook that up to a phone and make that your dedicated contractor line.

  • Smoking. Request that workers smoke outside, and provide a steel bucket or coffee can for the butts. This is good for fire prevention and safety, too.

  • Parking. Be sensitive to your neighbors. Don't block driveways. Have workers put a note with your phone number on their windshield, just in case.

  • Bathroom. Unless a portable toilet was brought in, you'll need to tell workers which bathroom to use. Provide plenty of paper towels and hand soap, anyway, because they'll need a place to clean up.

  • Cleanup. Make sure workers know they are responsible for cleaning up their area and storing tools. Especially make sure no one creates a fire hazard by leaving rags with oily finishes around.

Protect Yourself

  • Keep the mess under control. Talk to your contractor about moving waste out as quickly as possible--don't let it accumulate. Keep sensitive areas clean by hanging plastic drop cloths or tarps and covering wooden or linoleum floors.

  • Don't expose yourself unnecessarily to fumes. Don't stick around when glues, finishes or other noxious materials are being applied. Ventilate the house thoroughly during and after application.

  • Safeguard sensitive property such as furniture and electronics by moving them out or sealing in plastic.

  • Keep talking to your contractor. Develop a remodeling plan and stick to it. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the project.

Remember to keep your cool and treat your workers with respect. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to order pizza or serve soda or coffee from time to time to boost their morale.

Sources used to create this article include writer Randall Kroll and the San Francisco Examiner.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.