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Confession: I spent yesterday at Urban Lights oohing and ahhing with Sara C. over everything from chandeliers to pendants to some absolutely stunning sconces. It’s wrong, I know, especially considering my blog posts about how to tackle a renovation in a calm and orderly fashion. In the words of my father, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

So, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I should also confess that I dragged my tired and hungry 6-year-old to look at chairs for the reading nook in Sara’s still ungutted, non-permitted house.

There. That’s all.

Ok, actually, one more tiny thing. I ate chocolate chips for dinner. I mean, I didn’t put them on a plate or anything, but that was my meal. I hid this fact from my four children who were given corn on the cob and honeydew melon and organic chicken brats of which Henry said they sort of taste like hot dogs but different. I was sipping ice water and explaining to them that I had eaten earlier and wasn’t hungry. Which, allow me to point out, was totally true.

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 OK, that’s really it now. Onward and upward, folks. Onward and upward.

So – back to The Neighbor’s House Renovation Series. We’ve already covered the first few steps including drinking yourself through the budget discussions, meeting with designers and subcontractors, and securing necessary permits. If you missed the first blog on this topic, find it here.

So now what? Well, it’s not lighting and chair shopping followed by a dinner of chocolate chips. Sad.

At this point, your contractor or architect or designer, depending on the scope of your project, will provide you with final drawings and/or inspiration boards so that everyone is on the same page (or perhaps, blueprint). Once that happens and you sign off on the overall design, the real work starts to happen which is exciting because you get to finally purchase your first item! And it’s a big trash can!

Order a Dumpster:

If you are handling the reno yourself, you are going to be tasked with this job. If you’re tackling a bigger renovation, your General Contractor (GC) can do this for you and I highly recommend you let him. Your GC, if he’s worth his weight in the gold you are paying him, can handle this because he knows a guy. You will hear this phrase a lot. Everyone knows a guy.

If the dumpster is going on the street, you or your GC will have to get details from the permit office. If there is a way to keep the dumpster on your property (so festive!), then you can avoid the hassle of going through the permit process. If you live in a neighborhood with a covenant, check with the association before having a dumpster delivered; getting approval beforehand will save you time and energy and you will still get invited to the annual block party, which is fun.

One other little secret: You are going to need a larger dumpster than you ever imagined. So go big. Like diamonds and bags of mulch and newborns, dumpsters seem to get a lot smaller once they arrive home. Dumpsters come in cubic yard sizes, so they are referred to as a “10 Yarder” etc. A 30-Yard container is the best bet for large projects, because it usually fits in the front yard and gives you enough room to dump waste without having to constantly cram stuff in. At five feet high, eight feet wide and twenty-two feet long, you can fit a lot in this guy. Like your sanity. And your retirement fund.

Start Demo:

There is something so cathartic about the demo process. Granted, your contractor(s) can and will do this for you, but if you are up for the challenge, anxious to work out some childhood aggression, and keen on saving a few bucks, you can handle some demo work yourself. Ripping up carpet and knocking out cabinets can be very satisfying. If you are tackling some or all of the demo, a few tips:

  • Keep it Simple:

If you are demoing, just do that. Nothing else. Don’t think for a minute that you are going to demo the kitchen and then (fill in the blank: lay the floor, paint the walls, tile the backsplash, tie your own shoes) because the demo part of the job is a job all by itself. Attempting to do anything constructive after spending the day demoing is a failure waiting to happen. You won’t even want to shower when you get home. You will NEED to shower, but you won’t want to. You will need to order in some take-out and you will be too tired to answer the door when the delivery guy arrives.

  • Keep it Sealed:

Not demoing the bedroom? Seal it off. And no, you can’t just close the door and I know because I have tried. And then I found sawdust happily nestled on every surface, including my toothbrush, afterwards – which just adds to an already tiresome job. Use plastic sheeting and tape to seal off rooms that aren’t under construction. Or you can buy a ready-made kit such as ZIPWALL, which makes the job easier but a little more expensive.

  • Keep it Safe:

Turn off the power, wear a dust mask, safety goggles and gloves, and pick up as you go so you don’t inadvertently step on a nail. Make sure you know what’s behind the wall so you don’t hit a water line or damage wiring. And if you have any concern about lead paint or asbestos, call in the pros.

Finalize the Work Schedule:

Now that the space is gutted, the work schedule can be truly finalized. Whether you are having the work done or doing the work (mostly) yourself, a document that specifies timelines is crucial. There is nothing worse than walking up to your sad, messy house and not seeing anybody working. It will make you mental. And mental people are scary.

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A schedule will ensure that things are happening on a timely basis and that one sub isn’t interfering with another’s workload. I scheduled a client’s floor refinishing the same day the client, without my knowledge, ordered a new dishwasher to be installed (See how I made sure you knew it wasn’t my fault? See how I did that?). Let’s just say, not the best day. Not the worst, but not the best.

Create a spreadsheet that includes contact information for each subcontractor, details of what their role is in your renovation, and the start and end times for their piece of the project. With a schedule in place, there’s a better chance of staying on track and within budget. And less chance of eating chocolate chips for dinner and spending an afternoon looking at lights instead of ripping out drywall.

Do your homework first to make your home work easier. See you next week at The Neighbor’s House!