So, should you move out while renovating, or stay put and potentially save some serious money?
Renovating is undeniably one of life’s ‘big stressors’ and renovating while living on-site is the extreme version. We lived onsite for a great deal of the time our last house was renovated, and boy, it was tough.
The trouble was - as it unfortunately is for many renovators - the length of time and scale of our project was so great that we couldn’t afford to live off-site during its entirety. We did live elsewhere for the initial stages of the project, but after a few months of paying rent and meeting mortgage repayments, we had no option other than to move in with the job only part finished.
The following 10 reasons you should take into consideration before deciding to live on-site or to move while renovating.
The most obvious consideration is stress. Living onsite during a renovation (renovations!) is probably one of the most stressful experiences I have ever lived through, and the prospect of doing so should be carefully considered.
When living on-site there is an overwhelming feeling of never being able to find any space or distance from your project. Everywhere you look, there it is. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because you can see how far you have come, but in the earlier stages of a renovation all you can see is how much there is to do, imagine how much time it is going to take, and stress over how much more money you will need to spend.
Trades around here like to get started by 7am, which I expect is pretty common. That means, you’d better be up and ready to greet them, be prepared to answer questions, run project related errands if you’re a hands-on renovator, plus be ready to deal with noisy power tools, and pretty much a total invasion of privacy!
It’s not the trades fault, they’re just doing their jobs. It’s just one of the things you need to be prepared for during a renovation.
In our household, with at least five and often six family members to get up and ready for school/uni/work - it was always a super early start. (Or face the prospect of having workers in your space while trying to use the bathroom, have a shower or even have breakfast!).
Often with school commitments prior to the school day, sports training etcetera, that meant being at school by 7am, which meant an even earlier drop off so I could be back in time to meet the trades and the head contractor, to discuss problems that may have arisen and go through what would be taking place during the day.
3. Early mornings
Which brings me to early mornings - I am not an early morning person! The thought of having to get up early and get everything organised by 7am often resulted in a restless sleep for me - you know the one, when you know you have to get up early for something so you sleep as though you are on alert. Multiple this by a five-day-a-week commitment that lasts for months and it culminates in one massive load of added stress.
I felt like I started every day on high alert, adrenalin surging, wound up like a spring - no quiet meditation time, reflection or a calm breakfast for me, it was up, quick shower, get dressed, breakfast on the run, get everyone else up and organised, make the school lunches (I know I could have done that the night before!), make sure the kids have everything the need for school that day - sports gear, computers, signed notes, lunches, after-school sports uniforms - shift the cars out of the driveway so the trades could get theirs in, all before 7am.
As the project dragged on, the kids were very patient but they grew tired of having to be up and out of their beds and bathrooms so early every day.
My husband in particular disliked constantly having strangers in the house from 7 o’clock in the morning. Strangers using the bathroom (there was no other option on our site), strangers in your kids’ bedrooms, strangers everywhere pretty much, sometimes hoards of them.
The regular trades were fine, we got to know them really well, it was all the other suppliers and contractors, just in and out for a day or a week. It is difficult to get to know and trust people in such a short amount of time.
All this added up to me having to being extra-organised - not one of my strong points, and something which although may seem like a bonus (that is me improving my organisational skills) actually added to my stress load at the time. Plus, I was so focussed on being organised for the contractors and people working on the house, that I neglected to be as organised for the family - I literally had little brain power left!!
Contractors can try to clean, tidy and remove obstacles and safety risks on a renovation site before heading home, however to make a renovation site completely safe is in my view impossible. Many issues can pose risks to renovators and their families, in particular those with young children, and this should be taken into consideration.
If you live in a house that is being renovated, be prepared for clutter - there is no such thing as Feng Shui on a renovation site. Often entire rooms will need to be cleared and emptied of their contents into adjacent rooms, and finding things can be very frustrating. Sometimes this type of chaos and disruption can last for weeks!
8. Relationship stress
Despite being forced through financial circumstances to live on-site during previous renovations, I would never choose to complete a project this way again. Looking back, I think it was not only stressful and difficult for our relationships, but also unfair. In future, I would choose smaller projects with smaller budgets so that I could afford to live off-site for the duration of the project
Living on-site during a renovation on many occasions is like living in a garbage tip, so if you have extreme issues with cleanliness I would urge you to reconsider! Plaster dust, regular dust, cracked tile fragments, off cuts of every description, torn out carpet, boxes, mud, dirt - the list is endless.
Most of our regular trades cleaned up every day before heading home, but there was only so much they could do, or fit in the skip bin! And it didn’t matter how much they cleaned, the house or at least the area they were working on was just as messy the following day.
Many of our family and friends were surprised and disappointed that we chose to sell our home at the end of our last renovation, given how beautiful it was and how much we had done to transform it. I could understand and appreciate their point of view, but to be quite honest, the stress that we endured because we stayed in the house during the renovation took some of the joy out of the project for me.
Even after we were finished, everywhere I looked I could see reminders of the problems we had encountered, the overspend, the disillusionment, the negative dealings I had had with some unscrupulous contractors - the place had literally sucked the life out of me at times. While living on-site during the renovation, I would go to bed thinking about these issues, and wake up to them staring me in the face.
A FINAL WORD… Some renovators, like ourselves, will be in a position where they need to live on-site during their projects.
MY ADVICE for those of you in this situation is to consider the pros and cons carefully before embarking on your project, or committing to it financially - consider starting smaller and moving onto a larger project once you can afford to do so. IF YOU HAVE ALREADY STARTED, or plan to live on-site regardless, plan as much as you can to make the project as quick and painless as possible, consider taking significant time out for rest and recuperation between the various stages of your renovation, and if all else fails take sanity breaks when needed!
Renovating with love,