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How I survived my home renovation vacation

Real life advice for staying in your home during a major reno  

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I was warned: A home renovation is a big deal, they told me. My mother. My in-laws. The new neighbours. People thought we were ambitious to rip up the main floor of the house we just moved in to while living in it with a three-year-old and a 10-month-old.

“Stressful? No way! We got this. It will be fun,” I said.

After 72 days, we are nearly finished adding a half bathroom on our main floor and replacing an outdated kitchen. All that’s left are some paint touch-ups. I can’t even believe it.

Our renovation journey has been a wild ride as we attempted to live in a construction zone with two small children. Full disclosure: we did abandon ship and move in with my parents for two weeks in the thick of it. One can only coral tiny children away from the hub of their home for so long before the utter exhaustion of it all kicks in.

It hasn’t been all bad but it has been an eye-opening experience. The number of decisions and attention to detail involved for things to work well is overwhelming. Of course a home renovation is exciting, but treat it like the major event –and investment– it is.

With the right planning you can mitigate the major stress that will arise during renovations.

Make accommodations: If a temporary residence is not an option prepare to adapt your routine to accommodate the upheaval of a renovation. Most mornings we were up bright and early filing out the door as contractors filed in, keeping busy away from home (and the mess) until their work day ended.

Our main floor was out of commission, so upon returning we walked straight upstairs to bed if it was late enough or straight to the temporary kitchen in the basement. With a slow cooker, panini press, griddle and barbecue, meals weren’t too challenging but cleaning up in the laundry sink was.

Always be prepared: Our project was by no means a DIY affair. We hired a contractor and were lucky to work with my sister-in-law who has some fabulous interior design experience (you may have seen her working on season two of Sarah 101).

We poured over plans, renderings and measurements. We taped out changes to the space. We wanted to feel exactly how the new space was going to function before we started ripping the old one apart.

Make sure you have someone in your corner with design experience and the ability to solve problems as they arise.

Budget: The general budget rule is allot 10 per cent for overages. If you’re in an older home and disturbing the floors or walls, plan for asbestos, hidden pipes, and intruding beams – all things that will have to be addressed if uncovered.

Know that you have the budget to handle surprises as they appear. Wait until you can afford to do the job properly and then save a little more. The shiny new renovation will not be nearly as enjoyable if you break the bank to get there.

Schedule: Your contractor can give you a timeline for the job –his very best estimate– but it’s just that. A little optimism is great, but don’t believe you are the exception to the rule and your project will wrap up by an exact date. You’ll avoid disappointment and you won’t try to rush your project across a finish line.

Prepare yourself to deal with things on a daily basis: Project management is a job in and of itself. If you can’t hire someone to do this and take it on yourself, go easy. Don’t plan a renovation project during your busiest season at work, events you want to host, trips you want to take. You need time and energy to devote to your project to stay on top of it.

Plan, prepare, focus on your investment, mitigate your stress and try to enjoy the process without overwhelming yourself. Like by moving in to a new home, promptly packing up for a major reno, and living through it with two young kids. That’s just ambitious.