Secrets for Pulling Off a Live-in Renovation

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OK, right now your new space isn’t perfect, but hopefully, you’ve set aside funds to turn it into your dream home. That’s a good start, but it takes more than just money to navigate the ups and downs of a home renovation – especially if you’re planning to be on-site during the process. If you plan to stay put while a construction crew tears your place apart, you need to think things through carefully to keep your possessions and sanity intact. Here are some tips for navigating the process successfully. 

Prepare for the Mess – and the Chaos 

Any major renovation is bound to involve a degree of disruption, so advance planning is a must. Discuss logistics with your contractor before starting any work, especially if it involves plumbing or electricity outages. Depending upon which area or areas of your home are being renovated, you may need to devise temporary workarounds, so build these into your budget.  

Take It Room by Room 

Different rooms require different strategies for coping with the disruptions while they’re off-line. For example, if your kitchen is being gutted you can set up a temporary solution using a mini-fridge, microwave, electric kettle, and non-perishable snacks. Keep paper plates, cups and utensils handy and make and freeze meals ahead of time that can be easily reheated. 

If the living room’s being renovated, pack up items like the TV, chargers, books, blankets, pillows, and similar items and move them to the parts of your home that are still intact. In a pinch, use the den or family room as a temporary bedroom. If it’s a whole house renovation, schedule the bathrooms so that they’re not all out of commission at the same time. And if you have only one bathroom, schedule its reno for last. 

Also keep in mind that you’ll need to keep exits clear in case of emergencies and ensure that safety-related fixtures such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and CO2 detectors are in good working order. Use noise-canceling headphones, a white noise machine or sound conditioners to cut down on the din. 

Plan Each Phase Carefully 

Start with a realistic schedule that’s agreeable to both you and those in charge of the renovation. Figure out what needs to happen in what order, how long each task will take, and build in extra time for the unexpected. List priorities and break the project into manageable chunks. Start by setting up a timeline for major structural work, move on to rough finishes like drywall and flooring, and finally, the finishing touches. 

Don’t Forget Storage!  

In many ways, a home renovation is like a move in that you’ll be packing up and shifting items throughout the process. Get sturdy boxes, bins and labels so you can properly organize and pack up belongings from the renovation area and have a separate storage spot for items you’ll need while the renovation is in progress. While you’re at it, check out our videos for packing items with care. 

Make Safety a Priority 

For any contractors you hire, check credentials and references thoroughly using sites like and the Better Business Bureau. Verify proper licensing and insurance, and research them online to ensure they have a proven track record of safe practices. Whenever possible, meet with candidates in person to ensure you feel comfortable having them in your home. 

Protect yourself and your belongings from dust, fumes and debris by sealing vents, doorways and any holes or cracks leading to your temporary living space and don’t forget to cover furniture, floors, and appliances. During certain phases of the renovation, consider wearing masks, especially if the demo involves working with any hazardous materials. An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help improve air quality. 

Secure the work area to prevent falls or injuries from tools and materials. Use caution tape, fencing, or physical barriers to designate unsafe areas, especially if you have small kids or pets. And as we mentioned above, be sure there’s easy access in and out of your home in case of an emergency. 

Plan for the Unexpected  

Even the best planned home renovation is bound to have a few surprises and bumps along the way. Often unforeseen issues like structural damage, mold, or pests crop up and will require immediate attention. Have emergency funds set aside in case additional work becomes necessary. Many contractors and other experts recommend building in a minimum 10% contingency to cover unexpected hiccups and keep things on budget. Also, try to be flexible when it comes to deadlines: In the end you’ll find a little patience and understanding goes a long way.  

Planning a move soon? Why not let the professionals at United Van Lines take care of the heavy lifting? United’s full-service moving packages provide flexibility to mix and match the services you want and need, from packing and unpacking to standard furniture placement.    

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Do you need help settling in? Check out our other blogs for moving tips and packing advice, as well as city guides and a wealth of other helpful, time-saving information. 

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