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How to Survive Construction

October 10, 2014Custom Homes, Home Remodeling
By Melissa Kennedy

So you’ve decided to take on a construction project. You’ve picked out your finishes, you’ve worked with an architect to design the space. The slate tile you’ve dreamed of will soon be beneath your bare feet. The added insulation means you will no longer have to walk around in your jacket until you succumb to turning the thermostat higher and giving up lower heating bills for your comfort. You won’t need to worry about the seat slamming because your new toilet seat will be soft-close and gently ease down without a peep. The view through your new kitchen window will allow daylight to pour in while you stare outside and ignore the pile of dishes that seems to constantly regenerate.

But before the positive emotions pour over you, you must live through six months of construction.

You know it will be worth it. You know there is incredible value in living in a highly functional, aesthetically pleasing space. However, the thought of six months of microwave dinners, and all of you using one toilet and perhaps a basement shower set-up next to the temporary kitchen (which consists of a hot plate, the microwave and, of course, the coffee maker), makes you search for air flights to see how quickly you can get out of the country. Read this first, and prepare for the exciting road that lies ahead…

Things You Should Know:

  1. Your contractor is a person, and that person cares about your happiness. Everyday, your home is his office. He has no privacy. He has no “alone-time”. He is busily verifying every detail to ensure the best outcome for your project.
  2. Some days a lot of work will get done, some days nothing will. Construction relies on a lot of people to get the job done. It relies on subcontractors, tradesmen, specialty carpenters, the granite supplier, the tile fabricator and the boat driver shipping that tile from Italy (or preferably somewhere within a 500 mile radius). Some days the stars align, some days they don’t.
  3. Mistakes happen, they will be corrected. An analogy we like to use is: “you don’t watch your car as it moves down the assembly line” – it is a messy process, there are mistakes, but all you see is the highly reflective, glossy product with an interior smelling like an intense cluster of VOC’s that remind you this car is new. When you live through construction, you see that assembly line on a daily basis. Trust that your contractor wlll produce that glossy, new smelling “car” at the end of the job.


How to Help your Project Run Smoothly:

  1. Set appropriate expectations. Understand that construction is a work-in-progress.
  2. Make all decisions before construction starts. Make sure you have finalized all of the design, finish decisions, and selections – it will make your life easier and keep things running on schedule and on budget.
  3. Understand that some things are unpredictable. Set aside a contingency of ~ 5% and expect to spend it. Understand that there are things that you can’t see or assess before demolition.
  4. Donuts and coffee. If the team seems stressed, it never hurts to send positive compliments to the field crew. Donuts and coffee go a long way.


Try to enjoy the journey – it will come to an end and you will be loving the end result!

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