Election Section

Home Matters: Plan now to counter chaos

The Associated Press
Saturday March 30, 2002

Get through the dirty, invasive as stressful time of remodeling with communication and understanding 


Anyone who’s lived through chaos created by home remodeling can relate to this truism: remodeling is dirty, invasive, and stressful. 

If it’s a kitchen job, you shuttle the family from diner to diner, spending megabucks on three square meals a day. 

If it’s a bathroom makeover, kiss your privacy goodbye. And couch potatoes take notice: your cable may be cut while your den is updated. 

But there’s no need to star in your own remake of “The Money Pit.” According to a seasoned contractor who orchestrates rehabs and re-dos, you can mitigate the impact on family life with preplanning and common sense. 

“A lot of it gets back to communication,” says Mike Turner, vice president of Contractor Networks for The Home Service Store, a company that manages home projects for consumers. “You really need to understand what’s about to happen and address those issues in advance.” 

Turner identifies “points of chaos” that homeowners should recognize before construction ever starts: 

Strangers will be in your home for an extended period; your family and social life will be disrupted; a general lack of privacy may grate on nerves; services may be severed — television, plumbing, utilities, etc.; there will be dust, lots of dust. 

Turner advises homeowners to host a pre-construction conference with workers, including subcontractors, to establish verbally and in writing what he calls the “rules of order.” 

Discussion items include your expectations for daily cleanup, work start and stop times, rooms the family can use, work schedule changes to accommodate in-home social functions, how to control dust, no smoking, work schedules and who has access to the house and when. 

This last point, security, should be of significant concern to homeowners. 

Turner says contractors should conduct criminal background checks on workers and subcontractors. One home entry key should be kept in a lock box with access limited to key staff. Valuables, jewelry and guns should be removed from the home. 

Then there is ongoing communication. In most two-wage-earner homes, no one is around during the day to answer inevitable questions. Turner suggests a dry erase board or cell phone — even a custom e-mail address per job — to create daily give-and-take between homeowner and contractors. 

Convene a sit-down with the contractor once a month. Don’t talk about work in progress but how the family — children, too — is holding up under the strain. “This usually causes a big sigh of relief,” says Turner. “It keeps everyone up to speed on what’s going on. It’s an eye-opener.” 

How to contain dust sits atop most agendas. Negative draft methods use exhaust fans to pull dust from work areas. Simple-to-install zippered devices called “dust doors” affixed to doors and entries allow movement from room to room with minimal dust transfer. 

Plastic sheets segregate dusty rooms from habitable areas. 

“It’s important to get agreements on all the chaos points before you lift a finger on the job,” says Turner. “Any remodeling job puts a stress on homeowners, kids, pets and the contractors. But in the long run, communication takes as much of the stress out of things as possible.”