How To Survive Construction

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I’ve been waiting to really post about our construction until I have some better “after” pictures, but that might not be for a couple more months so I thought it might be fun to see a few updates.  And of course, I’ll try to think of any tips/ tricks we’ve learned along the way…  Just to recap, we’re adding a bedroom over our garage which will bring our laundry room upstairs from the soggy basement and will get us another bathroom. Cue the choir of angels…

Construction Collage

Granted, we’re only a few months in, but here are some things that have been amazingly helpful to us as we negotiate the world of construction, contractors and carpentry.

1. First and foremost, our contractors have been wildly respectful about building temporary walls when possible, taping off any cracks between the construction site and our living area, and sweeping their work area at the end of the day… if you’re in the market for carpenters, then this should be Request #1. Construction is invasive enough so having a crew who is willing to keep your life somewhat in order has been a godsend.

construction wall

2. Don’t hesitate to ask about deadlines. Again, I adore our general contractor, but even the greatest of GCs will show up and ask for your decision on something by the next day. I’ve been obsessively asking about the timing of things so that I haven’t been caught off guard by a request for light switches or bathtub choice or door hardware.

bathtub construction

3. We’re lucky that our architect is in regular communication with our contractor, but I’m quick to ask the same question of both of them as they have different answers and different perspectives on construction details. I.e. the contractor has one opinion about the lighting layout and the architect has another. It’s been helpful for Mark and I to have both perspectives when ultimately making the final decision.

foyer studes

4. Make sure you know which things are part of the plans and which things will be your choice. In our plans, the recessed lights were something that the architect had already specified. Turns out, we wanted to go with a different color (white vs. black)… If I hadn’t asked the question, we wouldn’t have known this was something to change. Other examples: light switches, doorknobs, hinges, molding… these might not be details you’ll be asked about so double check.

light specs

5. Check, recheck, and double check. Construction is the ultimate game of telephone. Architect communicates our needs to contractor who then communicates to the sub contractors… and so on and so on. As the homeowners, we care about and notice the nuances way more that they will, so don’t hesitate to keep a careful eye on things regardless of how many times you think you’ve communicated your wishes. E.g. we wanted to swap out a pair of recessed lights in the front hall for a pendant light and had to remind the team of this detail a number of times.

Recessed light arrow

6. Any kind of major work on your house will be stressful and messy and inconvenient and disruptive. But this is what you signed on for. As much as you can expect your crew to be neat and tidy and respect your space, we’ve also had to make some concessions so that they can go about their work (i.e. making our house awesome). We don’t always have a parking spot, every once in a while the smell of cigarette smoke will make its way inside, the flowers we were assured wouldn’t be affected have been damaged… that’s the deal. There are days when I just pack up the kids and leave so I’m not inundated with the noise and the irritation of people crawling around my space, but there are other days when the happy hum of workmen is actually sort of exciting.

ruined plants arrow

You’ve already seen my vision for the guest room decor, but I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned about bathroom tile, where we had to compromise on form vs. function and how we tried to make three very small spaces interesting yet functional.

latest construction

Any lessons learned from other construction vets out there? We’re not out of the woods yet!

XO Charlotte
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  1. julie toland says

    good advice, especially as I’m about to enter the realm of renovation at our new house. very thankful that I won’t have to live in the space during the work – been there, done that too many times. looking forward to reading what you have learned about tile. xoxo julie

  2. says

    This is an interesting post to me. As someone who has only gone through very minor renovations, this perspective is super informative! And then on the flip-side of that, designing space, but not having to ‘live’ through its completion. An awesome insight; and I think you are right – we do not live in a perfect world, so sometimes we have to choose our battles – and go with the flow.

    • Charlotte says

      If you can’t ‘go with the flow’ a bit then construction will be a real challenge! No matter how great these guys are (and ours are wonderful) there’s always something! :)

  3. Kate Alexander says

    Yup, have done two renovations/additions. The first in the old 1860 house with an architect and the 2nd in 1994 new house without an architect. Scrapped the architect during the first as I began to catch mistakes in measurements and outside design did not take into account the functional part of the inside. With the newer addition I made all the little detail choices myself with the electrician and builder and thus got exactly what I wanted! Enlarging the upstairs bedroom (where you stayed) was an afterthought and of course prolonged the construction for the whole house, but worth the afterthought. All the new wood beams had to be hand built & notched to match the older ones (Ryan built). Before the addition I had redone two bathrooms and replaced carpet with wood floors and carefully picked out tile, fixtures and wood. I had replaced knobs and light fixtures my self. Picked out light fixtures at the lighting store (the owner actually came to the house and helped me place them).
    If you have not considered electric floor heating under your bathroom tile, do it! It is the most fabulous thing in the witner!
    If you are getting new washer/dryer, (just saying) I do not like the front door opening on the washer, unless you get the stands. At the time I thought the extra $500 was stupid for just a stand…I was wrong.
    You have to pay attention to the details of lighting, doors, windows, knobs, plumbing fixtures, molding, tile (that you will like forever)

    • Kate Alexander says

      PS I know you don’t have the snow that stays on your roof all winter long, so that ice dams won’t be a problem for you. A roof that slopes down to a garage entrance (I notice you do not) or entry door (looks like it might) poses a winter problem when it drips and then freezes causing an ice rink. Make sure that the rain gutters go where you won’t have puddles or frozen puddles. Since you have lots of leaves back there, you can get good gutters with some kind of screen so that they don’t get clogged up with leaves, which one has to clean out every year. (not a CO mountain town problem). I just get horrific ice dams.

    • Charlotte says

      One day I have dreams of being the GC but it’s been nice not to have all the many details hanging over my head with this one. :) I’m sure he’s sick of me asking, but there are so many little things that are just ‘part of the plan’ that I have an opinion about so I’ve been pestering him! And ice damns were a huge problem a couple of years ago when we had so much snow and thawing. Ironically, we were replacing our roof and as a result, didn’t have gutters…. so we were one of the few houses unaffected by the ice damns. Now we are completely reliant on our roof rake! The things you learn when you buy a house!

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