Lifestyle: How to Survive Having the Builders In
If staying put during renovations is your only option, try these tips for hanging on to a calm home life while you have building work done
While it may not be pleasant, and your patience and resilience will certainly be tested at times, it is possible to coexist peacefully with a team of builders. Take a look at these 10 tips and hold on tight to your wellbeing – and your dustpan – as your house undergoes its transformation.
This is probably rule number one of surviving building work. It may seem completely pointless, but if you don’t bother to clear away the worst of the debris each day, you and your home will begin to suffer as dirt and dust travel to every corner. Get an inexpensive vacuum cleaner that can handle hoovering up small bits of rubble – you’ll be forever grateful.
It’s a pain, but make an effort to close doors behind you as you move around the house and tape shut any unused rooms to prevent dust sneaking in (it always does!). Cover the floor on all routes to the area where the work is taking place with stick-on plastic sheeting and consider getting zipped doorway dust protectors for the dirtiest rooms.
Builders naturally end up filling bags with assorted rubbish and leaving them around. You will in turn assume there’s something very important in that bag and not think of moving it, but chances are, it’s just a makeshift bin.
You may also have new appliances and online purchases arriving continuously, which will quickly contribute to a gigantic pile of packaging. Amid the chaos, don’t forget to put out the rubbish and recycling as often as it’s collected.
It’s always a good sign on day one when your builders carefully lay out dust sheets, but they can quickly become useless and filthy bits of rag that only get pushed aside. Keep an eye on their condition and take them outside for a shake off every few days and give them a wash if you can.
One of the worst things about having work done on your house is the sense of intrusion. However much you like and bond with your building team, it’s still odd having people in your home day after day. Release yourself from the responsibility of having to be there to let them in by lending them a key. At least then you can run away (for a while) when it all gets too much.
Discover what you may be able to build without requiring planning permission
Try to keep as much of the house in a liveable condition as possible. To this end, make sure your builders have access to everything they need all in one place, near to where they are working. Once a designated area is deemed to be ‘on limits’, your building team can then ensure the rest of the house stays free from muddy shoes and blobs of plaster.
Although there are many wondrous websites that will deliver your towel rail, oven or tiles the very next day, this doesn’t leave any room for error. After your third broken bath arrives, you’ll wish you’d lived with one in your spare room for a month. There’s nothing more frustrating than your own lack of organisation causing delays on your project.
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Don’t assume you’ll be able to manage without anywhere to wash up or cook because ‘it’s only for three/five/nine weeks’. The likelihood is that your building work will take longer than planned, so it’s best to get your temporary set-up sorted right from the beginning. Ask your building team to help and you’ll be amazed what they can rig up, from a cooking station in the living room to a washing machine in the garage.
Don’t press pause on your life just because your house is in a state of disrepair; hang on to the small things that give you pleasure. If you like watching films, keep your living room clean and free from piles of boxes. Light candles, clear a path to your favourite reading nook and try to savour those peaceful evenings after the builders have gone home.
Your builders are doing a wonderful job of transforming your home for you for years to come, so try to hold on to this thought in the midst of all the dust and chaos. Befriend your builders, provide a steady stream of tea and biscuits, and you will have a much better working relationship for when you need to talk through your plans together or perhaps re-do something. You’ll also find you form real friendships and start to have fun with your team each day – even the disastrous moments are amusing in hindsight. Honest!
What tips do you have for surviving a stint with the builders or decorators? Share ideas in the Comments below.