Prepare for the fast-paced progress of demolition — and the potentially jolting slowdown of structural issues
As with anything in life, a remodeling project can come with its ups and downs. Certain phases seem to go a mile a minute, while others feel like they’ve lasted a lifetime and a half, all while it looks as though nothing is being completed. Fear not — this is pretty typical. And, while every project is different, a good portion of renovations have four major phases, what I’m calling the Honeymoon, the Mid-project Crisis, the Renewal of Vows and the Happily Ever After.
For now, let’s take a closer look at the Honeymoon phase of renovating.
After weeks of searching for a remodeler in your area, calling references, checking out their Houzz profile and working toward an agreeable price, you say, “I do,” sign the contract, finalize the design and begin work in two weeks. There’s a little nervousness in the air, but as you enter the Honeymoon phase, the mood is mainly one of excitement.
A couple of weeks go by, and the day comes for work to start. Protective products are placed, and demolition begins. Demo, sweet, demo. Normally one of the quickest moving stages of a remodel, demolition makes it look as if a lot of work is being done practically overnight. Cabinetry is removed, walls are torn down, appliances are taken away and, in a matter of days or weeks (depending on the size of your project), you’re staring at a blank canvas.
After that, any necessary framing and structural work will begin. Framing usually isn’t as exciting or fast-paced as demolition, but still, there is visible progress almost daily. At this point, you and your partner are walking on air. The rate of work is astounding, and you’re still very excited (although maybe a little less nervous now) about the entire project.
Speed Bumps Ahead!
However, like a delayed flight on a real honeymoon trip, there are obstacles that can slow down this phase, specifically during demo. If you’re living in an older house, there’s the possibility that when your walls are opened, asbestos or lead could be discovered, which will need to be dealt with before work can continue.
Another common speed bump is building permit delays. Going through government-mandated processes can be tricky sometimes, especially if you or your building professional don’t have everything you need to get the green light from your municipality the first time around.
More holdups can come from structural elements that become apparent after demolition. For example, say you were going to move a door to another wall in your dining room. Once the demo crew opens up the wall where the new door will be installed — surprise! — there are plumbing pipes running the height of the wall. Reconfiguring design to meet these new requirements will add time to the demo stage.
Don’t panic. These delays happen often, and it’s worth accounting for and accepting these hurdles before you even begin to think about renovating.
See more on building permits
See more on tearing down a wall
To help your honeymoon run more smoothly, here are a few tips I’ve learned from witnessing hundreds of remodels (and even surviving a couple myself):
- Embrace change. Really. Give change a huge hug. Get to know it on a personal level. Because no matter what room you’re touching (whether it’s the kitchen or a teensy guest bath), it’s likely that you use that room daily. The sooner you accept that this room (major or not) will be unavailable for a period of time, the sooner you’ll be able to adapt your daily routines to fit around it.
- Love your microwave. This applies to kitchen remodels specifically. As soon as demo is done, your primary cooking and eating area will be gone. Before your project starts, find an untouched room in your home to create a mini kitchen that will include necessities such as a microwave, toaster oven and coffee pot. Think of it as the mini kitchen you had in your dorm or apartment in college and revel in the nostalgia.
- Don’t worry too much. I know this sounds hard — OK, really hard, especially for control freaks like myself — but trusting your building professionals to know what they’re doing (even if you do come across one of the aforementioned speed bumps) will really help you keep your head on straight. And if you do have questions or concerns …
- Communicate! Communication has proved time and time again to be one of the biggest parts of a remodel — and a successful marriage. I cannot stress it enough. Talk with your contractor, talk with your significant other — talk, talk, talk. Ask framing questions, bring up budgetary concerns, muse over paint colors. Whatever is on your mind, getting it out of your head and into the air is beneficial for everyone involved (especially you).
And remember: The Honeymoon phase of a remodel is definitely one of the high points in a process with numerous peaks and valleys, so try to enjoy it. No matter what you may encounter during demolition and framing, it’s likely that the mood of everyone on board — you, your contractor, your family and even your pet — will be very positive.
You’ve just embarked on a new journey, and the excitement of watching the image of your new home come into focus just adds fuel to your fire. Revel in that post-contract-signing bliss and maybe enjoy a glass of your favorite beverage with your significant other while you two imagine the new space that will be formed in your newly torn-apart home. Enjoy it, because what lies ahead is a bit uncertain.
With that in mind: What happens when it feels like nothing is happening? Is there still work being done? Are we still on schedule? Is it OK to freak out a little bit? Read more in the upcoming article in this series, “The Midproject Crisis.”
Your turn: How have you weathered the Honeymoon phase?