The two “best” renovations you can do to an old house- the ones that realtors swear will get you the best return on your investment down the line- are kitchens and bathrooms. Ironically, those are the two most difficult rooms in your house to live without- and doubly so with little ones around.
We’re about to begin a pretty major renovation- we’re updating the only full bathroom in our house from PINK (with maroon accents=insult to injury) to be more clean, simple and modern. When I say pink, let me explain- pink tub, pink shower, pink toilet, pink tiled walls and floors, pink pedestal sink. PINK. I have been at a LOSS for four years in this house- the maroon accents really held me back from finding a way to embrace it.
In 2017, we had our super-dated kitchen and dining room area completely gutted and transformed into an open concept- and we added on a beautiful covered deck and sliding doors at the same time. The outcome was absolutely lifechanging in so many ways. But living through it had its challenges- namely, because I had a 6 month old and a 2 year old in the mix of everything, who were both in diapers, both still breastfeeding, and basically just both very hands on. Logan learned to crawl during this renovation which was a memorable experience because he was suddenly mobile and I hadn’t really anticipated what that would be like in a construction zone.
Like I said- these updates were absolutely lifechanging. I can hardly remember living in the “Before” pictures, but we did- we hosted Thanksgiving in this space, it’s the way the house looked when we brought our babies home from the hospital. We did plenty of DIY projects to improve upon the space before we went ahead and had it professionally renovated- all gratifying, but nothing remotely comparable to the experience of having your vision brought to life by a professional team of experts.
As we embark on this bathroom project, I’ve been thinking about some best practices- things I learned along the way that are good to be mindful of if you’re about to start a project like this with kiddos in the house.
Plan for it. It sounds obvious, but living without normal household conveniences can easily throw you for a loop. Before the renovation, be mindful of every way that you use the current room that will be inaccessible and try and figure out how you’ll do those things without that room. With our kitchen reno, we put a table next to a slop sink in the basement to do dishes (and used mostly paper and plastic dishes during this time to minimize the dishes that had to be washed; sorry Mother Earth) but we didn’t have plans for the less obvious things- like a temporary pantry area for snacks and dry storage items, and a space for papers and things that usually collect on the countertop. With this reno, I’ve tried to be really mindful of the ways we typically use the bathroom aside from the obvious one so that I could set us up for success. It really requires some thought and attention so that you’re not propelled into total chaos.
Hire a family-friendly contractor. This is probably my most important tip. We are so lucky that the contractor we work with happens to be the father of one of my lifelong best friends, and a grandpa of four. Not only was he sweet and playful with the boys, he was always mindful and would let me know when things were going to be really loud or disruptive so that I could get the kids out of the house. He would plan his work around Logan’s nap if possible. But most of all, he was meticulous about cleaning up and making sure that the construction space was completely safe for the kids during the hours that he wasn’t in our home working. The fact that there was never any piles of dust or loose screws or sharp corners to worry about during the evenings made the process entirely more bearable. If your contractor is less mindful, you can always make sure that he’s aware that you’ll need advance notice of excessive, noise, dust, and smells that will be disruptive to children, as well as advising any periods in which power or water will be turned off.
For my local friends: our contractor is Rob Alfonso from Wappingers, and I’ll share his contact information if you contact me privately. Warning you, he books up way in advance, and rightfully so! I wouldn’t trust anyone else.
Big Picture. Don’t lose sight of it when you’re weeks/months into the renovation and losing your marbles. Before you know it, the dust will settle, the crew will go home, and you’ll be left to actually enjoy the work that was done. Living through the reno will be a distant memory. Visualize you and your family enjoying the house in a new way and let yourself be excited.
Try to keep things familiar. Even if breakfast is served in the living room, or you’re brushing teeth in bed for awhile, keep the rules the same. The more normalcy you can create in an unfamiliar environment, the better for everyone. Trust me on this one.
Have an escape plan. Go on vacation if you can. Plan a sleepover at Grandmas. Have adventures planned so that if everyone needs to get out of the house with little notice, you have something fun to do. The more you can get away from your home during the renovation and make it an adventure rather than something you’re surviving, the better.
Be flexible. Having parts of the homefront be temporarily inaccessible can be unnerving if you let it be, and it’s impossible to plan for everything. Time simply has to be alloted for things to go awry with your daily schedule.
Let it be homeschooling. Talk to your children about the jobs of the various people who will be in your home (plumbers, electricians, etc.) and let them check out the equipment and work that’s being done. If there’s an opportunity to learn, take advantage of it and let them get excited about seeing the work be created. Every cool tool, vehicle or process that took place at our house during the renovation was a chance for our children to witness how things are built.
Communicate with your spouse. If you’re like us, there’s such limited time during the average day to talk to one another about anything- let alone, big things. Try and have a game plan so you’re not frantically texting your husband during a meeting telling him you need him to help you narrow down paint colors or calculate how much tole overage to order. And something that we learned that I think is really valuable is that sometimes, decisions don’t have to all be made together. Trusting one another to do research and come to the right decision (or present a few options to decide from). With kids and life in the way, and a timeline, it’s not always possible to take time to research and deliberate the way you’d like to. Delegating and employing one person to manage certain decisions can be a good way to minimize stress.
I look forward to sharing with you about the process and showing you the progress of this renovation on Instagram Stories!