Tips and Tricks for Staying Sane During Remodeling

As I mentioned, this is our fourth major remodeling project on our current home. This includes:

  • new siding and windows
  • finishing the basement
  • remodeling the kitchen
  • our present project, remodeling the bathrooms

Here’s what we have learned to keep life (a little more) sane during remodeling.

Dust happens.

Dust happens.

1) Dust happens. Expect it. Plan for it. Deal with it. This is probably one of the most stressful parts of remodeling.

This means putting things away (wrapped and boxed) that you don’t want in the work area. If there’s going to be a lot of banging, consider taking larger mirrors and pictures off the wall in other parts of the house. (Yes. Really.) You’d be surprised how vibrations “telegraph” between floors and rooms. Better safe than sorry!

photo 4-7

Contractor-installed floor protection. Our air cleaner.

Once your things are moved out of the way, expect that the contractor will protect your floors, walls, rugs and fixtures. They should also install dust barriers. Some will be set up for the duration of the job. The rest will be “zipper doors” that allow workers to enter and exit the work area, but to keep dust from spreading as much as possible. Even with dust barriers and protection, there will be a LOT of mess and dust generated by remodeling, especially if you are doing any drywall work and painting.

Get a good air cleaner and run it continuously in your sleeping areas. We have found these to be essential for helping to trap some of the dust particles in the air. Be sure to clean the filter regularly!

When the job is done, thoroughly clean the area! Our present contractor hires a cleaning service to make sure things are cleaned properly. (It’s a wonderful perk of choosing them.)

photo 2-10 2) Contractors need space and time.

  • Plan ahead for where they will store materials and equipment. How will they have access to these materials?
  • Protect your furniture – our dressers and bedside table (pictured here) had two layers of pads on top to protect the finish from scratches. We then put a plastic tarp on top and taped it down with painter’s tape. Large flat surfaces are a convenient place for a contractor to set down tools. So…
  • Make it easy for them to work in the space. Get your things out of their way and stay out of their way!
  • Security: How will they enter and exit your home during construction? Who gets a key or garage door opener? Who are they allowed to give the key/opener to if they are not on site? (I strongly recommend changing the access code to your garage door after a construction job. It’s easy, and it safeguards everyone.) Get this in writing!
  • Agree on placement for the porta-potty and the dumpster. If you don’t tell them, they will choose a place that is most convenient for them.
  • Educate them on the requirements of your homeowners’ association or local municipality for construction projects, work hours, parking, etc. If you don’t know, ask! Some places are strict on noise before 8 a.m. and parking commercial vehicles. Find out before you (or your contractor) get fined.

3) You have to do your homework. BEFORE you sign a contract!

  • Check out the contractors you are considering carefully. Look them up on state and county websites, consumer review sites and licensing agencies. One bitchy comment won’t exclude them – but a pattern of comments and problems should. If there are “black marks” against a contractor on a vetted website (like Consumer’s Checkbook) be very cautious.
  • See a sample of the work that the contractor has done similar to what you need. Photos are OK, but actually taking the time to visit a home is better.
  • Call a couple of references. A question I always ask is, “How did you hear about this company?” (It is not always a good thing to find out “oh, they’re a friend.” You don’t know how unbiased their ratings really are.)
  • Learn what your requirements are for getting approval from any neighborhood associations or regulatory agencies. For instance, with our home, we have to file a plan with our homeowners’ association any time we are changing the appearance of the outside of our home (roof, siding, windows, etc.) If we ever put in a hot tub (a girl can dream!) we have to meet County regulations for fencing and run-off. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing that “PASSED” sticker on your electrical box.

4) You have to do your home “work.”

  • Be ready to go when they show up on the start date. If things need to be moved out of cabinets and closets, have it already done. (A mistake I made during our kitchen renovation was not getting the fridge emptied on time. They were gracious about it but it was an “oops” on my part.)
  • If you decide you will help prep an area for part of the work, do it according to their instructions. For instance, we had to tear out carpeting and some mirrored tile for one remodeling job before the flooring and painting contractors came. Then we had to thoroughly clean and prep the area. That was a dusty, smelly job, but we did it.
  • Be ready every day on time for the workers to enter your 1-15
  • Secure your pets ahead of time! Don’t expect that the contractor will catch your cats or put your dog in the yard. Also, clearly label where your pets are located so that they don’t open up the wrong door.

5) You need to safeguard the things that you want to protect.

  • Clothing. Bag it, box, it and move it out of the work area. Don’t think, “Oh, I’ll just go back in and get what I need every day.” Wrong! You need to treat the construction area as being off-limits.
  • Furniture. As I mentioned above, remove the smaller pieces and pad and cover the large ones.
  • Decor. Take pictures off of the walls. Pack away knick-knacks and books. They will be cleaner and safer.
  • Blinds and curtains: Take them down. If you are having painting done, consider removing the brackets (or accept that they will get paint or spackle on them.
  • Valuables: Seriously. Remove them from temptation. And the construction debris.

6) You will need to seriously de-clutter! Remodeling is the perfect time to do some sorting and purging of “stuff”. You don’t realize how much you have until you have to relocate it or move it. For many of us, this happens as things are moved back into the newly remodeled space. (I have an embarrassing amount of “stuff” that I donated to local charities.) Remodeling is also a time to consider what you “need”. When we remodeled our kitchen, I did a lot of sorting and repurposing. The same thing will happen when we move back into our newly remodeled bedroom and bathroom space.

7. Stick with your original plans as much as possible! Any changes to drawings that have been approved by your local authorities can require additional permits (expensive) and inspections (time-consuming!) If you work with your contractor in the planning and design phase, then you should have plans that you can run with and not change. Also be thoughtful about anything that adds to “scope creep.” It seems so simple to ask for “just one more thing” but it can change the timing and end date of your project.



8. Before you write that final check, make sure all inspections are done and all punch lists are agreed upon.

This has never been a problem for us, but it is important that you know what your rights are as far as the “punch list” items. You can, in some localities, hold back a small percentage of your final check until everything is complete. The most important item to see, though, is that “PASSED” inspection sticker. It means that you really have nothing to worry about and the job is done right.

9. Most important – keep communication lines open and be flexible.

We’re very lucky. We have a great design/build firm and a great lead carpenter. (THANK YOU, GEORGE!) But even so, it takes commitment and respect for the time and work that they do.


The byline of Anthony Wilder Design/Build is “Architecture with Whimsy.”

That means something different to everyone, but for us, it gave us permission to be creative and have fun with our space.

It also let me try something new for a logistical problem for small bathrooms: WHERE to hang all of the towels?? I know from experience that kids prefer hooks to towel rods, and if it is summer time and there’s bathing suits and towels and cover-ups, you need more places to hang things. This “tree” was a creative solution. I had spotted an idea similar to this on Teh Interwebs, and decided it would be fun to try.

Tree decal

Tree decal

I got the tree-shaped decal on sale from Pier One. I also found leaf-shaped hooks on-line; (they were bronze so I spray-painted them black.) Once the bathroom was painted and I washed down the wall, I put up the decal. And then, George, our lead carpenter, put up the leaf-shaped hooks.

Close-up view

Close-up view

And hey! they even work! 🙂 I love it!

photo 3-10

Sources for this design:

  • Pier One: tree decal (website says it is discontinued, but I also spotted it here.)
  • EBay: Leaf-shaped hooks




So, how are we coping?

Another post I forgot to Publish. Gee. What HAVE I been doing??


Someone asked me this week, “SOooo…. how are you coping?” The short answer is, “OK.” The long answer is, “OK, but I am ready for them to be done.” So here’s a “life in the trenches” blog post. Things are not neat and pretty around there. The storage choices we made are functional but not decorative. If you are a super neat person who alphabetizes your underwear, it will probably make you twitch a little.

First, the purrbabies. They have their own room in the basement where it’s quiet. It comes with their own couch, litter box, water bowl, food… and it is room most insulated from the noise and dust during the day. Do they like it? Not really. But they are coping. This is a daily task, though, that I’m very grateful I have an early-rising spouse. They have to be captured, carried into the room, and the room has to be relatively cat-proofed.

Tiria and Henry on "their" couch.

Tiria and Henry on “their” couch.

We moved our clothes out of the closet area. It is embarrassing to admit this… but we have a LOT of clothes. And shoes. And bags. And sweaters. And… well, you know.

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The old master bedroom closet when it was relatively neat.

It didn’t help that we spanned two seasons of clothing and shoes (winter and spring). So clothing which would normally be switched out the early part of April is still being retrieved from boxes and bins. And it’s just everywhere in the house, from the 2nd floor to the basement. There really isn’t an area of the house that isn’t affected. Here’s the dumping zone that was our living room. Out-of-season clothes, pictures, small furniture pieces. Lamps. Boxes of books and toiletries. Throw rugs. Extra linens and towels. Curtain rods. And the beat goes on… This meant we had to cover and pad the grand piano too.

The "entrance" to the living room.

The “entrance” to the living room.

Another view.

Another view.

More stuff.

More stuff. Mostly out-of-season clothes.

My study is now my dressing area, and where I have clothes from my dresser (Tshirts, underthangs, socks, etc.). I organized it in bins. It’s less than perfect, but it’s been do-able.

My desk is to the left. A pile of bins and baskets holds my clothes to the right.

My desk is to the left. A pile of bins and baskets holds my clothes to the right.

My dress clothes for work are in the basement.

Thanks to my beloved, a "custom" hanging rod!

Thanks to my beloved, a “custom” hanging rod!

And earrings, hair dryer, toiletries and sundries are on the dresser in my daughter’s room. photo 2-6 While I’m sleeping on the floor on an air mattress. photo 1-8 My husband has likewise used a daughter’s closet and a hanging area downstairs for his clothes, as well as his own set of boxes and bins. photo 2-11 In short, it’s been chaotic. I’ll post more about lessons learned through all of this. Once I can find my desk again.

Master Bath Demolition – The Prequel

NOTE: I just found FOUR posts that were in draft stage. Ooops. Here’s the first one.


So we moved out of our bedroom and bathroom this week. The kids are back in school and work, and the houseguests that accompanied them are gone as well. For a brief, fleeting weekend, we had all of our bathrooms available to us. It was convenient! 🙂

While the kids were home, we had our traditional “Wall Decoration Day” and let them have at it with markers and paint. I joined in the mayhem. It was fun.

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Master Bath Demolition

Another post I didn’t click “Publish.” Sorry about that.

This is where we started.

The old bathroom floor. The finest 1973 had to offer.

The old bathroom floor. The finest 1973 had to offer.

With Phase One almost done, it’s time for Master Bath Demo.

So the fun begins. We moved out of our bedroom and into my study, the basement, the living room, and our daughters’ bedrooms. For the next 8 weeks or so, we’re camping.

The old fiberglass tub is removed

The old fiberglass tub and surround is removed!

That "lovely" avocado green vinyl floor? Buh-bye.

That “lovely” avocado green vinyl flooring? Buh-bye.

Snitching some space from the stairwell for a double vanity.

Snitching some space from the stairwell for a double vanity.

Looking at the future double vanity and toilet from the doorway.

Looking at the future double vanity and toilet from the doorway.

Future walk-in closet.

Future walk-in closet.


How will it look when we are all done? Stay tuned! 🙂

Phase One – 99% DONE!

One of several posts I forgot to “publish.” Oops.

We are at the point of “substantial completion” of Phase One! This means that the first floor half bath and the hall bath are close to being finished. There’s still a few finishes left to do (like installing the wall art in the hall bath, as well as a new shower curtain rod. There also needs to be a hand towel rod and a toilet paper holders. But those are small potatoes. Just look at the difference!

Here’s the old half bath:

Powder room - the OLD one

Powder room – the OLD one



And here’s the new!


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Brighter, lighter, and a redirected heater vent takes care of moving the duct from the ceiling to the toe kick of the cabinet. The tiles are beautiful and clean like a dream. I’ll need to get some new things like a soap dish, but it’s really great that the toilet doesn’t leak. 🙂 Among other things, the original builder of the home took some plumbing short cuts. (Or, perhaps to put it more kindly, followed a standard of plumbing that is not recommended any more…)

Now, the hall bath. Remember we had leaking issues and problems with a sub floor. Turns out the toilet was installed incorrectly here as well. And the shut off valves were frozen. The stained fiberglass surround is GONE and is replaced with brighter tiles, better lighting and an easy clean tub.

Here’s the old hall bath:


Hall bathroom - OLD

Hall bathroom – OLD

And here’s the new!

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Yes!!! We’re excited. Not having “cascading fountains” into the living room is a good thing.

pictures of the master bath demolition
plans for the walk-in closet space
how we’re coping for sleeping, dressing and storage while we are kicked out of our bedroom (HINT: It’s a good thing our children are in college.)

17 flights of stairs later…

This weekend was the major “move-out-of-the-closet” time. Meaning, all of our clothes, shoes, out-of season clothing, etc had to go someplace else.

And after sorting out an embarrassing amount of clothes, shoes and STUFF, I have eight bags of things to take to donate tomorrow. If I were going to follow the 50% rule of simplifying there would be about 20 more.

Today I did a lot of shuttling of clothes from the bedroom to the basement or first floor. My FitBit says I ran up (and down) 17 flights of stairs. My knees know it, too.

Anyway… We set up temporary daily closet space (he’s using a closet, I’m using a temp closet rod) and have a few more things to finish before it’s completely empty.

By this next week, the remodeling will be close to finishing the hall bath, and the powder room…

And then the real dust and noise begins.

Pictures soon…

The “To Do” list

MONDAY is THE day! The Lead Carpenter arrives and begins the taping, prepping and setting up of the work areas around the bathrooms. So there’s lots we have to do to get ready.

1st floor:
1. Empty out the cabinet under the sink.
2. Remove the shelf that has decor on it.
3. Take down the coat hooks.
4. Remove the throw rug.
5. Disinfect the toilet since we will re-use it and I’d prefer to have them move a clean one. 🙂
6. Put bathroom “tools” (aka plunger, toilet brush) in the garage for later.
7. Remove hall rug and put in storage.

2nd floor hall bath:
1. Finish emptying the cabinet and cupboards.
2. Take down the shower curtain.
3. Take out the remaining toiletries.
4. Remove the bathmat, scatter rugs and towels.
5. Take down any art on the walls (there’s a few small pieces).
6. Disinfect the toilet which we are also reusing.
7. Store the bathroom “tools” (as above).

Study prep:
1. Since we are expanding the master bath into what is now our closet area, I am going to temporarily store some items in my study. We have a set of storage bins for toiletries that I am moving in there.
2. Remove bulletin board from the outside of the door. This door will be sealed with a plastic barrier to cut down on the dust.
3. Roll up the rugs from the upstairs hall and store into one of the girls’ bedrooms.
4. Reconfigure area so that cats have a place to chill by the window. (Priorities, you know.)

Master bedroom:
1. Move extra dresser and blanket chest into one of the girls’ bedrooms.
2. Take up throw rugs and put also into one of the girls’ bedrooms.
3. Begin thinking about how I will store/use clothes from the closet area. We are re-doing the closet to make it a true walk-in closet. This means that I have to do some consolidating and giving away of the miscellaneous stuff that I store in my closet and may or may not want to take back there.
4. See if I can persuade my beloved to clear out and declutter his part, too.


The tile on the right is the tile accent for the master bathroom shower.

It is a beautiful sea glass. I really love the color.

The rest of the tile in the shower will be a high gloss white ceramic tile.


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The other tile (on the left) is the sample for the vanity top. More news when we’ve got it.