Expert Tips on How to Make It Through a Renovation

Living through a renovation can be mentally and emotionally taxing, and requires careful planning and a lot of patience. We've got expert tips inspired by Life Under Renovation, premiering April 28 on discovery+. By Mariette Williams.

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One of the best parts of a home renovation is the dramatic reveal after the dust settles, but getting to the finish line isn’t always easy. Living through a renovation can be mentally and emotionally taxing and requires careful planning and a lot of patience.

Michelle Cuvijle working on the flooring of a room in episode 2 of Life Under Renovation.

Michelle Cuvijle working on the flooring of a room in episode 2 of Life Under Renovation.

In HGTV’s newest show, Life Under Renovation, five families from across the country document their dream home renovation, giving viewers a behind the scenes look at the unique challenges of living through a remodel.

For anyone else considering a large-scale renovation, these experts weighed in on how families can stay organized, manage stress, and support each other during this life changing event.

Establish a Routine

Crystal Oakman is a mental wellness educator and says that since home renovations are rarely predictable, establishing family routines, like weekly meetings or outings (even if it’s in the backyard), can provide some normalcy and give family members a time to get out of the stress loop and into a state of connecting.

For families with young children, living through a renovation presents another set of issues as children seek stability and structure.

“The disruption of routine caused by a renovation is especially jarring for young children, because part of their emotional system focuses heavily on linking stability with safety," Oakman says. "Young children often view change as unsafe, and so focusing on feelings of safety can be helpful in keeping them from constant meltdowns during your renovation.”

To help children during a long renovation, Oakman suggests setting boundaries for when work will start and finish. If possible, have work done while children are at school and let kids know that a renovation and state of “mess” is only temporary.

Stay Organized

Ross and Will working together on disassembling the cabinet in their kitchen in episode 1 of Life Under Renovation.

Huge renovations can turn a home upside down and Los Angeles contractor Oren Farkash advises families to stay organized from the beginning.

“When work starts, there will be receipts, project updates, punch lists and more. We recommend creating a home improvement filing system – be that hard copies or electronic copies. This helps you easily track and reference whatever you need. Lists will be your best friend, but try to tackle one task at a time. Doing too much at once inevitably results in excess stress, miscommunications, delays and mishaps.”

Farkash also advises families to not micromanage projects, which can cause more stress. Instead he says families should research their contractors carefully before starting a project and lean into the expertise of the professionals. While expectations should be communicated throughout the process, renovations are a collaborative effort.

“Make a list of questions and concerns prior to beginning the project," says Farkash. "Going over those with your contractor will prevent headaches later and will help the project go smoothly.”

Involve the Whole Family

Chris North holds one of Nick and Katherine North's children while visiting them in episode 2 of Life Under Renovation.

Chris North holds one of Nick and Katherine North's children while visiting them in episode 2 of Life Under Renovation.

Renovations can take months and contractors and homeowners need to like each other because the contractor is essentially moving in, jokes New Jersey contractor Joseph Halsey. He says homeowners need to choose a contractor who is comfortable around children and advises parents to include kids in the renovation process.

“Let the kids be involved in the walk throughs, ask kids to be part of the process, and give kids decisions in the design areas such as selecting paint colors.”

Alyza Berman is founder and director of The Berman Center, a mental health treatment center in Atlanta, and says that parents can get kids involved in home renovations through fun and interactive activities.

“Map out where family activities will be taking place during the renovations. For example, make it a point that everyone knows to eat in the basement rather than the kitchen during the renovation period. I've worked with many families who have drawn a diagram or a picture to show their young kids the changes that will happen,” Berman says. “Remember that children can pick up on their parents’ stress and frustration. Try to make this renovation into a ‘fun adventure.’ Be creative with the changes and try to show them your excitement.”

Practice Self Care

Mike Cuvilje sittting on the stacks of lumber as he prepares to do further work on the home in episode 1 of Life Under Renovation. Mike is working to make his childhood home a safer place for his aging mother.

Mike Cuvilje sittting on the stacks of lumber as he prepares to do further work on the home in episode 1 of Life Under Renovation. Mike is working to make his childhood home a safer place for his aging mother.

Prioritizing your physical and mental health is also an important part of living through a renovation. Berman says continuing good eating habits and getting at least eight hours of sleep will also go a long way to ensure everyone’s stress level is in check.

In addition, activities like reading, exercising or going for long drives can provide an outlet so family members are not taking out their frustrations on each other. While alone time for each family member is important, it’s also important for families to create good memories together during a renovation.

“There are several things that can cause a huge amount of stress within a family and renovating or building a house is at the top of the list, but it's so important to continue to cherish each other as a family.”

By Mariette Williams

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