I Lived in My House During Construction. Here's How it Went.

Planning Room Decor


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Planning Room Decor

Rehab Nightmares

My husband and I were unenthusiastic about adding on to our little (for four people) house — especially if we had to move out during the project. Construction is, at best, an interruption to daily life. Moving out during the process didn’t seem like an option, as we had four dogs and two cats that would have to make the trip and two kids who needed to stay close to their school (which reopened to in-school classes after a pandemic shutdown), too. But when we found a contractor who presented us with a viable plan (and housing prices in our area jumped over 14% year over year), it seemed like a better solution than fighting for a new home in a tight housing market. Here’s how the process went.

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Builder sweeping the floor after renovation

There Was a Lot of Dust and Mess

There’s always a lot of dust when construction happens, but we might have been unprepared for just how much. It also seemed to turn up in rooms far removed from construction, and it seeped into every nook and cranny. I am still afraid to open some closets in case all the stuff inside looks like a costume rack from “The Walking Dead.”

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Interior decoration

I Was Able to See Problems Quickly

While having to stay sequestered in a corner of my house on a daily basis so as not to hear workers grumble in Spanish or Hebrew that I was underfoot, being on hand to answer questions (sometimes via Google Translate) and confirm that yes, I did indeed pick that color for a bedroom was worth it.

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It Got Loud — Really, Really Loud

Have you ever had a dentist turn on that ear-splittingly shrill dental drill and hold it next to your head? One, sorry, and two, imagine that sound but louder and combined with bone-shaking pounding. It wasn’t every day, and it usually wasn’t all day (the crew needed to eat lunch), but it was enough.

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Modern Hotel Building in Summer

We Had to Move Out Fast (But Temporarily)

On two occasions, the construction team managed to cut off our internet — which, when you work from home, is more than an inconvenience. Since this happened during the pandemic shutdown (and before vaccines were available), the idea of getting a hotel room was only slightly less appealing than contracting tuberculosis. But, with many masks and a lot of Clorox wipes, we did what we had to do — and amazingly stayed COVID-free. 

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white cat lying in flower pot

Dealing With Pets Was a Problem

There is an unspoken rule that people who do construction do not like to close doors. Usually, it doesn’t matter, and why would you when you’re walking back and forth to get a tool or a sip of your Big Gulp or use the Porta Potty? Not often do you have to worry about the yippy dogs and indoor cats of the person who owns the house, as they’ve usually been smart enough to leave the premises. Two of my dogs got out, but seemed so unnerved by their freedom they barked to get back into the backyard, and my one cat who is always looking for an exit in order to decimate the local bird population didn’t stray far before she was caught (and from the lack of feathers in her mouth, it seemed her hunt was unsuccessful). Still, the stress of having to do continuous furry headcounts through the day was something I could have skipped.

Car rear window smashed by thief

My Car Got Seriously Damaged

We’re still not sure why a construction worker decided to leave a giant window (not from our house or planned for it) next to my car, but I do know that on a particularly windy day, that window smashed into my car, broke the back window, and landed my car at the repair shop for two months waiting for that back window (which was apparently out of stock everywhere — thanks, pandemic shortages!) to be replaced. Our contractor paid for the mishap, and I wasn’t using the car much (again, pandemic), but it was a hassle that could have been avoided.

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Process of tiling the tiles in the kitchen with necessary tiling tools. Home improvement, renovation concept

I Was Able to Get Used to Changes Gradually

I am not someone with Pinterest collections of my favorite home trends, so picking out tile, cabinets, lighting, and a hundred different doodads was not in my wheelhouse. So when it took a few days for workers to install a backsplash or paint a room, I was able to see what I’d chosen as it went up — and, while I didn’t end up making last-minute changes, it was a comfort to know that if the greenish subway tile really looked awful, I could swap it out while it was only partially installed. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

Recycling container trash dumpsters being full with garbage

Construction Messes Created Issues

Anytime you have construction done on your home, there are going to be piles of leftover trash. If you’re not staying in your home, you may not be fully aware of the rubbish (or at least you aren’t inconvenienced by it). But if you can clearly see the construction debris, empty beer bottles, tons of boxes, and styrofoam containers holding half-eaten meals from your back windows, it’s a drag. And, it turns out, also a little dangerous (keep reading).

Nail on board wood In the construction area
chonticha wat/istockphoto

I Stepped on a Nail

I would have thought my thick Adidas slides were protection enough when a 2-inch nail bit into the sole of my foot, but not so much. While I ended up with a scrape that didn’t call for a tetanus shot, it didn’t feel great. I am, however, glad I didn’t opt for flip-flops. 

Single family mountain house with construction site for renovation repair work

I May Have Avoided a Break-In

While this is just hypothetical, leaving your home empty of people and barking dogs but not of stuff is sort of like putting up a sign inviting robbers to stop by and help themselves. While it was a hassle to stay put, I think the stress of putting all our belongings in storage would have done me in — and leaving everything in the house, especially when workers were popping in and out throughout the day, wasn’t a logical option.

Carpenter working on wood craft at workshop
Blue Planet Studio/istockphoto

I Had to Coordinate With Construction When I Needed Quiet

At first, it seemed that the loud noise level and the random banging was just a bother when I needed to concentrate — but when I was a guest on a podcast and realized it was not going to be one of the rare quiet construction days, I had to find a way to communicate to workers who didn’t speak much English that I needed an hour of silence. Luckily, the contractor made the call, but I’m glad I didn’t have to ask for that favor more than once. 

Interior construction of housing project with drywall installed door for a new home before installing

I Saved Some Money

While construction is never cheap, rent is a little easier to define — and, like homeownership, the cost has gone up dramatically, especially in the last year or two. If we had moved out of our home for six months (or longer), that would have meant renting a place that accepted dogs and cats in my kids’ school district. The best estimate for that expense is around $18,000 or more. Gulp. This doesn’t include what it would have cost to put most of our stuff in storage, either. 

Custom kitchen cabinets of installation base of kitchen cabinets

My Kitchen Was MIA for Months

In addition to most of my kitchen being stuffed into boxes for several months, most of my appliances were either unplugged or placed in strange locations. I never realized how many steps were in basic recipes until I realized even simple ones (like chopping vegetables, making coffee, or even washing up after dinner) were hopelessly complicated. So yes, we ate a lot of frozen pizza on paper plates (thanks to a toaster oven we managed to rescue). It wasn’t pretty (or nutritious) and I can honestly say I feel a little sick when I see a DiGiorno’s ad these days. 

Kitchen Remodel Wall Down Ladder in Living Room

I Had My Refrigerator in My Living Room

You don’t realize either how much stuff you have or how important it is for it to be in the right place until it all ends up where it never ever should go. Because we still needed to use our fridge, we had to plug it in in the living room. While it was convenient, it was also an eyesore and way too close to the sofa for between-meal foraging.

Workers Working on A House Roof
SDI Productions/istockphoto

My Driveway Was Not My Own

While sometimes it was fine for workers to park in front of the house, when they had equipment or materials to unload, which was often, they needed better access. I can’t say how many times I had to stop what I was doing to move my car or my husband’s car. A minor inconvenience, but one of many. 

Beautiful living room interior with tall vaulted ceiling, loft area, hardwood floors and fireplace in new luxury home. Has large bank of windows

Was It Worth It?

While I’m in no rush to take on a project like this again, staying in the house was really the best option, construction dust and frozen pizzas and all. Given that we were lucky that none of our pets became speed bumps, there were more pros than cons. And did I mention what we saved not having to rent a place? 

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