Renovating your home while living there might sound like a logistical nightmare, but there are plenty who have found a way to make do without a kitchen or bathroom and lived to tell the tale.
The key to creating a renovation success story comes down to having a realistic timeline and making time to disconnect from the rubble.
Finding the right way to renovate your home while living and working from there all comes down to your pain threshold.
If concerns about dust, allergies, pets getting lost or injured and cleanliness rate highly on your must-haves, then moving out before the renovation happens would be your best option.
Wife and husband Lucy and James Mclean bought a 1906 Edwardian home in Elwood in 2018 with plans to renovate while living there. Managing a mortgage meant they couldn’t entertain the thought of renting on top of it, so they embarked on a 24-month renovation.
The semi-detached home required a lot of work – they wanted a new kitchen, an extra bathroom and a larger living area opening onto a backyard. “We went for the worst house on the best street,” Lucy Mclean says.
“The house did need a lot of work. James, my husband, is a site manager for a building company and does a lot of residential work; he was going to do most of it. The intention was to do it ourselves and really get into it,” she says.
“But what it really meant was we spent two years without a kitchen. We invested in a Webber and ate every meal on it over the years. Pasta was off the cards because a Webber can’t boil water.”
Before and after: The new light-filled kitchen creates an improved connection with the outdoors.
Renovating a home with a four-year-old was also difficult to manage – if only because the couple had to board up the front part of the home to separate it from the back, and make do with half the space.
“We tried to keep our bedrooms as our sanctuary,” Mclean says. “They didn’t become a dumping ground for things during the renovation.”
She says the pros included saving money and the huge satisfaction that comes with seeing your hard work come to fruition.
But the cons were all-encompassing.
“You just couldn’t get away from the renovation. It’s usurping – you see the progress and non-progress as well. We got trapped into never having a free weekend,” Mclean says.
“My advice is, don’t work every weekend. Select one day off and spend it with your growing family. In our case, someone was always responsible for the child, nobody got any rest and you start your working week feeling like you didn’t have a weekend.”
Mel McNamara lives in Brunswick with her two primary-school-aged sons and took on a bathroom renovation after an unexpected fire during Melbourne’s lockdown. She was home-schooling and working from home and moving out wasn’t possible as her family lived interstate.
“Renovating a bathroom and laundry during winter was a challenge, especially with two boys,” she says.
“I found not being able to use my washing machine the biggest challenge, plus we had a hailstorm during this time, and ice bounced through every opening in my home and quickly turned to water and then mud. I gave up trying to keep my floor clean during the process. It was just wasted energy,” McNamara says.
Before and after: Although it was chaotic, the renovation was complete in two weeks.
Sponge-bathing and washing her hair in the kitchen became her day-to-day ritual. Her plumber made sure she had running water to the bathroom most nights, but that wasn’t always possible.
“The only nights I couldn’t use the bathroom was when the waterproofing and tiling was drying, which in the end was only around three nights,” she says.
McNamara says being at home while the renovation took place meant she was able to discuss the process with her tradespeople.
“I’m a creative stylist so I chose every part of my renovation and had a clear vision. Being there helped with that process,” she says.
The bathroom and laundry rebuild took 14 days.
“My tip is to make sure your team is focusing only on your job. When tradespeople have more than one project at a time, so much time is wasted. My builders were also so kind and respectful, that was key,” McNamara says.
If you’re going to renovate a bathroom, it’s a good idea to do so in the warmer months when you won’t miss a really hot shower.
Builder Ryan Underwood from Uwood Projects always encourages his clients to move out before any renovation takes place. He says you’ll shave a month off the renovation time if you move out, while staying at the property elongates the process.
“A renovation is still a building site,” Underwood says.
“I am always wary of pets and kids around once any sort of renovation takes place. The house becomes a work site with up to 15 trades people coming through. It can be pretty hectic and full on with navigating those trades – even re-doing a small bathroom needs 15 people coming through at different times,” he says.
Cleaning up a worksite on a daily basis to make it semi-livable for a family means tradespeople are restricted time-wise to get the job done. Instead of starting at 7am, they usually wait until everyone has left the house – and are finished much earlier too.
“By moving out you’ll actually save in the long run because the cost of living at the property means you’re making the build process stretch out and less hours on site,” Underwood says.
He also points out that pets are often forgotten in the desire to renovate – he sees it all the time.
“When fences come down and gates get left open your pet is suddenly more at risk,” he says. “Weather is another factor.
“If you do want to renovate while staying there, stick to your weekly site meetings and don’t try to speak to every trade coming through the door. It does slow down the process too.”
- Read more: Domain’s ultimate guide to renovating