Ask Sally

Ask Sally

Dear Sally:


My husband and I are renovating the living room in the downstairs of our historic home. It’s a fairly big project, but we’ll be staying in the house for most of the renovation. I love our contractor. I love the crew. I’m not exactly a clean freak, but every morning I walk downstairs and sort of freak about the mess. There’s paint and plaster dust everywhere. The windows are filthy. There’s trash strewn at the corners of the construction site. There’s mud in my front hallway.  I knew this would be a messy process, but I guess I wasn’t expecting this.


Is there anything I can do to stay sane in the face of chaos? Should I expect the contractors to clean up after themselves? How soon should I hire a cleaning service?


Rattled in Richmond


Dear Rattled:


I don’t care if you’re just repainting the powder room or gutting the whole house, renovations are messy. There’s always, and I mean always, sheet rock or plaster dust, sand or dirt, splattered drop cloths, miscellaneous building materials, soda bottles, fast food bags and trash trash trash. I’ve seen grown men tremble with terror at the site of a deconstructed kitchen in the middle of a rehab.  What you’re feeling is normal, so don’t panic. Remember: It’s a mess now, but it will look really great when it’s done.


That said, there are ways to maintain order in and around the renovation to help keep utter chaos at bay.


First off, you should absolutely expect your crew to deal their mess. The last 20-30 minutes of every workday should always include a cursory cleanup (trash collected, tools put away, passages de-cluttered). Workers that come to work every day in a clean workspace are far more likely to leave it that way at night. If your guys are leaving garbage all over your living room, you can and absolutely should say something.  That is not acceptable.


Never skimp on proper waste management. Give your crew an obvious place to put their garbage and the right tools for cleaning up. I like to provide a large trash can with  with a black contractor bag and a recycle box too.  Also, talk to your contractor about ways to prep the exterior entries so neither your river rock pebble garden path ends up in the front foyer nor your brick sidewalks end up permanently patterned with Vintage Gold matte boot prints.


A little effort on your part can also make a huge difference. If you’re still living in your home during most of the renovation, things can pile up. In as much as possible, deal with clutter as it occurs. A renovation can be a great excuse to purge.  Get rid some stuff. A front closet that looks like an episode of “Hoarders” will not flatter  your gorgeous new living room.


You should not expect your home to pass the white glove test until after the renovation is complete. I always, always recommend building a cleaning cost into the budget. Have your house professionally cleaned (and get the windows washed) as soon as the contractors are out.  Until then, relax.


Congratulations on your new living room,



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