If you live in a home for any length of time, it’s a fair bet that you’ll do some kind of renovation project. While you are absolutely entitled to renovate, start by cultivating some empathy for your neighbors. Would you enjoy living next to months of noisy construction, truck traffic, and big deliveries? No? Put yourself in your neighbors’ place: what would make someone else’s renovation better for you can make yours tolerable for others.
Now that you’ve taken a moment to think about your neighbors, demonstrate your empathy by communicating early and often. This includes apologizing pro-actively for any disturbance caused by your project. Organize deliveries, parking, and work schedules (as much as possible), then run your plan by your neighbors before you start construction. Including them early will go miles towards gaining their patience and approval. Because you’ve opened the channels of communication, they’ll be more likely to weather the inconveniences. If any concerns do crop up, neighbors will know they can talk with you about them in a productive way.
Be genuinely considerate: what exactly can you do to minimize your neighbors’ discomfort and inconvenience? Are flowers and chocolates appropriate, or maybe photos of the progress, or is there something else that matches their needs? Once the work has started, send a thank you note, emphasizing your gratitude for their patience and understanding.
Speak with your contractors about their plans, including their scheduling of disruptive work, such as demolition. Communicate work dates with your neighbors as you get into the project, and update them as, inevitably, those dates change. Be upfront with your contractors about your concern for your neighbors.
If you’re part of a co-op or condo association, read the rules pertaining to renovations and adhere to them with discipline. Not only will you avoid fines and legal ramifications, you’ll be free from dirty looks from disgruntled unit owners and you’ll still get invited to the association’s summer barbecue!
Keep things clean. Your contractors should be broom-sweeping daily, but there may be more you can do to separate your renovation from your neighbors. Consider screening with fencing or landscaping if you’re in a single home. Vacuum carpets outside your unit if you’re in a condo. Make sure visible materials are stacked neatly, are covered, and don’t sit in the same spot for months.
Once the work is done, write another round of thank you notes. If it makes sense, invite neighbors to an open house so they can see what the finished product looks like (and be sure to provide some refreshments!). Write an honest review of your contractors, and note if they’ve done a great job minimizing the impact on your neighbors. When one of your neighbors starts their own project, send them this blog and be a gracious bystander to their project.