How Long Is That Remodel Going to Take?

Removing kitchen floor during a house remodelImage:

Some remodeling projects go on for weeks and make a mess of your home life. Here’s how to survive.

Renovations can take weeks — and sometimes months. That means endless days of subcontractors traipsing through your home, noisy tools, and major dust. Even some minor projects can disrupt your daily routine. Before you begin to remodel, know what’s in store for you and your family.

We’ve highlighted nine common remodeling projects that homeowners are likely to undertake — projects that require professional contractors and that take at least one week to complete.

We also talked with veteran remodeler Paul Sullivan, who has renovated homes for 34 years and is president of The Sullivan Company in Newton, Mass.

Sullivan helped us rate each project on a “disruption scale” of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least disruptive to your everyday home life and 10 the most. If your project reaches a 10, consider getting a hotel room for the duration.

Attic Bedroom Conversion

National median cost: $65,000

Time: 8 to 10 weeks

What’s involved: A project that converts unconditioned attic space into a bedroom must include egress windows and at least one closet. Most likely, you’ll extend plumbing, HVAC ducts, and electrical wiring to the attic, and add insulation, drywall, and flooring.

Disruption scale: 3  Luckily, most of the work is in the attic and doesn’t involve your main living areas. You’ll have to put up with contractors moving through the house to get to the top, so provide drop cloths or old rugs to protect your floors. Also, plaster dust from drywall installation and finishing likely will float throughout your home, so you’ll want to change furnace filters every two to three weeks during the project.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

National median cost: $7 per square foot

Time: 2 to 14 days

What’s involved: Sanding, staining, and sealing wood floors. 

Disruption scale: 9  Whether you’re refinishing one floor or an entire house, the process involves a world of hurt. You have to move furniture and cover surfaces to protect from wood dust, which disrupts the flow of family life. And if you use oil-based sealants, you’ll have to live somewhere else to avoid breathing VOC fumes. Plus, you won’t be able to walk on floors for at least two days after the last coat of sealant is applied.

Related: Should You Refinish Hardwood Floors Yourself?

Bathroom Renovation

National median cost: $26,000

Time: 2 to 3 weeks

What’s involved: Turning your outdated bathroom into a dream spa includes updating plumbing fixtures, installing ceramic tile around a porcelain-on-steel tub, replacing an old toilet with a low-flow, comfort-height model, and installing ceramic floor tiles and solid-surface vanity counters.

Disruption scale: 7 to 10  If you’re remodeling your only bathroom, expect major disruption of your personal hygiene routine. You’ll have to wash in the kitchen sink, and install a portable potty in the yard or make friends with a neighbor when nature calls. You’ll have less pain if you have more than one bathroom in the house. Even then, you’ll suffer water outages during plumbing updates. And if you’re remodeling a master bath, you must put up with workman tromping through your bedroom.

Related: 7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

Complete Kitchen Renovation

National median cost: $60,000

Time: 8 to 12 weeks

What’s involved: Replacing cabinets, installing a kitchen island and countertops, replacing appliances, adding lighting, and changing flooring.

Disruption scale: 8  Kitchens are the heart of the home, so when they’re down, you’ll eat out more, wash coffee cups in bathroom sinks, and hold family meetings in the family room where your microwave and fridge now live. To ease the disruption, your contractor can easily set up a construction sink somewhere by running a couple of hoses from existing kitchen plumbing through the dust wall to a make-shift kitchen in an adjacent room.

Kitchen Upgrade

National median cost: $30,000

Time: 1 to 2 weeks

What’s involved: Replacing cabinet box fronts, adding new hardware, updating appliances, sinks, and faucets, and installing new flooring.

Disruption scale: 5  Kitchen facelifts are less disruptive merely because they’re finished faster than major remodels. You’re mainly pulling and replacing, so plumbing and electrical can stay put, and you’ll still have access to your fridge until the new one arrives.

Basement Conversion to Living Area

National median cost: $36,000 

Time: 2 to 3 weeks

What’s involved: Finishing the lower level of a house to create a playspace and video area for kids.

Disruption scale: 2  Seems counter-intuitive, because turning unfinished space into extra living space requires all the finishes of a new addition — electrical, flooring, wall surfaces, and insulation. But the good news: Work is confined to a part of the house you rarely use. Contractors can enter and exit through the basement door (if you have one), and noise and dust are easily confined. The biggest disruptions come from periodic electrical outages.

Roofing Replacement (Asphalt Shingles)

National median cost: $7,600

Time: 1 week

What’s involved: Removing and replacing roofing moisture barriers, flashing, and shingles. 

Disruption scale: 1  Replacing your roof is one of the least inconvenient remodeling projects you can do. You’ll have to put up with some banging, move your cars away from the house, and keep dogs and kids out of the yard during the demolish phase. Roofers will cover the ground around the job to corral debris; and after the job, they’ll go over your yard with a magnetic roller to pick up stray nails.

Siding Replacement (Vinyl)

National median cost: $12,000

Time: 1 to 2 weeks

What’s involved: Removing and replacing old vinyl siding with new vinyl siding.

Disruption scale: 3  You’ll endure lots of banging around your house as the new siding goes up. If noise bothers you, stick in your earbuds and listen to something soothing. Even though contractors will cover the area around the house, expect some debris to litter the yard. Keep curious kids and pets inside while work is being done to avoid accidents.