Being communicative, considerate and responsive can help keep the peace in the neighbourhood
When planning a home renovation or new building projoct, there’s already a lot on your plate, such as managing the budget, making seemingly endless design decisions and accepting that a whole team of workers will be traipsing across your property. But it’s also important to think about how the work is going to affect your neighbours. After all, building projects are disruptive even under the best of circumstances. And at worst? Well, you’ve probably heard some horror stories.
It’s worth taking a few extra steps to stay in the good graces of the people with whom you share fence lines, street parking and neighbourhood groups. Consider this guide your blueprint for framing those necessary neighbourly conversations, so you can get the redesign you want without stepping on too many toes.
Do your homework
Certain projects (such as demolitions and extensions) may require that you notify neighbours in advance. Your renovation professional ought to be able to fill you in on the details if that’s the case. Even if it’s not legally necessary, it’s still good practice to keep neighbours informed if you want to maintain positive relationships in the long term.
When you’re getting ready to approach your neighbours with news of your upcoming works, the more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the more comfortable they will feel with the project.
Know the answers to these questions before you approach your neighbours:
- When will construction start?
- How long do you expect construction to last?
- What types of equipment will be used on the site?
- Will there be extra vehicles, portaloos, skips or road closures to consider?
- Are your plans in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood?
Make contact in advance
When you let your neighbours know about your plans, be prepared for a range of reactions. Some people might be excited and curious (“We’re thinking of renovating, too! Who are you using?”), while others may be indifferent or even hostile.
All these reactions are OK. Just focus on listening attentively and with empathy: often, that’s all it takes to bring the temperature back down. Along with your in-person chat, give your neighbours something in writing that includes the key details discussed and contact information they can use to get in touch with you during the day.
A few things to include in that first communication:
- When the work will begin, how long it’s expected to last and what equipment will be used
- Whether they will need to move their cars at certain times
- The work schedule you’ve negotiated with your pros – for example, no work before 8am or after 5pm.
- Assurance that your renovation is legal and will be done with the necessary permissions.
Take along your design plans to help them visualise what the end result will look like.
Finish by asking about and showing respect for their time. If they work from home, have young children who take daytime naps or have other schedule-related concerns, listen and let them know you will do what you can to accommodate them.
Keep neighbours posted on progress
Unless it’s a very short project (a week or less), it’s likely you’ll need to update your close neighbours several times during the renovation process when things are happening that will affect them.
During the first visit with them, ask how they’d like to be kept in the loop – some may prefer you simply drop by, while others may want to be emailed, texted or phoned.
When to give your neighbours an update:
- You’ve learned that the crew will need to close your street on a certain day.
- A large delivery is expected that may affect street parking.
- Your project timeline has encountered a significant setback.
- A particularly loud or disruptive part of the work is scheduled.
- You’re almost done! Share the good news and expected end date.
Help smooth over issues as they arise
The unfortunate truth is that you probably won’t be able to solve all the problems your neighbours come to you with during construction. But listening with empathy can go a long way towards keeping neighbourly relationships healthy. So listen with care, ask clarifying questions if you’re not sure what they want, and then do your best to accommodate their requests.
Bring your neighbours’ concerns to the attention of your pros, and find out what (if any) steps can be taken to help. For example, if a neighbour complains about smells or fumes, check to make sure proper care is being taken to ventilate the work site.
Do what you can to minimise noise and street congestion
The complaints you’re most likely to hear from neighbours during works usually concern noise and parking. And while there is as yet no way to conduct a silent renovation, or to cram the bulky construction vehicles and skips into a space-bending suitcase like Newt Scamander’s in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, here are a few things you can do:
- Don’t let construction equipment or skips block neighbours’ driveways.
- Let workers know where they can park – and where not to park.
- Park your own vehicle off-street or around the corner, freeing up more street parking for neighbours.
- Find a spot for the portaloo as far from neighbours’ properties as possible.
- Ask the crew to clean up on a regular basis and to check for any project debris that might have landed in a neighbour’s garden.
- Ask that the crew not start work before 8am or continue past 5pm unless absolutely necessary, and request a later start time for any weekend work.
Offer a gesture of thanks
When the work is (finally) done, there are still a few things to check off your list. Most important, be sure that your workers have thoroughly cleaned up the site – including using a magnetic sweeper in driveways and paths to pick up stray nails that might otherwise puncture tyres.
Once everything is spick and span, it’s time to visit your neighbours with the good news that the work is done. Thank each one in person for his or her patience during your renovation. And while gifts are not necessary, taking some flowers, a bottle of wine or some special biscuits is a thoughtful gesture – especially for close neighbours who’ve been directly affected by the construction.
Hosting an open house and inviting the neighbours can be a gracious way to mark your project as complete and give curious people a chance to see the results of all that construction dust. Hold the celebration in the space you had renovated, if feasible – a garden party if you had landscaping done makes sense, for instance.
If the renovated space was a more private one (say, the master bathroom), consider freshening it up with a vase of flowers and inviting people to tour it. And if you were happy with the work of your home design pros, consider having their contact information on hand: curious neighbours are bound to ask!
How did you stay on good terms with your neighbours during a home renovation?