In 2010, 14,511,000 households underwent a bathroom remodel, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. An additional 8,452,000 homes received new kitchens. Home renovation projects like these might make your house happy, but what about your neighbors? Whether they're done by a contractor or completed by you, the homeowners, renovations are almost guaranteed to be noisy, create debris and make day-to-day life unpleasant for those living near you. If you're contemplating a home remodel, acting as a good neighbor can save you from any future payback.
Top Neighbor Complaints
Different projects generate different sets of complaints. Your contractor can advise you on which complaints are likely to arise from your projects, so you can be sensitive to the concerns of others.
- Dust - Dust from demolition can be a major complaint, especially if you live in a condo or apartment where you share a wall with neighbors. Building codes in New York City and other big cities often specify that a contractor must take steps to protect adjacent properties, such as using a sheath or netting to contain dust. Ask your contractor what you can do at your own home to prevent everyone from getting dirty.
- Noise - Municipal noise ordinances set a curfew for noise, including construction. The city of Boston, for example, sets a noise limit of 50 decibels from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Beginning construction prior to 7 a.m. would violate the ordinance. Reduce your air pollution and respect your neighbor's sleeping hours.
- Debris - During a demolition or remodel, you will inevitably have piles of supplies, large pieces of construction waste or debris and other waste items. If you share an entryway with your neighbors, these items can block home access. Even if you have a private entryway, these items can block a sidewalk or driveway and irritate neighbors who may be walking their dog, pushing a baby carriage or otherwise using public space. Not only is this a nuisance, it can violate city ordinances. For example, the Property Maintenance Code of Baltimore City specifically prohibits the accumulation of appliances, construction materials and other debris. If you're planning a lengthy renovation, consider renting a truck that can be delivered the next day to dump all of your waste and haul it off without violating Baltimore, or any other cities' laws.
How to be a Good Neighbor While Renovating
As a first line of defense, make your neighbors aware of your renovation plans and timelines. This way, they'll cut you some slack when the appliance delivery truck is blocking the street for a few minutes. As you inform your neighbors of your plans, find out if there is any reasonable accommodation you can make for them. For example, if a neighbor is hosting an elderly house guest one weekend and asks you not to make loud noise during that time, you may be able to accommodate the request and maintain neighborly goodwill.
If you suspect your renovation will create a lot of dust, you may want to write a letter outlining your cleaning responsibilities according to the municipal building code. Even if you have limited cleaning obligations, paying for post-remodel dust cleanup will net you neighborhood bonus points. A little extra money in your renovation to restore goodwill is priceless, as it can prevent neighbor retaliation such as noise complaints, vandalism, theft of building materials or a cooling of formerly friendly neighbor relations.