Renovating can be harder than hard. There are so many factors involved in transforming the house you have into the home you want to have, and that’s before you’ve even broken ground. When in the middle of this incredibly busy and difficult time, it is easy to forget that your renovation can cause stress to others too, especially your neighbours.
There are several steps you can take to minimise the impact of your build on those around you. Your neighbours are people you run into frequently. Make sure you keep them on your side, even when your renovation may inconvenience them. It’s not only neighbourly to try to minimise the disruption to your neighbours, but ultimately it will also make your own experience less stressful and will maintain a nice community in your neighbourhood. Likewise, there are steps you can take as the neighbour of a renovation to make the build as painless as possible.
WHEN YOU’RE THE RENOVATOR
1. Consider the neighbourhood
It’s really lovely to live in a community of supportive and friendly neighbours. To promote these communities, we need to think about balancing our own needs with those of others around us. This is especially so in high-density and suburban areas where we live in each other’s pockets and our lifestyles and building choices really do affect others. To maintain or establish a good relationship with your neighbours, it is wise to consider your impact on them during the build and the impact your new dwelling will have on their home when it is completed.
2. Start with the big picture
When deciding how you want to change your home, or what sort of home you want to build from scratch, it’s a good idea to consider the streetscape and how your building will affect your neighbours. Will you block their light? Change their view? Shade their sunny backyard? It’s easy to get carried away with the vision of how you want your perfect home. Try to remember that others around you value their home and lifestyle, too, and be aware that your plans may disturb that.
3. Approach your neighbours early in the process
When you have your plans, it is worthwhile to meet with your neighbours and discuss the renovation with them. You can explain what you are doing and, more importantly, why you are doing it. They can let you know any issues they may have and you can discuss it early on and work together to reach any compromises. They will be much more understanding if they’ve heard it from you and it will probably make it easier and quicker to get the plans through council.
4. Make plans with the builder
Discuss the importance of considering your neighbours with the builder. Make it a priority to minimise the impact of the build on the surrounding homes. There are many steps builders and tradespeople can take to achieve this, such as building screens to minimise dust, sticking to work curfews so that noise is contained to work hours and just behaving considerately. My next door neighbour is currently undertaking renovations and her tradespeople have all been so lovely. One painter was very polite and considerate when he asked me permission to come over to my side of the fence to get better access to part of the building he needed to paint. It makes it so much easier to deal with a renovation when the people undertaking the work are respectful.
5. Be mindful
Sometimes it is impossible to stop your renovation from disturbing others. You can’t stop trucks and dumpsters taking up parking spaces, they need to be there. They’re noisy and big and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can be mindful of the impact this, and other issues, may have on your neighbours. If you really want to be neighbourly, it wouldn’t hurt to just send a text thanking them for their patience and acknowledging that your renovation is disruptive. A bottle of wine never hurt anyone either.
It’s not just noise and parking spaces that can cause neighbours grief. It’s fairly common for renovations to seriously affect neighbouring buildings. Jackhammers and heavy machinery can cause unsettling cracks in neighbouring dwellings, and sparks from grinders can go over fences causing rusting in neighbouring pools or on pavers, just to name a few possible problems. When we renovated, one of the trucks crashed into our neighbour’s fence and destroyed it. Make sure your builder has insurance to cover any damage and try to carry out repairs as soon as possible.
WHEN YOU’RE THE NEIGHBOUR
1. Do your homework
Make sure you look at the plans very carefully. Even if your renovating neighbours don’t come to you to discuss their plans, the council will send you a copy. Take time to look at them and fully understand them. As a neighbour, you are going to be more concerned with the elevations than anything else (though it’s always fun to have a stickybeak at the floorpan). Make sure you have a full understanding of how high the building next door will be when completed and what impact that will have on your home. Also take note of how close the new building will be to your existing building. Will it create privacy issues or affect light in your rooms?
2. Speak up early
If you have a problem with the plans, it is best to speak up early. It’s really nice to be considerate and try to make your neighbour’s renovation go smoothly, but if their new dwelling is going to negatively affect yours, it is best to say so now. This way you can discuss your issues and explain how their new building will impact you. Hopefully, you can make some compromises and reach a settlement that suits both parties. If you keep quiet during the early stages, you may wake up one day with a massive structure next to your property that looks much bigger in real-life than it did on the plans.
3. Be proactive
If the new home or renovation is going to be an eyesore from your property, or give you privacy issues, think about ways to soften the impact. The sooner you identify the problem the sooner you can work on improving it. Planting tall trees is a great way to maintain privacy and improve the outlook from your home. Another option is installing screens or removable shutters and blinds. Unfortunately, this results in your neighbour’s renovation costing you money. Hopefully your neighbour is considerate and may be happy to offset some of these costs.
4. Be considerate
Did I already mention that renovating is hard? Your neighbour is probably under a lot of stress: emotional, mental and financial. Renovations can push relationships and whole families into turmoil. Try to remember that your neighbour is just trying to create a beautiful home for themselves and their family and it is not (usually) their intention to disrupt your life and affect your home. If all parties can be mindful and considerate of each other, the whole process can go relatively smoothly.