Be a Good Neighbor While Your Renovate

Having a good relationship with your neighbors can make life far more peaceful and enjoyable, so whenever you contemplate outdoor home projects—whether you’re installing a new deck or hiring someone to install a sprinkler system—it’s wise to consider how those projects will affect the people around you, not only while the project is underway, but after it’s complete.

First and foremost, communicate! Let your neighbors know about your plans, so they are not surprised by additional traffic from construction workers or disruptions caused by unexpected noises or smells. It would be a real shame if your neighbor planned an outdoor wedding in their backyard on the same day you planned to bring in hot, stinky tar to redo your roof. If you’re hiring workers to help you, tell them where they can park that will cause the least inconvenience to your neighbors.

Sometimes, it makes sense for neighbors to share the cost of a project (improving a private road or repairing a shared fence), so talking with neighbors ahead of time can benefit you and them. Other times, you may be able to get a discount if you can bring additional business to the trades people you hire. There are economies of scale for people who have to move big equipment to get work done. If a tree-trimmer brings his equipment all the way to your house, he’d probably appreciate some additional business from your neighbor. If you and your neighbor both need new driveways, you may consider approaching a contractor together, and asking if he would consider a discount for two jobs, instead of getting just one new account.

Whether you’re working on a joint project or simply doing a little home improvement on your own, it’s important to consider the safety of people and pets. If you have a construction site, be sure to clean up at the end of each day (or ask your workers to). Do not leave tools and/or equipment out where children or pets could stumble across them and hurt themselves. If you’re using nails, keep a close eye on them to prevent discovery later, with a bare foot or tire. If you share a property line with a neighbor and your work opens a hole between the two properties, be sure your pets and their pets cannot escape.

It’s also important to clean up for other reasons. No one wants to see a big mess day after day, whether it’s dirt and leaves from your landscaping project or scraps from your construction project.

Here in Ukiah in August and September, many people like to start work early, before the full heat of the day starts broiling everything. However, not everyone appreciates waking to the sound of a skill saw or Weedeater. If you plan to start before 9:00 am, it’s thoughtful to give notice to neighbors so they can plan accordingly. The same consideration should be given if you plan to work late into the evening, and the noise and/or light from the project could disrupt your neighbors. Keeping regular hours is especially important on the weekends, when people like to sleep in.

Most people can put up with a little inconvenience for a limited time. We all need to get things done around the house and that can involve noise, mess and increased traffic. However, before you start a new project, make sure you have the time and money to finish it so the project doesn’t languish for months or years to come. No matter how patient your neighbors may be at the beginning of a project, if it continues beyond a reasonable time, they’re bound to get frustrated eventually.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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