Construction near your home can be a headache, whether you live in an urban area experiencing significant new development of condominium and apartment buildings or in a suburb seeing rapid expansion.
From early-morning drilling to blocked sidewalks and street lanes, many residents are inconvenienced by construction projects that can last many months, and the growing number of those projects can cause ongoing suffering in residents' work and home lives.
Most state and city laws specify that residents have a right to quiet enjoyment of their home, which includes limits on excessive noise from nearby properties under construction. Here's what you should know about dealing with nearby construction, including your options for making it a little less inconvenient.
[Read: How to Buy a House]
Construction in Your Building
If you live in an apartment and construction is going on in your building, excessive noise that's disrupting your work or relaxation time can feel personal. This kind of disturbance should be taken up with your landlord or with the condo or co-op board, which likely approved the work.
Check your lease or building bylaws for details about what times construction is most likely to be disruptive. It’s common for a landlord or building community to restrict building construction to between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or stipulate that construction won’t occur during summer when more residents are home during the day, says Christopher Totaro, a licensed real estate salesperson for Warburg Realty in New York City. (Warburg contributes to the U.S. News Pocket Listing blog.)
You can also try communicating with the contractor in charge of the work. “Talk to the project manager or the general contractor. Start with a nice, friendly conversation,” Totaro says. Having previously worked in construction, Totaro says he would often check with neighbors when he would oversee a project, and ask about times when kids need to nap or other special circumstances that he could work around to avoid animosity between residents and the construction crew.
The best course of action is to try to work with your landlord to find solutions that will reduce your inconvenience while the construction proceeds. If you work from home and live in a large building, it’s possible the landlord can offer you use of a vacant apartment or business center away from the construction noise during your work hours. Another option is for the landlord to notify residents about precisely when excess noise is expected.
If the building work makes it impossible for you to continue living there, you could pursue a constructive eviction, which means the landlord has been unable to fulfill your right to quiet enjoyment, effectively ending your lease.
“A landlord is not allowed to harass through construction,” Totaro says, noting that New York laws specifically address issues of landlords trying to force rent-control tenants to end their lease by doing so much construction that they wish to leave. However, those laws don’t exist everywhere, and if a landlord disagrees with a claim of constructive eviction, you may have to argue your case before a judge, who will determine whether you owe money for the remainder of the lease.
In many cases, city ordinances identify specific decibel levels for various times of day. Any noise that exceeds the designated decibel level is considered a nuisance to the surrounding community.
Construction equipment like a jackhammer or pile driver can easily violate this level, and as a result must be permitted for use with the city so local officials are aware when construction noise will be excessive.
Unfortunately, nearby residents aren’t always notified of permitted loud work going on, even if it’s after normal working hours, which often extend from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. but vary based on local ordinances and are shortened on weekends. When you are bothered by excessive noise, document it by filing a formal complaint with your city. This way, any unpermitted noise can be investigated, and you may also get more details about how long any permitted noise is expected to last.
Who Do You Call to Make a Construction Noise Complaint?
Many U.S. cities keep noise complaints under the jurisdiction of the police department and recommend residents call the local precinct’s nonemergency line to file a complaint, as you would if your neighbor was having a loud party. Local government websites often provide details on how to file a formal complaint.
The New York City government, for example, has streamlined the construction noise-complaint process by creating online forms to report the location of the noise and time. Separate forms allow you to report after-hours construction, construction during permitted hours that's too loud and noisy jackhammers, which require additional permitting to be used in the city. These complaints can also be reported by calling the city’s nonemergency reporting number, 311.
Boston handles the noise-complaint process differently. The city delegates complaints about construction sites and equipment noise to the Boston Air Pollution Control Commission and lists construction sites with approved after-hours work permits on its website.
When It’s Not Just Noise
Construction near your home isn’t always just a noise issue, as a nearby worksite can mean blocked sidewalks, damaged roads and even structural damage to your home. Heavy-duty work can cause vibrations in the ground strong enough to damage your property. John Zeigler holds a doctorate in organic chemistry and is the author of “The Construction Vibration Damage Guide for Homeowners,” which serves as a guide for identifying vibration damage from nearby construction, how to document it and properly file an insurance claim.
Vibration damage can appear in the form of cracks on concrete patios, slab floors, door or window frames and in the corner of a room, Zeigler explains. He has reports on over 500 different construction projects homeowners believe have caused vibration-related damage to their homes.
“In most U.S. locales, insurers routinely deny coverage under homeowners' policies by invoking ‘earth movement’ exclusion originally intended for earthquake damage,” Zeigler says.
You’ll likely need to work with an attorney to pursue a claim against either a private developer or the local government – depending on which is funding the construction – especially if the damage is estimated at over $10,000.
As with simple noise complaints, Zeigler stresses the importance of documenting the problem with dated photographs, reports from structural experts and any correspondence you have with the city or a developer. You'll want to keep track of the damage itself and equipment and procedures used at the nearby construction site, as well as use a seismograph to monitor vibrations. Otherwise, he says, “any damage claim is virtually certain to be denied.”
What will your budget let you renovate?
These days, many homeowners are opting to stay put and renovate rather than search for a new house. According to Houzz’s 2019 study of renovations in the U.S., the median amount spent on renovations in 2018 was $15,000, and as of June last year, homeowners renovating in 2019 planned to spend a median total of $10,000 on their projects. But how far will your budget get you? Read on for a cost breakdown of 12 popular home renovation projects to help you decide the best ways to spend your remodel money.
Updated on May 14, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Kitchen
It doesn’t matter if you’re a gourmet chef or a microwave connoisseur – you want a welcoming kitchen that makes the space worthy of spending time, not just prepping food. A kitchen renovation is the most common planned project for homeowners, according to the Houzz study, with 30% of respondents noting they plan to remodel or add to their kitchen. But it’s also a costly project. Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report breaks down the national average cost for kitchen remodels:
Midrange minor kitchen remodel: $23,452
Midrange major kitchen remodel: $68,490
Upscale major kitchen remodel: $135,547
How much you’ll spend all depends on your planned makeover. Read on for a breakdown of some popular kitchen updates.Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Cabinets and countertops are two of the most visible aspects in a kitchen, not to mention that they take up the most space. You have a lot of price wiggle room when it comes to material and installation of both: The installation for countertops alone can range from $1,000 for wood to $11,500 for stainless steel, according to HomeAdvisor. For a kitchen with 30 square feet of counter space and 40 linear feet of cabinets, here are some cost estimates for materials, based on HomeAdvisor information:
Budget: $4,200 for stock cabinets, butcher block countertop.
Midrange: $23,570 for semicustom cabinets, midrange quartz or granite countertop.
Splurge: $65,850 for custom cabinets, marble countertop.
Kitchen: new appliances
If you’re not looking to drop $60,000 on surfaces, consider freshening your kitchen with new appliances. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s often offer significant discounts if you purchase kitchen appliances in a package deal, with the added benefit of having the same brand appliances that match in color and style. Consider these budget options to replace your refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave all at once (based on prices listed as of mid-May 2020). You’re more likely to get a deal on appliance purchases close to the end of the month, on a holiday weekend or just after the New Year.
Budget: $1,860 for mixed brand.
Midrange: $2,523 for Whirlpool Kitchen Suite through Home Depot.
Splurge: $4,959 for LG Kitchen Suite through Home Depot.
Kitchen: knocking down walls
Removing a wall tends to cost the same in every room, but these days it is often done in the kitchen to create a more open floor plan. Wall demolition costs vary based on whether the wall is load-bearing – meaning it’s a key part of the house’s structure – or if there is plumbing or electrical wiring running through it. HomeAdvisor provides national averages for the cost of removing a wall:
Budget: $300 to $1,000 for a wall that doesn’t bear any weight.
Midrange: $1,200 to $3,000 for a load-bearing wall in a single-story house.
Splurge: $3,200 to $10,000 for a load-bearing wall with two or more stories.
The second- and third-most popular home renovations, according to the Houzz study, both fall under the bathroom category, covering guest or secondary bathrooms and master bathrooms. Current design trends show homeowners want a spa experience in their bathroom, whether that means a rain-style showerhead, double vanities or exquisite tile work. Remodeling Magazine separates the cost of remodeling a bathroom into two categories, based on national averages for 2020:
Midrange bathroom remodel: $21,377
Upscale bathroom remodel: $67,106
Beautiful tile in a bathroom can make the room a showpiece in your home, not just a necessary space for privacy. But depending on your tastes, new tile can get pricey. Home renovation cost estimate site RemodelingCalculator.org notes the material and installation costs increase with the intricacy of the design and rarity of the material. Based on Remodeling Calculator’s estimated costs, here’s some pricing to consider:
Budget: $4.60 per square foot for ceramic tile, $3.80 to $6.70 per square foot to install.
Midrange: $6.70 per square foot for granite tile, $5.45 to $7.50 per square foot to install.
Splurge: Up to $25 per square foot for custom mosaic tile, anywhere from $15 to $300 per square foot to install.
Bathroom: moving plumbing and drains
Plumbing changes are often one of the most expensive parts of a renovation. If you’re looking to relocate the toilet, shower or sink in your bathroom, the cost to move both the plumbing for water and the drains can add up quickly. Home remodeling cost guide Fixr reports the cost to move a single plumbing appliance more than three feet ranges from $500 to $1,000 – and that’s just for the change in floor plan. Be sure to factor in the cost of new fixtures and any additional work related to opening up the floor and walls.
Budget: $500 to $1,000 to move a shower.
Midrange: $1,000 to $2,000 to move a shower and toilet.
Splurge: $1,500 to $3,000 to move a shower, toilet and sink.
Without plumbing and appliances to worry about, renovating a bedroom is more attainable for someone with a small budget than a bathroom or kitchen. Often a fresh coat of paint can do the trick to bring new life to a bedroom, but sometimes a little more work is involved. Fixr estimates the national average to completely remodel a room – from replacing the drywall on the walls and ceiling to new flooring – at nearly $8,000.
Budget: $200 for paint and painting materials.
Midrange: $800 for high-end painting, professionally done.
Splurge: $7,880 for new walls, windows, floors, lighting, etc.
Bedroom: master suite addition
Sometimes the bedroom you have isn’t the one you want or need. Master suites are frequently high on the list of homebuyer wants, but they’re also not always common in older houses. Building an addition to a house is an extensive project that will cost you a lot of money, but your investment does come back to you, at least somewhat, in the increase in property value. Remodeling Magazine notes a master suite addition recoups just over 51% of the cost in resale value for upscale projects and more than 58% for midrange projects. Here are the average costs for both projects, per the Cost vs. Value report:
Midrange master suite addition: $136,739
Upscale master suite addition: $282,062
A custom closet that will transform the space to fit all your clothes and provide extra room for storage is the dream for many, but it can cost you. The overall price tag will vary depending on the size of the closet and how customized you want the space to be – a hanging rod and a couple shelves can be had for a few hundred dollars, but once you factor in wood finishes, built-in shoe racks and rolling drawers, that price tag climbs. Here’s what Fixr estimates for closet costs:
Budget: $400 to $1,000 for a reach-in closet.
Midrange: $300 to $3,000 for walk-in closet.
Splurge: $400 to $6,500 for custom closet.
Once your kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms are finished, it’s time to tackle those rooms that aren’t as frequently used but can make a big impact on your daily life. A revamped laundry room can be just the ticket to taking the household chore of cleaning clothes from a hassle to downright enjoyable. The cost to redo or build a laundry room varies based on what you have already and whether you need plumbing and electric moved. Canyon Creek Cabinet Company breaks down the range of costs depending on if flooring is replaced, whether appliances are new and if professionals are required.
Midrange: $6,000 to $7,000.
Splurge: $12,000 to $14,000.
While it’s more out of necessity than luxury, your roof is certainly a major home improvement project to consider if you’ve experienced leaks or it’s near the end of its functional life (about 25 years). It’s possible you’ll only need repairs to the existing roof to ensure the rest of your house is protected from the elements, but you may need an entirely new roof installed. The total cost of roof repair or replacement depends on the type of roof you currently have and the size of your home. For a typical 2,000-square-foot house, HomeAdvisor estimates the following costs:
Budget: $150 to $5,000 for repairs.
Midrange: $5,300 to $11,000 for new asphalt shingle roof.
Splurge: $18,000 to $45,000 for a new slate roof.
Here’s what you can expect to pay for your home renovation project:
- Full kitchen renovation: $23,452 to $135,547.
- Kitchen cabinets and countertops: $4,200 to $65,850.
- Kitchen appliances: $1,860 to $4,959.
- Wall removal: $300 to $10,000.
- Full bathroom renovation: $21,377 to $67,106.
- Bathroom tile: $4.60 to $25 per square foot for tile, $3.80 to $300 per square foot to install.
- Bathroom plumbing and drain relocation: $500 to $3,000.
- Full bedroom renovation: $200 to $7,880.
- Master suite addition: $136,739 to $282,062.
- Closet: $400 to $6,500.
- Laundry room: $2,000 to $14,000.
- Roof repair or replacement: $150 to $45,000.
Updated on June 11, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.