Now that summer is officially here, we are entering prime time for construction season in the Greater Edmonton Area. We now have our windows open and are enjoying more time out in our yards. Ahhhhhh. So nice to relax outside after a busy week, right?
But, how many of you have been sitting in your yard, enjoying the sun and a beer when suddenly you hear a tile saw ripping through porcelain? Or perhaps the sound of hammers banging nails into wood for hours on end?
Suddenly, your yard and that ice cold beer isn’t quite as enjoyable.
Construction season can bring a lot of strain and pain to the neighbours close to the project – the noise, the dirt, the debris, the vehicles taking over precious parking spots on the street. We get it – it sucks.
However, there are simple ways we can all get through construction season together starting with being neighbourly.
We are sharing some tips on how to be better neighbours – if you’re the neighbours completing a construction project, and if you’re the neighbours close to a construction project.
If You’re Completing a Construction Project
Whether you’re doing a small DIY home improvement project, a major renovation or even an infill home, you or your contractor/builder need to know and respect the rules of engagement.
“Communication with the neighbours is single-handedly the best thing you can do before, during and after your project,” says Paul McGavigan, Alair Homes Edmonton partner. “No matter the size of your project, communicating with your immediate neighbours prior to starting your project can really help the project go much smoother for you.”
McGavigan says it ultimately comes down to respect for the people around you. If you let the neighbours know what you’ll be doing, what your project timeline looks like, and what they should expect during that timeline, it creates a more open dialogue so if and when something irritating occurs on the project, the lines of communication are open and solutions can be arranged quickly.
“It is inevitable that there will be elements of the project that will be irritating to people, and we find that noise complaints are often the biggest issue,” says McGavigan. “Knowing and abiding by the noise bylaws for your municipality is an absolute must, and you or your contractor needs to enforce this with any trades doing work on the project.”
On larger construction projects, it is critical to ensure the job site is clean and safe. You (or your contractor if you have one) are responsible for enforcing a clean and safe site. Clear walkways free of hidden hazards is the number one priority when considering impact on your neighbours.
“Your neighbours still need to be able to take their kids for a bike ride, or walk their dog down the sidewalk without worrying about piles of dirt, nails or screws, or garbage spilling onto their walkway,” says McGavigan. “This should be common sense, but this is actually a common issue in construction, and the industry as a whole needs to be better in addressing this.”
Trades and Trucks
With more significant projects, there could be key days when many trades and all their work vehicles are on site. This can often take over a street, and in some instances we have heard stories of neighbours being blocked in their driveway for hours because a large truck chose their driveway as the ideal parking or unloading space.
McGavigan says that your contractor or builder will know these key times when the neighbourhood should expect higher volume of workers and trucks and to once again take the opportunity to communicate with the neighbours.
If a driveway needs to be blocked, let the neighbours know in advance so they can move their vehicles.
“It’s not ideal, but it can sometimes be necessary, and providing that level of communication in advance should help reduce any tension on those days when construction can be a bit more intrusive,” he says.
If You’re Close to a Construction Project
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. There are different types of people, and we all handle annoyances differently. Some people are able to brush things off easily, others like to make a point based on principle. It can be hard to practice patience when the noise of construction next door wakes your sleeping baby up at 8 pm.
Again, we totally get it.
But, it’s also very important to know what is in compliance and what is not with the construction happening close to you. This will help you understand your rights – when to practice patience, and when to take action.
Noise bylaws may be different based on the municipality, and these bylaws should be clearly posted on the municipality website. We always encourage people to research these bylaws before complaining, as often times the construction is in compliance with the bylaws.
“One thing we’ve noticed is that many people feel like construction shouldn’t start until 9 am and should wrap up by 6 pm, which would be a normal work day for most people.” says McGavigan. “However in construction, trades workers often have longer days in the summer months to maximize productivity and ultimately complete the project in a shorter timeframe.”
McGavigan says the Alair Homes team often educates the homeowners and the neighbours of the bylaws during their initial communication prior to the project starting. Ultimately, it creates a level of understanding that may not have previously been there.
He also suggests that if you have something important going on at home where you require the noise to be at a minimum, to communicate this in advance to the homeowners or the contractor/builder.
“There are often ways we can work around things if we need to,” he says. “We try and continue the work, but we can look at reducing the work being done outdoors and focus on indoor work. If we know in advance, it’s easier for us to schedule this and accommodate the neighbours.”
Noise can be a pain, but with a little patience it can be tolerated. However, if your safety is in jeopardy, this is unacceptable.
You have a right to a safe neighbourhood, and must be vocal at any point you feel you are unsafe.
McGavigan says that every construction site should have an information board posted in clear view that contains relevant contact information.
“If the site is causing safety concerns, we encourage you to first contact the contractor or builder so they have an opportunity to correct the issues,” says McGavigan. “If the contractor or builder does not reply or correct the safety issues, then we recommend calling the municipality and launching a more formal complaint.”
McGavigan says it’s also important to know when some situations can’t be planned for.
“We were working on a project in Edmonton and the wind became such a force that it ended up blowing debris from a dumpster down the street,” he says. “Immediately, we had our team out to collect the debris, but we got a call from a neighbour down the street complaining. This is fair, but also we can’t control mother nature, so sometimes a little understanding can go a long way. The important thing is that the contractor or builder should react quickly to remedy the situation.”
Construction Season Shouldn’t Suck
Not every project will be perfect, and there will be some patience required in the neighbourhood during certain points of the project, but the best thing you can do is communicate.
“We love to host a free community BBQ in partnership with our homeowner clients and invite the neighbours to come and meet us, learn more about us and the project, and learn what they can expect from us during the project timeline,” says McGavigan. “It can be a game changer to just share some info over a burger and a glass of Sangria.”