How is the White House Prepared for a New President?

White House

The United States is known for its smooth transfer of power when a new President is elected. Friday morning, we have one President. By Friday afternoon, after the new President takes the oath of office, he’s the one in power.

But what about the President’s house — the White House? There’s more involved in changing over an entire household than just a swearing-in.

Less Than Five Hours

How long does it take staff to change over the White House residence from one occupant to the next? “Less than five hours,” according to Chief White House Usher Stephen Rochon, who calls the inauguration day event “organized chaos.”

On inauguration day, the White House staff meets with the family of the outgoing President to say goodbye. Barbara Bush remembers her final day there: “We were too choked up with emotion to say what we felt, but I think they knew the affection we had for them all.” She added that after that, “the hard part for me was over.”

Beginning at 10:30 a.m., a staff of 100 will begin work. Many will be moving the Obamas’ things out of the house, some will be sprucing up the dining room, and others will be preparing a snack for the Trump family to eat before the Inaugural Balls that evening.

The house where the Obamas wake up Friday morning will be totally ready for the Trumps by late Friday afternoon. Donald will find his suits in his closet, and Melania will see her family photos displayed on side tables.

The furniture that Presidential families use can be either their own, or pieces they have already selected from a warehouse of furniture used by former First Families.

Who Pays?

Anytime I’ve ever moved, it’s been a strictly budget affair, with do-it-yourself U-haul trucks or a borrowed pickup. Obviously, a Presidential move is first-class all the way. But, perhaps surprisingly, most of the move isn’t paid for with our taxes. The new President himself (or his campaign) picks up the tab. Well, partly. Once the belongings pass the White House threshold, expenses are covered by the executive residence allowance. This taxpayer-supported fund also covers the outgoing President’s moving expenses.

White House Changes

Presidents are allowed quite a bit of leeway in making changes to their living area of the house. The Obamas, for instance, requested a specific type of shower head when they moved in.

Over the years, the house has had its share of unusual changes. Lyndon Johnson had a shower installed with water pressure “the equivalent of a fire hose.” When Richard Nixon arrived, he had this setup removed.

Jimmy Carter added solar panels to the house, only to have Ronald Reagan remove them — and then have Barack Obama re-install them.

Donald Trump has said that he doesn’t plan major changes to the house, citing its history and saying that, “I’m going to be working. I’m not going to be decorating.”

If a President wishes to change one of the White House’ public areas, he must submit a request to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

Have you ever visited the White House? The photo above was taken during a 2010 visit I took with daughter #2.



13 thoughts on “How is the White House Prepared for a New President?

  1. I visited the White House on my class trip with Holland High School in 1959. We returned as a family I think in 1975. I really enjoyed this post. All my life I have such an interest in things political. I think it came from my dad. I am ecstatic to think today is Obama’s FINAL FULL DAY of eight years in the White House! Good riddance!

  2. I’ve only been by the White House, but would love to see inside. The LBJ story is a favorite of mine–he made an assistant go to the home where the Johnsons were living and stand under the shower to see what it had to feel like–and just how COLD it had to be. lol That’s a real man! It looks like the Obamas have sent stuff over to their new home early. They likely have also bought new things and had things returned from storage because there have been news stories of moving trucks at the new D.C. house. Of course that could also be equipping the house for security and to accommodate the Secret Service detail. Good post–I did a presidential post today, too.

  3. I love that Donald Trump is a serious man who wants to get right to work when he moves in tomorrow!
    No redecorating, no nonsense. I loved having the privilege of seeing the White House both inside and out back in 1972 on a week-long trip to Washington, D.C.. My son, daughter, and I were rewarded with an all-expense trip to our Nation’s capitol threw the Journal-Gazette sponsored Spelling Bee. Not only did we tour the White House, but a special party for the spellers and their families was held in the White House Rose Garden. Tricia Nixon was the hostess for the party, and she was very beautiful and gracious as we went through the line to shake hands with her. She talked to everyone on the way by! I fondly remember her asking my son, Carl, if he played basketball. His height and being from IN made that question an expected one. That moment in time will always remain a special memory for me!

  4. No I have never had the chance to visit although I would love to! I hear that every new First lady gets to pick out new china too! How fun would that be!?

  5. You will probably think this is odd, but I can’t remember if I’ve ever been inside the White House. I believe we went inside when I was there with the rest of my senior class on our trip after graduation in 1962. I returned years later to look at the building from the outside years later with my parents and younger sister. That would have been in the early ’70s, I believe. I’m fascinated with it, and would love to return and be able to go inside.

    Thanks for posting this.

  6. I lived in the DC area for 34 years so I was inside the White House many times. Every time we got a visitor from IN or elsewhere, they wanted a tour of DC which included the White House. Of course, visitors get to see only a small portion of the house but it’s definitely worth it. I didn’t go every time my husband took visitors on a tour but I was there way too many times to count. That goes for the US Capitol, Supreme Court Building, the Washington Monument and all the monuments, The Smithsonium, etc. And to make it all better, I lived near Mt. Vernon!! When I moved to Florida, I missed it all so much, especially those Cherry Blossoms in the spring. I don’t mean to sound as though I am bragging, but it was quite an exciting 34 years!!!

  7. I can’t believe they can make the change over that quickly! it seems like such a mammoth task! It must be tough for the staff to have to say goodbye to the Obamas after so long…wonder what the next residents will be like!!!

  8. Wow, five hours! That’s a short time to completely change over occupants of a house and all their things. But I’m sure they have it down to a science by now. We’ve never been to DC but my husband has always wanted to go.

  9. This is incredibly interesting! It is going to be hugely fascinating to see Trump in power. I can’t believe how quick that turn over is. Somehow I imagined that Obama left the house sooner! X

  10. I have never visited the White House. Maybe one day I might. Do you have more pictures from your visit? I can’t belive they can move a family and all their belongings in just a few hours.

  11. FIVE HOURS?! That’s wild! I was wondering about all these types of details earlier… I find this sort of stuff fascinating. It’s definitely going to take me longer when I move next haha! And I’ll definitely be renting a UHaul 🙂

  12. I love your article. For the first time I sat down and listened to the complete process of this Presidency and everything that goes on. I learned al ot just as the questions you asked. I have never been to the White House but would like to visit one day.

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