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Surviving Stressful Home Renovations

Chapter 1: Keep the Peace

Picking, choosing, agreeing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to picking things like shingles, siding, fence styles or even paint colors, often people can't agree.

And that can cause, well, uh, disagreements. Which in turn leads to fights. Which can result in hurt feelings, and sleeping on the couch.

This is stressful stuff, folks. But here's a simple way to have a meeting of the minds and come up with choices you can all live with (because, let's face it, you're going to have to live with these choices, and each other, for years to come).

Make a wish list

Make a wish list. The first step in seeing eye-to-eye is to get your thoughts out in the open.

Buy a stack of "beautiful house" magazines, sit down with your spouse (and perhaps a nice Merlot and some cheese) and tear out pictures that match your personal tastes. This will help you discover what you each like and dislike and what your expectations are. Then, make a list of features you both value most.

Obviously, sometimes price and pragmatics will have to be your guide. You might not have enough money or room for, say, a whirlpool bath and a glass-enclosed shower. In those cases, it's best to attempt a compromise (or cave in completely and gain valuable spousal points to be redeemed at a later date).

You may, however, be further apart on a particular decision, and that's when it might help to bring in a professional.

Ask a pro

Ask a Pro. When you and your spouse are at odds, get the advice of a professional contractor or designer.

It's their job to sort out what you like and dislike, what your budget is, and how each of you views the project. Sometimes they can come back to you with things you hadn't thought of.

For example, if one of you likes traditional styles and the other is fond of a more modern look, an architect might be able to suggest a building style that mirrors both of your tastes.

Also, keep in mind that your contractor can be a good resource, so don't be shy about asking for his advice. Most likely he's done dozens of jobs in a range of styles and materials. A single morning spent driving from site to site might help you and your spouse visualize the project in a new way.

Don't sweat the small stuff

Don't sweat the small stuff. With most renovations, homeowners can get bogged down in the minutia of a job.

There are hundreds of decisions to make and if you agonize and quibble over each and every one, the project will be far more stressful and your schedule could be totally blown.

Decisions on things like drawer pulls, curtain styles, and even lighting fixtures, while important, aren't nearly as crucial as renovation components that you'll have to live with for years to come - so just make them. And save your energies and debating prowess for decisions on the more "permanent" items such as roofing materials, windows and siding styles - the parts of the project that are too difficult or costly to change later on.

Be specific

Be specific. No one likes uncertainty, especially contractors, so spell things out.

If you communicate well with your contractor up front, you're less likely to run into misunderstandings later on in the construction process (when they can be quite costly and highly emotional).

Make a list of materials and components you'd like used in your project, and when possible, supply a sample or photo for your contractor to follow. Then sit down with your contractor and make sure all of your choices make sense. He may be able to suggest equivalent materials or components that could save you a lot of money. Or, since he's more familiar with the construction process, he may be able to help you choose more appropriate materials for a given application.

For example, you might be fighting over traditional clapboard siding versus shingled siding, but your contractor might help you make a more informed decision based on the specific weather conditions in your area.

No more disagreement. See? He's a contractor and marriage counselor.

Next : Chapter 2 : Contract Basics

Surviving The Stress of Home Renovations.

Chapter 1 : Keeping The Peace

Chapter 2 : Contract Basics

Chapter 3 : Surviving the Noise.

Chapter 4: The Right Stuff, Not the least expensive

Chapter 5: Living without Utilities

Chapter 6: Deliberate Decisions/Painless Changes.

Chapter 7: Dealing with Dust

Chapter 8: Keeping Track of Money.

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