Family Advice How to Take the Stress Out of Home Renovations

It’s no secret that marriage takes work. The sheer number of books on how to make a marriage work, comedians and sitcoms that base their comedy around married life, and therapists who make their living helping couples through tough times is clear evidence of that. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that something as inherently stressful as remodeling a home can add additional strain.

According to a study about renovations and their effects on relationships, 10 percent of participants indicated that they had considered divorce or separation over the course of a home remodel. Fortunately, the same study showed that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel, with 84 percent of participants reporting that once the remodel was finished, they spent more time at home. The tough part is getting from the beginning of the project to the end without making the relationship implode.

Planning ahead is one of the key solutions because in the middle of the stressful process, it’s not always a sure thing that you’ll make the right decision, and one bad decision can quickly spiral out of control. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as you go through a home remodel so that you can hopefully get your newly upgraded house while still keeping the piece.

Create a budget beforehand.

Before you do a single thing, you and your spouse need to sit down and lay out a budget for your project. Figure out exactly how much the renovation will cost, and make sure you have enough money. This is not a situation where surprises are fun, so plan for every eventuality. Talk to professionals you trust who can give you realistic estimates on how much the project will cost.

When you’ve gone through your finances, look at the amount you believe you can afford for the project, then subtract 20 percent. No matter how thoroughly you think you’ve planned, there are always eventualities you don’t expect. Construction costs can increase, accidents happen that need to be repaired, and inevitably, the renovation process will unearth problems with your home that you were unaware of but that need to be fixed.

Make living arrangements (if necessary), and plan far in advance.

Some projects are small enough that you don’t need to leave your home. If the renovation is in a non-vital area, it’s easy to work around it. If the project is going to take a while, though, or is extensive enough that it will make your home unlivable during construction, you’ll need to figure out a place for your family to stay in the meantime.

If you plan to stay with family, work out the details long ahead of time. A host who is happy to take your family in will likely be more hospitable if you ask several weeks in advance than if you just show up on the doorstep expecting to crash your family in their basement. Try not to overstay your welcome, either. Be understanding of your hosts’ personal space and help out wherever possible. If you’re going to be displaced for a long time, consider taking your family to an extended-stay hotel or other similar accommodation.

If at all possible, plan out places where you and your spouse can go to be alone, both individually and as a couple. Living in close quarters can put a real strain on a relationship, and it gets more stressful the more people (ie. children) involved.

Use friends and family references to find a contractor you can trust.

Your contractor can make your renovation an easy prospect, or he can turn it into a living nightmare, so make sure you’ve got a good one. Talk to friends and family to learn about the people they’ve worked with in the past. Ask lots of questions so you know what to expect. Do they return calls in a timely manner? Did they stick to the budget? Did they start and finish on time?

It may seem like just anyone with a toolbox can complete your renovation, but take the time to research and interview the right contractor. Think of it this way: it’s worth researching contractors now to avoid having to research child custody lawyers later.

Keep all of your receipts.

You may be confident in your design decisions when you make them, but that could easily change. Perhaps you really like the handles and knobs on your cabinets, but then you realize that they don’t match with the new light fixtures you’ve picked out. It’s better to be able to simply return them than have to argue with a sales clerk because you didn’t keep your receipt. Every bit of frustration related to the project can build up and explode at home later, so do whatever you can to minimize stressful situations. Plus, once it’s time to file taxes, the receipts will be helpful records.

Be prepared for the unexpected.

No matter how well you plan, it’s impossible to plan for everything. It’s almost like some cosmic law that something will go wrong, so be prepared for it. Make sure that you and your spouse talk to each other throughout the process. Discuss situations as they arise, and keep each other’s preferences in mind. Don’t assume anything. And realize that even if a problem does arise, you can work together to get through it. Use each other as a support, and put your effort into making each other happy. If you come together as a team, you can make it to the other side of a renovation project and even find yourselves closer than before.

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