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By Chandrama Anderson

Couples: Seven Simple Steps to Deal with Remodeling

Uploaded: Nov 10, 2017

Couples and remodeling . . . have you been through this? It is often a major problem between couples, leading them into counseling.

My husband and I are remodeling, and it's been a journey. It's exhausting. Sometimes he gets really fried (he's doing a lot of the work himself and is the superintendent-overseeing the work done by others-that's his profession so he does it all day long and then at our house) and loses patience once in a while. I don't react; I just see what I can do to help (I'm the project manager-scheduling people, making tons of phone calls, scheduling inspections, paying people, etc.). I schedule massages for him, make sure he has good meals and make him stop working!

There are so many issues that arise for couples to deal with. Here are seven simple steps to deal with it:

1. Decision-making. Who will decide on the overall project? Both of you, one of you? Who will oversee all the details? Who will decide on the interior decorating details when you get to that stage?

My husband designed our remodel with input from me. He did the drawings that we gave the building department. But the decisions about what fixtures, finishes, paint colors, tile, flooring, etc. are all mine. In his job, designers create those plans and he implements them. So that's our model, too. He's great with numbers (and I'm a great therapist) so he figures out how much tile/paint, etc. that we need.

2. Money/budget. What will you spend on the remodel? (Plan for it to go over whatever you expected). What if you find that "perfect" something and it's over budget? Will you have a dollar threshold that if it less than X go for it, but if it's more than X discuss it? How many of those will you have on the project?

We've gone over budget :-( Turned out we needed an entire new roof rather than new for the addition and tie-in. Our windows and doors were more than expected. And the tile installation . . . surprise! And not in a good way. I tried to save money where possible (vintage light fixtures from eBay, ReStore Habitat from Humanity, new tile from Craigslist, previous years model of rain shower heads, etc. There are plenty of materials available; it's a distribution question. Be creative.

3. Upheaval. People in your home. Dust everywhere. Your yard thrashed. Building materials and construction trash. Storing windows/doors/plumbing fixtures, etc.) Noise. Keeping good neighborly relations.

Some people move out completely. If you can afford that it helps. We've stayed in our house and have dust curtains. Sometimes I find a quiet place to hide out and write. We've hit an unexpected stage: the hardwood floor stain and coating triggers migraines for me (10 minutes in the house is all it took). So we're not staying home through this. Wonderful friends have offered us refuge. The last smelly thing is the shower hot mop--tar. Once all these odors clear I can go home again. Right now I'm writing to you from Peet's.

4. Control. Many couples struggle with control issues anyway. Remodeling will bring them out in force.

We're fortunate in that our skills compliment each other through this process. Plus,when things feel overwhelming and out of control I remind myself to kind my eye on the prize--the finished home.

Here are a few tips for managing the process:

1. Create a realistic budget.

2. Create a remodel that fits your budget (and watch for feature creep; e.g., we planned for a heated floor in one new bathroom and then I decided I wanted it in both new baths).

3. Find a trusted contractor.

4. Expect it to take longer than you hoped for (you can negotiate a bonus for the builder for getting it done on time. Realize that many things are out of their control, too. For example the building department, PG&E, CalWater, subs schedules, consultants. Yes, they have to mange all that, and they do. But be realistic.)

5. Take time off to have fun together and talk about things other than your project. Take weekends and vacations away. (We went to Oregon to see the eclipse and came home restored and relaxed.)

6. When you get stressed about it be a team in dealing with it rather than taking it out on each other.

7. Be kind. To each other, your contractor and everyone working on your project. They'll feel better and so will you. Kindness is catching. I've made extra supper for subs working late. They appreciate it.

I'm sure all you smart people out there have other good tips to add, so please do. Happy building, and happy being finished. We're close to the end.