Whether you’re starting a remodel project for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s always some level of stress involved. Really, the stress can start even before you begin your project. There’s so much involved in just the planning and design stages, that many people get overwhelmed and give up before they even get started. If you do manage to get past the planning and design, then you’re faced with a whole new set of difficulties from finding a reliable contractor to dealing with unexpected issues that pop up once the remodeling is under way (because there’s always something unexpected that comes up), and let’s not forget the inevitable scheduling and budget over-runs. Add a spouse or significant other to the mix, and things can really get heated with fights over the budget, and disagreements over fixtures and finishes, it can take it’s toll on a relationship. Many people, having gone through this process once, vow to never do it again, and that’s a shame, because it doesn’t need to be so difficult. In fact remodeling can be an exciting and rewarding process where you get to see your hopes and visions for your home come to life. So how do you take the stress out of remodeling? Well, read on, and I hope you’ll find a few tips that will help you do just that.
First, save your marriage! If you’re married or have a significant other, and you both want to be involved in the remodeling process, you can make some decisions up front that will save you some pain and possibly save your relationship. With so many decisions to make along the way, there’s equally as many chances for disagreement. My advice is to split up the decision making and the responsibilities. For example you take the reins on the design and, and your spouse can take charge of the budget. This doesn’t mean your spouse can’t contribute to the design, but if you find yourselves deadlocked on a particular issue, it gives you the opportunity to make the final call, and since you both agreed ahead of time that this would be your prerogative, there’s no need for anyone to feel like their pride is being stepped on.
Next, think about hiring a designer. Again, it comes down to choices. It’s overwhelming how many choices there are when entering in to a remodeling project. Think about it: Have you ever tried to buy some white paint? There must be a million different shades of white! It’s a designer’s job to figure out your taste and your needs, and filter the choices accordingly, presenting you with a few carefully chosen options. This saves you from getting overwhelmed, and saves you time as well. Furthermore, since this is what they do, day in and day out, your designer is likely to have ideas you never would have thought of to make your project more functional, more cost effective, and more beautiful. It may seem like an extravagance to spend money on a designer, but bad decisions cost money too, and I can guarantee if you go into your remodel without a well thought out design, there’s going to be some expensive mistakes.
If your budget is too tight to hire a professional designer, you’re still going to need a design. Even a pencil sketch with some rough measurements, and a list of fixtures and finishes, is better than nothing. Make sure you’ve thought through the design and layout carefully before you turn your contractor loose. The last thing you want to do is hire a contractor, give him some vague idea of what you want, and turn him loose! I’ve had many clients come to me with a few pictures from a book or magazine, expecting me to just make it happen. Now I’m not saying it can’t be done this way, because it can (You can’t be a contractor for any length of time without learning a thing or two about design), and to be honest, I rather like it when my customers allow me a little artistic license, but this approach is time consuming, costly, and it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings with your contractor and leave you with a finished project that doesn’t necessarily live up to your expectations. So take the time upfront to plan out the space and dial in the details. Then, once you’ve mapped things out as far as you can, feel free to sit down with your contractor and get his input before moving forward with the actual work.
Speaking of contractors, hiring the right contractor is probably the single most important step in the remodeling process. Want to set yourself up for failure? Go out get a few bids from random contractors, hire the cheapest one, and wait for the nightmare to begin. Do I sound overly dramatic? I assure you, I’m not. I’m speaking from personal experience here! Not only have I made this mistake myself (more than once), but I see it happen to others again and again. The biggest stress saving advice I can give you is to really spend time finding the right contractor for your job. Get references, check on their license and bond, get to know them, make sure they return your calls and respond to emails promptly. It’s so worth the extra time and effort. You need to know this person is someone you can trust with your home and your money!
Another tip: Expect the unexpected. Just about any time you go in to a remodel there’s going to be something unexpected that pops up. An experienced contractor can help you anticipate some of the issues that may arise, but unless you have x-ray vision and a crystal ball, you can’t anticipate everything. The key here is to be flexible with your design, and your budget. Most often, a slight modification to the design is all it will take to overcome an obstacle, and if you set aside a contingency fund in your budget, you’ll have a backup for when you find (for example) some dry-rot behind the cabinets.
Along the same lines: expect delays. Whether it’s an appliance not arriving on schedule, or drywall not drying fast enough because of the humidity there’s always something that doesn’t go exactly according to plan. Again, a good contractor will anticipate this and not set your expectations unrealistically, but still, you should err on the side of caution, and avoid scheduling your project deadline too close to any important dates. Leave some room for the unexpected and you will weather the storms without the stress.
Finally, (and I know this is a tricky one) have faith. There’s going to be a point where the contractor is tearing apart your home, and you find yourself washing dishes in the bathtub and generally pushed off to a corner of your house surrounded by boxes of stuff you’ve packed away until the remodeling is done, and you’ll ask yourself if you’ve made a terrible mistake. It takes a lot of faith at this point to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and while it may seem inconceivable to you that the mess you’re living in now will ever come together, it’s just part of the process. Try to remember that while you may not have a clue how to make order out of the chaos you see before you, your contractor does(assuming you’ve done your homework and hired a good one!), and for him, this is just a walk in the park, because he’s done it a million times before. So give it a little time before you hit the panic button, and try to enjoy the process of watching it all come together.