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Surviving Home Renovations—Without Ruining Your Marriage

If you’ve decided to undertake a home renovation, you might want to budget in a session with a marriage counselor— along with that general contractor—because it’s likely to be a bumpy (and stressful) ride. It’s almost guaranteed that your renovations will run over budget . . . and take longer than planned. In fact, now’s a good time to go ahead and embrace the old cliché and “expect the unexpected.”

Last year, after we found out baby #3 was on the way, the nesting instinct kicked in, and my husband and I decided to undertake a long overdue kitchen re-model. This was a low-budget, DIY undertaking. We weren’t knocking out any walls or tearing out cabinets—so how hard could it be? A little advice? When it comes to a renovation—don’t ask that question . . .

Our kitchen before the home renovations. Never install tile countertops like this: impossible to clean!
As it turns out, even the most straightforward and contained remodels can take a toll. During the months of the project, as we planned, dreamed, bickered and compromised over our kitchen, we revealed the best and the worst of ourselves to each other. There were moments of pure kid-on-Christmas-morning excitement—like the day the granite countertops were (finally!) installed. There were also moments that brought us to the brink of divorce—like when I double checked with my husband which direction he was going to lay the floor tile. Note to self: trust him. And keep your mouth shut after you’ve made the materials and design and decisions. Seemingly innocuous questions and comments can be taken waaaaay out of context under the stress of a remodel and can spark all kinds of tangent arguments.

My husband is a landscaper and an all-around handy guy—a physical laborer by trade. So he did almost all of the work (except for installing the granite countertops). He ripped out our ugly tile floor. He ripped out the old tile countertops, laid the new tile floor, and installed a new dishwasher under the counter! He ripped out the old tile backsplash and installed a new one, built a new cabinet, and took all the (original, vintage 1940) cabinet doors and hardware off and refurbished them. He painted the ceiling, painted the trim, and did a bunch of smaller (yet important) stuff I can’t even remember now.

kitchen reno (2 of 4)
As for my role? I scoured the internet for approximately 1.72384 zillion hours—reading home improvement advice and getting design ideas for backsplashes, countertops and window treatments (among other things). I visited more than a few tile stores and brought samples home to try out in our kitchen. I made a slideshow of dream kitchens and a 10-page document of ideas and links to products that would make our kitchen perfect. At six months pregnant, I drove back and forth to Lowe’s in the cold darkness to compare granite patterns and prices—all the while imploring the sales rep to promise me it would get done before the baby came.

I fell into the rabbit hole of Etsy. I ordered fabric swatches and had an hour long phone consultation with a nice lady about window treatment options. However, my husband and I reached an impasse with this one, and the windows remain bare—which actually doesn’t look that bad. (I’m still considering blinds though. Who knew my dear husband had such strong opinions about window treatments?!)

For our renovation, I think it was a good thing we had pretty distinct roles in the process. I play the part of  “the idea person.” His job was to be executioner of said ideas (although sometimes he wanted to execute me along with my ideas). Hey, I want what I want—AND I was pregnant. So there.

Overall, we kept our expectations realistic throughout the remodel. We have a fine, working gas stove, so we did not purchase new stainless steel appliances as HGTV might have wanted us to. We did, after heavily debating the cost and functionality of countertop materials, decide it was worth the slight splurge above our budget to go with granite. Even though it was by far the most expensive and difficult piece of the project, it was worth it. We still love it. I say, if there’s one thing you really want—and it’s not incredibly out of your price range—go for it!

Our new kitchen with new tile flooring, granite countertops and tile backsplash

Our new kitchen with new tile flooring, granite countertops, and tile backsplash_home renovations

The thought of re-making part of your home and adding your personal stamp can be alluring and exciting. However, having now been through the process, I would advise any couple planning a remodel or addition to come to an understanding with each other—there will be disagreements and need for compromises. Have a plan in place for that Know (and remind each other often!) that you love each other, you’re doing this for your family, and you are in this together. You might want to kill each other at a few points along the way—but when the urge strikes, just take a deep breath, step away from the tile, and repeat after me: “This too shall pass.”

Here we are—still married after the remodel.

Here we are, still married after the remodel.

2 Responses to Surviving Home Renovations—Without Ruining Your Marriage

  1. Alana January 11, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    This cracked me up, Theresa! First, your kitchen renovation is AWESOME! Love the floor and countertops and backsplash. Good job Peter! We are going through a home renovation/addition (Dan is the GC) and I can totally relate on many accounts. Especially expect the unexpected–like the plumbers to drill a large unwanted hole in the side of your dining room wall (what the?!). Also fun to see you guys at the basketball game!

  2. Theresa Meeks Laurence January 11, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Thanks Alana! Good luck with your reno!

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