Has a home renovation or remodeling project ever driven you or your family to the brink of insanity? Renovation and remodeling stress takes on many forms. It might be the couple arguing over their kitchen layout at Ikea, an interior designer performing marital counseling over a husband and wife’s budget disagreements, a fight with the architect, contractor or flooring installer or spouses not seeing eye to eye on how a project should be completed. No matter the size, scope or budget of the project, a home remodel or renovation can cause serious stress, anxiety and downright anger for the homeowner.
Usually home renovation stress isn’t the result of a singular issue but rather multiple issues or challenges. There is the famous ongoing arguments between architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, over her iconic Farnsworth House. Very often issues arise because both parties (the homeowner and the professional) aren’t as upfront and honest at the very beginning regarding money or expectations of completion time. Other problems arise because communication is poor or too many changes are made once the project begins. Let’s look at some common sources of renovation stress and how to avoid them.
1. Not knowing where to begin
When thinking of undertaking a new home build, major remodel or even a landscape project, some homeowners feel a sense of stress in not knowing who to call or where to begin. Homeowners may feel a paralyzation over questions such as do I need to file for permits first or after I hire a professional? What type of professional does the type of work that I want done? How do I know my property can withstand an addition or a new structure? Starting a new project can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before. Porch actually has a concierge service, where homeowners can tell our team the general scope of the project and the concierge team can match the homeowner to an experienced, nearby professional.
2. Not understanding how much everything will cost
Misunderstanding regarding how much a project will cost, or having a lack of transparency about costs is one of the most frustrating parts of home renovation. An experienced professional should adhere to the homeowner’s budget and should steer the homeowner away from costly materials or labor. Homeowners should ask for transparency: ask to be alerted to changes in subcontractor costs, equipment rentals, delays, transportation costs or other line items. Establishing a weekly budget check-in meeting is a great way to head off expenses and hear about issues right away. Even homeowners undertaking a DIY project can benefit from a regular check in to keep in check the scope creep from damaging your budget (and your stress levels). Understanding costs, and what factors will quickly increase costs, is the best way to feel in control of the expenditures, instead of blindsided. When working with a professional, present your budget upfront and ask the pro if your budget fits their expectations of the project. Ask the pro to give a ballpark breakdown of where the money will go (for example, 30% towards cabinetry, 10% towards labor, etc.). This is the best way to know how your decisions for appliances, materials or textiles will affect the bottom line. Read all of our budgeting articles here.
3. Not knowing how long the project will take to complete
Just like the budget, an experienced pro should be able to provide a general timeline or schedule for the project. Frustration and stress occurs when homeowners aren’t alerted to delays or when the pro fails to indicate how much time may need to be added to the project. Homeowners can mitigate delays by ordering materials that are made locally or have short production lead times. Homeowners can also insist upon using subcontractors that have open schedules (as opposed to subcontractors who are juggling multiple projects at once). It’s a smart idea to request a work back schedule before the project begins and have a weekly meeting regarding this schedule so scheduling issues can be dealt with in real-time. Homeowners should also be aware of how their actions might be negatively impacting the schedule. Being out of reach, out of town, delaying payments or constantly changing decisions can create significant delays. Read all of our articles about how to schedule a project here.
4. Making too many changes during the project
Homeowners are usually the guilty party when it comes to making changes once construction begins. Changing materials, appliances, or design can actually lead to much longer lead times, additional labor expenses and other costs. It’s best to think through all of your various wish list items before the project begins so that the project isn’t delayed or over budget due to changes on the fly. If you don’t have a clear picture regarding what your project will look like, or feel like you might need to see things in person before it’s put in place, communicate this to your pro in the beginning. Very often these changes occur when spouses can’t agree. A pro can’t serve as marital counselor – homeowners must realize that multiple changes, or going back and forth on ideas, can lead to a lot of excess stress. Homeowners can alleviate some of this flip-flopping by scrapbooking their favorite paint colors, furniture or other objects to ensure that there is some record of what is desired for the project. Use your Porch Scrapbook or flip through magazines. Ask the professional to talk through options and ask if samples can be made prior to ordering.
5. Not understanding your home “quirks” or inherent issues
We don’t always know what lies beneath our carpeting, behind our walls or underneath the subfloor. Even homes built within the last decade can hide information that isn’t known to the homeowner, making it difficult to make informed decisions. Experienced remodelers can make estimates but they may not know what work needs to be done until walls are ripped open or the crawlspace inspected. These unforeseen issues should be planned for, both in the budget as well as in the timeline. It’s fair to say that tempering your expectations regarding the unknown is important. Use the Porch Home Report to review what types of permits were done on your home in the past and to keep track of future projects.
Miscommunication between husband and wife, homeowner and professional, manufacturer and delivery service are probably the biggest cause for stress during home improvement. Very often homeowners don’t know what questions to ask upfront, and experience a steep learning curve during the remodeling process. Before starting a project, it’s not a bad idea to talk to friends and family who have gone through this before. They may have great advice and information regarding which questions to ask each of the professionals. Your best bet is to stick to a regular meeting time with your professionals, even if it’s a quick check in by phone, and keep notes about what was talked about. As you are juggling multiple parts of the project, it will be helpful if you can refer to a paper trail so you can verify what is due. Being present on site as often as possible is another way to learn about the project, answer questions immediately as well as ask questions before things are done. Some stages of your home improvement may happen really quickly and if you don’t like how something was done, you may have to pay to have it done over again. Save yourself emotional stress during your home renovation by being clear and consistent in your communication.
Have you experienced a stressful remodel? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Top image credit: Foley & Cox Interiors