Help and advice

How to keep remodeling from destroying your marriage

Summer is the perfect time to tackle home renovation projects. Sunny days and mild weather provide the motivational boost needed to get the ball rolling on a range of household ventures, unlike the rest of the year when cold, gusty rain showers dampen our resolve. As easy as it is to get carried away and embark on a number of tasks, it’s important to remember that most renovations are, in fact, a huge undertaking, and as such, it’s often best left to the professionals.

There’s countless variables involved in remodeling, so without careful planning and expert assistance, projects have the potential to spiral out of control. As ventures fall behind schedule and go massively over-budget, they do more than stress out homeowners and stretch finances thin - out-of-control renovations can also wreak havoc on relationships, making them genuine homewreckers.

Associated clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Walter Brakkelmans, told the LA Times: "The remodel changes the couple's physical space and routine. On a scale of one to ten, ten being the death of a child and one a fender-bender, a remodel rates a six in terms of stress on a relationship."

According to a survey by home improvement and design website Houzz, 12 per cent of couples have considered separation or divorce as a result of extremely stressful projects. Clearly, remodeling is a massive source of frustration, anxiety and tension between spouses.

Survey respondents cited home design as the primary cause of disagreements, though there are a number of other projects which create inter-marriage conflicts. Some of the worst offenders include add-ons, plumbing repair, electrical work, replacing windows and roof repair.

To keep remodeling from ruining your marriage, do your homework and prepare for the massive undertaking. Prepare for problems in every facet of your project, ranging from finding and buying materials, getting permits and installing fixtures, to flooring and appliances. Consider taking time off work and arranging hotel stays for bedroom renovations, or if you’re working on the kitchen instead, prepare for the added cost of takeaways. Calculate anticipated overall cost and add a 20 per cent cushion. While you’re at it, double the time frame to allow for complications. Finally, hire a qualified designer to help you develop your plans, visualise your goals and anticipate any problems that are likely to occur. Although calling a professional in for help is pricey, divorces cost a lot more.

Set some ground rules to make it through your big project. Agree to compromise and collaborate as much as possible. Be open and honest about what you want and any concerns you might have. Divide labour and clean-up evenly, and try and maintain a sense of humour throughout the venture. If the going gets tough, go out on a date to unwind.

When the inevitable happens and stress starts mounting, look on the bright side. For all its faults, home remodeling really does teach you how to work together. When you’re done, the feeling of satisfaction you get from creating something wonderful with your spouse is unbeatable, and your relationship will be all the stronger for it.