There’s a reason why home renovations are frequently considered one of the more stressful life events. Considering the cost, disruptions, decisions, and change, it’s no wonder they cause stress.
A large part of the stress comes from the pressure it creates on your family’s relationship and dynamic, particularly between spouses. During a renovation, it can be hard for spouses to remember to make joint decisions and act as a team. Not only can this lead to disagreements it also can result in confusion and more work and costs for your general contractor.
Below are the top ten considerations that require agreement with your spouse (or significant other) prior to embarking on a home renovation:
1. Set a budget
One of the primary stress factors resulting from construction projects is the “spend”. Particularly amongst couples who are budgeting for a lifestyle beyond the renovation, the cost is a key item upon with to reach an agreement with your significant other prior to starting the project.
You should agree on a budget and how you will fund it (e.g. savings, loan, credit cards, etc.).
Not only is it important to agree on a budget, but it’s also important to decide who will track this budget throughout the project.
When you decide your budget make sure to check what your homeowner’s insurance covers, if you have one.
2. Set a schedule
Determining a project schedule is often left to the discretion of the general contractor…this can be a mistake. Couples should first discuss how long they are comfortable living in a state of change and disarray.
If your agreed length of time doesn’t match the contractor’s schedule, consider canceling or postponing the work until it aligns.
3. Figure out where to live
Often couples assume they can continue their routines during the course of construction, but this is rarely the case. One of the biggest impacts of a project can be the use of the home.
Early on in the process, it’s imperative that couples decide (with advice from a professional) if the house can be occupied during construction. If not, determine a plan for relocation.
Will you rent an apartment, move-in with in-laws, or take an extended vacation?
Couples need to have a plan. This prevents last minute decisions about where to go which could leave one spouse bitter or resentful (think of an unexpected 3 months with your mother-in-law!).
4. Identify disruptions due to the project
In most cases with construction, something has to be given up. Whether it be fewer coffee runs to save money or hot showers only after 8 pm because of water shutdowns, typically a home renovation will change something in the everyday lives for homeowners.
A couple should discuss and agree regarding these disruptions and what they are comfortable with.
It’s imperative for a couple to work with their general contractor, or project manager, to validate the list and assumptions. A couple can then decide whether or not they can tolerate the anticipated impacts of the project.
5. Agree on hiring the contractor
Hiring the right contractor is one of the primary decisions made in a construction project. It’s important for couples to make this decision together. Think of other major purchases (house, car, appliances), typically couples make these together and discuss the options; hiring your contractor should be handled along similar lines.
Additionally, discussing this decision can help identify questions or concerns early in the process and potentially allow a resolution prior to the start of construction.
6. Know the timing of decisions
Being rushed into decisions doesn’t bode well for a relationship. In a construction project, there are countless decisions that will have long-lasting results (e.g. paint colors, flooring types, stone selection, etc.).
Couples can avoid being hasty in these decisions (or worse, having one partner make a rogue choice) by mapping out time frames ahead of time.
Couples should work with their contractor or project manager to develop a schedule which contains actions and tasks for the homeowner.
7. Identify your project goals
Having a common goal for a project helps to make sure couples evaluate success with similar parameters.
Is your primary goal to achieve a certain quality, to meet a particular time frame, to stay within a certain budget?
All may be important, but identifying the ultimate goal for your project will help ensure couples are viewing outcomes in the same light. By doing so, couples avoid scenarios where one partner is pleased and the other is disgruntled at how the project was performed.
8. Know how to evaluate the performance
It may sound straightforward, but similar to identifying goals, a couple should agree from the onset how they will evaluate success. This can help ensure both individuals are looking at progress from the same lens rather than having contrasting outlooks on the contractor’s performance.
Consider using a project management professional to identify milestones and performance criteria if you are unsure how to go about this step.
9. Clarify the limitations of your scope
Setting limitations on your project from the start can prevent scope creep and potential disagreements between a couple. Don’t let your kitchen remodel accidentally lead into a full house makeover if you don’t intend it to.
Talking through the limitations of your planned work ahead of time will help keep you and your spouse aligned should questions or temptations arise to expand the work.
10. Select the primary “manager” for the project
Maintaining a unified front can help avoid many of the complications and miscommunications in a renovation.
For couples, one factor to help maintain clear communication is to agree on who will be the primary person to oversee the project and the contractor.
Whether it be yourself, your spouse, or a project management professional, having a single point of communication and instructions for the contractor will help avoid conflicts, delays, missed instructions, etc.
Everything boils down to communication
Open communication and dialogue are the common factors for maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse in a construction project. Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge when you and your spouse need professional help and guidance for the project.
Renovating with a significant other can be stressful, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Fortunately with the right preparation, turning a house into your family’s dream home can be an enjoyable or even fun experience.