Two months before my husband and I got married we bought a fixer upper in the perfect neighborhood in the city we were living in. We knew he had two months to fix it up and get it to our standard of liveable before we combined households and moved in.
This house was disgusting when we bought it; it needed a whole new paint job because of booger stained walls, it needed new carpet because of fecal matter from pets, it smelt like a zoo had been living their for years, the tile floors needed to be stripped down because the previous owners tried a DIY project that obviously went bad, the cabinets were caked with 3 inches of grease, the countertops had lost its grout because of poor maintenance, and the backyard was unfinished. Sadly, this house was only 5 years old and had sustained this much damage and abuse. They always say buy the worst house in the best neighborhood, well we did!
We were so ill prepared for what we were going to take on as a “happily engaged” couple. We had set a budget and had an idea of what we needed to do, but that was about it. We had never worked on a project together before, never really talked about decorating, or desires so you could say that we were going in blindly to the project.
I recall our first “discussion” about the house when I realized that renovating a house with anyone, especially my fiance might have been the worst thing I ever decided to do! One night, we were talking about paint colors and painting when I suggested that we paint the house a few different colors (not all in the same room) to give the house some character. I also suggested we paint the house a nice warm color that was not tan, because at that time everyone’s house was tan. The look that was shot across the room for suggesting something other than tan was priceless! He then followed it up with, “What do you mean a different color, we are painting it tan.”
I don’t know why I was so offended by this, but I certainly was, and I did not want to talk to him anymore, in fact I wanted to go back to my house at that point! I just sat there, stonewalled! He didn’t know back then how I fight so he tried to continue the conversation oblivious to the fact that I was mad… He said, “When you paint the house you are going to start in the front…” Oh my lanta, if looks could kill he probably would have been dead. “Who was he to dictate to me where I was going to start?!”
Evidently upset at this point, my sweet soon to be husband asked what the matter was and I told him point blank that I didn’t like him being controlling and that I got to help make decisions, especially where I was going to start painting.
We knew right then and there if we didn’t implement some sort of plan then we probably would not make it to our wedding day! We implemented a plan and I can happily say we got married (obviously), have renovated a rental house, and worked on several projects since then and are still happily married.
Wanna know what we have learned to make me not want to kill my husband during renovation projects, and him not want to kill me? Well… I have our helpful tips below!
Start with a plan.
- Lay out in detail with each other what you will be doing. Do you both have the same vision for the project? (This includes design, materials, colors, etc.) If you don’t, then you need to COMMUNICATE with one another to get on the same page. If you start off not on the same page, you will never get there.
- When you are planning, do you have the right tools? If you don’t find out if you can borrow them, rent them, or if you will have to buy them. Add these costs into your budget!
Have a Budget and add 20%
- In every project we have ever done we have had a budget. We break down how much everything will cost in great detail. We have never, I repeat never been able to stay within that budget. This is with us looking for great deals and buying stuff on sale. What we have learned is that there are always added costs that you don’t plan for… With that being said make your budget and add at least 20% to that. That’s how much you will be spending, if not more.
- Track your expenses as you go. You don’t want to get halfway through the project and realize you are out of money.
- If you chose to not make a budget, it makes you less accountable as you are spending and you spend way more, which could lead to other problems in your marriage, don’t do this! Make a budget and live very close to it!
Pick a Team Leader
- Let’s be honest. In projects there needs to be 1, I repeat ONE chief and many Indians. When everyone tries to be in charge it causes havoc and lots and lots of yelling. I might know this from experience! I don’t love the phrase “in charge” in marriage, therefore I like to think of it as a team leader. Establishing this from the beginning causes everyone to know who to turn to when questions arise. The most knowledgeable person in the project is probably the best leader.
- As a couple establish what each person will do. This needs to be decided jointly and not forced upon anyone. My husband is a perfectionist, which means everything takes a little longer! I am more of a “it looks fine” (not as good as when my husband does it), but it is done faster. Therefore, on our shed project he is the one measuring and cutting and I am the one holding boards, tape measures, gathering supplies, and since I am an expert painter, I will be painting when the project is done.
- Establish if the kids are going to be involved. There is nothing worse than a married couple not being on the same page with kid’s involvement and then trying to hatch that out in the middle of the project and wasting an hour discussing it. If the kids will help you need to tell them their role from the beginning. During our latest shed building project they were to be waterboys, holders of the walls and siding while it got nailed, concrete cleaner uppers, and they would get to hammer a few nails. We all knew this from the beginning so we all knew the expectation.
- Role Responsibility helps everyone from getting in the way of others as well. You know the saying, “many hands make light work?” Well, too many hands in all the same places can cause quite the stir as well!
Have a Realistic Timeline
- Nothing bothers me more than being late, even when it comes to projects. I love my husband, but sometimes he might not realize how much work goes into a project. We have realized that he will come up with a timeline and we will add 3 times more time to that. The shed is going to take a month to build? Great! I plan in my mind that we will be done in 3 months!
Communicate Calmly, Talk, and Discuss
- Lack or poor communication is the source of many blowups among couples. Speak calmly to one another. I know you are frustrated, but once frustration is heard in your voice effective communication goes out the window.
- Projects cause stress levels to rise among married couples. When people are stressed they are more irritable and are easier to offend. If you think you sound nice step up speaking kindly about 3 more levels during projects.
- Be clear in your communication. Don’t beat around the bush, ask if you don’t understand what someone is saying or asking of you.
- We all know our spouses, and what drives them crazy! Be sure not to push those buttons while working together. My husband knows I am easily offended, he tries extremely hard to not do anything to offend me as we are working together.
- Remember, Couples actually fight less as they communicate more.
Pick Your Battles/ Stop Critiquing Every Step Someone Else Takes
- Does the color of the bedroom really matter to you? Do you really care if she carries all the tools over in the wagon or one by one? If he wants to remeasure one more time does it really matter? Think about if it really matters, if it does, say something, if not let it go. If you critique every step someone else takes and are always picking a battle, you might find yourself working solo on the rest of the project. Trust me,everyone will benefit on this one.
Take a Break/ Cool Off
- Don’t be so consumed with the project that you forget you have a family! Designate project hours with the whole family. Don’t miss out on important events trying to get the project done.
- When tensions rise; that might be a good time to step away and regroup before things get out of hand.
- Everybody needs to be told they are doing a good job, even the kids getting water and grabbing hammers. When you set a positive atmosphere by praising and by showing appreciation everyone else will be positive with you.
- I know it is hard to laugh when things happen, but laughter is the best medicine when things are going wrong. It lightens the mood and allows everyone to take a deep breath from a stressful situation, because let’s be honest renovations and home improvement projects are stressful!
Don’t forget to love!
- So often in projects we let the stress take over and we despise who we are working with. Don’t let that happen! Your marriage is way more important than any home improvement project. Look for the good qualities within each other as you work. Yes, it is stressful, yes you will become frustrated, yes the HGTV shows lie to you when they are smiling the whole time. Don’t let these small minimal things ruin the years of love that you have with each other, if you see this start to happen hire a contractor immediately, your marriage is worth it!
Good luck and happy renovating and DIYing (Is that even a word now?)