Do You Recognize These 5 Common Side Effects of Remodeling?
We offer advice on how to counter ‘scope creep,’ home-decoration fixation, second-guessing and more
Living through construction isn’t easy. Even if you’ve planned every last detail, the reality of having builders and decorators in the house for months on end can drive anyone slightly mad. Here are five side effects of going through a renovation project, along with tips on how to come out the other side with your sanity, relationships and bank balance intact.
1. Expanding Your Project’s Scope
You started off simply updating your kitchen. Then, as the project took form, you decided you’d like to tackle your dining area as well. And your downstairs powder room. And your hall. The problem with improving one part of your home is that it swiftly throws into light how shabby the rest of your place looks in comparison. If you already have a competent team of builders, painters and carpenters across your threshold, it’s tempting to retain them for a few more weeks.
But this gradual increase in your project’s scope means you’ll inevitably require a bigger (possibly much bigger) budget. Falling prey to this common side effect also means your original schedule will need to be completely redrawn. Ultimately, it will leave you with no privacy for months and, in the worst-case scenario, in serious financial dire straits.
The cure: Practice acceptance. Like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, fixing up your home is an endless task. It is unlikely that all parts of your house will look freshly decorated and stylish at the same time.
Take a long, hard look at your bank account. Do you like eating? Being able to turn on your central heating? Unless you’re blessed with bottomless funds, then it’s a good idea to not get too carried away. As we all know, budgets have a habit of spiraling — and as your vision expands, this is going to get worse.
All that said, a little “scope creep” isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Doing multiple jobs in one go is usually more cost-effective than bringing in people for lots of smaller, separate jobs at different times. The trick is to plan and keep things in perspective. Will the extra cost and time be worth it? Is the extra work a necessity or a luxury? And are you simply getting carried away? Only you can say.
2. Obsession With Other People’s Houses
Although it’s great to find inspiration in a friend’s gorgeous home, it can also cause stress and panic, especially halfway through a project when you wonder if you have it all wrong and everyone else has it right.
Symptoms of obsessive interiors disorder include interrupting your friends while they share a personal problem with you to quiz them about where they got their countertop, and which Benjamin Moore shade they used on their cabinets. Or going out to dinner with your other half and spending the whole evening analyzing the light fixtures and dining chairs in the restaurant.
The cure: If your project hasn’t yet begun, obsessing over other people’s houses isn’t in itself a bad thing, as it will help ensure that you’ve thought through your design choices properly and are happy with your decisions.
If your project has started, however, remind yourself that there are infinite numbers of ways to decorate and furnish any room. The key is to put together an ideabook of images you love on Houzz before you begin your project. By doing your research, you should be able to get a clear vision of your own style that you can stick to throughout. Have confidence in your own tastes and decisions, and try not to get sidetracked by someone else’s vision.
3. Changing Your Mind
This generally involves waking in the middle of the night to realize that the black rectangular tiles you’ve already spent a fortune on should be hexagonal. Or pink. Or deciding that you hate your paint color choice after the first two coats. Or that the layout of your new addition is all wrong, or that the new windows are too small, or that the freshly laid flooring is, actually, now that you see it, the wrong material and color, or that you wish you’d gone for a different countertop from the one that was installed yesterday.
The cure: Changing your mind isn’t a problem if you do it early on. In fact, it may actually be a good thing — better to do so swiftly and decisively rather than live with regrets later. However, changing your mind too far into a major renovation is inevitably going to cost you money, time and possibly your sanity.
The best prevention is to research well before you start. This means materials, colors, products and dimensions — don’t ever forget dimensions. If you can, visit showrooms and check out faucets, sofas, carpets, everything in real life. Bring in plenty of paint strips and samples, and read reviews, scour product descriptions carefully, and consult experts on the phone or by email.
Brief your contractors carefully and clearly, and double-check details — there’s nothing worse than getting home after a hard day’s work and discovering that the tiles were laid in the wrong formation or in the wrong place, or that you didn’t check the box when they came and actually they’re just not the right tiles.
If you’re indecisive by nature and therefore prone to changing your mind, build this into your choices and budget. For example, opt for a neutral backdrop and change accessories regularly.
4. Wishing You Had Checked Into an Airbnb
Staying in your house during a renovation can be challenging. There’s the dust, noise and possible lack of water, heating, electricity, civilized toilet or cooking facilities. Your privacy will no doubt suffer, as builders, electricians and plumbers turn up early for months, using your toilet and hovering in your kitchen while you hustle your kids out of bed and out the door. This can be particularly unbearable if you’re not a morning person.
However, for many of us, living in our homes during construction is necessary. Some may feel able to spend money on a private rental elsewhere, or have generous-hearted family or friends with multiple spare rooms, but most of us don’t.
In the first days or weeks, you may feel gung-ho, but after a while, your bright-eyed initial optimism will start to fade. You’ll have daydreams about packing your suitcase and escaping to the local bed-and-breakfast or even your in-laws’ home. And, let’s face it, things nearly always take longer than they’re supposed to.
The cure: Remember that this too will pass. A recent study showed that projecting yourself into the future can help you better manage present stress, so visualize that lovely new loft room or rear addition, the light filtering in through the skylight. Or maybe climbing into your new freestanding bathtub or rustling up a nice dinner on your new stove.
Funds allowing, it may also be a sensible idea to book your household into a rental property or cheap hotel for the very worst of the construction, such as when walls are coming down or ceilings are being lowered. There are often a few days when the dust and mayhem are at their peak, so try to coordinate with your building team. See if you can arrange a trip away to the seaside or a city break and (hopefully) return feeling revitalized.
5. Digestive Distress From Too Much Takeout
Has your recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables dwindled to one every other day? Do you consider toast to be a balanced meal? If your kitchen is out of action due to construction, then weeks of ready-made meals, greasy takeout and salty or sugary snacks can take their toll on your complexion, energy level and general sense of well-being.
The cure: Besides shamelessly hustling for invitations to dinner and spending far too much money eating out in restaurants, there are other ways to make it through a renovation without a healthy diet going completely to pot.
One smart solution is to plan a temporary kitchen before construction begins, including a mini countertop stove, mini fridge, paper plates and napkins. A microwave is a must, and don’t assume that all microwave food is unhealthy — porridge, steamed vegetables and baked potatoes are fine.
If you can, consider reversing your daily eating plan: If you treat yourself to a healthy, cooked takeout lunch at work, then a sandwich with canned soup at the end of the day won’t feel quite so miserable.
Try to enjoy the liberation from the usual tyranny of doing the dirty dishes and filling the dishwasher. Because life during a renovation is sort of like camping, and camping is usually fun. Isn’t it?