“What do you think about yellow for the walls?”
“I like green.”
“But yellow is invigorating.”
“So is green.”
“Yellow would make the room seem bigger.”
“Maybe we can find a yellowish green.”
“Maybe you should keep your opinions to yourself.”
Well. Home repairs and renovations can be stressful. Twelve percent of people in one survey actually said they’d considered separation or divorce during a remodeling project. Fixing up your home doesn’t have to be that scary, though. You might even find it brings you and your spouse closer. “You and me against the house…” Here’s how to do it right.
You’re in this job together, so don’t assume you’ll call all the shots. Be prepared to compromise. Determine in advance how you’ll make decisions if you disagree on home repairs—and arguing should not be an option. Will you take turns? Draw straws? Call for binding arbitration?
Maybe one of you gets to have the final word on technique, while the other makes the call on colour. Go with your strengths. Having a strategy in place moves the work along, and stops arguments before they start.
Plan as a Pair
Unless you’ve successfully done the exact repair job before, do some research before starting work—and do it together. Make sure you’re both on the same page. Sometimes there are multiple ways to approach a project. You come at it from one angle while your spouse closes in from another: that’s a recipe for chaos. At the very least, you’ll start arguing, hammer in hand.
Check home improvement websites and books, talk to pros and make lists of supplies. Know the steps you’ll take, as well as what can go wrong. Sharing the process will provide you both with some expertise, so no one will be totally in charge. “Boss” can quickly become “bossy.”
Talk about your budget while you’re planning home repairs. Because you’ve been researching together, both of you know what steps are involved in the repair. You also know what you need to purchase. This is where negotiations start.
What grade of wood is necessary? Must you use expensive paint to get good coverage? What tools should you buy? Can you manage with middle-of-the-road models, or do you need heavy duty, top-of-the-time tools? For outdoor projects, you can rent equipment that professionals typically use. If you won’t use it often, it’ll just take up space anyway. For instance, if you’re repairing a walkway, renting a mortar mixer speeds up the process enormously. Less time on the job means less chance of bickering.
An important note: if the repair work is complex, make sure you create a contingency fund, just in case something happens. Something always happens.
Know When to Say “No”
After you’ve done the research, you may decide you need a professional. To minimize stress and maintain a lasting relationship, this should occur before you get in over your heads. If you’re mid-project and you both realize you’re not up to the task, frustration sets in. It’s remarkably easy to redirect anger from a situation to a person.
Instead, be realistic about what you can handle, and acknowledge early on when it’s time to call an expert.
Don’t! Take Your Time
A major problem with significant repair work is living with the process. Even if you’re just replacing old wallpaper, you might have to spend a couple of days living with a mess. A larger project impacts your life even more. Don’t start a job until you’ve figured out how to accommodate it. If your daily lives are impacted, figure out ways to reduce the strain.
If your kitchen is under attack, can you agree—and afford—to eat out until work is done? Refinishing floors? How will you adjust your lives to make up for the reduced living space—and where will you store the contents of the room you’re sanding and staining? If your work closes off one bathroom, create a schedule for sharing the remaining facility. Have a plan that deals with disorder and debris before you pull a single nail.
Call It a Day Before You’re Drained
When you’re immersed in a home repair project, you just want to get it done. It’s tempting to push on toward completion, no matter how exhausted you and your spouse are. But that’s when accidents happen, both physical and emotional. One of you might bash a finger with the hammer. Or drop a drill on your toe. Or say an unkind word that starts a huge fight.
When you’re getting tired, admit it. Chances are, your spouse is feeling the strain, too. Take a break, preferably away from the scene. Catch some zzzzzzzs, grab a cup of coffee, go out for a meal. Retreat to opposite ends of the house so you have some breathing space. Maybe you should pack it in for the night and start refreshed in the morning. Both your project and your relationship will be better off.
When it comes to home repairs, knowledge isn’t a dangerous thing. Know your project, know your resources and know your limits. Your project will ultimately be a good thing—as long as you don’t have to do relationship repair next.