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Help Your Marriage Survive Home Improvement Woes

April 3, 2008

One of the unspoken tests of marriage is undertaking a home improvement project. It’s inevitable if you live together you will probably some day decide to paint walls, get new furniture that needs assembled, or decide the garage needs organized. For the other daring couples, there’s more intensive DIY projects like complete kitchen remodels, additions, or even building a house from the foundation up. But while these projects sound like fun in theory, they can spell disaster for your relationship.

With the idea of home remodeling, you might envision the two of you splashing in paint or picking out new faucets or relaxing on that new deck…but don’t get too ahead of yourself. It’s not like anything you’ve seen on HGTV. Home improvement can quickly become nightmare. Delayed projects, running into unexpected problems, or finding out it will cost twice as much as anticipated can really cause a lot of stress on a couple.

So how do you avoid the drama when working on DIY projects?

1. Do your research. If you’re hiring a contractor, be sure to get references, testimonials, see examples of finished projects and learn as much as you can about the person or company. If you’re doing it yourself, be sure you know exactly how to do your project and what underlying problems might come up, such as faulty wiring, rotten floor joists, or termite damage.

2. Be prepared to live in chaos. You might not be able to walk through your kitchen or find yourself tripping over buckets of joint compund. If you can’t handle living in this kind of environment for long periods of time you may need to either reconsider the improvement or make arrangements for a contractor to to the work while you live somewhere else.

3. Budget, Budget, Budget. Estimate your project needs and add on another 35% for incidental items and unforseen expenses. If you can’t afford a project after you add on the additional expense, you may want to consider waiting before starting the project.

4. Expect Delays. Don’t be fooled by 24 hour or even weekend remodels you see on TV. It will proabably take a lot longer than you expected – sometimes many more months as different issues come up or take priority. Being aware the project will take longer than estimated will help you avoid disappointment and increase your patience.

5. Use Open Communication. Deal with others in a polite, direct manner. Don’t hide your feelings, but then don’t scream at the kids because you’re mad with the contractor who forgot to show up.

6. Be Organized. Keep a list of all estimated projects and their completions. Dedicate certain responsibilities to certain people. Save all reciepts. You may find it helpful to keep a binder or folder with all of your notes and plans so everything is kept in one place.

7. Plan Time for Other Things. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your home consume your entire life. Go out with your partner at least once a month if not more and enjoy yourselves. Make it a rule that no home improvement conversations are allowed. This will help you remember that you love each other, even if the house doesn’t have siding.

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