Chris Craiker, The Architex Angle: Thinking of remodeling? How strong is your marriage? | Home and Garden

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We all get tired of our aging homes and may consider moving up the home ladder, either buying a newer one or building a custom abode. However, with today’s exploding home prices, escalating interest rates and supply chain disruptions, those options are becoming more remote for many of us.

We all know that remodeling can be among the most stressful of life’s events, behind divorce or losing a spouse. Preparing a budget for such a venture can cause a major heart attack.

But the most important entity is being mentally prepared beforehand to encounter the full impact of remodeling on one’s partnership, let alone one’s pocketbook. Remodeling can inflict great harm on any relationship.

Everyone becomes dissatisfied at one time or another with their home. Sometimes it’s as small as updating a bathroom or as monumental as adding a second story. Simple tasks can be a big deal. I have found some people start home renovations in an attempt to shore up a shaky relationship. The husband may think a new kitchen will take his partner’s mind off his infidelities. More often, this could be the torpedo that sinks the ship.

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The first piece of advice I recommend is to make a master list of everything you want then prioritize. Keep focused at all times on what is truly important or timely. Construction is taking longer, costing more and getting a decent doorknob will be a challenge. While an architect can help establish a realistic program and budget, this is the start, not the end. Like all strategies, it must be flexible and tolerant of changes and surprises.

One more item: Make sure the entire family is on board, including mom, the kids and the dog.

Many people start remodeling for the wrong reason, and timing is essential. Sometimes people plan to add a nursery before the baby is born or expand the dining room for a big family gathering at Thanksgiving with only a few months to design, seek municipal approvals, hire the contractor, start and complete the construction.

I recommend adding 50% to any schedule initially anticipated.

If you are planning to live in the place while under construction, here are a few suggestions on how to survive the chaos:

• Maintain a consistent everyday life. You’ll still want hot meals, a comfortable and quiet place to sleep, decent shower and bathroom facilities and clean clothes.

• Keep waste and dust in check. Whoever is in charge of construction must clean up every day for your sanity and health. While messes will occur, at night the structure, even under construction, should be broom clean at night.

• Defend against air pollution especially if the structure is over 50 years old. Asbestos or other toxins can be released into the air.

• Protect your property: Thieves love to plunder construction sites. 

• Watch the books and billing against contract maximums.

• Communicate with contractors all the time.

Look to “green” and sustainable materials and processes. Choosing locally produced VOC-free paints, minimum formaldehyde cabinets and renewable products doesn’t have to break the bank.

As a general rule, the more locally sourced the products, the better the sustainability value. Research the options, use recycled materials and ask your architect for options.

I always say construction is 60% labor and materials, 40% administration and 100% communication.