How to Remodel and Keep Your Marriage Together

Remodeling can be chaotic, cluttered, sawdusty, noisy, costly, and stressful. So can marriage. Here’s how to keep your marriage from ending up in the Dumpster.

There are stressful times for any marriage, but few things can strain wedding vows like a big home improvement project.

“Building or remodeling a home can be about the most stressful activity a married couple can engage in,” says Dr. Don Gilbert, a marriage counselor in West Des Moines, Iowa.

“It has all the components that couples stress over — money, multiple decisions, and different preferences. In fact, there are so many opportunities for relationship stress during remodeling that it brings out in each person the weaknesses they may have in communication and conflict management.”

So if you and your spouse are ready to say “I do” and commit to a remodeling project, here’s what you need to know to keep your cool — and your marriage — intact.
Communicate, Talk, Discuss

Lack of communication is one of the primary reasons couples divorce, so talk about your dreams and expectations for the project from the get-go. You’ll want to hash out as many decisions as possible before you swing a hammer.

Get your conversation rolling (and keep it going) by using visual aids or professional advice.

  • Google SketchUp is a free online design tool allows you to create a 3-D version of your new space, like a pro, so you can discuss changes and see a finished model before you start.
  • Various home improvement apps help you visualize paint colors, room reconfigurations, and compare prices of materials and appliances. Make as many decisions as possible.
  • An architect or qualified designer/builder can help you visualize your goals, anticipate problems, and capture your ideas on paper.

You’ll pay a qualified designer $50-$150 per hour, or 5%-20% of the total cost of your project.

Head off Budget Busters by Stashing Cash

Any home improvement veteran will tell you that there’s almost always at least one unforeseen issue that boosts costs, such as hidden insect damage or water damage that needs repair.
Prepare for creeping costs and avoid money woes that lead to matrimonial mayhem by adding 15% to your remodeling budget.

And if you’re lucky enough to be under budget at the end of your project, take some of your cash reserve and splurge on an intimate, congratulatory dinner for two.
Defuse Stress and Take a Break

During major remodeling, dust gets everywhere, noise is often nonstop during the day, and strangers are in and out of your home. You may not have access to one of your bathrooms or even your kitchen for weeks at a time.

 Some ways you can find relief during the process:

  • Pamper at home. Ensure you have a “safe room” at home that’s remodeling-free, where you can escape the general destruction and de-stress. Or, enjoy the journey and invite friends over anyway. Take pictures of your “card table dinner party,” complete with paper plates and plastic wine glasses, and you can all reminisce about it one day.
  • Get away. Treat yourself to dinner out whenever you can afford it. Another option is to spend the night at a friend’s house, or stay in a nice hotel for the weekend.
  • Call in reinforcements. Hire a cleaning service to come in once a week and deal with the dust and debris.

Know Your DIY Limits

Overestimating your DIY skills and the time you have to devote to a project is a major stress-inducer. If you’re banking on saving cash by taking on some or all of the work yourself, make sure you have the proper tools, know-how, and discipline.

If you’re unsure, it may be time to hire a pro.

During their own kitchen remodeling, Megan and Darren Boettcher put the kids to bed (smart move) before attempting to install a new dishwasher.

“We were working by flashlight because we turned the power off,” Megan recalls, “or so we thought. My hubby shocked himself and then a small fire started on the kitchen floor. I thought, ‘Ugh! Really? A fire? We’re installing a dishwasher!’

“It was a tense night, but we made it. Next time we’re calling a professional installer.”

Related: Save 20% When You BIY Instead of DIY. Here’s How.