How To Survive A Remodel

Last summer Frank and I had this crazy idea...what if we remodel his mom's home into our forever home. Ultimately we want to be closer to work, to have a space to entertain our family and friends, and the fact that we would be living in his childhood was the icing on the cake. He didn't have to convince me anymore! But this all sounds fun right?! People tell me that all the time.

"Oh it must be so fun to design a home from scratch."

"That must be so nice to pick everything out yourself."

My response..."If you can survive a remodel, your marriage can survive anything." A close friend of my mine said that she had two friends nearly considered divorce after remodeling their home. Somehow I wasn't surprised. It's the ultimate test of patience, understanding, and finances. One may ask how is it even possible to consider divorce after remodeling and it all boils down to style choices and taste. It's the ultimate meaning of compromise, It's blending two styles and tastes, understanding whats important to each other, and understanding those choices and the financial impact on your overall budget. I decided to share my insight on this process because Frank and I are brand new to this whole remodeling process and when I say remodel, I really mean taking a house stripping it to the studs, reworking a septic tank, plumbing, electric, and adding an additional 1,500 square foot, 2-story addition. My hope is to share what we have learned along the way so that if you are reading this and are going through the same process or about to start, that you're not alone and that all couples face the same emotions and stresses that come with a project like this.  

Image: Studio McGee


My first and biggest tip is to be prepared. This may seem obvious, but be sure you are both on the same page when it comes to these basics. Know the square footage you want to achieve, have an idea of layout, have a budget in mind (for architectural drawings and building costs), know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want. This can save a lot of awkward conversations and decision making in front of your contractor or architect. Once you start reviewing and checking off on plans, it can becomes costly to change them after the fact. It wasn't until a close friend of ours generously agreed to look over our plans that we realized a few things didn't make sense. In our head, everything looked great, but when you talk with someone how builds for a living, they are able to make sense of it all for you. Thankfully we were able to make the corrections without adding extra cost, but it's always a good idea to have a second set of eye take a look, especially if this is all new to you. 

Being prepared can also go as far as starting to shop for finishes like countertops, cabinets, tile, that way you both don't sticker shock or a coronary when its time to make decisions. (I realized that faucets don't come with sinks and that they are just as much as a sink. And light sure to have a few hundred dollars for one. Oh you want four bathrooms, remember thats four toilets and four toiler paper holders so don't get picky on which toilet is the prettiest. It's a crapper people, pick a functional one and more on.)


2. Assemble a great team

Finding a trustworthy team maybe be on of the hardest choices in this process. We met with 4-5 architects who had 4-5 options and we were left more confused than ever. I am a big believer in meshing well with people that you are hiring for a job. What I mean by this is..."Does the person listen to what you want but also gives honest feedback." Do you feel a good energy from them." "How did the conversation flow during your initial meeting?" "Are they within your budget?" If your project involves an architect, make sure that his communication is efficient and responsive. During the building process, your contractor is going to need him to respond quickly to issues or questions that may arise and that goes the same with your contractor. Are they just sending teams to the house while they are in the office making phone calls. The truth is, you are going to have to get to know these people well and don't be afraid to speak up or be hands on. 

Remember, you are probably spending more money than you ever have in life on this, so you want to be sure it'd done right. NO PRESSURE FOLKS! We have yet to select our contractor and this may be even harder than selecting our architect. I'll keep you posted on that friends!

3. Compromise

I can honestly say I am pretty guilty of not doing this already. One thing about me you may not know, is that I can be so stubborn (my husband call me wood head in spanish sometimes because I can be so stubborn), especially once I have an idea in mind. (Like a natural wood front door, regardless if it isn't hurricane proof.) Conflict arises when one person refuses to compromise...Remember this YOUR HOME TOGETHER, not a house build by one person and you both happen to live there. Try to talk about styles that you both like, finishes you want to select, or spaces you each want to work on. The beauty of working on a project like this together, is that you end up creating a space that is reflective of you as a couple and that has a mix of both your styles.  

Image: Studio McGee

4. Plan ahead

We started to see a constant theme when we would speak to different people regarding timeline..."Oh they said 6 months, well double that because it always takes longer." Silly us, we thought we could pull permits, build this massive addition, do remodeling, and move in by next Christmas. In reality, we will be lucky to be in the new by next January, if not later. When you start a project like this, you have to be ok with not meeting hard deadlines because in the end you will only be more stressed and disappointed that things aren't going as planned.

My best advice...start your research and question answering early. Think about weather and vacation schedules..."Is it going to be snowing when it's time to start the roofing?" Luckily in Florida we don't have to worry too much about snow, but there is that thing called hurricane season, and to our luck we will start demo and framing right around the start of this year's season. Going to Italy for three weeks isn't the best idea while your home is being built in the U.S. Since we are investing so much in the project, Europe will have to wait until our wallets recover....maybe in 2018. For now it will be weekend getaways and I am ok with that because our end result will be worth every scarafice.

Want custom cabinets? That will be about 12 weeks. "Want that fancy oven from France...sure that will be three months." When we started shopping for finishes, we always made sure to ask lead times that way once construction started, we wouldn't end up putting things to a halt while waiting weeks for materials to arrive. Also, keep in mind where you will store your materials if they arrive early or before the contractor is ready for them. It never hurts to ask if the cabinet guy has somewhere air conditioned that he can store them in case things get delayed. 

Image: Studio McGee

I recently was reading an article from Houzz and people reported on a remodel survey that they spent more time at home after a remodel (We already spend 80% of our time at home), 42% entertain more, and 41% had an increased level of happiness with their spouse. This process has already had moments of stress, doubt, sleepless nights (AND WE HAVEN'T EVEN STARTED BUILDING YET!) but we constantly remind ourselves the real reason we started. I encourage you to take moments to disconnect from your Pinterest boards, from the number crunching, and emails to reconnect and remind yourself of the same.  We love walking Dakota in the evenings, talking about our thoughts and ideas, and I am so thankful for that time and I know that he is too. I am really excited to share this adventure with you all.  

Images shared from a few of my favorite interior designers. Take a peek at their shops and blogs for design inspiration and pieces to give your home a new, fresh look

Studio McGee

Caitlin Wilson Design