Conventional wisdom used to be that if you could survive hard travel for a month with someone, your chances for a successful marriage were high. But anyone who's gone through a remodel together as a couple would add a new twist: If you can remodel a home with a partner, your relationship should last a good long time. My wife and I survived ours.
For first-timers, remodeling can be more challenging than expected. Everyone says it will cost twice as much and take three times as long as you think. What they don't say is that you'll have to make 10 times as many decisions.
That doesn't mean remodeling can't be fun. Here are 10 tips culled from contractors, designers and experience to make the process of remaking a home flow more smoothly:
1. Plan ahead: As with a wedding, think about what you want, what you can afford and what your priorities are. Know it will cost more than you expect and have some reserve cash. Don't overextend; that makes it more stressful. If it's a major remodel, consider living outside the home when the work is being done. Read books or go online to see different options. And go to friends' homes to see what's worked for them.
2. Budget time, not just money: Remodeling is like taking on a part-time job. You may need five hours a week, you may need 15. Be sure to budget this time, so you don't feel rushed or harried. You'll need to peruse books like Sunset's kitchen design guide, browse the Web, shop for materials and furnishings and meet with your contractor.
3. Consider hiring a designer: "The perfect clients," says Sebastopol contractor Jeremy Allen, "know what they want, specifically, down to the finish on the bathroom faucet." Let's face facts: We're not going to have everything figured out when we start a remodel. (Do you even know what "brushed nickel" is?) Most contractors aren't design experts. Hiring a designer, even for a few hours, can be immensely helpful in developing concepts for the home and making everything work together.
4. Be flexible: Unless you live alone, you'll need to compromise. One person likes the wood-grain kitchen cabinets that came with the house and doesn't care that they're so '80s. The other isn't keen on them. The compromise? Rip out a pair of cabinets, replace them with open shelving, and leave the rest. Know what's really important to you; otherwise, it's not worth making a stand. Learn to let go.
5. Stay open-minded and go shopping: You never know what you might find if you shop with an open mind. While shopping for carpet, we found an eco-solution for our bedroom floor: cork. It's dark, soft, quiet and sustainable, and we never would have found it if we were set on carpet.
6. Don't get paralyzed by choice: Some decisions, like choosing paint colors, are very hard to make. We became bleary sorting through fan-shaped color wheels, feeling like every decision was crucial. Well, guess what, you can change your mind. We picked a color called Sienna Clay for the living room that ended up looking like pumpkin. So that became our primer and we went with Spanish Red. Cost to change our minds: $100 for a couple of cans of paint.