HIre someone that drives an equal or less expensive car than you. For example, if you're talking to a trades person and he pulls up in a car you can't afford, you can't afford to hire him. Generally, the less expensive the car, the less the contractor will charge you. Once I had a neighbor that was looking to repave her driveway. She was meeting with a very reputable asphalt paving company. But he wore a Ralph Lauren shirt and drove a Mercedes. Right away I knew she would pay too much. If he can afford to drive a Mercedes from doing asphalt work, he either concentrates on commercial parking lots or he's way too expensive. Instead, you want a contractor with a mid-priced truck that's about five years old and a little banged up. You can give them some slack about the cost of a truck - after all it is practically their office - but if they come driving foreign imports, guard your wallet.
Having lived through the remodeling of two houses, two additions, and building four houses, I've realized the only way to survive the stress of it is to have a good sense of humor. And maybe a few glasses of wine. Here are my 10 Ways to think about your project in order to maintain both your wits and your sanity.
Think of the project as a new diet.
Who doesn’t want to lose at least
five pounds? This is one way to do
it. Between running to stores all day
and evening long, meeting with contractors, inspecting the work, searching the
Western world for the perfect light fixture, who has time to eat? Provided you don’t sabotage this new,
unorthodox diet plan, with McDonalds drive through, you’re good for losing five
pounds. If you are a masochistic type who does some of the work yourself –
whether it be painting, laying tile, landscaping the yard – you can count on
another five to ten pounds of weight loss. Just think, you may be miserable, frustrated, exhausted, and down right
cynical about the good of the humankind, but your jeans will fit nicely!
Write checks as aerobic exercise.
These workouts are great for
toning the wrist and fingers. Usually
done in hectic spurts as you race out the door in the morning while the
contractors are breathing down your neck and your kids are beating each other
with the lunch boxes you just prepared, the stress and frantic activity are
sure to raise your heartbeat for a good hour. Grumbling under your breath that the plumber, electrician, or you name
it, isn’t really worth this much money adds greater intensity and calorie burn
to this little publicized exercise regime.
Save money through shopping burnout.
Yes, even the most die-hard shopper
will come to dread setting foot in any store. This affliction starts innocently enough as you go to look for light
fixtures. How hard can it be? Hard!
Either the light you want is being shipped from Yugoslavia and won’t arrive until your youngest child buys his own home, or you just can’t
find the one you want. You’ll shop every
lighting and electrical store you know. You’ll search Home Depot. You’ll haunt
hardware stores. And then there’s plumbing fixtures. Sink centers, faucet
handles, finishes, special orders. What’s all that about? And the cost. You’d think you were outfitting
the palace for a former third world dictator. Of course, there’s carpet, tile, hardwood, stairs, siding, windows. Enough already. And you thought it was a pain
picking mints and sweet table treats for your wedding. After your 1000th trip to Home
Depot (or Lowes or Menards or whatever), in addition to all the other trips
you’ve made for items that shouldn’t count as shopping (toilet seats, for
example), you’ve had it. Your friends
won’t be able to bribe you to check out the latest sale at Bloomingdales. You’ll think it will be better when you can
pick out “fun” things like paint, wall paper, drapes, fabric, furniture – but
don’t bet on it. At this point, the pressure to make your home look like
something other than an empty rat maze will counteract any joy in shopping. Spending
this much money has never been such a miserable experience. As a result, when your home becomes half-way presentable,
you’ll refuse to shop again – even for groceries – for at least six
months. The money you save during this
shopping hiatus will be sufficient for you to resume this previously pleasurable
past time once more without guilt.
Impress your friends with obscure facts.
Only someone that has built or
remodeled their home can explain the fluid dynamics of a proper toilet water
swirl. Or cite the International
Building Code that calls for no more than 6’ between electrical outlets. Or brag that triple glazed windows are really
the preferred standard for light emitting device technology. See what I mean? :)
Pride yourself on your new creative skills.
You’ll discover a creative side
that you never knew existed. Like how to
wash dishes in the bath tub. And how to
make a full course meal for a family of four using nothing more than a toaster
and hot plate. Or how to fit an entire
family in a house smaller than your first apartment. They say that necessity is the mother of
invention. That’s probably true, but I also think that the only thing that
separates modern and pioneer life just one kitchen or bath remodeling project.
Yell at someone other than your kids – and not feel guilty.
Honestly, as a modern woman trying
to juggle the running of our homes, possibly a job, and the future Olympic
soccer aspirations of our children, you have the primal need to yell. At
someone. Anyone. Often our spouse and children suffer from this need of ours to
release pent up negative energy generated from nothing more than some miniature
human leaving smelly gym shoes on the kitchen table. (Ok, that probably
deserves a bit of yelling – we eat at this table!) But when you remodel your house, you have a
whole cast of characters – and believe me, they’re characters – that often
deserve a good scream from time to time. Like when they told my friend that they tore out the fireplace because they
didn’t think it looked right. Or when
they show you a mistake made three weeks ago that now requires half the house
to be torn down in order to fix. Yelling
isn’t immature or a result of too much estrogen, it’s therapy.
Throw out (finally) your significant other’s treasured [fill in the blank] from his bachelor days.
You know what I mean. It could be
the semi-nude poster he won’t get rid of. Or his collection of exotic beer
cans. Or all of his Sports Illustrated magazines since the Chicago Bears last
won the Superbowl. Now is the perfect
time to get rid of it. If you need to
move out of your house while the remodeling is done, or you are moving to a new
home, such an opportune time may never occur again. Say it won’t fit in the
rental house. It’s either this or his golf clubs. Gently remind him that the
sentimental item really serves as a reminder of his advancing years. Anything. Get rid of it. It will be one positive you can remind
yourself of when the stress of remodeling makes you feel that this project was
the biggest mistake of your life.
Grow closer to your family through forced bathroom sharing.
The saying goes that absence makes
the heart grow fonder. Perhaps that wise pundit had to share a closet sized
bathroom with three kids and a spouse. In
reality, there’s no greater way to create intimacy in a family than by all
trying to get ready for the morning in the same 7’x 5’ space. You’ll learn new exciting things about your
children – like toilet paper is purely optional for little boys. You’ll discover that there is no bond quite
like the one created when the entire family brushes their teeth together over
the same sink. You’ll realize why the
older generation of your relatives only washed their hair once a week instead
of facing communal bathroom time. But
most importantly, you’ll no longer need to yell at your kids to hurry up for
school – they’re standing right next to you.
Earn free flights from all of your purchases.
In what is admittedly (and
somewhat sheepishly) the only practical survival tip on this list, get an
airline mileage credit card. Charge everything on it – lights, plumbing
fixtures, windows, doors, lumber, carpet. The windows alone can get you close to one free trip. Whether you decide to share your miles with
anyone else in the family or to escape on your own to a world of quiet solitude
and, preferably, an open bar, is entirely up to you.
Hire some good looking contractors and feel like you’re 15 years old again.
Hey, guys get a whole chain of
restaurants and bars where the main attraction is busty waitresses in tight
t-shirts (Hooters). Why can’t us gals have some eye candy once in a while? Besides, it’s a productivity tool. You’ll be more likely to inspect the job or
meet the architect if some young, fit, good-looking men are there – especially
in the summer months when shirts tend to become optional. For example, we once hired a roofing crew of
male model wannabees for a house we built. My husband called them the “Beefcake
Roofers.” They created quite a stir in
the neighborhood that summer. Let me
tell you, it made rushing to stop by the house to go over notes with the trades
first thing in the morning a bit more interesting … and much more fun!
Finally, remember, the end result
of your new house will be worth the aggravation of the process. Plus, think of
all the good stories you can tell!