How To Get Through A Renovation Without Getting A Divorce

When does a renovation stop being a project and become a battle of the sexes?

For normally happy couple Rachel and Mike, the bickering escalated until there was a messy accident.

‘Mike was attaching a glass light shade. I was lifting it. I should have told him I was struggling, but I dropped it. There was a lot of broken glass and my legs were bleeding,’ says Rachel.

Says Mike, ‘I was trying to get it right. Rachel’s scared of heights and won’t go up a ladder, but I needed her help. The smash shocked us. We fell in a sobbing heap, admitting safety and sanity must come before a light fitting.’

Testing times

Couples who’ve survived a reno admit it’s a test of patience and compromise. One way to survive is to divide up the jobs according to individual strengths.

Sal and Ritchie couldn’t agree on planning for their reno, so designated specific areas for each to organise.

‘We were a bit too critical of each other’s ideas,’ says Sal.

Says Ritchie, ‘We gave each other a day off if we started fighting. I’d sand floors and Sal would go out for the day.

‘I went fishing when it was her turn to paint. It took six months longer, but we’re probably much happier for it.’

Survival strategies

Before adding the cost of marriage counselling to the budget, work together and put your plans on paper.

MAKE A FLOOR PLAN of rooms and prioritise the jobs, so that plumbing gets fitted before the new benches.

LIST JOBS logically so doorways will be installed prior to painting walls.

DO THE BUDGET and download the Cost Guide to help with your estimates at

RESEARCH TOGETHER so you know what’s involved and lower the risk of nasty surprises later on.

DISCUSS CHOICES before signing contracts or buying fittings or paint. Both parties must read all contracts.

BE REALISTIC about your skills before you commit to DIY jobs.

SET A PLAN of attack at the start of each day or week so it’s clear who will be responsible for which jobs.

VISIT ONLINE renovation blogs to read about others’ experiences.

DON’T LET the reno consume your life. Ban all talk of the work while doing other things. And don’t forget your sense of humour.

Sick of fighting

A study at Ohio State University found fighting affects production of a blood protein that helps heal physical wounds. Fighting couples healed at 60 of the rate of happy couples.

Avoid undue stress. While you’re still in the planning stage, visit for advice and referrals to reliable tradies. This will reduce the likelihood of endless rows.

Mark and Monica

By the time Mark and Monica had completed their bathroom as stage one of their renovation project, they were still good-humoured about the experience, but admit there had been many spats along the way.

On communication

MARK SAYS ‘She doesn’t follow the rules. I like to do things methodically, according to a list.’

MONICA SAYS ‘We come to the same solution but have an argument to get there. Renovating highlights personality differences. He does things by the book, I get stuck in.’

About the planning stage

HE SAYS ‘I found it impossible to visualise the end results.’

SHE SAYS ‘I can picture an idea and designed the bathroom on computer. We mapped out the room with masking tape to literally make a floor plan. That’s when he got it.’

Sticking to a budget

HE SAYS ‘I weigh the options first, and I can wait for a sale.’

SHE SAYS ‘He’s a bit tight and thinks I’m frivolous with cash.’

HE SAYS ‘If she likes it, she impulse-buys without comparing.’

SHE SAYS ‘He takes too long and is way too indecisive.’

Doing research

HE SAYS ‘We travelled all over to find the perfect bathroom fittings and it wore us out. I didn’t care about tiles but she knew exactly what she wanted. I did a lot of, “How about this?” I think I was patient.’

SHE SAYS ‘He was very patient, but you have to be. Tiles are permanent. You can easily change a tap, but you can’t change tiles.’

Shopping for a toilet

HE SAYS ‘We sat on a lot of toilets. I still think a loo is just a loo. I only wanted it to look good.’

SHE SAYS ‘I wanted function. There is a lot to consider, such as the glazing, and how easy it is to clean.’

Buying fittings

HE SAYS ‘We spent four hours in a showroom. I lost interest.’

SHE SAYS ‘I cared too much and didn’t realise I had such strong opinions about taps and tiles.’

Any love lost?

HE SAYS ‘There’s nothing amusing about renovating. We put pressure on ourselves, but thankfully we do share a sense of humour.’

SHE SAYS ‘It was something we could create together. But we have put the kitchen on hold.’

Mark and monica talk about how to renovate without getting a divorce, Handyman Magazine, Mark and Monica’s project highlighted their differences, but they’re still smiling

Kate and Chad

For DIY renovators Kate and Chad, the end result was worth a little pain along the way.

HE SAYS ‘Sometimes the constant planning of every detail felt more like needless procrastination.’

SHE SAYS ‘We’d have arguments when I took too long planning. He was impatient to make it happen.’

HE SAYS ‘I would drive home from work, dreaming of knocking out a wall or the stairs.’

SHE SAYS ‘I’d worry there would be nothing left of the house, just Chad there with a sledgehammer.’

HE SAYS ‘I didn’t care about the vanity’s shape, I just wanted it in.’

SHE SAYS ‘I wished that he’d help more with the details. The vanity affects the look of the bathroom.’

Any love lost?

SHE SAYS ‘The secret is to let each other do what they do best. He’s a doer, I’m a planner.’

HE SAYS ‘When you see what you’ve achieved, it’s so rewarding.’

kate and chad, handyman magazine,
Chad and Kate got through it by playing to their individual strengths

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of Australian Handyman magazine

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