Can our marriage survive this reno?

Believe it or not, we’ve never gone through a major reno. We’ve painted, swapped out flooring and replaced backsplash, but never at the same time. Now we’re in the throes of a full scale kitchen reno, I totally understand why somebody coined the term divorce dust.

Many general contractors claim they’re part construction part design firm and part marriage counsellor. Making our kitchen more functional is making me less grumpy, but the jury’s out on how long I’ll be to survive without a sink. One surprising bonus is I’ve been a offered several writing assignments delving into the world of renovations. I’m certainly no expert, but I get to interview those who are. Here’s a breakdown of their best advice.

tips for surviving a reno

The calm before the storm. P.S. my kitchen has never looked so clean.

Is it worth it?

Yes, we’re the renovation generation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a smart decision to break out the wrecking ball. “Reno only if you plan on living in the house for five years or more. If you’re not planning on staying, do cosmetic changes only and keep your costs down,” recommends John McCoy, General Manager of Ultimate Renovations.

If you’re looking for quick resale, cosmetic fixes and upgrading appliances are often all that’s needed. According to the experts, the only time you throw money into a house prior to sale, is to clean it up or update the style.

Be sure to weigh the cost of home improvement against the market value. Typically kitchens and bathrooms garner the most return on investment, but you’ll still need to be cautious and choose appropriate upgrades for your neighbourhood. The biggest mistake home owners make is misjudging the need with market conditions. Realize you may have bought at a point in the market when it doesn’t make sense to throw an additional $100,000 into your home.

kitchen torn apart

This is what almost finished (and the next week) looks like.

The time factor

No surprise here, everyone should anticipate your reno will take longer than expected. The way the first contractor laid it out for me, our kitchen could go from gutted to glam in 10 days. Reality is, when multiple people are involved in a project things can easily get backed up. Expect products to be out of stock, contractors to not return your calls and those fancy countertops to take forever. Here’s a realistic schedule based on our kitchen reno:

Day 1: Demolition

Day 2: Electrician in to move and add outlets

Day 3: Buffer day in case electrical or demo takes longer

Day 4: Drywall patching

Day 5: Cupboard installation


Day 8: Final cupboard install

Day 9: Countertop guy could come in, but they’re booked up

Day 10: Countertop templating AKA measuring

Wait 7 business days for countertops to be cut


Day 18: Countertop install

Day 19: Plumber hooks up sink and dishwasher

Day 20: Repaint

Day 21: Backsplash applied

That my friends is what three weeks of hell looks like. Fortunately, some renovation companies own furnished rental properties families can move into, taking one less hassle out of the equation. Quite obviously, we did not go that route.


It’s a major buzz kill determining needs vs. wants, but do it, you must. Trouble is, there’s all these extra expenses nobody tells you about. Be sure to factor in for:

  • Renting a garbage bin
  • Dump fees
  • Jobs (like electrical) billed hourly that take much longer than anticipated
  • When ordering a new sink, you must know they don’t come with faucet, despite the false advertising in the picture!!!
  • Dining out – this will happen more than you expected, as washing dishes in the bathtub gets old fast

Coming to agreement

The bigger issue isn’t the hassle nor the stress of working with multiple contractors. It’s dealing with the other stakeholders. Here’s a scenario I’m sure plays out in more than one households: Person A (for fun, let’s refer to A as “wife”), does all the research, supplemental legwork and presents findings to Person B (for simplicity sake, we’ll refer to B as “husband”). Husband is too busy and important to meet with tradespeople. He agrees with wife on what is to be done and gives his consent after hearing (through wife) of the contractor’s recommendations. When it comes down to the 11th hour, husband changes mind and wants to go in a new direction. Sound familiar?

The take away? Make sure all decision makers meet with the professionals at the same time to avoid conflicting requests. If that’s not possible, nail down that fickle individual and get their commitment that if they make an agreement, they have to go with it, or else step into role of general contractor.

Have you ever gone through a reno? How did you survive? I’d love to hear your tips.