Home renovations are an opportunity to reimagine your space so it better fits your lifestyle, personality, and needs.
Yet, a reno can also become a significant source of stress on relationships — so much so that 12% of couples considered divorce as they renovated their home.
Given that half of recent home buyers purchased a fixer-upper, relationship counselors may soon have their hands full.
If you're feeling the stress of a home renovation, here's how to calm things down and keep it from ruining your relationship.
How home renovations can strain your relationship
Home renovations can bring out the best and worst in relationships.
For instance, remodeling as a couple allows you to work together to plan your ideal space, reminding you of your shared goals and dreams.
But home renovations can also be a significant source of stress and anxiety.
They are unpredictable, time-consuming, and expensive. Additionally, you and your partner will likely face changes in your routines and unexpected problems.
For some couples, these stressors can cause underlying issues in your relationship to surface.
The added strain can be so great that it eventually ends the relationship or marriage.
Becca Smith, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Dallas, Texas, has seen several cases where the stress of home renovations led to divorce. "One couple disagreed with the budget for their kitchen renovation, which led to constant arguments. And ultimately, a breakdown in communication and trust."
But fortunately, you can take steps to minimize potential home renovation stress on your relationship.
12 tips to keep the peace during renovations
1. Discuss which renovations are essential to each of you and why
Couples often have different likes, priorities, and preferences when remodeling. So it’s critical early in the process to talk about what is most important to each of you and why.
Knowing why can help couples reduce misunderstandings, feel heard, and set priorities together.
Rebekah Rini, a family law attorney and life coach specializing in divorce, finds that this step also helps couples work together better when making unexpected changes and decisions during the renovation.
2. Decide on a budget together (and stick to it)
Home renovations can be costly, and expenses often increase unexpectedly during the project. This can lead to ongoing financial arguments that spell bad news for a relationship.
To help minimize the stress, agree on a realistic budget as a couple and stick to it.
Additionally, consider setting your budget to exceed the estimated renovation cost. This strategy can reduce the chance that you’ll have to make compromises or changes to your plan due to unexpected expenses.
3. Discuss the renovation timeline
Extensive home renovations can take months. So explore timeframes that will be least disruptive to both of your schedules. This can help ensure you’re available to support each other during the project and share the responsibilities.
Also, let each other know in advance if other life obligations, like traveling for work, might make it hard to be present during the project.
Doing so can reduce misunderstandings or feelings of resentment. It also allows you to make plans to get additional support from a trusted family member or friend during that time.
4. Decide on your living situation during the renovation
You have two choices when living through a home renovation — stay at your house during the project or find a temporary place to live.
Each approach has pros and cons, so discussing what option best fits you as a couple is important.
Living through a renovation can add more daily stress, especially if parts of your home aren’t usable. For example, you might not be able to make meals together if the kitchen is torn up. Additionally, people who work from home will have to plan how they’ll deal with the noise, interruptions from workers, and changes to daily routines.
Living elsewhere during a renovation ensures you have a calm, intact living space. But it is an added expense. You’ll also want a backup plan in case your project lasts longer than expected.
Making this decision together as a couple can also allow you to discuss any concerns you have about living through the renovation, so you can better support each other during the project.
5. Communicate openly and respectfully
Clear communication is critical when working on a home renovation as a couple.
You’ll want to share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns consistently to avoid bottling up your emotions or disappointments. If you don’t, you risk these feelings leading to resentment, misunderstandings, and more arguments in the future.
Regular, open communication can help you resolve problems and reach joint decisions when there are problems, so you can present a clear united decision when talking with your contractor. This will help avoid mixed signals that can result in more problems or misunderstandings.
6. Know when to compromise
Most home renovations involve unexpected decisions and changes. When completing renovations as a couple, you’ll likely need to compromise at some point.
If you’ve already discussed what’s most important to each of you, it will be easier to identify modifications you’re willing to make.
Just try to ensure that neither person feels like they’re always being the one to compromise. As with any aspect of a relationship, you’ll want an equitable give and take.
7. Think of yourself as a team
Jessica Alderson, a relationship expert and co-founder of So Syncd, points out, "This isn’t a competition. You’re on the same side, working toward the same goal."
Additionally, keep in mind each of your personal strengths when dividing up tasks. For instance, if one person is detail-oriented, assign roles that take advantage of that skill set.
Maintaining a team mindset and granting each other a degree of autonomy over the tasks you're best suited to manage can help keep things moving in the right direction, even when problems or disagreements arise.
8. Point out what’s going well
Acknowledging the progress and what’s working can make the renovation process easier and more fun, even when facing challenges.
This step can also be an opportunity to grow closer as a couple. Compliment your partner and let them know you appreciate their efforts.
9. Maintain perspective
There will be an end to your home renovation, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
Keeping your focus on your shared goals and the result — a beautiful new home or space — can help you maintain perspective when facing challenges, compromises, and changes.
10. Set aside time to not talk about the renovation
A home renovation is a big project that can command much of your time and attention. But it doesn’t need to take over all of your time as a couple.
Michael Morris, a former home renovator and marriage counselor, recommends setting aside time daily to not discuss anything related to the renovation. "The project is such a big part of your life that you can end up obsessing over it, and that’s not healthy."
11. Take breaks when needed
Living through a home renovation can be emotionally taxing. To keep your emotions from running too hot, take regular breaks to do something you enjoy, like walking around the block or having coffee at your favorite shop.
Also, plan time together as a couple away from the renovation, so you can focus on each other and your relationship.
12. Decide when it’s time to bring in professional help
Sometimes, even the best planning can’t alleviate the stress caused by a home renovation.
Consider seeking professional help from a counselor if you constantly argue or struggle to communicate constructively.
Final thought: You’re in it together
A home renovation can be a demanding, high-stress situation that causes stress, frustrations, and anxiety.
Yet, couples who focus on working together, supporting each other, and communicating regularly can minimize the effects on their relationship.