AMONG THE THINGS IN LIFE WE MOST LOOK FORWARD TO, living through a home remodeling project is right up there with going to the dentist. My wife and I are now living the dream — which is sometimes like a nightmare — of remodeling our home.
Like many remodel projects, ours started out small and inexpensive and morphed into something significant. We thought at first we could simply have the old cabinets painted professionally, add some granite counters and a couple of new appliances, add a gas line so I could finally have a gas range and bingo-bango, we would have a wonderful new kitchen.
It was all going to be so simple — and then we ran into one minor problem: How are we going to fill the hole in the existing cabinets once the 35-year-old trash compactor was removed? In retrospect, it would have been a whole lot less expensive to just replace the trash compactor with a new compactor, but no, we never even thought about that option. Instead we chased several other ideas trying desperately to find a way to fill the hole. Finally we concluded that the only way to fill the hole would be to tear out and replace all the cabinets.
We could have stopped there and still kept it simple, but instead the project continued to grow. As we were meeting with our contractor one afternoon, he casually mentioned that we should let him remodel the fireplace. Remodel the fireplace? This was an interesting concept, I had never heard of remodeling a fireplace. Oh yes, he told us, it is very popular today to hang big TVs over the fireplace. He could remove the brick that currently went all the way to the ceiling and build us a custom mantle. I looked over at my wife’s expression as we heard about this great news and could tell immediately that I was sunk — the remodel had begun to take on a life of its own.
There is of course one catch to this process. As a real estate professional my mind automatically wants to determine whether any improvement will pay for itself in the improved value to my property. It became a difficult dance as we went through the process of design and selection, and of course my mind can come up with endless ideas for how we can make a project even better. One morning, as we neared completion of the design and selection process, I announced that I had a great idea. My wife, who must have had enough of my ideas at that point, shouted at me, “No more ideas!”
We began to disassemble our lives several weeks ago, packing everything up and stuffing boxes of kitchen items into every available space in the house that was not going to be touched by the remodel. We packed away all our furniture into the garage. And then came the fateful day when the endless stream of dust began — demolition day.
As construction continues, we are starting to see our ideas take shape. It’s actually fun to come home to a torn-up house every night just to be able to see the progress made that day. There is that pesky problem of dust everywhere, no matter how much the contractors try to keep the dust at bay. There is also the interesting problem of not being able to cook, and of course the best part — essentially living in our bedroom while everything else is under construction. Just a shade better than camping, as we at least have a decent bed.
We are now almost halfway through the remodel and have not killed each other — or our contractor — yet. I really do think all couples should do a remodel at least once. It is sort of like exercise for the relationship: It will stretch you in ways you never imagined. You just have to keep reminding yourself that just like exercise, there is no gain without pain.
Guy Benjamin (CAL BRE License #01014834, NMLS 887909) writes a weekly column for The Herald, offering general information on real estate matters. As it is impossible to address all possibilities and variations, he will try to answer individual questions by readers who contact him at 707-246-0949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.