The first thing I’d say about remodeling while married is — don’t do it.
You will ignore this advice because our species has a powerful remodeling gene. It dates to early human history when men decorated cave walls with primitive drawings of animals — and women told them it didn’t match the furniture.
The subject of remodeling comes up because I recently received a press release containing advice from “The Family Handyman,” a splendid magazine and website that knows much about remodeling and nothing about human relationships.
Under the guise of saving marriages, “Handyman” sent a list of tips on maintaining marital harmony when the back half of the house is draped with tarps and you’re doing dishes in the bathtub.
I didn’t start scoffing at the advice until the third bullet item, which is actually pretty good for this sort of thing.
“Set your expectations appropriately when using a contractor,” it said. Here’s the problem with that: No matter how “appropriately” you set them (and appropriately means low), misery is sure to follow.
The relationship between a couple and its contractor is really a sort of love triangle, or perhaps love-hate triangle.
One half of the couple is going to like the contractor better than the other half does. The contractor is going to pick up on this and play the friendly half off against the unfriendly half. The unfriendly half is going to blame the friendly half for allowing this to happen. Issues of jealousy will arise. Alliances will form and break. Basically, you’ll be living in a reality TV show.
Or, heaven forbid, you can do it yourself.
There’s advice on that, too: “Getting the whole family involved in a DIY project is a great weekend activity,” it says.
Yes, if you live on a farm 15 miles from the nearest neighbor, and if it’s 1794, then it might be a great weekend activity. But having raised kids in a more modern era, I can’t remember more than three or four weekends in two decades that weren’t dominated by various kid-related athletic, educational and social obligations. It didn’t leave much time for framing a two-story addition.
And what’s this “great weekend activity” stuff? This isn’t a picnic we’re talking about. This is remodeling. It takes forever. I’ve spent a good two months painting a room, if you count the five weeks it took to decide on a color.
Speaking of color, it’s a leading area of disagreement between couples when remodeling, “Handyman” says.
That implies that there are areas of agreement, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. What I’ve seen are areas of surrender, in which one party, overcome by exhaustion, falls asleep while arguing over the nearly imperceptible differences between colors named Arabian Dunes and Sands of the Sahara. The other party takes that as an opportunity to paint the half-bath.
My remodeling advice differs slightly from the magazine’s. It sent six suggestions. I’ll send one: When you get the urge to remodel, move.
—Joe Blundo’s column So to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog at Dispatch.com