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Manage Stress and Well Being Throughout Your Bathroom Remodel


“Is this bathroom remodel EVER going to end?” “How much more is that addition going to cost us?” “I can’t stand the dirt and all those plastic covers anymore!”

There’s no question – a bathroom remodel can test a family’s patience and tranquility. Whether it be delays in the schedule, unexpected budget additions, the unrelenting dirt, the need to share a single bathroom, issues with the crew, or arguments over design decisions – along with many other issues that crop up during a renovation – the family stress level can become almost unbearable.

In fact, a recent Houzz survey of homeowners in ten countries – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – detailed the frustrations during remodeling projects, as well as how to avoid them before they occur. If you’re facing a bathroom remodel, good planning in advance, as well as foreknowledge of all the things that can go wrong, may help you avoid family conflicts and aggravation.

The key elements to reducing a family’s stress levels are to:

  • Plan ahead
  • Face the unexpected head on
  • Communicate about the stressors
  • Keep life as normal as you can

Plan ahead

There are a lot of factors that go into planning properly before embarking on a bathroom renovation. First and foremost is hiring the best contractor and crew that you can find. Don’t just pick a name by Googling or because you noticed a lawn sign as you walked past a neighbor’s home. You need to do your homework, ask for references, and go see a completed project or two. In our blog post, Top Contractor Red Flags to Look Out for When Remodeling Your Bathroom, we outline the signs that you may be hiring the wrong professionals.

You also need to be realistic about your budget. It’s important to know that a project that comes in on budget – or even more unbelievably, under budget – is a rare beast indeed. Lots of things can go wrong during the renovation process, so a good rule of thumb is to allow for a 10-20 percent overrun. Also, you’ll want to make family decisions about where those funds are going to come from. Are you going to take out an equity loan? Put purchases on your credit cards? And what’s your contingency plan for that almost inevitable overrun?

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This is also true in terms of how long the project is going to take. There are legions of real-life stories about how a project was due to be completed by the start of school or Halloween – and yet the family finds themselves still in the middle of construction come the winter holidays. Rule of thumb: plan for the project to take about three times as long as the original estimate says.

Of course, you have a role in the planning process, too. If you haven’t made major decisions – about the tiles you want, for instance, or the size of the vanity, or which steam shower controls and add-ons will make your home spa complete – you can have a negative impact on the overall schedule and possibly even the budget. So making all those decisions in advance of the first sledgehammer swing is a smart move. And ordering all the supplies before construction begins should avoid any out-of-stock surprises or shipping delays.

And speaking of those decisions, one area of stress may stem from disagreements about your style choices. If you envision the perfect pink paradise of a bath, and your partner wants a sleek, neutral space, while the kids are looking for bright, primary colors – it can be hard to make everyone happy. Here’s where family meetings are important – not just to discuss and compromise about design decisions, but also to lay out the process and explain what may go wrong.

Some other decisions that can be made ahead of time include: Will you remain in the house during the remodel or move in with a friend or family member? Will you use a guest bathroom for the duration? Who’s in charge of communicating with the contractors? Forward planning in a bathroom renovation can stem the barrage of complaints and give everyone in the family a greater sense of control.

Face the unexpected head on

When you’re talking about a bathroom remodel, there are deep, dark, and often damp secrets lurking behind the walls and under the floors. Mold, radon, water damage, as well as the possibility that you may need to replace plumbing or electrical lines – can all derail the project and eat into the budget.

Your work crew may be – and most likely are – involved in various projects simultaneously. So they may disappear precisely when you’re expecting them. And the ripple effect of their absence can be catastrophic to your schedule. So can delivery issues and mix ups about the materials you’ve ordered.

Facing the unexpected requires a certain level of flexibility. Gulping hard and dealing head on with all the problems that can crop up makes the problems manageable. But there’s no question that it can lead to greater stress for all concerned. It’s good to know that a group hug can help here – releasing the oxytocin that decreases the stress hormones!

Communicate about the stressors

Maybe it’s the plastic sheeting covering everything that gets to you. Or the relentless dust. Or the delays. Different issues will affect family members differently. Perhaps your spouse is responsible for the bank account and becomes upset every time there’s another unexpected charge. Maybe your teenager doesn’t appreciate the fact that everyone is using the bathroom she considers her own preserve. Or perhaps you can’t get your contractor on the phone to explain why the crew hasn’t shown up that morning.

Communication is the key, here – and by communication we don’t mean useless griping. (Although sometimes just venting about the issues can reduce stress.) Listening to the issues calmly and truly hearing the other person will help everyone come to grips with the issues.

If you didn’t already decide on a family representative to speak with the contractors – and establishing just one will avoid contradictions and miscommunication – it makes sense to appoint one now. Make lists of what needs to be asked so the family point person doesn’t forget critical items. You want to consider personal style here – if you or your partner tend to get upset, to yell, or to point fingers in blame when things go wrong, that’s probably not the best person to talk to the contractor and crew. On the other hand, if that person gives in too easily – in other words, if they’re a push-over – that’s also counterproductive.

Also, realize there’s no substitute for being onsite when the work is being done. If you are usually out at work when the workmen are there, perhaps you need to take a few days’ vacation to supervise them –making sure they’re going to be there, first!

Keeping life as normal as you can

Another way to combat stress is to find ways to keep everyone’s routine as normal as possible. Remembering that this is a short-term process and focusing everyone’s attention on how wonderful the final result will be can help. So can figuring out ways to untangle the disruptions so that everyone’s schedule feels normal.

Don’t let the renovation be the only thing the family talks about nonstop. Spend time talking about work and school, about homework and friends, about what happened during the day that was special or unusual. If you’re watching a movie together, avoid the tendency to browse online for the perfect color towels or sink fixtures at the same time. During family time, disconnect from the remodel. You’ll be all the more refreshed and able to deal with any tensions as a result!

A bathroom remodel can cause strain in the most well-adjusted of families. But by advanced planning, communication, dealing immediately with anything unexpected that crops up, and plenty of hugs, you can reach the end of the project smiling. And, of course, adding a steam shower will help the entire family decompress when the bathroom remodel is done! 

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Topics: Health & Wellness, Bathroom Remodel

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