It’s one of the most daunting decisions a couple can make – agreeing to refurbish your home.
No matter how small or bold the scheme, a renovation project can be an emotionally stressful experience and chances are, you’ll be at loggerheads somewhere down the line.
Indeed, according to a recent survey by home renovation and design platform Houzz, more than two-thirds of respondents had disagreements with their partners during the process (66%), almost half found renovating with their partner ‘frustrating’ (47%) and one in 10 said the thought of couples’ counselling even crossed their mind.
From planning and researching to managing budgets and making decisions, what’s the secret to avoiding any conflict and actually enjoying the process?
Here, experts share their top tips on how you can improve your home and preserve your relationship…
1. Make a plan
“In any renovation project, staying organised helps avoid unnecessary stresses and arguments,” says Victoria Harrison, editor of Houzz. “The more time and effort you invest in the run-up to your project, the better.”
She says planning the scope of the project early on will help in the long run, suggesting online resources can help you build a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve.
However, it’s important to leave room for second thoughts. Omar Bhatti, director of Space Shack, says: “Your ideas, designs and circumstances may change throughout the project.
“Be prepared for this, and keep an open mind when starting and planning,” advises Bhatti. “Try to ensure you have sufficient time to discuss design details with your partner, to avoid feeling like you need to rush to make a decision when the project’s underway.”
2. Hire the right professional
“A good professional can take a lot of the stress out of a renovation, and make you feel more confident going forward,” notes Harrison.
And Bhatti adds: “Be sure you both have a good vibe and energy with the professional you hire – after all, they’ll be on this journey with you and it’s crucial you all connect on a design and personal level.
“You’re letting someone into your home and probably one of the biggest projects of your lives,” he continues. “They’ll be the person in between, helping you make important decisions – and helping you come to a compromise if you both have different design ideas.”
To ensure a renovation project goes smoothly, Harrison says clear communication between you and your partner will be important to keep you both on the same page.
She recommends deciding on key elements as early as possible, to avoid rushed decisions or arguments later on. Being able to compromise is vital too.
For important discussions with tradespeople, Caroline Nicholls of Slightly Quirky suggests having both parties involved. “It’s important nobody feels left out of the decision-making process,” she explains. “A partner who tries to engage later on can be problematic, as some important decisions could have already been made – and any changes may incur extra costs or delays.”
Even for couples who are great communicators, Harrison says it can be surprisingly difficult to convey your design ideas to one another. “If this sounds like you, try using images to help you communicate the elements of a design you like,” she suggests. “Include notes that highlight why you like a particular design, to help your partner better understand your vision for the space.”
4. Stay organised
During a project, you may be balancing a budget, communicating with multiple tradespeople and trying to make decisions on design details.
“Keeping on top of it all can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be,” says Harrison. She says having everything centralised will really help. You could do this by setting up folders where all communication and designs are stored, or explore online options.
It could also be helpful for couples to delegate tasks to each other throughout the project. “One person could manage and talk directly to the designer about design-related elements and the other about the costing and payments,” suggests Bhatti. “That way, everyone’s involved in the entire process, but communication is easier when it’s one-on-one – and there’s no miscommunication from multiple parties sending emails on the same topic.”
5. Take a break
“Renovation projects can sometimes feel all-consuming with decisions to be made and dust pilling up,” says Harrison. “It’s important to take time out to do things together that don’t involve renovations, to keep everything in perspective.”
Bhatti suggests taking time away from the design and project process. “Have a date night and try to not talk about the renovation at all,” he encourages.
If you feel like conversations keep coming back to the project, try imposing a ‘renovation conversation curfew’ says Harrison. “Yes, decisions need to be made, but a curfew could be for your own good – and that of your relationship.”
6. Keep the big picture in mind
Despite the relationship strain, Harrison says more than 90% of homeowners said the result was worth the effort, with almost two-thirds adding they felt happier in their homes thanks to the project, plus more comfortable and more organised.
“So, don’t forget to think about the reasons for undertaking the renovation,” says Harrison. “And remind yourself how it could improve your lifestyle once completed.”