Renovation Survival 101: Team Work

My husband and I bought a fixer-upper.  We knew it was a fixer-upper. We wanted a fixer-upper. We love making old things beautiful, and making broken things work.  So when we saw the 1890’s Colonial someone had intelligently (cough) painted easter egg purple – with broken gutters, shutters missing, and overgrown shrubbery, we knew we had to see inside.

Several real estate visits and a lot of finagling later and we are the proud owner’s of my very first personal Blue Castle. My home. My mansion. My own little kingdom.

We are gutting it. Redoing plumbing, electrical, putting in HVAC, completely remodeling the inside.


And yes – we are going to paint it.

One of our contractors told us that other than infidelity, stress during construction was one of the leading causes of divorce. Well – we aren’t having that! We are a team! We took this project on together!

But it is stressful.  And we knew it would be.  We can no longer live there. Our clothes and furniture are in storage. We are taking advantage of the kindness of our neighbours and their guest room.

We are learning a lot.


The thing I’ve learned the most is – we need to be The Most Amazing Team. And that doesn’t always mean what you think it does.  Here’s my 4 most helpful Team Tips:

  1. Divide and conquer!   I know I know – but we’re a team! We’re supposed to work together on everything, right?  Nope.  Two people trying to do the same job is not teamwork. It’s competition. Instead of trying to take over each others tasks, plan as a team and work towards a common goal. Talk about everything together. Make a game plan. Then split up the tasks and go to town. Check in at the end of every day and update the game plan. (You can check in more often than that, but not any less)
  2. Celebrate your strengths!  You aren’t the same person, you’re going to be good at different things. Use that! My parents make a formidable renovation team.My Dad can visualize a space from the blueprint, and decide whether or not there’s enough room for the dishwasher and fridge to be open at the same time (life saver when you actually install the kitchen), but can’t tell the difference between paint samples. My Mom can’t measure anything accurately, but she has a talent for pulling together finishing materials – colours, tiles, textures, countertops, furniture. It’s amazing, she can see the whole room in full living colour before the floor is even down.They use the divide and conquer tip to extremely good use in this, and encourage and celebrate each others strengths. My Mom has full confidence in my father to make a space work.  And my Dad never questions my Mom’s design choices (unless there’s a very similar tile for an extremely dissimilar price – but that’s budgeting), and always gives glowing compliments on the design when he’s done installing it.  She wants that colour of paint? DONE. She knows what she’s doing.  He wants to move the fridge over there? DONE. He knows what he’s doing. And they tell each other how great they are all the time.CELEBRATE THAT! Why do we do renovations if not to accomplish something? Help your partner feel like their accomplishments are important to you.
  3. Schedule time away!  You need a break. You live in a topsy-turvy mess of a project. Take time every day (or every 2 days if the schedule is too tight) to get away from the project.  Go out for dinner. Go to a movie. Go to a games night with friends.  Go for a walk. Do NOT talk about the renovation.  Stress is stress, and it can make everything strained.Put some extra effort into dating your spouse throughout it so you remember that your life is not a renovation.  It’s just a house, or a room, or a garage. It’s not your relationship that’s being overhauled.  How does this help with team work? Well – you’ll still be happy to talk to each other, about everything. Including the renovation during your daily planning session.Besides – you are a team in every aspect of life, not just renovations.
  4. Plan every single day!  Renovations are a squirmy sort of beast and they never go according to the first plan (which you definitely do need). So update it!  Every evening, or every morning, sit down and talk about what needs to be done today. Figure out who is coming to work if you are hiring out some of the work. Figure out what each of you need to do to keep the work going smoothly.  Celebrate what you accomplished in the past 24 hours and get into working mode for the day ahead.

Here’s my favourite BONUS TIP!   Find a way to laugh together every day.  Do something silly or cute to make that smile brighten their face.  Make the renovation a happy memory to look back on!



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