Renovation Realities: Lessons Learned

While I’m clearly no expert in renovations or contractors, I’ve learned a few lessons (some the hard way) during this process.  I thought I’d shared a few tidbits this morning.



Lesson 1: It’s OK to Be A Micromanager (or It’s OK to Be A Nagging Bitch)

In general, I’m the opposite of a micromanager.  I believe that every person should be responsible for their own work and I shouldn’t have to constantly check on the work.  However, this philosophy works (sometimes) when you’re supervising legal associates who also have a stake in the process (i.e., not getting fired) and much less so with contractors who don’t really give a shit how your house looks/works when they leave.

Hiring a contractor is a scary process for most people.  Essentially you’re hiring an “expert” in an area you clearly have no idea about and they often come in with big, confusing words and descriptions about what needs to get done.  It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and confused by the work being performed by the contractors and to feel like your constant questions and concerns are annoying or slowing the work down.  But so what?!?  You’re paying for the work and deserve to get the information that you want.  If you don’t ask now and along the process, you’ll feel like you don’t know what’s going on and then at the end of the process, you’ll have less of a leg to stand on when things don’t turn out the way you want.  While asking questions clearly won’t also make you an expert, and at some point you have to trust the people that you’ve hired, it is in your best interest to stay on top of the work and check in on a regular basis (throughout the day) to ensure that everyone stays on plan.

Trust me – I started out letting people get started and checking in sporadically.  And there were several things that I had to either pay to have redone or changed myself after paying someone to do it because it wasn’t done properly.  If I would have been more focused on the projects and supervising the contractor, I wouldn’t have had that problem (or I could have been more self-righteous about the problem after it happened).

Instant Bitch

Lesson 2: Speak Your Mind or Forever Hold Your Peace (or It’s OK To Be a Outspoken Bitch) 

Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t generally have a problem speaking my mind.  (I often should try to keep some of my thoughts inside ;)).  But similar to the issues with hiring a contractor as mentioned in Lesson #1, having an “expert” tell you that something is fine or not a big deal will make even the most outspoken person take pause.  This is where it pays to be stubborn and outspoken.  It is imperative that you voice your concerns and speak your mind with your contractor.  If you see something that you don’t like and want to be changed, do not let the contractor (that you hired) talk you out of it.

Interestingly, contractors think they are experts in everything.  So even if you hire a plumber, they think they are an expert in kitchen cabinetry.  Or if you have someone spray lacquer your cabinets, they feel like you need to take their advice on the metal to use for the hardware.  Ahhhh….STFU!!!  So you need to be able to be strong about your opinions and be able to voice them if need be.  The other option is just to ignore them and go on about your plan.  Even if this is an issue where the person is actually more knowledgeable that does not mean that you still shouldn’t voice your opinions.

For example, because of Lesson #1, I was forced to move a newly installed door because it was in the wrong location (obviously a much longer story but just for example).  Of course moving the door required drywall repair and that is one area where I never want to ever try. Accordingly, I hired a contractor to fix the drywall and he came in but decided he needed to shift the door (which was closing perfectly prior to this shift). After moving it, the door wouldn’t close and he had to plane the side of the door to get the door to close.  While the door closed, it was now off-center in the frame and not acceptable.  The contractor insisted that it was fine but I know that over time, I’m going to hate looking at it with the extra space on one side.  So I’m requiring him to come back and take the wall down and fix it next week (which is a total pain in the arse and will cause me more heartache in the short run but is the right decision in the long run).

Tina Fey bitch quote

Lesson 3: Try to Take It All In Stride and Remain Calm (or Try Not to Be a Bitch All the Time)

This lesson should have been at the top because it’s the only way to deal with everything and not go on a murderous spree.  On a daily basis, it’s amazing the amount of crappola that you have to deal with when dealing with subcontractors.  Some of it relates to money/budget, some to quality of workmanship, some to time…but it all amount to very frustrating moments.  I will admit that I have not always taken my own advice and have had moments where I’ve said or responded to someone in a very, very negative/insulting/condescending tone.  However, that type of response did nothing but raise my blood pressure, give me a headache, and cause me to move closer to having a drinking problem.  I’ve found that I feel the best when I just let the problems slide off my back recognizing that sometimes shit happens and just work on a way to fix the problems later.  Don’t get me wrong, fixing the problem might entail firing the contractor, arguing with a sales associate or something fairly unpleasant but I think it’s important that the initial response is a little more calm and retrospective for your own sanity (and any other persons that happen to live with you).

Anger Management


So there are three lessons I’ve learned so far.  Trust me – I’ve learned many more lessons so let me know if you want to hear more.  Hope you enjoyed!