Project Lessons – What My Wife Taught Me about Demolition and DIY

To Do ListLast year, I tore out a fireplace and replaced it with two large skylights and a kitchen island. The project quickly became much more complex than I expected with some substantial hurdles, one of the largest being my wife. Her expectation versus reality meant we had a lot of conversations about how the power would “magically” appear in the island, what a bearing wall was, and mid build plenty of things changed to match her evolving taste.  I seriously began to dread the words “hey, babe . . .?” Here are a few things to plan ahead for when building to satisfy your toughest customer – your partner.

1. Get agreement up front, preferably in the form of pictures and some written goals. Specifically get everyone to say “I want it to look exactly like this.” But keep in mind that doesn’t mean you won’t be almost completely done when a quiet voice says “I thought it would be . . . different.”

Trashcan2. Fix your mistakes as fast as possible, but don’t be dishonest, especially about spending.  She doesn’t need to know how badly you messed it up if it looks good by the time she gets home. A few examples are the cracked roof tiles, scratched light fixture, and unexpected HVAC side project/water leak.

Mid-Project Holes In the Roof3. Don’t underestimate the time and mess it will take to get a big project done. Our kitchen was a demolition nightmare for months with consistant dust, errant nails and an organized (sometimes) pile of tools in the corner. She needs to know that your full time job and daily life will make the job stretch out longer than anyone likes. Giving a realistic timeline makes for less conversations that start with “you said this wouldn’t take forever…” Also, try to avoid holiday deadlines – we had a huge party at the house with a classy bowed plywood countertop. The comments were polite, but just about everyone referred to how dangerous a loose counter can be.

4. Budget in a few tool purchases so the shop gets an upgrade in the process. I got a new angle grinder, dado set-up, and most importantly a great router table and bit set for raised panel doors. By building the doors instead of buying them, I came out with a great tool for the shop (and the benefit of being able to say “I built those”).

Kitchen Island

In the end, the project turned out to be more than we hoped for, and made the kitchen a much brighter space within the house. With these tips in mind you still have a huge project in front of you, but hopefully a few less tussles along the way. Do you have any tips on keeping the peace while tackling a huge project in your house?