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Surviving Stress Of Remodeling

Pardon Our Dust: Remodeler's Tales, One in an occasional series

August 16, 1998|KATHY PRICE-ROBINSON

When you're freaking out during a remodel of your home, you might think you need therapy.

Be aware, however, that even being a psychotherapist won't prevent you from experiencing the trauma of having your life upended during the tearing apart and putting back together of your home, a place you like to consider your refuge from the world.

"I'm a counselor and I got so incredibly stressed out I couldn't see straight," said Lynne Sherman, a licensed marriage, family and child counselor who did a major remodel to her Santa Barbara home four years ago. "It was so much more complex than we realized."

And the complexities are great. From spending tens of thousands of dollars to making decisions on the largest and smallest of details, to worrying about becoming a horror story, the stress is enough to bring out the worst in any of us.

On the plus side, Sherman, who specializes in couples counseling, can now identify with clients whose relationships crumble under the strain of remodeling.

"I've had people coming into my office after a remodel," Sherman said. "The house is gorgeous but the marriage is done."

For others undertaking a home remodel, Sherman has these suggestions:

* If you're having a lot of conflict in your relationship, work that out before you start a remodel.

* If one partner wants marble and the other favors Formica, settle these issues of price range and quality of materials before you begin.

* Inoculate yourself. Collect horror stories of disaster remodels and "role play how you would deal with this stuff."

* If you are part of a couple, meet individually the first time with the architect or general contractor so that each person can get their dream out in the open without being interrupted. Later, the two visions can come together, with some compromises, into one.

* If you tend to change your mind a lot, put a cushion into your budget, because changes during construction are costly.

* Be aware that workers can show up at 7 a.m. If you're a person who really needs a routine, who craves quiet time in the morning to get the inner furniture in place, you should consider setting up housekeeping elsewhere during construction.

* If you're worried about any belongings that might get harmed by the remodel, pack them up and move them out during the remodel.

* If you're a Type A personality, which is obsessive and compulsive, you'll do well in the planning stages. But once construction begins, these traits could cause the contractor and subcontractors to become uptight and dread coming to your job. Try to be more easygoing.

* And remember the remodeler's motto: "This too shall pass."

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