Home Renovation: What Are You Afraid Of?

    Face Your Fear of Home Remodeling

    You Live in Bethesda, Maryland and you’ve just begun to think about remodeling your home. Then the dark thoughts come.

    People dread the thought of enduring a home renovation. There is much to fear. The same old nightmare stories cycle around again and again. You’ve heard them. Stories about home remodeling contractors that go bust mid project or workmen who don’t show up for days—and when they do, they demolish the wrong wall… These things happen. In the best neighborhoods, too.

    “You’ll tell me if you are going to shut off the water, right?”
    Yes, ma’am. Definitely.

    There are so many reasons NOT to start a home remodeling project. It’s amazing that so many people do—and with great success. How do they do it? Successful renovation clients are able to name their fears.

    So, if you love your house but just can’t live with it the way it is, take a deep breath, let it out slowly—and read on. Here are the top fears expressed by our very own clients and some reassurance.

    Nine Excruciating Dreads of Home Remodeling

    These nine damnable fears plague almost every homeowner early in the process. They will not be ignored.

    1. I will be an exile in my own home

    The fear is that your house will be occupied by strangers Monday through Friday. Your daily rhythms will be shot to hell.

    Well, yes, and no. 95% of our homeowners stay comfortably in their homes during major renovations. The key is planning and preparation. The remodeler needs to be clear with the homeowner about what to expect and when. Get it in writing.


    2. It will go on and on FOREVER

    I want my life back! The fear is that you are going to have to micro-manage workers, take calls at the office and be asked to make decisions about piddling details you don’t have time for.

    None of this will happen if the remodeling company you’ve hired provides project management and design services. You’ll take regularly scheduled meetings with your project manager or designer to ensure the project is proceeding exactly as you’ve planned. They do all the worrying for you. You just sit back, relax and write checks.

    3. We will price ourselves out of the neighborhood.

    The worry is that your house won’t be worth the price of all the expensive work put into it when it comes time to sell. You will be the most expensive house on the block because you foolishly over invested in renovations.

    This is a tough one. How do you evaluate quality of life vs resale value? See, you aren’t simply making a real estate investment. You are investing in a much improved living space that makes daily life a pleasure. We won’t attempt glib assurances here. This fear deserves serious thought and discussion. The numbers have to work. That is,

    • number of years you expect to be in the house
    • total investment in the house
    • stability of market values over time in your neighborhood


    Realtors can be a great resource for you in facing this fear because their business depends on having answers to these questions. When the numbers work out, renovation can be your best choice.

    4. My pets will run away or perish from PTSD.

    What if a workman or subcontractor is careless and leaves the door open? You imagine kitty will escape and be run over by the truck that delivers your new kitchen cabinets. Your dog will be traumatized if you are expected to keep him chained up outside while the Skil saws whine and nail guns natter for eight hours every day.

    This is another tough one. Even when we are careful, there can be a slip up. But if cat and dog entries are on the checklist, odds are the pets will be well taken care of. By the way, the household pet usually makes friends with our carpenters. They hang out. Here’s proof:

    Wayne the cat loafing while Jorge sets floor protection.

    5. I will be forced to live in a filth pit

    There will be dust. The fear is that your once happy, smooth running household will deteriorate into a disorganized clutter of saw dust, power tools, building materials, takeout food containers and general crud.

    With proper planning, you will go into the construction phase knowing what to do with your stuff and your valuables. The remodeler will tell you in advance how he is going to protect your property and maintain a clean, orderly workplace.


    6. My landscaping will be destroyed.

    You imagine your perennial garden defiled by tire tracks, a branch hanging off your irreplaceable 60-year old Japanese maple. You want to know how your yard and landscaping will be protected from construction activity.

    Sometimes plants must be relocated to make way for excavation of a new addition. A tree might have to be sacrificed.

    None of this should be taken lightly and all of it should be discussed well before the construction foreman knocks on your front door.

    7. The neighbors will turn against us.

    You’ve seen it. The suburban street clogged with white vans and jumbo pickup trucks—and a brutish dumpster hogging up the driveway.

    There are a few days during a home remodeling project, about mid-way through and near the end where that may happen. That’s going to be in the plan, too. When and where are all those guys going to be? You and your neighbors will know in advance.

    8. I will lose my sanity

    I can’t believe I’m paying people to ruin my life! The fear is that your daily routines will be disrupted and chaos will ensue particularly if there are children in the household.

    Yes. That’s what it looks like if your remodeler didn’t take time to talk with you and map out a…. (Starting to catch on now, are you? A plan!) With good up front planning, the kind you will get from a top design build firm, you will get used to these new activities and people in your house. The renovation proceeds independently of your routines and without conflict.

    home remodeling surprise expenses

    9. I will be gouged

    Dirty liars! You believe contractors always lowball estimates to win the job. You're positive unexpected change orders and charges are coming. A whole list of hidden costs will pop up like a jack in the box.

    What if, before the project starts, you have costs for everything in writing? You have a construction contract that spells out what’s included, what’s not included, what’s optional, what happens if something unforeseen occurs. Then, you are in control of the budget. You decide.

    Tough Love

    The reason the same sad stories keep circulating is because they are true. Homeowners are not blame-free in these situations. To avoid playing the starring role in your own home renovation horror story, you’ve got to take some responsibility and take control.

    Here are three things you can do to take control of your home renovation destiny:

    1. You must carefully evaluate the track record of the remodeling company you are considering for your home renovation project. Nobody is perfect. Mistakes happen. What matters is how a remodeler deals with mistakes. That means everything to you.
    2. Be sure you are hiring the right kind of home remodeling company for your project. Do they have the staff, the resources and expertise to deliver the level of detail required?
    3. You must have a home remodeling survival plan. Get it in writing. You are the project—not just your house. If you endure a miserable process because your home remodeling firm doesn’t take care of you, your kids, your belongings, your pets… they’ve failed you. 

    Did we miss anything? What are you afraid of? Do you have a home remodeling nightmare story to share? Scroll way down to the bottom of the page and tell us in the comments.

    If you would like to be an informed consumer, please download the checklist titled "6 Things to Ask Yourself Before You Call a Home Remodeler." 

    six questions to ask before calling a home remodeler

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