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I've done a few DIY projects over the years and over time it starts out as fun and exciting and then it detoriates to stressful and not so fun.

Our latest project was to redo our basement. This involved basically adding a floor to our house. We are adding a laundry room, bathroom, kids playroom and bonus room.

My typical day during this renovation is work to my normal job until 5-6 at night, then when I get home until 8 do any noisy work, put the kid(s) to bed, and then continue to with less noisy work until 10 or 11 at night. (I have a 7 year old)

Working by myself was a challenge (I wish I had 4 arms) but I found overall that my family relationships suffered as well a my normal job has less productivity.

I deal with stress pretty well, but my family had a hard time dealing with everything. Additionally, I found that over time I found that it was me versus the project and nothing went as smooth as planned.

How do you deal with the stress of a major project? Do you have any tips or suggestions that make things easier on anyone?

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6 Answers 6

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Working on a house that you're already living in is a lot more stressful, because you're living in a construction zone. Here are a few tips:

  • Select a part of the house to be construction-free. Your family can be comfortable in that space while other parts are in chaos.

  • Clean up at the end of each day. This will make the construction space less stressful.

  • Get help, so you can get the job done sooner, which means less stress. Sometimes that means hiring a crew to hang and tape drywall, much faster than I could do it. Sometimes it means hiring a handy acquaintance to work with me.

  • Break the project down in to smaller pieces, so you can carry a subproject to completion before introducing new chaos. This isn't always doable, because of interdepenencies, but do it when you can.

  • Keep an eye on the well-being of your family and be ready to adjust your project expectations to care for their needs. Family is more important than house.

  • Get out of the house. A picnic together can help you reconnect. Send the spouse and kids to grandma's for a week while you get a lot of work done. And so on.

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I'm not sure if this question really falls into the DIY category, but it is interesting and I'm sure shared by many inspiring DIYers.

You have already committed to the project so some of this advice is not timely. I think the most important factor in DIY work is understanding the scope of the project, and the skills needed to complete them. Working on old homes, doing renovations is always littered with land mines. Expect the unexpected, be prepared to spend at least twice the time you estimated, and usually 20 to 30% more money. Do not fall prey to the over simplified DIY shows on TV where a 40 hour job is miraculously finished to perfection in 30 minutes.

It is wise and often cheaper in the long run to get professional advice or help with parts of your project that require specialized knowledge and tools. Plan on doing what you can do comfortably and avoid the stress of "what do I do now!" Many of these situations can be eliminated by proper planning and realistic expectations. Too many DIYers bite off way more than they can chew, resulting in frayed nerves, unfinished projects and substandard construction.

In your case, you need to take a break, reevaluate the amount of work to be done. Honestly decide if your skills and time are enough to finish the project without ruining your family and professional life. Perhaps you could plan to work just one or two evenings and all day on one day of the weekend. Since it always seems to take a lot of time to get started, get tools and materials ready, trying to do this in 2 to 4 hour segments is not productive and very frustrating. You need to make a plan, divide the work into bite size chunks and completely finish one before moving to another. Maybe it would be worth hiring a pro or good handyman to help you get through the rough spots. not only would the project move faster, but you will get an education and use of tools and techniques, and most importantly, peace of mind seeing things happen. Take that break, take a deep breath, relax a bit and set new goals and time lines.

Best of luck to you. you can come here with any questions about your project. There are a lot of very smart and experienced folks here more that willing to give you detailed and accurate answers to your questions.

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It ain't called "divorce dust" for nothing. Living with a home improvement project in the works is indeed very stressful as you can't feel "settled" in your own home, and such projects are often kindling for fights about money (the number two cause of divorce)

  • Confine the projects to one room or area of the house at a time. Living in a completely torn-up money pit is a sure-fire stressor.
  • Make sure you know what you're getting into, and that you have budgeted plenty of time and money to the project. Running out of money such that things are left unfinished, or having to low-ball contracted work so you get a guy that doesn't care or walks out halfway in, are two big contributors to divorce dust situations.
  • Failing the above, know when you're in over your head and need professional help. The more time and money you spend attempting to DIY something you aren't sure how to do, the longer the area has to be left in pieces and the less money you have to hire someone to get it done properly so you can move on.
  • If there is any way you can avoid having to be in or move through the area being worked on on a regular basis, do so. This is harder for common rooms like the kitchen or family room, but it's usually easier to stay out of your basement while it's being renovated.
    • I was able to do this when refinishing a room as our new baby's nursery; it was an out-of-the-way room and we could just close the door and forget about it between weekends. It made this project much more enjoyable overall than a similar job for our kitchen, where we had only limited use of the space and had to look at the work in progress for days as we found time and energy to do the job.
  • Put up plastic divider curtains to keep the dust and odors from the renovated area from drifting elsewhere in the house. If this area of the house happens to have the return air, either install a HEPA filter to cut down on the dust and odor the system will distribute through the house, or try to divert the return out of the construction area temporarily with some flexible ducting.
  • Get out of the house. Yes, you're paying for it and want to live in it, but consider taking a vacation or at least moving to a hotel or a friend's/family member's home while construction is ongoing.
    • This works best when contracting with a crew that can get the major work done quickly and get you back into the house even if they still have finish work to do.
    • This is a must for projects involving asbestos or mould abatement, or projects that make the house unlivable for extended periods, such as major electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or structural changes, kitchen work that leaves you unable to cook, or tile work that can make high-traffic areas no-go zones.
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How did I survive my 3 year home Reno ? The only thing I thought of each morning was "do not quit" even when I prayed for an act of god to swipe this soul sucking, money grabbing, dust producing pile of wood/ stucco and granite off the face of the earth I would just focus on the house being finished and have persistence to see it through.

Oh. And I drank a lot

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  • Do smaller projects before you attempt a full remodeling so that both you and your spouse can calibrate your expectations for how long things take, and so that you are sure that you enjoy the process.

  • If the project is large and you only have evenings and weekends available, only do it if your spouse is also taking part in the work (even if it is to a lesser extent than you). That way it will be a hobby that you enjoy doing together, rather that an ordeal that keeps you apart. If carpentry is not your spouse's thing, maybe sanding and painting is.

  • Try to maintain a part of the house that is not a construction zone. Finish one subproject at a time or one room at a time.

  • Make time for life. So what if your project takes an extra year? Leave time for family activities and vacations.

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I agree with what has already been said, and I empathize with you - DIY renovation is a pain. When I had to do some renovation to a condo I was living in (with 3 small children), my wife and I could only designated a couple hours each night after the kids were asleep to get done as much as we could.

My only advice is that sometimes it's actually worth the money to hire out parts of it, like the drywall. While you can do anything yourself, you can often find some pretty cheap drywall experts to come in and knock out that part of the project quickly, giving you momentum and a renewed dedication to finish the rest on your own.

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