Thanks honey. You're a great American.

Our home renovation project is coming to a close, and I feel the need to reflect. (That's a "before" picture above.) Some thoughts. Talk amongst yourselves.

  • When you tell people that you’re remodeling, they invariably sigh and trot out the horrible story of their own remodeling nightmare. They spent three years working on their house, and spent many winter weeks without heat or a roof. The contractor ripped out all their plumbing and then disappeared for six months. That sort of thing.
  • Your two best Internets friends when remodeling are the Better Business Bureau Web site and
  • Move out while you remodel. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Get lots of bids. I was amazed at how much prices varied. We got six or seven paint bids and they ranged from $4,000 to $15,000. How much better could a $15,000 paint job really be?
  • The sales approaches among trades are vastly different. One painter asked psychobabble questions about our feelings. A contractor read to us from an elaborate Power Point presentation and pressured us to commit on the spot, even though we hadn’t gotten any other bids. Sears sent a nice young English man to sell us kitchen cabinets, who spent at least an hour and a half making small talk that had nothing to do with the project. A roofer didn’t show up for his appointment because he couldn’t find his ladder. A painter sent his hot young daughter, who walked briskly through the house and left without taking any measurements or asking any questions.
  • Referrals are the way to go. I attribute our success in avoiding disasters to the fact that we worked with a crew of expert finished carpenters who were friends of Cosmo’s family. Our plumber is a friend of my family. Our painter was recommended by a neighbor.
In the end, our (so far) nightmare-free remodel can be credited to my wonderful boyfriend, who has thought through every detail. He's been patient with me as we made decisions, spent a shitload of money, and tried to cope with each other's work styles. Most of all, he has a superior sense of design, the mind of an engineer, and unrelenting good humor. Our house will be unlike any other, and I can’t wait to move in.