Remodel Mayhem

Filed in Construction by on December 2, 2014

Remodel-Mayhem-Mainby Wanda Perkins | Illustrations by Ryan Harrington


No doubt, you have aspiring plans of remodeling your home into the “dream” abode of your desire. We all do! And doesn’t it sound simple? Just one wall removed here. An additional room there, please. Eliminate the hallway. Reposition that stairway. Why not a three-season getaway space? Excuse me, don’t forget that adjoining paver deck! You might as well create a basement space underneath too.


One quick nip. Three extensive tucks. Suddenly your grander-than-life project has sprouted wings of its own and shows no sign of ever reaching completion (I mean before the rapture comes). When the unexpected happens, how do you cope? How can you keep your sense of humor (let alone your sanity) intact?


It was the tail end of the more-is-better decade of the 80’s. I remember it well. I was living in small town, USA and had just embarked upon the remodel of my dreams. Little did I realize then, the remodeling experience would engage every shred of coping mechanism I could muster, threaten my sanity, and foster a further in-depth education into basic communicative analysis of humankind. Phew!


Yes, on paper it sounded like a plan. Knock out this exterior wall. Step down into a three-season room (with an exterior landscaper in the mix too). Angle the hallway. Could the builders make it longer too? Oh, and don’t forget the nook for my photo display! Master bedroom and bath with a walk-in closet? Not a problem, they said. Why not pour an additional foundation to add a basement family room with an egress window too?


Growing up a builder’s daughter, I was determined to joyfully withstand the mayhem and remain in my home until the disaster (I mean remodel) was complete. But, even a builder’s daughter has her breaking point. I offered homemade cookies and lemonade to the contractors who noted, “You’re too nice.” I spotted a bird hopping across my basement carpeting. It turned out that bird was actually a mouse with a sizable extended family. I set out cake pans of water everywhere to drown disgusting black ants with body sections the size of bowling balls. My patience was subjected to an onslaught of daily calamities.


I tried to ignore the chaos and focus on the final mammoth reveal. If frustrations arose (almost hourly), I calmly counted to 10, 20, 50….or more. I even imaged everyone working in their under- wear. Ok…that didn’t work. But I still believe that works when speaking in public. Eventually, amidst the definitive test of my survival skills, the final straw occurred.


Sleeping in a sleeping bag in the basement with nothing to keep the outside world from meandering inside except a sheet of black plastic, does not promote a healthy night’s sleep. Whether it was sleep deprivation, or a serious case of frazzled nerves, a meltdown was inescapable. Convinced I could expedite the progress, I subjected myself to manual labor to assist the host of workers. Builders, please refrain from hysteria until the end of the story. Raking dirt, picking up stones, anything I could do I pitched in.


One windy day, my job was to remove sheets of black plastic and smooth out foundational dirt so exterior landscaping could start. While gathering the plastic sheets and stuffing them into a garbage can, my life expectancy took a definite blow when I encountered a shocking discovery. There under one of sheets of plastic were two beady eyes staring up at me. I let out a scream! Actually, tremors were experienced in South America that day. Every worker instantaneously dropped what they were doing and ran to my aid.


“What is it? one asked.


“I don’t know, but it’s big and green and running toward me!” I pointed to the plastic sheet on top of the disgusting creature.


“Oh, will you look at that,” chuckled one worker. “It’s just a salamander.”


He bent down to pick up the ugly, squiggly, slimy salamander by the tip of his tail, and then in a Crocodile Dundee fashion, he swung it overhead a dozen or so times an then true to Disney’s “Let it Go” hit sent it sailing into the neighbor’s yard, presumably so they could enjoy him too! That was definitely the final straw for me. Seven weeks later, I returned home, 15 lbs. lighter, to a week-long cleaning job similar to a hurricane’s aftermath an an infestation of mice. Surely,  you remember the earlier one, with the extended family?


And now that I’ve managed to instill fear into anyone living east of Timbuctoo who even vaguely thought about remodeling, allow me to reassure you and leave you with some valuable lessons learned from my experience.


Tips for Surviving a Remodel:


  1. Hire a professional. Period. Check references and credentials. Doing your homework ahead of time will avoid a majority of future problems.
  2. Keep a realistic budget and try (as much as humanly possible) to stick to it.
  3. Remain flexible to unplanned changes.
  4. Secure a time frame when the project will be completed and what happens when it is delayed. And remember, no matter what you inquire about, the answer will always be, “Two weeks!”
  5. Be realistic about everything. There will undoubtedly be unpredictable mysteries. You need to work through them and trust your contractor’s advice.
  6. Concentrate on the end results, not the pint-sized daily annoyances.
  7. Give yourself a break. Take time off from daily decisions. Call a friend, unplug the technology and offer yourself the gift of a few hours of relaxation. You’ll return better equipped for the day and ready to deal with the unexpected.
  8. Realize your amateur skill level won’t impress your contractor. Trust me!
  9. Eat healthy. Don’t succumb to poor eating habits just because your kitchen is askew. Good nutrition will help you cope.
  10. And lastly, when you feel that the tsunami is inevitable, remember there is always a calm after the storm. I promise.




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