There are four stages to becoming a grown man: celibacy, marriage, children, and home renovation. Home renovation comes last because it sucks, and you’ll resist it with all your might, even more so than you probably resisted in steps two and three. I know I did. I’ve seen other men go through the renovation process and come out six times catatonic and bankrupt. I heard nightmares of strained marriages and vindictive entrepreneurs, and I thought, I will never submit to this.
Oh, but I did. I had no choice, really. My children were already old enough to walk through the walls. Something must be done. I got a bank loan, then got a cyanide pill, just in case. But somehow, against all odds, I survived. I looked into the dragon’s mouth, and I killed that bastard. Somehow I kicked home renovation ass. I WON. And now I’m one of those middle-aged assholes sitting comfortably in my newer, more spacious home, ready to bequeath all my wisdom to you, even if you didn’t ask for it. Especially if you haven’t asked for it.
1. Set a budget, then accept that your budget doesn’t make sense.
Think of a realistic number for your project. Now add 10 percent. Now add another 10%. You have just established the minimum reference of your expenses.
2. Don’t hire Jimmy Teamster’s Bargain Toilet Emporium.
You are placing your life in the hands of your contractor, so do your homework. Locate neighboring projects and Google their subcontractors. Look for horror stories. Find out who knows all the latest zoning laws. And the most important…
3. Make sure your contractor isn’t working on 5,000 other things.
If he’s also building a $10 million pool house for some Russian asshole, guess which project gets priority? CURSING YOURSELF, SERGEI.
4. Sit down with your builder and list your goals.
I want a ping-pong table in the basement, and I don’t want to put my hand through a window when I do a bad backhand! Stuff like that. Once you get a proposed floor plan (OMG SO COOL!), examine it with a jeweller’s eye. Imagine yourself in your new home. How often will you be naked in this room? (Best to freeze those windows.) Are you going to bang your head against that overhang? (You will.) Is the sink close enough to the trash drawer for you to dump carrot peelings in? Visualize it.
5. Put recessed lights everywhere.
Especially above the kitchen sink. Have you ever washed a pan in the dark? Don’t. Recessed lighting is the greatest invention in the history of mankind, and if I could, I would burn every lamp on earth in a giant pyre.
6. You can never have too many outlets.
You’re gonna spend all that money on a house only to end up staring at your stupid phone all day anyway. So put sockets everywhere. I would put a plug in my face if I could.
7. The tile is the ceramic of the devil.
Do you know how many tiles there are in the world? I do it. FUCKING TILE. Not only do you need to determine the color of your tile, but you also need to determine the size, shape, and pattern of that tile. And it’s not just a tile. You may want a mix of contrasting shapes and styles. You might want the bottom of your pool to be a mosaic that says JIMMY’S GOT A BIG OL’ DICK. You have to decide all of this. And the cost is mind-boggling. You’ll never understand how rich rich people are until you find yourself in a showroom in the boondocks, next to the swamp where they dump mob informants, looking at a piece of tile that costs $300 per square foot. Whoever invented the tile should be baked in an oven.
8. Fuck the light fixtures too.
I went to a fixed place and looked at a wall of faucets. There must have been a thousand. And it was just a wall. There were dozens of walls. My brain failed.
9. Your favorite project will die, so kill it early.
I wanted a stone fireplace. A big. Real druid-like shit. It turns out that stone fireplaces are quite expensive. We do not have an outdoor fireplace. The household money went to tiling the bathroom. I’m only a little bitter.
The architect said it would be nice if we lived in the house during construction. He was wrong. When the team started knocking down the walls and filling the house with 50 metric tons of gypsum dust, it became clear we had to go. We lived for ten weeks with my in-laws. I took many long walks.
11. Don’t argue with your contractor.
Whoa, hey, that crystal flamingo we ordered for the master bedroom has arrived and it’s a purple SWAN. We don’t pay for that! Bob the Builder has his ears full, I can tell you!
Except: don’t. Never do that. Your contractor spends every day working with his bare hands, listening to ignorant customers pee and moan because the crown molding they ordered was a millimeter too thick. He and his crew are ready to dislike you. Explain your concerns calmly and precisely. Be proud to be their only customer who is not an asshole.
12. Feed the crew.
They just tarred a 100 degree roof for you and your brood of suburban trash. Maybe give them water and sandwiches and treat them like people. Renovation lays bare the economic stratification of society and literally brings it into your living room. The least you can do is pass around lemon bars.
13. Accept that not everything is perfect.
Maybe the shape of your new driveway looks like a giant penis on Google Earth. Maybe your new HVAC system is louder than a SpaceX rocket. Maybe Junior spilled tomato sauce on your new Corinthian marble countertop and permanently stained it, you little shit. A silly little thing will eat at you, and it’s natural to boil when you pay for perfection and don’t get it.