By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

“Renovating is an intense personal experience shared with large numbers of total strangers — not much different than surviving a plane crash.” — an anonymous homeowner

Even with the grim reference, this quote made us smile for its honesty. Renovating truly is an intense personal experience you may begin with total strangers. However, by the end of the project hopefully you will not only still be speaking, but will have bonded in a most positive way with your chosen teammates.

Surviving home remodeling

It took a team of strangers sharing the experience to remodel this master bathroom.

Renovation Design Group

The strangers in your home-remodeling project are the architects, contractors, subcontractors, interior designers and other professionals you bring on to your project. It does feel like a risk to bring these people into your personal space, and you will no doubt experience some stress together. The difference between these strangers and the stranger sitting next to you on a plane is that you actually do get to choose those with whom you will work in a home remodel.

Your team of strangers will be working with you for months — how many months depends on the size and complexity of your project. It is important to select your team carefully. Ask for references. Meet with them. Interview different candidates and see who you feel comfortable with. This is going to be an intense experience, and if you don’t feel comfortable with them in the first few meetings, you won’t be comfortable later on down the road, especially when problems arise.

If you were able to choose your strangers in a plane crash, you would choose to be surrounded by strong professionals that could get you through the crisis. If it were us, we would want to be sitting next to a doctor, an EMT, a trauma counselor and a military officer. These folks would have the skills and experience to handle an emergency situation. Maybe they have even been through it before and know just what to do. Similarly, surrounding yourself with skilled people throughout a home remodel will make the experience much less traumatic and the outcome much more successful.

Surviving a home remodeling project also requires some survival skills on your part. You need to be able to stay calm and organized among chaos, especially if you are living in the house during construction. It is best to evacuate the scene, but it is not always possible. If you can’t move out, follow the contractor’s guidelines to keep your family safe during the actual work. Watch out for power tools, nails, holes in the floor, ladders and other tools that could cause accidents.

Although living through the remodel isn’t ideal, it can be done. Contractors and architects will know how to organize a project if you plan to live in your house during construction. You may need to work in phases, keeping one area at a time untouched until the construction zone has moved through the house. That one untouched space can be your mini-sanctuary to escape the dust and noise.

Home remodeling survivors advise you to have a plan, realistic expectations and a support system. If you are remodeling the kitchen, you may have to eat out (or at Mom’s) from four to eight weeks. Call in all your chips, as family, friends and neighbors can be great resources for you to survive the “no kitchen blues.”

Although home renovating can sometimes feel like a disaster when you are in the middle of the construction zone, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It will disrupt your life, but with the right team and your own survival plan, the outcome should be spectacular! Like childbirth, the pain will fade and you will be glad you did it.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to

Tips for surviving home remodeling