Words of Wisdom for Those in Home-Renovation Hell

It’s pretty obvious that Dante was never involved in any home renovation projects: if he had been, his Inferno would have had 10 levels of hell instead of nine. My guess is that he’d have put it somewhere in the middle; Level Five does come fairly close, being the abode of “the wrathful and the gloomy” who “repeat a doleful hymn.” I am speaking, of course, of Home Renovation Hell — a place I have visited no less than four times. (This is different from Homebuilding Hell, which absolutely deserves to be Level 11. Maybe even 13.)

I dipped a toe (well, more like half a leg) into HRH (which in this case stands for Home Renovation Hell rather than His/Her Royal Highness) in December when the roof was replaced. After that, nature and recalcitrant contractors have intervened to postpone everything else until about ten days ago when I finally was able to replace the 56-year-old heating system. As of this writing, the replacement of the garden shed is on its fifth postponement and I fully expect yet another snowstorm this weekend because it’s now scheduled for April 9th and 10th. But I digress.

Sixteen years ago, while in the midst of a complete gut-and-remodel of my previous house, I discovered two amusing and utterly truthful views of HRH on the internet. I promptly printed them out and put them both in the place of honor on my refrigerator for the 6.5 months that the work took to complete. There were some days when I had to re-read them multiple times in order to retain some measure of sanity and/or to restrain myself from committing a felony against one CFH (Contractor From Hell) in particular. I highly recommend these to anyone who is about to embark on (or who has bravely already begun) this type of endeavor!

[Unfortunately I did not make a note of the author of either of these, if such was even indicated originally, and so cannot give credit where credit is due; but if anyone does have that information, please let me know so that I can add it!]


Before you renovate, ask yourself just how badly you want to get near the brink of insanity, teeter on the edge, look in the mirror and wonder why on any given day you’re either (1) a screaming, swearing, sobbing ninny or (2) have become so worn down that you just don’t care anymore!

If you decide to renovate, DO NOT EXPECT/ASSUME

1)  that the experts are experts.

2)  that “it” will fit just because it’s supposed to.

3)  that the paint will match the color chip.

4)  that “it” will arrive on the day promised (even if the person on the other end of the line promises on their life.)

5)  that “they” will arrive on the day promised.

6)  that your neighbor won’t copy everything you’ve just spent a year putting together.

7)  that the bank employees have any notion of how to handle your loan application.

8)  that the grout will be the same color throughout the bathroom.

9)  that your home will be anything even remotely close to clean at any point during the project.

10) that the price on the signed contract(s) is anywhere within hailing distance of your final out-of-pocket cost.


1) that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

2) to have to be a bitch/bastard at least once, if not regularly, during the process.

3) to have to stand your ground so hard you’ll think you’re rooted in cement.

4) to hear multiple times, “I’ve never heard of doing it that way” or “This is how we always do it” and when you do hear those words, try to not scream, because it won’t help.

5) that the majority of the people working on your house aren’t thinking, don’t give a hoot, don’t understand what you’re trying to do, aren’t properly supervised, won’t ask questions, don’t speak English, live to trash the previous person’s work, lack common sense, and will leave greasy chicken scraps on your gazillion-dollar whatever.

6) to perform constant checks on everything being done.

7) to remind your contractor not to throw away the boxes – stores won’t take returns that aren’t in the original box.

8) to get in writing a receipt for everything that leaves your home. For example, if the granite fabricator takes your faucet and sink, get it in writing and also have them write that the items were in perfect condition when they took them. Photos would help too.

9) that some thing(s) you know for certain you saw in the house yesterday will mysteriously disappear and nobody else who ever worked in the house can ever remember seeing it/them or has any idea where the thing(s) may have gone.

10) that “two weeks” is one of those funny insider jokes that only contractors understand.



Thou shalt get all agreements in writing.

Thou shalt never, ever, ever rely on verbal communications, promises, phone calls, walkthroughs or any other NON-WRITTEN communication.

Thou shalt not assume that the home improvement industry functioneth like any other industry, and thou shalt not think that by paying money for services, thou dictates how or when things can be done.

Thou shalt not believe that anything except the lowest bid is a total rip-off.

Thou knowest that thy contractor cannot change water into wine, nor make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. However, almost everything else is possible…… with enough of thy money.

Thou shalt not expect thy contractor to return calls within one week’s time unless thy contractor needeth a completely unrelated answer from thee yesterday.

Thou shalt not put appearance above practicality, for verily in doing so thou shalt be mightily smitten with grave doubts about resale value, colors, and costs.

Thou shalt not maketh a house that is a monstrosity, nor a monument to personal vanity; for to do so will bring upon thy head a plague of low property values, leaky basements, and insufferable dust-bunnies.

Honor thy checkbook and thy budget, for they shall take an awful beating.

And lo, though thou walkest through thy renovated spaces daily, thou wilt not uncover all the problems until 30 days after all of the warranties hath expired.

So it is written.

  4 comments for “Words of Wisdom for Those in Home-Renovation Hell

  1. Patty
    April 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    So true.

  2. Rosemary
    April 3, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Very well written!

  3. April 3, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Oh dear, the money pit is a good name for it. I hope you will love it when it is finally finished.

  4. April 5, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Wise words. We are just coming to the end of a kitchen renovation that took about twice as long as expected. It was a painful experience, though the results are nice.

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