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What To Do When Things Go Wrong in Your Remodel

Modern transitional kitchen remodel by Houston Interior Design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design & Styling by Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo by Fernanda Varela Photography

Let's be honest: things will go wrong in any large project or event in your life. A wedding, a big celebration, a is an inevitable truth of life that high stress situations will bring up problems that you have to work through.

I am not immune to that as a designer, so today I'm sharing some tips on how to deal with common issues that can happen in the hustle and bustle of demo and renovation or when things go wrong in your remodel!

What to do When Things Go Wrong in your Remodel

Modern traditional living room vignette in the NLI studio by Houston Interior Design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design & Styling by Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo by Madeline Harper Photography

Everyone Isn't On the Same Page

Always, always, always insist on a comprehensive walk-through the space or house, before starting, to review the scope of work with your contractor and their team. Keep the proposal or contract handy throughout the project to refer back to, when in doubt.

Remember that even with elevations, renderings, and a detailed spec book, a lot of trades will forgo these and ask you questions directly and repeatedly. If you don't want to be that point person, remember that someone has to be, and make sure you trust that person implicitly. Expert advice: Designers are your main weapon in this scenario!

Communication is the key. Ask about progress - look at each space and ask what got done today and what's on the agenda for the next day and also the following week. Overcommunication is rarely an issue with renovations ;) and if you want to stay on schedule, someone's got to ensure that you're still on schedule.

Vibes are Off

My empathetic feeler folks will get this - sometimes energies between people are off, and it's perfectly normal. It's also very normal to ask that a person be excluded from the team for your project.

I always ask myself if I would feel comfortable having my kids with any of the workers, and if the gut reaction is no, then that's it for me. #dealbreaker.

If you have any uncomfortable feelings about anyone that will be working in your house for weeks on end, you have every right to say something to your contractor and you should!

Wrong Parts or Color Delivered

I can tell you from personal experience this last month - IT'S WORTH IT TO OPEN EVERY BOX. I took possession of tile for the bathroom months ago, and I did check all the labels and everything was correct. I opened the majority of boxes but because of the way they were stacked at delivery, some of the boxes along the bottom of the stacks were too heavy for me to lift on my own to inspect the ones at the very bottom. I opened them on install day with the help of the subs, and it was the entirely wrong color of tile in the of the boxes of shower floor tile that had not been opened. In all honesty it looked like the material was mislabeled based on the vast color difference.

Cue the run around town to get the right color quickly.

The same things goes for the hardware you order. Check for nicks or scratches at the time of delivery, check that you have the right amount (or have extras for the future) and compare the color of each of them to the color they are supposed to be. Open every sleeve to every piece or you might find yourself reordering and dealing with returns.

If you do have to deal with this, take a deep breath and go into problem-solver mode. You will find a solution. Yes, the project will be delayed. But really, just open every box ahead of time and inspect.

And in case you're wondering about my tile...the mislabeling of product turned out to be a lucky hiccup because I actually found a completely DIFFERENT tile from a different vendor for the shower floor that I am OBSESSED with.

White marble bathroom refresh byHouston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors. Photo by Madeline Harper Photography.
Styling by Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo by Madeline Harper Photography

Bathroom Cleanliness

Before a project starts, you have to decide what your shared bathroom protocol will be. Are you bringing in porta-potties for the team? Or are you opening up a powder bath in your home?

If your team will be using your own bathroom, I highly suggest talking to your contractor about bathroom cleanliness. I know, talk amongst yourselves because we're all adults here but you have to think ahead as much as you might not want to. Ask them to paper or protect the powder room floor, and provide alcohol wipes or disposable towels for the team to use. They are typically covered in construction dust and/or plaster, and they don't want to dirty up your towels for days on end, so they may not be as hygienic with handwashing or cleaning up as they would be otherwise.

Make it easy for them to stay clean, and they will do it! #onecanhopeanyway

Damaged Artwork

I talked about how to prep your artwork for a renovation in this post, but I made the mistake of not thinking about the entire path of travel through the house. I had taken everything down in the bathroom and bedroom as well as the second floor hallway and stairwell, but unfortunately an art piece in our entry hallway was scratched as huge sheets of hardi backer for the bathroom walls were making the turn as they were being carried upstairs.

Lesson to remember: if anyone is going to be walking past a hung art piece or framed photo during your project (not just demo day), take it down for now. Clear the entire path from the entry point through and into the project area. Bare walls for a few weeks or months is worth it to not have to find out if something sentimental can be fixed/replaced.

What has gone wrong in your remodel? Let me know in the comments below - hopefully we can laugh about it together at this point.

And if you are looking for help on your own remodel for 2024, please don't hesitate to reach out to us and lower the stress level!

What to do when things go wrong in your remodel by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.


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