Change Fate

Change Fate

When I am on vacation and my world slows a little I like to play the “What If” game. Not the “What if the car breaks down? What if we miss our flight, What if the hotel smoke alarm goes off” mind game, but the more peaceful version with questions like “What if I lived at the beach year round? What if we lived in a city with a massive, reliable public transportation system? What if we could spend the next year traveling?” For as long as I can remember I have also been asking the “What if this was my house?” and despite a decade of renovating homes while on vacay I still ask “What if I were to buy a house here, what if I were remodeling this VRBO rental, what if …”

In the renovation business, you spend a lot of time herding cats and surfing through chaos. I usually have a great view of crazy town from any of my job sites, even when things are going mostly right. But I don’t to think that every renovation is a mess from end to end. A lot of the time, things go pretty smoothly and every now and then we have some providential breaks that speed up the messy parts of transformation, leaving us with more time to spend on the rest. Sometimes it’s just coincidence—finding out that what’s beneath that green shag carpeting and the lovely asbestos 12×12 tiles really is a gorgeous original hardwood floor—and sometimes you can, if not game the system, at least stack the odds in your favor.

The best way to do that? In as much as possible, take luck off the table. “What if” questions are useful at the outset? What if this cool vintage tile ends at the front of the bathroom vanity I’m trying to replace with a wall hung cabinet? What if it snows while the new porch is in process? What if the new cans lights that will accompany the original foyer chandelier force us into a new electrical panel? What if my teenage son accidentally backs his first car into the Porta-Potty. I’m not saying you need to ask all these questions. You cannot control for every pain in the ass contingency in a renovation but it doesn’t take much imagination to plan for most. So when ordering a little extra artisan tile for your kitchen backsplash, you can feel lucky when you end up needing all of it, instead of finding yourself three squares short of a suddenly discontinued pattern and headed back to the drawing board without a decent Option B. When you plan to stay in the short term rental an extra month to account for renovating in the dead of winter, you won’t find yourself shivering in a house lacking walls, windows and a fully-functional furnace. And when the family room reno goes over budget because the removal of seventies ceiling tiles reveals an original tongue and groove paneled ceiling begging for restoration, you can feel like you’ve been handed a gift instead of a headache.

Fortune favors the prepared. The sky may not fall. Still, you’re probably better off holding on to that umbrella.

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