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Working with your partner on project can be somewhat of a balancing act to successfully complete the project with quality results, in a timely manner, and not strangle each other in the process.

In order to do so, here are a few factors to evaluate upfront while you and your partner determine if a particular project is a good fit for you as a couple.

Project Difficulty:

Before going all in on a particular project, it’s important to first evaluate the overall difficulty of the project. There are two different factors you should evaluate to determine a project’s difficulty: The Intensity of the Labor & the Steepness of the Performance Learning Curve.

Laborious

This is likely what first pops into your mind when I mentioned difficulty. As an example, doing a landscape overhaul that will require mature shrubs to be removed and new shrubs and mulch to be installed, could be considered a moderately difficult project from a labor standpoint.

However, it should not be overly difficult for you and your partner to produce a finished project that looks great even with limited experience. This is in part because its rather easy to go back and correct most issues that you may not have done 100% right the first time. For example, adding additional mulch or ground covering, or even having to reset a shrub or plant that may not be sitting up straight, or adding or removing soil from recently installed plants to get them to the perfect height.

Learning Curve

– This is the category of difficulty that is easy to overlook, but can cause you lots of headaches.  I’m really referring to how difficult it will be to produce a quality finished product as well as how easily errors and missteps can be corrected. In the previous section, I used the example of a landscape project. Basic landscape projects are labor intensive; but, are usually quite straightforward and easy to get good looking results.  And just as importantly, most errors can be corrected without to much loss of time.

Quick Examples

On the other end of the spectrum, take an interior paint project as an example. Paint projects are very common with couples. But, this type of project can be deceptively difficult because most people assume that painting is easy. And, it can be if you have the skills and experience; but if you don’t, it can be a nightmare.

There are certain elements of painting that have relatively steep learning curves, such as “cutting in” at ceilings and trim as well as painting baseboards and trim. Usually when you make a mistake with painting, you will have to wait for the paint to dry in order to try and correct the problem. Also, there is often a great deal of prep work that must be completed to make your paint project run smoothly. So, if you try to skip this, your project will suffer.

In comparison, a landscape project is physically more taxing, but easier to execute for a novice. Painting is less physically taxing, but is much more difficult to produce a clean professional looking finished project.

Timeline

Lots of couples plan projects in preparation for events they will be hosting at their home. This is totally fine. Just make sure on the front end that you have given yourselves enough time to complete the project. If you’re time is tight and you still plan to try to start and complete the project, I recommend having a backup plan. For example: What will you do if you don’t finish? What’s the convenient stopping point?

It’s important to be on the same page before you start a project with a tight deadline, because you both need to be aware that you may have some tense moments ahead as you are working under tight time constraints.

Available Hours to Work

 Before you decide to start a project, you and your partner should look at your schedules and determine how much time you will realistically have to devote to the completion of the project. Mapping out available hours on the front end can help minimize resentment down the line. If one person is going to be doing the bulk of the work, it’s better for you to be upfront about that from the outset.

Skills

Skills, Skills,Skills. This is where the rubber meets the road. And this is often where much disagreement can occur. First, you need to learn and discuss what each of you are capable of doing. Once you are all able to determine each others strengths (and weaknesses), it should theoretically be easier for you all to divy up the work and tackle the project as a team.

Make sure that you all have realistic expectations for the finished project based on the skill sets that you each bring to the table. If you all decide to take on a project that neither one of you has the skills or experience to perform, you should expect to experience some difficulties, time delays, redo’s and potentially some tense moments.

Life Line for the Project

If you know someone that has experience with the type of project that you are performing, ask them if they would be available and agreeable for you to reach out to them should you need emergency assistance, in a bind, or need a 3rd opinion on an aspect of the project.

Conflict Management  

Working with your hands can be stressful, even for people who do it every day. With that said, a little conflict is normal. Additionally, pros that work together as a team everyday doing this type of work almost never have the exact same skill levels and abilities which can create some frustration on a job. You may also experience this as a couple working together.

When time allows, it typically makes sense to let the most skilled person complete the tasks that have the steepest learning curve or require the most skill. This can also help minimize conflict. This sounds like common sense and it is. Just be aware that time is not always on your side and this may not always be a realistic option

When You Run Out of Sugar

Remember that this is labor work, not office work, there aren’t many ways to sugar coat it when one person isn’t performing well because it’s typically going to be visually observable.

Sometimes Voices DO get raised, Tempers DO flare, Folks DO have to let their heads cool and take a break. And, it’s all part of the process.

Barker vs Barkee

If you are “the Barker” i.e. lead person, it’s up to you to learn when and how to give criticism. Remember to also give each other encouragement. Don’t beat “the Barkee” up so bad that they are ready to quit and walk away. Especially, given the nature and importance of your “non-work relationship.” Keep this in the back of your mind as you work with your partner.

Be safe and have fun.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Denise and Sean
    Reply

    Kendall,
    Excellent summary of the MANY things for couples to consider before taking on a do-it-yourself project! Totally agree that painting requires skill and if you can learn how to do it well, it is such an easy and cheap way to transform a space! Unfortunately, we tend to think that DIY always means cheaper but it can cost a lot more in the long run if mistakes are made or the project is bigger than what we can actually handle.
    Pinning this immediately!
    Cheers,
    Denise and Sean

  • Tessa Christianson
    Reply

    Thank you for writing this! Absolutely excellent advice that everyone should consider when planning a remodel with a partner, friend, or spouse.

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