Renovation Setbacks – 3 Reasons to Keep Your Cool

renovating your home

For those of you just tuning in, check out my previous posts: How to Re-Design a Home, Planning 101, Choosing Tile for Your Renovation, and 3 Reasons Why You Should Seriously Consider Hiring A Designer.

So we were 3 weeks out from move-in when you-know-what hit the fan. Literally all the finishes were screaming down the pipeline. Inspections were on deck. A crazy ambitious renovation completion date was within reach. And then every single door and window fell out of the delivery truck.

Seriously, did that just really happen? You bet your unpredictable-renovation-world it sure did. No, we don’t have to pay for them to be reproduced. Yes, it was 100% preventable. If it weren’t so ridiculously comedic, I would probably be outraged (and I went through that emotion eventually).

This equates to another 6-8 weeks for reproduction due to Christmas and New Years. That is another 2 months until our framing inspection and the same amount of unforeseen carrying costs. That’s another 2 months without rental income- during peak rental season. it was going to be the best Christmas gift ever, a home to spend the New Year with our family. It was costly and disappointing to say the least, but how we react to these unforeseen setbacks is so vital to our own well-being and really exposes our character in adversity.

There are so many justifiable pathways to psychotic freak-out status during a renovation, but here are three reasons to keep your cool during unfortunate renovation delays.

1. Setbacks Reveal Our Character More than The Offending Party’s Error(s)

Everyone knows that construction is known for its delays! The reason why construction is notoriously delayed is because it is compromised of hundreds of moving parts all dependent on people who are all dependent on each other.

When an accident happens we react based on our expectations and our preparedness for human error. If I cannot tolerate human error and expect perfection then I should also expect to be paying top dollar for every service (only the finest after all). Additionally, under those strict standards I must have a pretty critical outlook on every one of my own actions.  (Wink wink, yeah right! We are so patient, or able to justify, our own mistakes and imperfections). Human perfection is what a savior is made of, not you and me – and most certainly not construction crews. I am confident that we can get to perfect by bearing with each other’s faults and working patiently together however.


It just so happened the windows hit the deck the same day I found out a dear family friend was hanging on to life in ICU. Needless to say my perspective was 180 degrees from where it had been the day before when I was hyper focused on this renovation. When my family went to the construction site my kids ran around collecting and counting nails. They didn’t care that the house wasn’t done, they simply found joy where they were.  It highlighted how critical it is to inventory my gratitude in times of adversity.

When the dust settles after an accident or setback, we are left with our own actions and reactions. Sure you can fire folks, you can right the wrongs but you can’t change how you have treated people. For me, the way I treat people is what really matters.  Construction, like life, will always have setbacks and those challenges reveal our own character.

2. Setbacks Can Create New Opportunities And New Perspectives

In any disappointment we have a choice.  We can dwell on the negative, become angry, bitter or resentful.  Or we can sit in the quiet, be a little uncomfortable while we acknowledge disappointment yet we can invite a new perspective to come into our situation. We can intentionally look for ways this disappointment can be used for good.

For me, I was able to identify a few areas where a slight tweak to the placement of electrical and framing would allow for some beautiful finishes to be highlighted. Additionally, we found an area in the front courtyard to salvage the groovy fence panels that originally drew me to the property.


Sometimes in the pressure of full steam ahead we miss details that can be addressed if the pace were to slow down. Yes, my expectations of our extended family gathering in our kitchen shattered all over the ground like the windows. But it was in the quiet moments the setback created that I was able to walk through the project where new ideas came to light, opportunity never considered before.

As my husband says, it’s all about the angles. What angle can your setback be approached in order to create opportunities?

3. Setbacks Allow People to Make the Situation Right Through Collaboration

Hopefully you have chosen great vendors and have some sort of a track record with them before any accident happens. A good relationship will make your initial reaction as palatable as possible.

However, before any remediation of the problem take some extra time and cool off. Not only might it save someone from an angry reaction (due to disappointed expectations), but it will also give you time to assess the actual cost of the set back and where compensation should settle. 

The window company reordered the windows immediately but I delayed discussing how this would impact the project for over a week. At that time I simply calculated the costs I knew would be incurred and mentioned them as the minimum impact, but it took the entire reproduction time to see the full financial impact.

After drafting a thorough (and demanding) email detailing all of my costs and expectations I decided instead to scrap the virtual lecture and have a phone conversation instead. I am thankful I did because it became immediately apparent that my rep from the company was 110% on board was finding ways to help defer costs for the project in the amount of the delay. Had I sent the email I think it may have turned into a bossy manager scenario instead of the collaborative effort it became.

Hopefully this blog post can help someone going through a setback. Keep your chin up! Yes, setbacks stink, my heart goes out to you. But it doesn’t have to define this project for you.

Design Friends, maybe you can send this to your new clients or friends about to renovate to prepare them ahead of time.

Hoping 2018 is filled with great relationships and personal creativity for each of you. Thanks for reading.

#TheAZResidence Blog Series

To read the other blog posts in the #TheAZResidence series CLICK HERE!

Much love, Erin

Erin H. BrownErin H. Brown is an entrepreneur, restaurant designer and philanthropist. She is a Founding Partner of Nook Kitchen and Nook Kitchen Downtown Phoenix, where she handles financial management, restaurant design, contract negotiations, business development and is the lead decorator. | Twitter: @NookKitchen | Instagram: @ErinBrowndesign

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