Relationships and renos sometimes go together like a delicate glass light fitting and a sledgehammer.

It all sounds glamourous – ripping out the kitchen or bathroom, adding that long-talked-about extension, or reconfiguring the layout.

But when you add the layer of stress that renovating can create onto the already multi-faceted challenges of life – work, mortgage, and quite often, young kids, it sometimes doesn’t take much to tip a relationship on its edge – and it might not even be the renovation itself.

“It’s not so much the renovation per se – that can be quite exciting,” says Sydney psychologist Rosalind Bolitho, who has been through several renovations herself and is now hosting her daughter and son-in-law while they complete their own home makeover.

“For anybody who knows what it’s like to juggle working and kids … you just add one more layer of angst.”

Although Bolitho says she’d love to renovate again, she warns it’s not something to be entered into lightly.

“If you had a [relationship] problem to start off with, it would be a disaster. I wouldn’t advocate it as method of bringing people together,” she says.

The big question to answer before you decide whether to dive in and renovate is just how much you both want the makeover.

“It’s really about finding out whether both people are committed to it, if both people are happy about it and of course you have to talk about it to do that,” says Bolitho, who is a member of the Australian Psychological Society.

“If everybody is not committed to the cause, it … has the potential for aggravating existing tensions.”

Once you do start the process, you need to keep on talking but at the same time accept you will have to trust each other’s decisions.

“Communication in the renovation process is very tricky because one person has to make a decision sometimes very fast,” says Bolitho.

“Then there are people who don’t want to be involved in it and therefore the other person is left to make the decisions so communication stops altogether and once communication stops in one area, it stops altogether.”

Bolitho recommends not getting too carried away with the little decisions such as tap styles and door handles.

“The door handles really don’t matter all that much – you can change them [later on],” she says. “But you do get awfully caught up in it.

“It’s about how you manage to get that balance [to realise] that at the end of the day it’s a house – and you’re going to live in it and the kids are going to muck it up.”

You will need to keep a sense of humour, because things are bound to go wrong.

Bolitho says renovations often follow a familiar pattern: “You might be puddling along during the architectural stage and that’s relatively exciting, and then there’s a bit of a lull, and there’s the angst of the DA.”

When work begins, problems commonly crop up: “Suddenly the floors are more rotten then you thought and they have to be replaced. That means the plumber can’t come for another three weeks because the floor has got to be changed, and then you have a sick kid – and it’s all over.”

Posted by Carolyn Boyd – Domain on 5th March, 2013