Taking the Mystery Out of Remodeling – by Reva Kussmaul

The Book

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of
REMODEL 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship

Taking the Mystery Out of Remodeling
by Bridging the Communication Gap Between Homeowner and Contractor

By Reva Kussmaul

Chapter 1
Relationship Building

GET THE 411 ON Not Only HOW TO GET THROUGH IT but How to Begin it – the remodel that is!

Remodeling is about relationships. Are you ready for a long-term relationship? (hereafter known as an LTR)

In the pre-dating phase of the relationship, it’s all about you! Even before calling for pricing, you must decide if this project is really something you want to do. Whether it’s a cosmetic makeover of a small bathroom or a whole house makeover, you really must look at the relationship aspect of someone working in your home. The only thing that is different about either of these projects is the length of time the contractor will be there. It really doesn’t matter in the end if it’s two weeks or eighteen months. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with someone in your home for two weeks, how would you handle the “emotionology”* of an eighteen month project?

As for remodeling, if the project is longer than two weeks, it is an LTR. It’s imperative to give thought to the length of time this relationship is really going to last and how everyone is going to get along. Remember, what’s involved here is the ‘emotionology’ of the money and mess a remodeling project costs and creates. A contractor is coming into your personal space, getting it dirty and charging a good deal of money to do so.

FINDING MR. OR MS. RIGHT – Choosing the Right Contractor

If you’re ready to start “dating”, start thinking about what you want in a relationship even before you make that first phone call. How do you want someone to act in your home, treat your kids, what kind of follow-up do you expect, what are your perceptions of clean-up at the end of each day? These are all things you’d think about if you were going to move in with someone because essentially several some ones are moving in with you. They may not be spending the night but they’re going to be there all day, in most cases, without your supervision. You want to be able to trust them to show up, do the work planned for that day and lock up when they leave. So when you pull all of your researched information – yes, there is research involved – together to schedule two or three contractors to give you bids, you must have a list so you can compare apples to apples when it comes to the interviewing process.


“OMG I’m so excited for you about this!!!! I just bought it right away. Maybe at SEA we can make it part of our client orientation package. I read it and we’ll talk. I’d love to support this effort of yours. Big HUG!!!”
PSA – San Francisco

This review is from: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship (Kindle Edition)
Mental-health professionals agree that home remodeling carries a level of stress that is comparable to losing a job, going through a divorce, or moving residence. As events go, renovations and remodels involve lots of money, lots of emotion, lots of desires and dreams, all of which tend to be wrapped up in an ever evolving personal image. A major remodel will require a large `injury’ to our safe home and our personal space. This aspect (alone) can set a subtle and volatile underlying tone to the project without us even realizing it. It all makes for a hurly-burly combination.

Perfectly intelligent people become irrational, falling victim to a skewed (tall-tails) cost to value sentiment, refusing to accept that this -more than anything- has inevitable (and fear-fulfilling) consequences. We tend to be very sensible about how we choose our dentist, plastic surgeon or buy shoes. Unless we are broke, we don’t even expect to buy a better can of beans for the same price as a can of lower quality or questionable ingredients. Dan Ariely in his bestselling book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, focuses on this odd behavior we all engage in from time to time.

So treating our home remodel like it’s something any schmuck can do is self-defeating at best. Checking our attitude and underlying expectations before we begin, is crucial as it is our expectations (particularly the ones we don’t want to admit) that will sabotage our project.

I highly recommend Reva’s Remodel 411 to help prepare -even the smartest among us- for a successful and proud experience. It is a simple read and you will recognize your own applications of her uncomplicated wisdom in many other important areas of life. What Reva wants to do is remind us to employ this same level of common-sense when planning a renovation, an event that is emotionally challenging, no matter how well it goes.



Thank you!! So far I love it! I liked your honesty about the red flags, the communication, bringing in your “stuff” to a job etc. Let us know when it comes out, we would definitely be up for a copy. Good info, easy to read, and with solutions to problems.

We had a great time at the party, it was wonderful seeing you.



Really enjoyed the chapter you sent and never would have thought about the contractor having any feelings as far as fears, etc.


I’m thoroughly enjoying what I am reading. What your book offers; your content style and approach are entertaining and unique. Not to mention how sorely your book is needed!

Los Angeles

I got the chapter you sent and what I’ve read so far looks great!

Contractor/DIY Coach – NY

THIS BOOK IS SOOO NEEDED OUT THERE! Let’s get it out there.

Love ya,

I knew absolutely nothing about remodeling and do not own a home. However, when my landlord began having work done in the home I’m renting, this book was invaluable as far as what prep I needed to do to protect my space since she hired someone based on the “I can only afford this much” mentality.

Thank you Reva

SB – Los Angeles


I want more!!!! I love this !!!!
I think my contractor should read this AND hire you as his P.M.!!!

DM, Altadena, CA

This book is simply simple, basic “stuff” but it’s stuff that if you don’t know it or how to maneuver through it will cause your remodel to not go well and possibly turn into that nightmare Reva talks about.

Read it before proceeding any further.

RJ, Pasadena, CA

Bravo my friend..the book excerpt is crackling with your style and knowledge…and as we discussed on Sunday Money is about everything else as well and dealing with money or should I say the M word as people don’t like to talk about money..but you have made a safe structure so they might ask the right questions because we know the answer is always in the question.
In Love and Gratitude,
T A Walker

Absolutely delightful!! Clear, concise and well-written…moves forward…makes for easy reading, especially to those who are “virgins.”

Great writing!
MH, LaCanada