Ask the Architect

No surprise: Couples disagree


Q. I’m an avid reader of your column, and have thought about changes we might make to our home, with lots of concerns. My wife and I don’t agree on certain things. Sometimes your advice makes me skittish about doing anything because, as you explain the regulations, it makes me wonder if what I want to do will ever get done the way I want. Who makes the final decisions about what we can have, my wife and I or the officials?

A. That’s a good question. There are so many aspects and people involved, many you will never meet who exercise their own control. You and your wife should sit down together and make a list of the basic things you want to accomplish. You may even want to make the lists separately and then compare. Make three columns: the necessities for repair, the “must haves” for accomplishing your goals and then your wish list.
Professional Remodeler Magazine reported that Home Advisor recently surveyed 975 Americans who worked on a home improvement project with a partner, and found that 65 percent of women say they’re the primary decision makers, and 63 percent of men say they are. When disagreements arise, about 30 percent of the partners said they make the decision without telling their significant other. Men said they do not consult the woman 33 percent of the time, while women leave the man out of the decision 25 percent of the time. When it came to discussing compromises, 71 percent of men said they were more likely to bend to their partners’ wishes, while only 51 percent of women say they give in. Budget discussion led to the most difficulties, with paint color right behind, and whether to remove a wall or not was at the lower end of the discussion friction.
But that isn’t the end of decision-making. People you’ll probably never meet, like the plans examiners who invoke their interpretation of building regulations (laws) and their particular version of what should be in the plans, such as charts and graphs of windows, doors, energy requirements, zoning data, building code sections spelled out in writing — it’s a long list, and some architects are required to show more items than others, depending on code officials’ requirements and the jurisdiction that reviews the plans. There is no one set of basic requirements for all on a level playing field.
Add to that the opinions of architectural review boards you may or may not have a chance to meet with. Forcing a homeowner to have a garage door match an expensive front door is opinion, not a code requirement, for example. Sometimes a contractor may interpret their idea of what they want to do, and you can only hope to get what you want.
The most important part of decision-making, for anything in life, is to be flexible, and educate yourselves on what is required versus what is opinion. Good luck!

© 2022 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.