DIY Renovating: Lessons Along the Way

We have been in renovation mode for three months straight now. No wonder I’m so tired.

My husband and I decided to buy a house that had great bones and charm, but needed a serious facelift. Neither of us have any “real” experience doing any kind of work like this.

Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way. (That “way” is also known as the well-traveled road called “the hard way”.)

1. Shoes.

This part kills me. I am a barefoot kind of girl. I have not been able to walk around without shoes in our house YET. Always wear shoes if you are renovating. In fact, you should wear sneakers. I try to skimp out and wear flip flops a lot of the time. Big mistake. Next thing you know, you’ll have stepped on a huge nail and will be looking through your medical records to see if your Tetanus is up-to-date. It’s not a matter of if it will happen to you, but when.

2. Work Clothes

When you are renovating your house it’s a non-stop project. There is no dedicated time for it because it never ends. Ten minutes before you run to the train, 15 minutes before you go shopping, so on, you will be working on something. That being said, you will often pick up where you left off at inopportunely dressed times.  Don’t touch anything if you are wearing clothes you don’t want to ruin. You will rub spackle on your pants. You will brush against that newly painted doorframe. You will get dirt on those shoes. Just change already.

3. Animal Friendly

Renovating is an adventure. Think of it as a wild African safari. Especially if you’re renovating a house that has been foreclosed/empty for a while. There will be large insects. There might be mice. There might even be bats. I just about flipped a gasket when I discovered a bat on the inside of our window screen. Moral of the story is: when you’re renovating, there are often holes in your house. It’s like glorified camping.

4. Memorize the Home Depot/Lowe’s store layout.

The faster you learn where everything is, the faster your shopping trips will be. Before you know it you’ll be lying on your stomach searching for the best pieces of finishing board in the lumbar section.

5. It pays to be nice to the Home Depot/Lowe’s Sales People

Not only is being kind to people a generally good thing to shoot for, but it could save you money. With a friendly conversation, all of a sudden that 10% coupon might apply to something it didn’t before. Or you might meet the store manager and he might give you 80% off all those roman shades.

(Nothing against Home Depot, but we have gotten a lot more love from the Lowe’s people in regards to discounts. You might want to up your ante there, big orange box store.)

6. Everything will be more Expensive and Take Longer than you Planned.

Do I need to elaborate?

Also, curb the desire to go buy fun lamps and curtains. You get to spend your money on things that are even cooler – like ant repellent and garage door hinges and concrete epoxy.

7. When to Hire Professionals?

If you can’t do it the right way, don’t do it at all. You might end up spending more money trying to fix whatever mistakes you created. We had professionals install our windows and do our plumbing work. Develop a relationship with these people. The more work they see coming from you the work likely they are going to give you a better deal. DON’T work with a vendor you don’t trust. That’s just silly.

8. Have a “Home Journal”.

Pick a journal (this was a gift from my very thoughtful Mom) and write down everything you can think of. Measure every room. Every window. Every mirror. Keep it in your purse. There will be a time when you need this information! Also, always carry a measuring tape on your person.

9. Expect the Unexpected.

You weren’t planning for the biggest tree in your yard to be struck by lightning and smash your deck, but it happens. Be thankful it didn’t break your newly installed windows and dining room (the only finished room in the house) and move on.

10. Remember.

Remember YOU picked this house. YOU chose this adventure. And remember it is just that. An adventure, not a punishment.

And stock up on popsicles.  And say goodbye to your social life. And having nice fingernails. They will be eternally coated in spray paint and wood particle dust.

Anyone else in the same boat?

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6 comments

  1. Bunni says:

    Not exactly in this boat…yet…or anytime soon for that matter! Despite the gigantic tree that’s lying/laying (I can never remember which one to use) horizontally in that photo…your backyard looks like it’s pretty! Love the idea of a home journal. I’m fortunate to learn lessons from you…like marriage and home adventures. Will make my time a little easier! 🙂 Great job on the house!!

    And that bat is terrifying. I had one in my office once at TH. Um, screamed bloody murder. Did you do the same? xoxo

  2. Great list! I love the idea of keeping your home measurements handy. I think I’ll draw some up and put them in the glove box of our car (since really my purse is the place where handy-info goes to hide and never be found again).

  3. lexy3587 says:

    Good luck!
    My parents get into renovation mode about once a year… last year, it was the entire main-floor – kitchen remodel, new floors everywhere, and insulation in rooms that had never been insulated. This year, upstairs and downstairs bathrooms… I shower elsewhere whenever possible. At least you’ll be done-done when you’re done? maybe?
    Sounds like you guys are making progress, and still loving the house, which is important! Also, the list is great – esp. writing everything in one journal. The only thing i’d add – make a binder to keep all the info for anything you purchase or paint (like the paint chips) with detaled labelling info… that way, if/when you need to touch-up a room, you will have the paint number, even if the small can of paint you had kept got lost in the garage 🙂

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