I have found there are two kinds of people when it comes to DIY. There are those who are hesitant solely out of a fear of a) messing up the project or b) the finished project might not look professional. And then there are those of us who hear “DIY” and start rolling up our sleeves.
Attempting anything on your own can be daunting, especially when money is involved or, say, a house. But realizing just how much money you can save doing projects on your own will help you past that trepidation fast.
And then there’s the rather addicting side dish of pride that comes with a job well done. Nothing can quite top the feeling you get when a guest loves a room in your home or a project on your wall and you can say, “I did that.” It’s the look on their face that keeps us crazy DIYers coming back for more.
This is what convinced my husband and me to remodel a kitchen, two baths, a laundry room and a full basement in our former home. Earning well over asking price when we sold our house made it worth our investment of time and money. It also showed us just how capable we are.
Before I convince you to start tearing down that wall blocking the view to your kitchen, let me share some tips we learned along the way that will help you make solid decisions and allow you to go ahead with your project in confidence.
Let’s get started!
1. Do Your Research
I cannot stress this enough. There have been many times I have dreamt up an idea and my husband has had to put a damper on it because the wall is load-bearing or there is a heating duct that runs up that corner or the cost of a rounded doorway is much more than a traditional one.
Having a professional do a walk-through with you as you show him/her your design is a great way to save you time and money down the road. (Nothing like tearing into a wall just to have to patch it back up because you cannot take it down.) Having a contractor do a walk-through also helps you set your budget. They will often point out expenses you might not have thought of.
A professional need not always be a contractor, you can ask questions at your local hardware store, too. On occasion, I like to get a second opinion when I buy supplies. I do not always heed their advice but when I don’t, I have no one else to blame but myself when my project does not yield great results.
Another part of your research should involve a real estate agent. They can run comps in your area and tell you whether that $50,000 kitchen reno is worth it financially. You don’t want to put money into your home that you can’t recoup should you ever have to sell. You never know what the future holds, the last thing you want is to be stuck with a house you can’t sell or be unable to make back the money because you put too much into it for the area you live in.
2. Know What to Expect
I have learned to tone down my dreams some with my husband’s help. I can imagine some pretty neat stuff and fully expect my amazing husband to pull each of them off. Although I still believe he can do anything he puts his mind to, he has helped me put my dreams into perspective by using a great tool called SketchUp.
You can see in this post how Steve helped me visualize our bathroom remodel and how it turned out almost exactly like his rendering. I highly recommend spending time designing your remodel so you are not left disappointed when things do not fit as nicely as you imagined. SketchUp uses real measurements so you can see exactly how much room is left in your bedroom after you “add” that king-sized bed you were hoping to buy.
3. Be Realistic
Unless you have all the money in the world (which you don’t or you would be hiring this job out) you are not going to be able to afford all the bells and whistles. Choose one or two pieces for the room you absolutely love and try to find the best prices for those items. Then, everything else will have to be a compromise, which isn’t always a bad thing. Many of my “compromises” turned out better than what I originally wanted.
For example: when we remodeled our upstairs bath in our former home, I wanted to gut the entire bathroom. Our budget, however, did not allow for a new tub. So, I had to compromise. The bathroom did not look hideous with the old tub, as I imagined it might, and I was thankful we did not go into debt for a new one.
Which leads me to the next point:
4. Save up for the Remodel
Two reasons you will want to do this as much as possible:
One, you will be SO thankful you are not in debt once the renovation is done. You can enjoy the finished product so much the more.
Second, if you are putting everything on credit, you will spend more than you planned. It’s just the way it is. Credit can often become a dark hole that you keep putting more and more things into and before you know it, you have racked up some impressive debt.
But, if you only use your allotted savings then you will make your design work inside your budget and will be the happier for it. With that in mind, always budget more than you planned. The average is 20% more. Once you start tearing down walls or even if you are just doing some cosmetic work, there is always something you did not account for or things that can go wrong or things that are worse than you expected. Planning for this will help you out tremendously.
5. Plan for a Longer Renovation
I had a starry-eyed belief when we moved into our new home that I could tackle all the painting (kitchen cabinets included), remove the carpet and handle a few other things, in the five days we were given before we had to move our things in. So, you can imagine the disappointment I felt when I sat on my new living room floor that first night, paint brush in hand, struggling to keep back the tears because I only managed to get one wall painted that first day. I had bitten off way more than I could chew.
The walls did get painted, but it took a crew of people and several days. (I did not realize the walls were covered in wall paper that had been painted over. That took days to pull off.) Then the carpet was a nightmare. It was only on the stairs but it was riddled with staples. It took well over 30+ hours for four people to pull them all. Not even joking.
6. Contain the Project
It’s crazy how dusty things get during a renovation. Wherever you are working, try to keep the room closed off from the rest of the house as much as possible. There is nothing more frustrating than dusting and cleaning 24/7 during a renovation. The less you have to do the better.
If containing the work is proving to be a problem, designate one room in your home that is free of storage from the other rooms and dust from the project. Having a place to escape when the mess is overwhelming can save your sanity.
7. Update the Bones
What I mean is, if you are doing a gut job, spend the extra money and replace the pipes or update the electrical, if need be. There is nothing more disheartening than finishing a room only to have to tear it up to replace those things later when they cause problems.
I know that spending your budget on what you don’t see is difficult, but trust me, it’s great for peace of mind and re-sell value.
8. Plan Your Layout
This is where SketchUp comes in handy. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine your space remodeled when all you see is the old layout. Using SketchUp allows you to move your walls, doors, windows, anything you need to rearrange so you can see exactly what you do and do not want in your space.
9. Consider the Materials
This is where your research comes in handy. The flooring you absolutely adore in the store may not hold up well to moisture in the bathroom. Or traffic in the halls. You need to know what the materials can do before putting time and money into them.
I had my heart set on a particular flooring in our forever home but after some research, I realized that beautiful look would not hold up well and would need to be replaced in five years. Added time and money was not something I was willing to compromise on.
Also, realize cost should not always be a factor. I love bargains but when I tried Behr paint for the first time, I knew the extra money spent not only saved me time (so much time!) but it actually equaled out to the same amount I would have spent on double the cans of the cheap stuff.
On the reverse of this advice, you can easily buy generic brands and get the same quality items for less. You just need to do a bit of research to see if it’s worth it. Most times, it will be.
Another thing to consider, when you are choosing your materials, make sure to pick stationary pieces that are classic. You might have eclectic taste, but should you need to sell your home for whatever reason, your style might make your home harder to sell. Your canvas should be classic, from there you can add your own flair with items that are easily removed.
One last thing, do not forget to budget for tools which can eat up quite a chunk of change. Consider renting if you do not plan to use them again in the future.
10. Keep Receipts
Keeping all your receipts will save you a headache later if you need to return something or wish to claim a tax deduction later. This is a simple tip but an important one.
11. Test Everything
When we remodeled our upstairs bath in our former home, I had it in my head how I wanted it to look. But, once everything was picked out and the renovation completed, I realized I wasn’t super fond of the paint color. In fact, the more I looked at it, the more I realized I didn’t like the color next to the tile at all. It wasn’t horrible, just not something I would choose again. I’m not even going to go into the paint choice for our house. 🙁
All that to say, there are plenty of paint samples you can test on your walls to see if you really like them. Make sure you test the color in the different lights of the room (sunrise, sunset, artificial lighting).
Same goes with flooring. I’m so glad we took home samples and tried them beside the original wood floors we were keeping and against the stairs recently stained.
If we had gone with my original choice, I would have been very unhappy. Turns out, the one we settled on not only complemented the other wood colors nicely but it was also the cheapest of our choices. 🙂
12. DIY is not Always the Answer
Yes, this is a post about DIY. But sometimes, it is more cost-effective to hire some things out. And then there are some things that should be done by a professional.
My hubby is a jack-of-all-trades but there are two things he leaves to the professionals: plumbing and electrical. That doesn’t mean he won’t work along the professional to learn what he can. In fact, Steve has learned so much, he actually runs all the wiring for our electrician so that all that is left to do is finish hooking everything up and make sure it works.
I even learned how to wire canned lighting when we worked on our basement. Once my husband saw that I could do it, he stuck me with wiring all 17 of them. lol I have to say, I was pretty proud to see every one of them turn on for our electrician. 🙂
Last but not least, when you are in the market for a contractor, make sure you do your research! Word of mouth is always good; references from people you know or projects you have seen with your own eyes will put your mind at ease and save you from a nightmare situation later on.
What are some of your favorite DIY projects? I’d love to see your pictures in the comments!