I’ve had this post planned for awhile now (adding bits of knowledge over the past few months), but thought it was finally time to hit publish, offer some encouragement, and solid advice for those beginning a renovation, who are planning to take the DIY approach. With a decade of experience under our belt, these are the pieces of advice I wish someone would’ve given Emmett & myself before dipping our feet into the home renovating pool. Click through for my best advice for novice renovators & determined home DIYers. Consider this your pep talk!
First- a bit about our background… Emmett & I have renovated a few of our own homes, but we also grew up in “handy” construction families. As teenagers (we’re high school sweethearts), we helped our parents build houses, barns, decks, fences, paint, power wash, and maintain their property. We both grew up on farms. Anyway, we started learning about these things at a younger age than most. One of the first times I spent quality time with Emmett’s parents was helping them drywall. That’s right- I was 16 years old, taping and mudding the drywall at my high school boyfriend’s house. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was ready to lend a helping hand and had a good attitude. Our first home was a foreclosure and it was totally wrecked- we gutted the entire house. My stepdad offered to teach Emmett how to totally rework plumbing and electrical (he used to own his own construction company). Emmett was eager to learn and appreciative of the help. All of this to say- if you have a good attitude, are willing to learn, and aren’t afraid of a little work, no matter what age you are- you are 100% capable of renovating and tackling home improvement DIY projects. Ready for my advice?
#1 // Attitude. Even if you’ve never tackled a project like this and don’t have a clue what you’re doing…. I’m here to tell you this: you ARE capable. You CAN do it. You WILL learn, and it will be something you’re incredibly proud of, once it’s completed. If you’re willing to learn, try your hardest, and aren’t afraid of a little elbow grease, you’ll figure it out and make it happen. I’ve been intimidated by projects in the past and wish I would’ve had someone to give me a little pep talk because attitude makes all the difference.
#2 // Start. Remember, everyone starts somewhere. To continue learning, building your home improvement skills, and creating the home you envision, you just have to begin. I know it can sometimes seem daunting, but instead of focusing on how you might mess up, think of the beautiful end result and use lessons learned along the way to improve and expand your skillset for the next project. Instead of thinking of your home as an entire remodel you have to tackle, take each project one at a time and focus on the task at hand.
#3 // Patience. Like most good things, renovations take a LOT of time and money. Taking it slow isn’t a negative thing. Remember- your dream home doesn’t happen over night and part of the fun is making it your own over time. I’d encourage you to live with the imperfections, brainstorm what you’d like to change, and truly consider multiple ways to make it happen. The best things are usually worth waiting for, so remember to be patient!
#4 // Compromise. Think of compromise as a creative opportunity – whether it’s the budget, the design plan, your significant other’s perspective, limited resources, etc… whatever you’re compromising, instead of feeling defeated- try to think of this as an opportunity to get creative and come up with a better solution. Sometimes limited resources, budget, and parameters force us to think more creatively, and often times the alternative is even better than the original plan. Did you know our curvy range hood, pictured below, was the result of a compromise and wasn’t at all what I had initially designed? Now I can’t imagine our kitchen without it.
#5 // Practice. Is your neighbor tackling a project? Do your parents need an extra hand? Is an experienced DIY friend working on a project? Lend a helping hand and practice. I learn best by doing. Watching someone in person and physically helping is the best way to improve your renovating skills and get more comfortable. It’s also an awesome way to help your friends, family, and community. Odds are- when you’re tackling your own project, you’ll have extra hands ready and willing to help. We have incredible friends and family who are always willing to show up and help… it really makes a difference!
#6 // Research. Before beginning your project, take the time to learn and research. In the age of the internet and social media, you can easily find thousands of resources in a matter of minutes. Just like studying before a quiz, take the time to learn and prepare yourself prior to diving in. Your project will go much more smoothly. Even though I’d consider Emmett & I professionals at this point, we still reference plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials. Never stop learning! Our previous laundry room gave us many headaches and we spent hours researching how to bend crown moulding and work with millwork at odd angles. There are so many free resources at your disposal.
#7 // Persist. Some projects fail or don’t turn out exactly as expected… it happens. This is just part of renovating. We’ve had so many situations where we had to start completely over or go back to the drawing board. Things WILL go wrong. You’ll mess up. The bottom line? Keep trying. Step away from the project and come back with a fresh perspective and a good attitude. Be persistent until you get things right. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a total loss because you learned something… and hopefully you won’t make that same mistake twice moving forward.
#8 // Pivot. As a type-A individual, learning to let go of control and a strict schedule when renovating was really tough for me. When renovating or completing construction projects, the unexpected ALWAYS happens. The project will cost more than you expect, the timeline always goes longer, and sometimes the house has other plans in store. Learning to pivot has been key. By loosening the reins, it gives me more freedom to think of the big picture and focus on what I can do in the present.
#9 // Limit. There comes a time when you learn your limits. Knowing when to hire a professional is very important when renovating. This can save you time, money, stress, and anxiety in the long run. Try not to look at hiring help as a downfall, but rather an opportunity to make your home the best it can be (without the added stress). Emmett and I now know which projects we prefer to hire professionals for… a few include: HVAC work (like the new furnace and duct work hidden behind the doors shown below in our old hallway), installing & replacing windows, exterior masonry, roofing, etc.
#10 // Laugh. Renovating seems so serious, but I want to remind you to laugh a little. Enjoy the process! Smile. Memories are being made and you’re working toward a beautiful home to enjoy for years to come. For us, in addition to creating a home we love and are proud of, the thing that means the most to me are the memories. There were moments I cried, bled, worked in the extreme cold, sweat through my clothes, worked on holidays, had sore muscles, and every part of me wanted to give up and quit. There have been epic fails, money lost, and hours spent on projects that just didn’t turn out, but you know what? Choosing to laugh in those moments has created memories I will never forget. I vividly remember Emmett & I sitting in the bathtub, pictured below (which was in the living room at the time because we had yet to install it) in our first house. We were bundled up, had no heat, no running water, it was the dead of winter, and we ate sandwiches sitting there in the bathtub together, in the living room… because we had no furniture. In those type of moments, I remember thinking- this absolutely sucks, but now it’s something we laugh about and say, “Remember that one time?!”
There you have it! 10 words of wisdom for my fellow renovators, project seekers, and DIYers. I hope these will be helpful, encouraging, and provide a good reminder that so much good comes from the process. From learning and creating a beautiful home to making memories and lending a helping hand, I applaud you all for giving it your best! I hope my blog is and will continue to be a good resource for you. As always, let me know if you have thoughts or questions in the comment section below.
I’d love to hear your favorite home improvement memory!