Otherwise titled: How to survive a home renovation
Raise your hand if any part of this is you.
We are all armchair experts, but now your house is in shambles, you are eating fast food for the 20th time this week, and suddenly things are not looking so sunny.
As week two of the One Room Challenge draws to a close my own kitchen renovation has spread across the house and nothing that is happening at this point is pretty…at all. Basically, I sympathize with Chip here:
Pretty colors and careful styling are far in the future at this point – perhaps farther than you imagined. Most of us are clever enough to figure out that reality tv is about as far from reality as it gets, but for many, HTGV is also the main introduction to renovating. So as I recap this week of the ORC it seems a good time to share some pointers for surviving (and thriving!) through your own home renovation.
1. Put down the sledgehammer
Contrary to what DIY shows like to portray, the first step of any renovation is not to use a sledgehammer on your cabinetry. You might actually – gasp! – save them!
If you do decide to replace your cabinetry, simply unscrew them from the wall and take them to Restore or the like. It’s better for the earth, and it’s a tax credit.
(Also, really, it’s that simple. Just unscrew them. Don’t even get me started on how much it bothers me when they show people trying to break them down by hitting them.)
2. No, really, put down the sledgehammer!
Tearing down walls is fun, yes. But walls contain things like electrical wiring, and you need to know which way it is running and what else might be in the wall before going all ninja on it.
3. There are always solutions.
I love you, DIY tv, but you really need to put down the drama and back away slowly. Suspenseful music and over the top reactions may be great for ratings, but they don’t fix homes. When things happen – and they do – try to come up with two or three scenarios for how it might be fixed. My husband and I renovate together, and we find that the best solution is usually the third one we come up with. Be a problem solver, not a diva.
Also, be flexible. The great thing about DIY is that you can change it up. Our plan was to change the door at the end of this kitchen out for a cool farmhouse door I restored.
…But then we went to shift that doorway to the center of the space, and suddenly I realized it looked so good wide open. So we opened it up further and made it a larger opening with no door. And then my husband looked at it and said, “Hey, let’s add beams.” So in the next couple of weeks we will be adding some rough hewn beams to it that will be as crazy awesome as they are spontaneous.
Just assume you will spend an ungodly amount of time dusting. Because no matter how hard you try, it will be everywhere. Personally, I try to keep my home as clean as is reasonably possible during a renovation. It helps me feel more in control of the situation, helps normalize things for my kids, and just helps all of it go that much smoother.
5. You can get a fairly good idea of what walls are load bearing yourself.
This stumps a lot of people. The first clue we look at is: which way are the joists running? Typically, and this is only a guideline since there are exceptions, load bearing walls run perpendicular to the joists. So if you are contemplating a layout change, start with getting a good idea of whether you can remove that wall, before pinning your hopes and dreams on taking a sledgehammer to it.
Here’s a really brief look at how to identify a load bearing wall.
6. You won’t necessarily do it all, and most certainly not in two weeks.
Home renovation shows like a big bang for their buck. They go big, and they do it quick, especially given the magic of editing. Real life likely means you have planned that kitchen renovation for years, and then labored through it for what feels like about the same amount of time. And at the end of the day, you maybe haven’t replaced everything in the entire house. That’s okay.
7. Let’s talk about flooring.
Okay, I’m pretty well in competition for president of the Carpet Haters Club, and I adore a good hardwood floor. But before you blow your budget on those beautiful hardwood floors, consider how they will be used (and abused). In our last home we replaced all of the flooring – a distasteful mix of carpet, linoleum, tile, and vinyl, with laminate.
It was awesome.
Laminate looks great, holds up to kids and dogs (ask me how I know), and is far more budget friendly.
In fact – get ready for this – we just tore out our Brazilian cherry engineered hardwood floors.
And we are replacing them with laminate.
I cannot wait to finish up our electrical and drywall work so we can get the laminate floors in and share the photos with you. We will be installing Select Surfaces luxury laminate in driftwood, and my gosh, is it going to change up the look of this home!
I am excited to have floors that stand up to the abuse we inflict upon them here, with a shop just off that hallway and kitchen, a goldendoodle who’s nails always seem to need trimming, and two young kids that are both miniature tornadoes.
8. Don’t be afraid to try
We DIY almost everything. For this renovation the only parts we are not doing are the quartz countertops and some of the electrical. Many things that cost a lot to hire out are really pretty approachable. Why not learn to tile your own backsplash? You can pick up an inexpensive Ryobi tile saw from Home Depot and use it for as long as you need pretty well less expensively than you can rent one. (I have it, and it’s great.) Check out some tutorials, and give it a go!
Don’t believe me? Here’s my almost-four year old learning to mud drywall.
We will also be installing our own flooring. The last time we did that I was three weeks away from delivering my second child. You can totally do it. Or how about painting your cabinetry. There is a lot money to be saved if you are willing to invest the time in learning to do it yourself. But, of course, don’t be afraid to ask when it is necessary!
9. Don’t choose your paint colors from your computer.
It doesn’t look the same as it does on your walls. In fact, the same wall will look different depending on the time of day and type of light hitting it. When in doubt, go with a popular color. They are popular for a reason.
Here are my go-to, never fail wall colors, all by Sherwin Williams.
Light French Gray
Pure White (trim)
Neutral colors for walls stand the test of time, are adaptable to whatever changes you make in a room, and go with every color scheme. They are like your favorite sweater. Only better.
10. Don’t forget to have fun.
Have a dance party on that open subfloor. Compete to see who can put up mud the fastest. Laugh at how ridiculous you look trying to find where you put the fridge. Renovation work is hard, and it’s long, and sometimes it’s frustrating. But it’s also exciting and educational, and a great opportunity to work together to build something lasting.
And, of course, don’t forget to take lots of pictures!