It seems like we have been in the midst of home renovations for an eternity. When my husband and I bought this house we went into the purchase knowing that we were buying a fixer upper that needed a whole lot of loving. New paint and new flooring just scratched the surface. We weren’t short on advice and were repeatedly warned to expect the unexpected when it comes to renovating an old home. Things that seem easy and inexpensive can throw you curve ball after curve ball and inevitably ended up costing more money and take more time.
My first piece of advice when going into any home renovation project: Sit down, do the math and then double everything. Especially if you are working with an older house or renovating a bathroom. We ran into issues because previous owners were do it yourselfers who didn’t “do it” well. Old wiring, old plumbing and hidden oddities are also to be expected when working with an older home. Some of our “fun” discoveries while renovating have been smoke detectors hidden inside walls, old magazines, ant nests and rotten flooring. Luckily I married a man who is handy and who’s brothers are in the construction business so there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle with a little help from them.
My second piece of advice: When in doubt hire someone who is qualified. One of the first major renovations we undertook was replacing all the old windows with new ones and insulating the basement. Two of our new windows went in where doors used to be and we wanted a sliding door on the back wall of our house which at the time was windowless. That meant taking out a section of exterior wall and siding. Now that was a nail biting experience. We knew that there was no way we could undertake such a huge job ourselves so we headed to the phone book to find a contractor.
When shopping around for a contractor it’s a very good idea to book interviews/estimates with a few in your area. Check if they are registered with the better business bureau, search online for reviews and ask for references. The one we ended up going with had a number of previous clients that we were able to call up and in one case visit. This allowed us to check out what kind of work they do, ask if they stayed within budget as well as within a reasonable time frame for getting work done. remember when hiring a contractor they are there to work for you. They will have full access to your home and you want to make that they are reputable.
Even when you find someone who you think will get the work done to your satisfaction I still strongly suggest you educate yourself and where possible check the work that is being done each step of the way. I was able to be at home for most of the work that was done and each evening before they would leave for the day I would walk around and make a quick assessment of the work they had done that day. It’s a good thing I did too, because the contractor was only going to insulate the windows on one side of the house leaving the others a possible cold zone. I caught them before the trim went up and insisted he go out and buy another 2 cans of spray foam. I can happily say that my windows now only let air in when they are open and I probably ended up saving myself a tonne in energy bills by paying attention.
Projects that are good for the first time renovator include, but certainly aren’t limited to: painting, wallpaper, laying laminate flooring or tile and kitchen back splashes. Hubby and I undertook each of these projects over long weekends even managing to mostly complete them in that time. The only thing we found more time-consuming was the laying of the laminate, since we did the entire main floor, and we did that over 2 weekends. I absolutely recommend making sure you research the correct way to undertake a project before tackling it and then don’t rush through it. It’s always better to take and extra hour or day to get it done right then to rush through and make mistakes which could end up costing you more money.
Click through to see my bathroom before and after and my kitchen renovations that are still in progress. All that is left now is painting and I promise to post an after picture once we are all done. It’s the last of our major renovations of this house. I’ll also add that having a good, strong marriage is a very good idea before undertaking such a big project. Living in a construction zone, with kids and dealing with the time commitment, and cost can take a toll on even the most mild-mannered DIY’er. I also strongly suggest finishing one project before jumping into a second. There really is nothing worse than having two or more half completed projects and not seeing anything really getting done.
DIY home renovations don’t have to be hard and can even turn into something fun. There certainly is a feeling of accomplishment knowing that you did it yourself. Just remember these key things: Know your limitations, take your time, budget wisely and when in doubt call in help.
*Disclosure – I’m excited to share that I’ve been selected as one of the Summer 2011 recipients for a $250 Mom Central Canada Blogger Grant! This post is the idea that got me that grant. If you haven’t signed up with Mom Central Canada as a blogger or as a parent (they take Dad’s too) I highly recommend you do. Not only do they offer product testing opportunities and compensation for blog reviews they also are some of the most supportive and genuine people I have been privileged to work with. Thank you to the judges Laura Johnston, President of Fathom Communications and Adria MacKenzie, Media Relations Manager at General Motors Canada. I hope you enjoyed this post.