DIY Renovations: A Mother’s Survival Guide


We are now almost to month ten of the renovations on our new home, and while we may not be close to finished, we have learned some valuable lessons.



Lesson 1: It takes a village.


From sweat equity to child wrangling, a good friend/family team to help out is essential. In the month and a half that we had our house prior to move-in day (pre-COVID), we were fortunate enough to have our families to help out with the big things. On our to-do list was replacing around 1200 sq. ft. of carpeting and old tile with new wood flooring and tile.  We also planned to paint all of the walls, doors and trim in our house. Our families chipped in to clean, paint, rip, jackhammer, lay floor and tile, get a garage full of ripped out flooring into a dumpster, switch out light switches and vent covers, and watch our then three-month-old while mom pitched in in-between feedings. In no way, shape, or form would we be where we are now with progress without their help. Because of their help, we got a majority of our big projects done before moving in.


Lesson 2: If you need any tradespeople, book them early.


As rookie renovators and homeowners, we assumed getting tradespeople to come to do a job would be like calling a repairman or plumber. You call, and in a couple of days or so, they are there. Wrong. Certain tradespeople are in high demand now. It took us five months to get a carpenter to replace subflooring and a sliding glass door, and we are going on month four of waiting to have our siding painted. As soon as you decide you are going to do your own renovations, sit down and determine what you need someone else to do for you and get those people hired ASAP, because most of the good ones are going to have lengthy waiting lists.


Lesson 3: Get the big tasks done and then live in your space for a bit before making more design-driven decisions.


I usually like everything to be unpacked and settled within the first week of moving into a new place. Due to COVID, most of the furniture we wanted to get for our home was backordered. As nerve-racking as this was for me, it was actually a blessing in disguise.


After living in our home for a few months, we realized many things we chose did not work with how we wanted to live in the house. The couch we wanted for our living room and the layout we were thinking of were not conducive to how we wanted to live in that space. So, we changed both the look and the layout with different furniture, and now we love it.


In our en suite bathroom, I was really looking forward to a beautiful large free-standing tub. However, living with it, we realized how much my son liked taking baths in our 90’s jetted tub, and thinking about my own childhood and how excited I would be to go to a hotel with a jetted tub, we decided that instead of renovating the bathroom, we would leave the bathroom as-is. and just update it with a mini makeover to last us a few years. That way, once my son is older, he can experience the fun of the jetted tub as dated as it is. The biggest change was realizing that having an area where we could watch our son play while we cooked was a better use of space than a formal dining area.



Lesson 4: Realize that it takes time, and everything doesn’t have to be done at once.


Almost ten months into our renovations, we are still living with only half-finished projects, namely our stairs that have had the carpet ripped up, but still haven’t gotten the wooden stairs installed. We also limewashed our fireplace but still need to replace the mantle to match. We need to paint our kitchen cabinets, and when it’s ok to have people in the house, we’ll finally update our counters.


At some point when our lives are less hectic we will get those tasks done, but for now, what’s most important is making perfect memories in our imperfect house.