6 Tips for DIY Renovators

If you’re taking on a new DIY renovation project, we have a 6 tips that will help make your experience a great one. Our goal is to help you keep your excitement for DIY alive throughout the whole process, even after you’re finished.

DIY is a great way to build sweat equity and your self-confidence. After you tackle that first project, big or small, the courage you gain in the process inspires you to dream bigger and to do more. Speaking from experience, once you catch that bug, there is no turning back.

A Little Background

As seasoned DIYers, Nick and I have made our fair share of mistakes. What’s important is that we learned from them and now every project we undertake is easier because of those experiences. We want to share what we’ve learned with you so that you can hit the ground running on your project.

Tip #1: Visualization

Have a vision for the finished product. This may seem simple, but it really is critical to any DIY project. If you know what you want, then it eliminates the hours of dithering that occur when you don’t. Can you tell we’ve been there before? 🙂

Whenever we do a project, we browse Houzz and Pinterest for ideas and formulate a picture in our minds of how we want the end product to look. This removes the uncertainty from the equation and we can move forward with a single, unified idea.

If you do not have an exact vision in mind, then pick a few key words that describe the look you want to achieve. Basically, it helps if you create a “brand” or “theme” for your project. For our beach house remodel, our theme was light, bright and beachy. Everything we chose for our home followed along that theme. There wasn’t a rigid picture in our minds, but we had a definite path to follow. Picking a few key words can really help clarify your goals and ensure that the final product is what you wanted.

Tip #2: Buy Everything You Need BEFORE You Start Your Project

I cannot stress the importance of this tip enough! Our first major renovation project was to build a 450 square foot deck off the back of our house in Orangevale, CA. This deck was a massive undertaking, especially since it stood 8 feet off the ground. Unfortunately, we made this mistake constantly during the course of the project. Every day we worked on the deck, we had to run out to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace or a local lumber company to get more supplies. It was a huge waste of time and increased our project timeline substantially.

Do not make the same mistake we did! Write down a list of supplies you need to complete your project, validate it against other sources (You Tube, Pinterest, etc) and have all of those essential tools with you BEFORE you start working. It also helps if you arrange them in an easily accessible area. It will save you loads of time spent looking for them if  you do.

Helpful Hint for Saving Money

This does not mean that you have to buy everything you need all at one time. Instead, you can slowly acquire the supplies you need for a project over time before your start. We are actually doing that right now for our guest bathroom and have been for about 3 months. We find that this method helps spread the cost of the renovation and is basically like a forced savings for your next DIY project.

Tip #3: Do Your Research

Nick is particularly good at this and we’ve found some great resources as a result. These are the methods we use most often:

  • To the You Tubes!
  • Pinterest it Up
  • Leverage Your Personal Network

There is one You Tube channel that we’ve found particularly helpful, especially since he has so many different projects that we’ve done already on his channel. His name is Shannon and his channel is called HouseImprovements. We like this particular channel because he always explains everything VERY thoroughly. We usually take a look at his videos before we decide to take on a project. This helps us get a very solid picture of what’s entailed before we start.

Pinterest is great for the smaller, more artsy or wood-working projects. We always look here before we build or design anything. It helps us round out our ideas and make sure we have thought of everything.

Over time, we have developed a pretty solid network of friends and acquaintances who DIY as well. We also have a couple of contractor friends who help us out when we need advice. It’s always helpful to ask someone who’s done your project before and can help give you tips and ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask! Most of your fellow DIYers are just dying for an excuse to talk about anyone’s next project!

Tip #4: Do a Test Run

Sometimes, you’re just not sure if what you want to do is going to look good. We’ve all been there! We are only human after all. There is one sure fire way to make sure that your project turns out beautifully and that is to test anything you’re uncomfortable doing before you actually do it.

For us, this discomfort occurred when we started to texture our ceilings and patch our walls. Rather than going for it and texturing the whole ceiling, we tested our method on a small scrap of drywall and realized that we sucked at texturing. So, we called a professional. 🙂 It was good to know that this was not our cup of tea before we re-textured all of our ceilings and then had to scrape it all back down.

We also started with one small section of mudding on our wall. That helped us ensure that we were doing it properly before we started on the other 10 patches that needed work. Starting small and doing a dry run on something that isn’t important to you or permanent, will help ensure that you love your final product.

Tip #5: Keep a Clean Work Space

We are not suggesting that everything needs to pristine by any means. If you’re renovating, your house will be dirty, that’s just the truth for most projects. That being said, you should definitely make an effort to keep your work space clear of debris and unused equipment. I am totally guilty of this, but do not walk by the same obstacle 10 times before you pick it up! It never ends well…trust me…I know these things :-). If you follow this tip, it will limit the opportunity for injury and help regulate the risk of cuts and other frustrating mishaps along the way.

Tip #6: Know Your Limits

This one is pretty standard, but it is definitely a requirement for all DIY enthusiasts. Sometimes, it’s just better to call a professional and it’s important to know when that time arrives. We like to use Home Advisor, if you don’t have a good contact for what you need done. The reviews and certifications are super helpful to know you’re getting a good contractor.

There are two rules that will help you judge when it’s time to call a pro from a safety standpoint:

  1. You have no experience with the project you are trying to accomplish

AND

  1. You don’t have the foundational knowledge required to do the project

Nick and I have done plenty of projects without ever doing that exact project before. But what you do need in your toolbox are the skills to do the job. That foundational skill-set is what will get you through the project successfully. This is especially important if the project you are trying to accomplish can be dangerous. While we are big advocates of DIY, we do not recommend undertaking a job that can cause injury due to a lack of experience.

Another piece of advice if you do call a pro, watch what they do and ask questions. Most of them are happy to discuss what they are doing as long as you aren’t impeding their work. We had a closet installed earlier last year and we watched while the handy-man built a wall. We now know how to add onto a wall, which is critical for our kitchen expansion project…start date TBD.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our tips for new DIYers. Welcome to the club and we hope that your next renovation project turns out wonderful! As always, if you have any questions about your current DIY project, feel free to ask us. We’ll answer what we can and get you any resources we have for what we can’t. Also, don’t be discouraged if things go a little sideways while you’re working on your project. It happens to everyone! You are not alone! Just remember that almost anything can be fixed and that there are a lot of resources out there to help you.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out our other DIY Renovation posts: Beach House Renovation Story, How to Remodel Your Kitchen for $1,000and White-Wash a Stone or Brick Fireplace.

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