5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My DIY Renovation

Home DIY Renovation

If you’ve spent any time watching HGTV, you’ve likely dreamed of a DIY renovation. Perhaps you’re looking at a house that’s in pretty good shape structurally but needs a cosmetic overhaul. There’s nothing a little elbow grease can’t tackle, right? Piece of cake.

If you’re considering taking a DIY approach to a home renovation, then chances are you’ve crunched the numbers, researched your plans, and have a pretty good idea of what’s ahead of you. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans: they often go awry!  Unfortunately, some lessons can only be learned the hard way. Here are five things you’ll be glad you accepted before starting a DIY renovation.

1. It’s Going to Take Longer Than Expected

Unless you’re a professional with specific expertise in the project you’re about to undertake, expect to face a learning curve. Whether you’re putting up wallpaper or ripping out a wall, it’s probably going to take you longer than you think.

When I bought my first house, the first thing I did after closing was rip out the existing carpeting to install hardwood flooring. My plan was to spend a few hours on carpet removal, and then spend four days laying the flooring. I had a tight timeline because I wanted to have this done before moving the furniture in.

Unfortunately, removing the baseboards took twice as long as expected, and they didn’t come off smoothly. And I seriously misjudged how long it would take to install hardwood flooring! So not only was the entire project delayed, but I ended up having to spend an extra weekend measuring, cutting, and fitting new baseboards after the flooring was finally down.

2. It’s Going to Be More Expensive Than You Expect

No matter what kind of renovation you’re taking on, and how prepared you think you are, things will go wrong. And when they do, you’ll probably need to buy more things. It’s easy to misjudge how much tape you’ll need to cover trim and baseboards before you paint; if you forget to clean a brush, you’ll need to buy a new one; and there’s nothing worse than getting most of the way through your second coat, just to discover you need just a little more paint. These kinds of small expenses here and there can really add up.

For bigger projects, you’ll definitely want to leave room for more expensive errors and miscalculations. Sometimes you can prepare by purchasing a little more material than you think you’ll need. But you may not be able to anticipate the extra tools, materials, and repairs you’ll need to pay for along the way. Leave room in your budget for an extra 20 percent, just to be safe.

3. Take Advantage of Samples

From tile and hardwood flooring, to paint and fabric, samples are available just about anywhere you shop. Paint colors may look very different under the fluorescent overhead lights of the store than they will on the walls of your home. Tile patterns can look much different while you’re holding it on the store than it will on the floor or backsplash of your kitchen.

When I first moved into my house, I chose a beautiful taupe for the walls of the entire downstairs. About half way through painting the first room, I started to notice that the paint looked awfully purple, but I figured that it would get better as it dried, so I kept going. By the time I had finished the first coat, I was still worried, but I assumed that it just needed a second coat. When I woke up the next day, the entire first floor of my home was undeniably lilac. I could have saved a lot of time, money, and frustration by just taking the sample home to see how it looked in the right light.

4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

This doesn’t need a long explanation, but it’s worth a reminder. If you’re cutting something—anything—check and double-check your measurements before you cut. Once you’ve cut a piece material too short, you can’t undo it. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve made the mistake of not double-checking my measurements. Now I have quite an impressive scrap pile.

5. They’re Called Professionals for a Reason

Last, but not least, be realistic about what you should do yourself and what you should leave to the professionals. It’s tempting to save money on labor by rolling up your sleeves and doing the work yourself—but if it takes you a week and a lot of wasted materials to do a job that a professional could have finished efficiently in just a day, then how much money are you really saving?

In addition to technical proficiency, professionals often carry insurance that covers damage to materials. For instance, hiring a licensed, insured contractor to install granite countertops means that if the countertop breaks in transport or during installation, you’re not responsible for the replacement.  That’s worth the stress you’ll save, even if nothing goes wrong.

DIY home renovations can be incredibly gratifying—there’s nothing like looking around and seeing the final product of your own hard work. But they can also be incredibly stressful. Do the best you can to prepare, but be ready to roll with the punches. Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made!

Robert Kociecki, a real estate guru with over 15 years of experience, serves as Senior Vice President of Property Management and Renovation at Altisource. Altisource and its affiliates provide real estate services for consumers and investors. Visit Owners.com, where home buying and selling is made simple.


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