On August 2, 2011, I became the proud owner of a 70 year old two-story home. Since it was a foreclosed property, I was able to pick it up for the cheap price of $75,000, but it definitely needed some work. And, in order to save money, I was convinced that I could do all of the work myself. It was going to be challenging, but I was ready to get dirty and turn this house into a priceless gem!
The first question you might be asking is, “How handy are you? Sounds like you really know what you’re doing.” Not at all! In fact, I owned absolutely no tools except for a hammer and pliers from my little wussy-boy “tool-box” (if you could even call it that). I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Luckily though, I had friends that did, and they were willing to lend a helping hand.
I put the key in the lock, turned the key, and the door swung open. This house was mine. Ahhh, what a great feeling! The first step? Write down everything that I needed to renovate before I moved in. After walking through the entire house and continuously putting my pen to the pad of paper, here was the outcome of my list:
- Refinish all of the hardwood floors (1,100 square feet)
- Install new, larger doors in the back entrance and porch entrance
- Tear down all plaster in the dining room, repair leak, and install new drywall
- Tile the kitchen, hallway, and half bath
- New wainscoting in the half-bath, new vanity, mirror, lighting, and towel rack
- Redo entire upstairs full bath – tile floor, new vanity, new mirror, rewire lighting, new tile in the shower (rip out old shower surround)
- Tear out all carpet and remove staples to prepare for hardwood refinishing
- New baseboard trim everywhere, new doorway trim
- Remove all wallpaper and paint all rooms
So guess how long I estimated this would take. With all of my wisdom and experience (remember, I had none…), I figured it would take about a month before I call it home, move in, and enjoy life. Ha! I was way off. By Day 11, I was still peeling wallpaper off the walls. The entire project took just over a year to completely finish.
What Did I Learn Along The Way?
I learned so much about myself, my abilities, and my priorities during this remodel. Specifically though, here are the main things I would advise others to think about before they tackle a large DIY project like this.
1) Be Sure Somebody Knows What They’re Doing – I told you that I had absolutely no knowledge about remodeling a house myself, but luckily I had a few friends that did. And, they were willing to help me for many hours while I was learning all of the tips and tricks of laying tile, transferring the load of various load-bearing walls, and drywalling my dining room. With friends that have this knowledge though (and the tools to do it), any job is possible.
2) Are You Really Saving Money? – Do you have a side business that earns an income? If so, then you have to figure out if you’re actually losing money to redo your house yourself. For me, I ran a home business, and I figured I could easily make $25 an hour doing that. So, was it worth it for me to do all of my renovations myself? Maybe you’re in the same boat. You may want to calculate what your spare time is actually worth.
3) Improve the Value and Mold it to Your Liking – The greatest thing about remodeling your home is that you can make it exactly what you want it to be! If you think the kitchen should be more open, then tear down part of the wall and make it more open! Plus, by doing things cheaply yourself, most often, you are increasing the value of the house by more than what it costs you to make the change.
4) When In Doubt, Check Online – There are so many knowledgeable DIY sources online, not to mention the millions of YouTube instructional videos, that even if you have no clue about how to do something, you can typically find the answer in minutes.
If you’re considering a DIY project, start writing a list of what you think you might need. Ask a few knowledgeable people about how they would do it and just get started. Sure, you might need to learn a few things along the way, but with the help of the internet and a little common sense, your project will turn out just fine!