Thursday, April 7, 2011

10 Reasons to Renovate (and 10 reasons not to...)

Over the past few years we have gotten a lot of different responses from people as we talked about our renovation. Some people could relate because they had done similar renovations; some people thought we were crazy and had taken on too much of a challenge; and some people thought what we were doing sounded dreamy and told us they wished they were doing something similar. A DIY project here and there can be fun or frustrating for anyone but there is a LOT to consider if you are thinking of doing a large-scale whole-house overhaul like the one we did. For that reason I thought I would put things in perspective by sharing my thoughts on reasons to (or not to) renovate.

Reasons to Renovate:

1. Interior design is your passionI use the term "interior design" here because projects like this go beyond simple decorating. In a renovation you need to be comfortable with picking out every element (flooring, doors, hardware, light fixtures,...) that goes into your house or know someone who is comfortable with those decisions. If you are passionate about all of the elements that go into your home, this can be your dream project. As a child I loved making decorating decisions for my room and I would take months to find the perfect bedding or lamp. As I got older I wanted to tackle larger and larger projects and by the time we got to our house remodel I was ecstatic to be able to make every design choice (with my husband) for our home. You don't have to be a pro or be the best at decorating but you do need to be passionate.

2. Interior design is your hobby. As a DIY renovation of this scale will take up most of your time and a lot of your money, it really helps if renovation is your hobby. If boating is your hobby and passion you will most likely spend your time stripping old hardwood floors dreaming about being on your boat and wondering why you began this task. If, while you are stripping your floors, you are dreaming about how the finished product will look and how fun it will be to put up new baseboards, your renovation will bring you a lot of joy.

3. You have the time. While we were renovating our house we both worked full time, my husband was in grad school (online), we were youth group leaders at our church, and I sang on the worship team at church. We were pretty busy but we made sure we dedicated our Friday nights, Saturdays, Sunday afternoons, and any spare time we could find to working on the house. When we began our renovation we hadn't been out of college long and we were used to juggling a lot of responsibilities and having little down time so it wasn't a hard transition. Be realistic with your schedule and if you feel you have enough time and will enjoy working on your home, go for it!

4. You have the money. Luckily for us, the same day we closed on our home I received a job offer to be an administrative assistant. We decided that my paycheck would be used solely for home renovation since our eventual plan was for me to stay home with our kids and wanted to learn to live on my husband's salary for everyday life. After a year at my job I began working as a texture artist on computer models in the same company and worked for another year in that position. I was blessed to have a day job that I enjoyed and that provided the funding for my nights/weekend job at home. Before anyone goes out to get a job to fund a renovation I do want to say that, while this idea may sound ideal and fun, it basically means that you will be working all the time and can be very tiring.

5. You have a supportive spouse/significant other. I can't emphasize this one enough. If you are going to be ripping into your home it is very important that anyone else who lives in the home is on board. I was blessed in having a husband who loves working with his hands and had the same excitement about rebuilding our home that I did. In the best of situations your significant other can be your partner in crime. At the very least make sure you have their consent.

6. You have a good network of support. Our renovation would have been much more daunting and difficult it were not for the help of our friends. This does not mean that you should depend on your friends and family to accomplish your renovation. First and foremost you must realize that you made the decision to begin the process and that it is your responsibility (and no one else's) to work on your house. Planning a renovation with the expectation of others partnering with your project is irresponsible and probably unrealistic. However, loving and supportive friends and family who will help you in a bind are invaluable. When we were renovating our bathroom there was a three week gap between when we left our apartment and when we finished our bathroom. It was important to us to renovate that room first since there was only one bathroom and we would need to be able to use it to live in the house. Our best friends opened up their home to us and allowed us to stay with them in that transition period and I will be forever grateful. They also gave us names of contractors who eventually did some tile and trim work for us. Another one of our friends helped us hang drywall when I was pregnant. In return we helped him and his wife lay tile in their kitchen. Dave's dad helped him fix the floor joists in the living room when I was pregnant and also helped him finish putting the hardwoods in the dining room when I was in hospital with our baby. We also had a friend who was a handyman who we could hire for some jobs and who we constantly bounced construction ideas off of. Without this help from friends and family we would have had a much more difficult time.

7. You have a lot of patience (or feel the need for it to be tested). Renovation takes a lot of time. We learned that most projects take at least twice as long as we planned and were generally twice as expensive as we anticipated. Sometimes jobs you think will take an hour end up taking two weeks. Never underestimate your ability to break something or cause a major catastrophe that will take weeks to clean up. Your renovation may take much longer than you anticipate so going into it with a patient attitude knowing that there will be an end will make you much more content along the way.

8. You are not easily frustrated. Many things can become frustrating during a renovation. Take a deep breathe, keep everything in perspective, and things will eventually be ok.

9. You are willing and able to put in a lot of labor. Renovation involves all kinds of labor and if you enjoy working with your hands, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience! My husband works on a computer all day at his job and he loves coming home and actually touching the project he has in front of him. It is a great outlet for those who love to see a real and finished product before them.

10. You've found "the one". If you have found the house of your dreams, you possess the nine things above, and you have a vision for it, go for it! There is nothing like falling in love with a house and bringing it back to life!

Reasons not to Renovate:

1. Decorating/design is only a passing interest. With a large-scale renovation you are in for the long haul. If you have the habit of switching hobbies/interests often or going through phases a large scale remodel may become more burdensome than fun. It will require a lot of commitment and a lasting love of design will be a powerful tool to keep you on track.

2. You have other hobbies that take up significant time or money and cannot be delayed until after the renovation. Your renovation will most likely take up most of your free time and if you are willing to dedicate only a small part of your free time, it will take forever. If there are other hobbies that take a lot of financial backing, you will probably need to divert those funds to your renovation unless you can afford both.

3. You don't really have the time. This is a big one. A lot of people think they have the time to renovate until reality sets in. If you have small children I would not recommend taking on large-scale projects. We now have a toddler and I can't imagine trying to accomplish the same work with her in the picture. Unless you have people who can watch your children while you work and you are able to make your home child safe when they are home, I wouldn't recommend this type of project.

4. You don't have enough money to make mistakes/weather DIY disasters. If your budget is incredibly tight, stick to small projects that won't present the financial burdens that an overhaul can bring. Dealing with houses over ten years old presents all sorts of possible money draining issues: roof issues, water heater problems, HVAC problems,... Dealing with an older home comes with even more possible issues: old wiring, lack of grounded outlets,  corroded plumbing, lack of insulation, drafty windows, rotten floor joists/beams, foundation problems,... Before deciding to purchase an older home be realistic about these issues. If you have a fuse box/old wiring, no grounded outlets, and old plumbing, updating the house will be very costly if you are not comfortable re-wiring and re-plumbing your own home. In many areas, once you start a renovation, you must bring it up to code using the current standards. We chose to avoid any homes with foundation issues when we were looking because of the huge costs associated with fixing those.

5. Your significant other is not on board. Hmmm...that's pretty self-explanatory I guess :-)

6. You don't have friends or family who can support you. While I don't think you should depend on others for most of the work on your house, we all run into issues where we need help. If a pipe bursts and floods your home, you will need somewhere to stay and most likely a few extra helping hands to get things back to normal.

7. You have commitment issues. If you have a hard time finishing what you start, this is not for you. Projects take time, patience, and endurance. You must be able to carry on when the new wears off and reality sets in even though it can be discouraging at times.

8. You become overwhelmed by large scale projects or by things going wrong. If living in less than ideal conditions overwhelms you, this is probably not a good idea. My mom couldn't fathom how we could live in the state our house was in for so long. If you are the type of person who needs your space to be completely clean and together by the time you go to bed, this will be a nightmare for you. During a renovation you have to make up your mind that it will be ok if your house is in disarray until your projects are finished. In addition, there will be DIY disasters and times where it seems like nothing is going right. Being able to put things in perspective and look on the bright side is key.

9. You are physically unable to do physical labor or you don't enjoy it.'s a lot of work.

10. You don't have a vision/master plan. You don't have to have every detail of decor nailed down when you start but you at least need to know what style of decor you want in your home and have a general idea of the end product you want. Otherwise you will have a hard time finding direction, achieving cohesion, and knowing when you have finished your projects.

Well, those are my thoughts on the subject. I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts/stories about renovation (big or small)!


  1. You know, a DIY home renovation is a test of skills and patience. But after everything is done, you'll have a newly decorated place and a learning experience that you can share with your peers.

  2. My advice, just get it started to a point where you'll have to finish!

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