Things I’ve Learned While Redoing Our House

This afternoon we finished remodeling the bathroom. As always, there’s way more left to do (like painting baseboards, and stripping and repainting the cabinets) but the major work is done.

Which means, in just over seven months, we’ve redone every single room in this house, with two exceptions – the little yellow bedroom (since it was little, and yellow, and you can’t really screw that up) and the great room (which has gorgeous hardwood judges paneling and therefore hasn’t been bothered with). In that time, I’ve learned a few things. Some of them seem obvious now, but we didn’t know much going in.

  1. No matter how many tools you have, you will need more. Don’t forget to add “tools” into your project budget. This includes a lawnmower and a weed-eater/edger. You didn’t need those in an apartment, but if you don’t have both in about 2 weeks, your neighbors will HATE you. Also, it costs about $50 to pay a landscape company to do your yard each week. You’re not really saving any money in the long run.
  2. You need a real mop, and you need a real broom, and you need a real dustpan. The people on TV lie. Swiffer ain’t gonna cut it when you have construction mess. I like my Libman mop, but any good, sturdy mop with a head that you can remove and wash will work. I’m also a huge fan of the GreenWorks Dilutable cleaner.
  3. You really don’t need any fancy, expensive cleaners. I use the GreenWorks Dilutable stuff for floors/buckets of soapy water, a biodegradable toilet bowl cleaner, and vinegar+water.
  4. Goo-Gone is wonderful. I could sing many praises to the wonder of Goo-Gone.
  5. There is very little you can’t do yourself if you’re not willing to take the time to learn how. This is frequently the kicker between “we’ll do it ourselves” and “we’ll pay someone else”. Time.
  6. Asking the internet is a really wonderful thing. All kinds of people want to teach you projects! Just remember to watch more than one youtube video. This is the internet, after all, and you might find the moron before you find the master.
  7. Remember that anyone who gives you a time estimate on a project has done that project before. You haven’t, and so you will take longer, due to learning/trial and error/oh shit we forgot to… etc. By “take longer” I mean double, if not triple, your estimated time. Also double your budget. And did you remember the tools you’ll need?
  8. Make friends with someone who’s done it before. It’s a lot easier to learn to fix a faucet if you have someone to show you how to do it the first time. My dad and father in law have been our resident teachers in that department. Also known as “I don’t know either, let’s call dad.”
  9. Some things you can do by yourself (painting).  Some things you can’t (hanging drywall). Learning to tell the difference can take some time.
  10. Schedule your projects wisely. We decided to tackle our rotted out, sinking back porch in June, because it was leaking water into the house when it rained. As such, we had the hottest two weeks on record, it was 100+ degrees and 80+% humidity all week. Granted, we didn’t have much choice (water in house = BAD!), but doing that project in November would’ve been a lot nicer.
  11. Schedule your projects around your budget. You can repaint a room, including primer, for less than $100. You can’t redo your bathroom for that.
  12. Water, water everywhere… Find a good plumber. Ask your neighbors, ask your mover guy, ask around. We asked our electrician and he told us the name of HIS plumber. When our bathroom ceiling fell in, and we had to have the entire plumbing system in the house replaced – not a job we were up to doing ourselves due to that “Time without working water” thing – that number was VERY handy.
  13. Wallpaper can be removed with a mixture of a little fabric softener in a spray bottle of hot water. If you can peel off the vinyl layer before you spray, great. Otherwise, you’ll also need a wallpaper scratchy tool thing. You don’t, however, need really expensive wallpaper removal solutions except in extreme cases.  As an aside, however, if you’re going to remove wallpaper this way, make sure you like the smell of the fabric softener. ‘Cause it will be everywhere.
  14. Don’t be afraid to mix paint, especially if you bought too much of something. The lovely green of our back bedroom and the soft beige of our hallway and piano room are self-mixes from leftover other paints.  And we have PLENTY left for touch ups. This is another great use for the “oops” paints you’ll find at the hardware store – which are usually at a really great discount.
  15. Don’t underestimate the power of the little things. A new coat of paint, new cabinet pulls, maybe a new light fixture or a new ceiling fan, even different art on the walls can make a HUGE difference. If you’ve got a real fixer upper, sometimes those aren’t enough, but small changes can be very effective in the long run.

All in all, I think we’ve learned a lot. In that time, I’ve stripped walls, learned how to drywall (including tape and float), learned three different kinds of wall texture, primed, painted, ripped out a porch and put it back, taken down a tree, cleaned out flower beds, cut sod, made curtains, hung blinds, changed cabinet fixtures, watched as my husband changed out faucets (<3 him for that) and learned how to do electrical repairs, replaced showerheads, resealed a tub, and cleaned more goo off of more random crap than I’ve ever done before in my life.

It was definitely worth it, though.

Because this isn’t just the house we bought, or our first place, or a house in Houston. This is OUR house.  We have the bruises to prove it.

2 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned While Redoing Our House

  1. The one thing you didn’t mention (and you WILL discover the truth of it, if you haven’t) is that no project is complete without a minimum of three trips to the hardware store, lumber yard, or home center. If you complete the project without the three requisite trips, it means you cut corners somewhere that will bite you in the ass eventually.

    Truthfully, your list is very, very good, and is a fantastic guide for any DIYers!

  2. @Steve – You know, I’m not sure ANY of our projects required less than 5 trips? Except the ones that we did with the remnants of previous projects (see tip about mixing paint colors).

    Yeah – my local HomeThing knows me on sight – but part of that is probably because I always wear a bright orange bandanna to keep goo out of my hair 😀

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