My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - roomfortuesday.comI’ve had this post planned for awhile now (adding bits of knowledge over the past few months), but thought it was finally time to hit publish, offer some encouragement, and solid advice for those beginning a renovation, who are planning to take the DIY approach. With a decade of experience under our belt, these are the pieces of advice I wish someone would’ve given Emmett & myself before dipping our feet into the home renovating pool. Click through for my best advice for novice renovators & determined home DIYers. Consider this your pep talk! 

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - roomfortuesday.comFirst- a bit about our background… Emmett & I have renovated a few of our own homes, but we also grew up in “handy” construction families. As teenagers (we’re high school sweethearts), we helped our parents build houses, barns, decks, fences, paint, power wash, and maintain their property. We both grew up on farms. Anyway, we started learning about these things at a younger age than most. One of the first times I spent quality time with Emmett’s parents was helping them drywall. That’s right- I was 16 years old, taping and mudding the drywall at my high school boyfriend’s house. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was ready to lend a helping hand and had a good attitude. Our first home was a foreclosure and it was totally wrecked- we gutted the entire house. My stepdad offered to teach Emmett how to totally rework plumbing and electrical (he used to own his own construction company). Emmett was eager to learn and appreciative of the help. All of this to say- if you have a good attitude, are willing to learn, and aren’t afraid of a little work, no matter what age you are- you are 100% capable of renovating and tackling home improvement DIY projects. Ready for my advice?

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Attitude. Even if you’ve never tackled a project like this and don’t have a clue what you’re doing…. I’m here to tell you this: you ARE capable. You CAN do it. You WILL learn, and it will be something you’re incredibly proud of, once it’s completed. If you’re willing to learn, try your hardest, and aren’t afraid of a little elbow grease, you’ll figure it out and make it happen. I’ve been intimidated by projects in the past and wish I would’ve had someone to give me a little pep talk because attitude makes all the difference.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Start. Remember, everyone starts somewhere. To continue learning, building your home improvement skills, and creating the home you envision, you just have to begin. I know it can sometimes seem daunting, but instead of focusing on how you might mess up, think of the beautiful end result and use lessons learned along the way to improve and expand your skillset for the next project. Instead of thinking of your home as an entire remodel you have to tackle, take each project one at a time and focus on the task at hand.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Patience. Like most good things, renovations take a LOT of time and money. Taking it slow isn’t a negative thing. Remember- your dream home doesn’t happen over night and part of the fun is making it your own over time. I’d encourage you to live with the imperfections, brainstorm what you’d like to change, and truly consider multiple ways to make it happen. The best things are usually worth waiting for, so remember to be patient!

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Compromise. Think of compromise as a creative opportunity – whether it’s the budget, the design plan, your significant other’s perspective, limited resources, etc… whatever you’re compromising, instead of feeling defeated- try to think of this as an opportunity to get creative and come up with a better solution. Sometimes limited resources, budget, and parameters force us to think more creatively, and often times the alternative is even better than the original plan. Did you know our curvy range hood, pictured below, was the result of a compromise and wasn’t at all what I had initially designed? Now I can’t imagine our kitchen without it.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Practice. Is your neighbor tackling a project? Do your parents need an extra hand? Is an experienced DIY friend working on a project? Lend a helping hand and practice. I learn best by doing. Watching someone in person and physically helping is the best way to improve your renovating skills and get more comfortable. It’s also an awesome way to help your friends, family, and community. Odds are- when you’re tackling your own project, you’ll have extra hands ready and willing to help. We have incredible friends and family who are always willing to show up and help… it really makes a difference!

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Research. Before beginning your project, take the time to learn and research. In the age of the internet and social media, you can easily find thousands of resources in a matter of minutes. Just like studying before a quiz, take the time to learn and prepare yourself prior to diving in. Your project will go much more smoothly. Even though I’d consider Emmett & I professionals at this point, we still reference plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials. Never stop learning! Our previous laundry room gave us many headaches and we spent hours researching how to bend crown moulding and work with millwork at odd angles. There are so many free resources at your disposal.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Persist. Some projects fail or don’t turn out exactly as expected… it happens. This is just part of renovating. We’ve had so many situations where we had to start completely over or go back to the drawing board. Things WILL go wrong. You’ll mess up. The bottom line? Keep trying. Step away from the project and come back with a fresh perspective and a good attitude. Be persistent until you get things right. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a total loss because you learned something… and hopefully you won’t make that same mistake twice moving forward.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Pivot. As a type-A individual, learning to let go of control and a strict schedule when renovating was really tough for me. When renovating or completing construction projects, the unexpected ALWAYS happens. The project will cost more than you expect, the timeline always goes longer, and sometimes the house has other plans in store. Learning to pivot has been key. By loosening the reins, it gives me more freedom to think of the big picture and focus on what I can do in the present.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Limit. There comes a time when you learn your limits. Knowing when to hire a professional is very important when renovating. This can save you time, money, stress, and anxiety in the long run. Try not to look at hiring help as a downfall, but rather an opportunity to make your home the best it can be (without the added stress). Emmett and I now know which projects we prefer to hire professionals for… a few include: HVAC work (like the new furnace and duct work hidden behind the doors shown below in our old hallway), installing & replacing windows, exterior masonry, roofing, etc.

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - // Laugh. Renovating seems so serious, but I want to remind you to laugh a little. Enjoy the process! Smile. Memories are being made and you’re working toward a beautiful home to enjoy for years to come. For us, in addition to creating a home we love and are proud of, the thing that means the most to me are the memories. There were moments I cried, bled, worked in the extreme cold, sweat through my clothes, worked on holidays, had sore muscles, and every part of me wanted to give up and quit. There have been epic fails, money lost, and hours spent on projects that just didn’t turn out, but you know what? Choosing to laugh in those moments has created memories I will never forget. I vividly remember Emmett & I sitting in the bathtub, pictured below (which was in the living room at the time because we had yet to install it) in our first house. We were bundled up, had no heat, no running water, it was the dead of winter, and we ate sandwiches sitting there in the bathtub together, in the living room… because we had no furniture. In those type of moments, I remember thinking- this absolutely sucks, but now it’s something we laugh about and say, “Remember that one time?!”

My Best Advice for Novice Renovators & Home DIYers - roomfortuesday.comThere you have it! 10 words of wisdom for my fellow renovators, project seekers, and DIYers. I hope these will be helpful, encouraging, and provide a good reminder that so much good comes from the process. From learning and creating a beautiful home to making memories and lending a helping hand, I applaud you all for giving it your best! I hope my blog is and will continue to be a good resource for you. As always, let me know if you have thoughts or questions in the comment section below.

I’d love to hear your favorite home improvement memory!

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  1. Sarah, you’re such a softy!💜 This really is the sweetest pep talk. DIYers today have so many resources available, even compared to 13 years ago when we bought our house. (If only I’d known you then!) I would say patience and compromise would be my two toughest opponents in the home game (and in life🤣). Character flaws aside, I’m wondering about expectations. This may be related to your idea of persisting, but I’m not sure. Comparing my attempts at millwork with Emmett’s perfection can be depressing. Watching an expert perform a task can put unrealistic pressure on a novice. I might add to be gentle with yourself and manage your expectations as you learn. Even when I haven’t achieved perfection (ever…), my accomplishments have made me love my home that much more. Sheesh, talk about a softy. Have a beautiful Thursday, friend!💜

    1. Haha! I know, I know. It just makes me SO happy to receive photos from readers and friends of projects they’re tackling or get messages saying “you inspired us to do this project”. It’s truly the best feeling. I’m so proud of everyone doing the work, making it happen, and ending up with a beautiful result they’re proud of (while learning along the way). Patience is my most difficult one, for sure. You should have seen Emmett’s millwork when he first started. He was terrible. I’m serious. He’ll say the same thing. His mitered edges never lined up, but he practiced and it has been so much fun watching him progress. The same for me- I mitered all of the tile in our guest bathroom and was SO proud remembering where I started years ago. I’d say just remember everyone starts somewhere and messing up is part of the process. I love your tip to be gentle on yourself as you manage expectations and learn. That’s such a great point! We try to look at “fails” or less than favorable outcomes as positive, because we learned something. You’re totally right- the effort and energy you put into your home only makes you love it more :) It’s a pretty beautiful thing to be proud of! Keep up the awesome work and have a wonderful Thursday! Did you finish your ceiling?! xo

  2. Christiane Nick says:

    You made me cry! You and E are simply the sweetest. I just imagine you sitting in that bathtub eating your dinner after you worked an eight hour day and drove 45 minutes home. At work you always had a positive attitude and we never heard you complain about what you were going through at home. You’re an amazing designer and a great person to boot! Thanks for the peptalk. Andy has been working crazy hours and patience has never been my strong suit. Someday our master bath will be glorious.

    1. Aww, thanks Christiane. You too! You and Andy are doing an incredible job and I’ve loved following along with your projects. Patience is hard (for me too). Your master bath is going to be glorious! Maybe we can see it in person someday. We just had to cancel our flights to Cincinnati for July (thanks to Covid). Womp womp! Miss you guys!! xo

  3. Wow…so well said Sarah!! DIY renovation is not for the faint of heart. The laughing part…that’s what hits home the most. When Jeff and I renovated our last home (a 1929 build), I remember there was an odd trophy case on the backside of our upper cabinets, over our peninsula. Jeff wanted to keep it. I thought it was disgusting. I asked him one day “what would you ever put in that thing?? It’s useless!” It was too small to even put books in. I left for work and he apparently spent all day going through our moving boxes, trying to place items in it, in an effort to change my mind. I came home and he ecstatically told me he had found something. I was shocked but open minded, until he picked up my maltipoo (then a puppy; all of about 2lbs), casually placed him on the shelf, and slid the door shut. He then said “It can be a built in dog crate”. We both began laughing hysterically. The next morning we were up at sunrise and the first thing we did was sledgehammer the trophy case. That was the very first project in that house, on the third day there, and it made the decision that the kitchen was the first space to tackle. We gutted almost every room in that house, learned a ton along the way. It’s been 13 years and we’ve tackled so much diy and we’ve yet to lose the ability to laugh. Such great tips Sarah! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Lauren! I LOVED reading your renovation story about your “built in dog crate”… that is hilarious. How to husbands come up with the most ridiculous uses for the things? It’s a gift. Ha! When Emmett was coloring my hair last month (because quarantine probs), he asked if he could use metal “chip clips” instead of hair clips to section my hair off. He said they had “better tension” and I was rolling laughing! I think Jeff’s built-in dog crate idea is even more funny than that. What a great story. Thanks for sharing and making me smile :) xo

      1. Jeff has asked me numerous times why I don’t just use chip clips for my hair instead of wasting money on hair clips😂🤣😂🤣that’s so funny!!! Glad I could bring you a laugh!!

        1. LOL!!! Men. I will never understand how their brains work. hahah!

  4. Great post. Thank you!
    Can you tell me where I could find information on the back splash tile in the first image?

  5. These are all great lessons just for life, and definitely applicable to home renovations. I remember being newly married and having a washing machine issue that just about killed us trying to trouble shoot and fix. Now we don’t even scoff coming across appliance issues, and we have come a long way with patience and practice and by doing it over and over again. I love learning from you, so thank you!

    1. I think so too, Julie. Isn’t it funny how things seem so important in the moment and after having enough of those instances to learn from, the next mishap doesn’t seem so bad? Haha! I can relate. I echo your words of patience and practice :) Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! Have a beautiful day. xo

  6. These are really really great tips! Laughter, patience, practice and maybe a bit of persistence too! Don’t give up just cause it didn’t work out!!! Try it again! And if you’re getting burnt out or really discouraged – walk away and come back when you’ve got a better attitude and can DO THIS! Also, You Tube is your friend. And google. We are so lucky with the era we live in information is literally at your fingertips. Great post, Sarah!

    1. Thank you, Michelle! I love your wise words, too. We really are lucky to live in an age with endless information at our fingertips :) Have a beautiful weekend! xo