Eight Tips for First Time Home Renovators

My Husband and I purchased our first home two years ago in Portland, OR. The housing market in Portland was growing rapidly and we wanted to jump on the bandwagon and buy an investment property before it got too expensive. We found an adorable little fixer upper, the perfect starter home for a young, newlywed couple. We had so many ideas and plans for all the things we wanted to do to the house. Once we got started those grand plans quickly changed. After getting quotes on all the costs for those grand plans, we trimmed back our ideas and tackled the projects we knew would still make a difference, but not blow our budget out of the water. 

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Here are some of the lessons that we learned along the way:

  1. Double the amount of time you think the renovation will take

Initially we thought we could get our first floor renovations to a livable condition in three months. In reality, it took us six months and that was with rushing it at the end because the lease on our apartment was up. To give you some perspective, we were tearing out and renovating the entire kitchen, first floor bathroom and moving a bedroom wall. We were also planning on doing as much of the work ourselves as possible with having no previous experience taking on a home renovation. It’s no wonder it took us twice as long as we thought it would.

2. Double your budget

Not only did it take twice as long as we thought, but cost at least twice as much as thought it would. We went into the renovation with an initial budget, but ran into unexpected issues causing our budget to grow.

3. Expect the Unexpected

Our home was built in 1923 and has undergone multiple renovations through the years. As we started opening walls and demoing we found some strange solutions previous home owners had used that were not up to code or just didn’t make any sense. Now when someone comes out to our house to install something and we are no longer surprised if they say something was installed incorrectly. Honestly, we would be surprised if they said it was installed perfectly! One of the best unexpected findings we uncovered was a drop ceiling on the first floor raising our ceilings from 8 ft to almost 10 ft on the entire first floor. This was one of those findings that definitely added to our budget because we ended up having to replace 80 percent of the drywall on our first floor; however, it was totally worth it to have higher ceilings.

4. Finding inspiration on Pinterest

I had so many ideas for the style I wanted our home to be with keeping in mind design features for resale; however, I needed to narrow down and hone in my style. Initially when looking at my ‘dream home ideas’ Pinterest my ideas were all over the place that I needed to start over with fresh boards specific to our plans. Creating a board with a cohesive style helped keep me on track with my ideas and I still have my other board for inspiration that doesn’t necessarily fit into the current style of my home, but maybe for a future project.

5. Compromise

For the most part my husband and I are on the same page with design style, but not always. We did majority of our renovation before we were officially married. Let’s just say 2016 was a stressful year us. We purchased and renovated our first home all while planning our wedding 3,000 miles across the country. It was almost like pre-marriage counseling without the professional. We had to learn to compromise when our ideas weren’t aligned and make sure each of us were satisfied with the overall outcome.

6. YouTube was our best friend

As I said, my husband and I are not professional renovators and neither one of us had ever taken on a project of this scale before, but were convinced that we could do a lot of the work ourselves. Mainly out of necessity to save money. We just didn’t have the extra money to go through a contractor for all of the work. YouTube became our best friend through this process. It is amazing the amount of DIY videos you can find for just about any project.

7. The work never ends

We have been living in our house for over a year and a half now and it feels like once we finish one project, another one presents itself. My husband gets worried every time he hears me say, "So, I was thinking" because he knows it is another project I want to take on.

8. Balancing enjoying your new space and taking on new projects

Once we officially moved into the house, we found that completing and taking on new projects became a lot more difficult. There wasn’t the underlying pressure to make the house move in ready. We had our days off and nights back to ourselves. I started making a checklist of all the things that we still wanted/needed to get done. Slowly, but surely we are getting through our checklist without having it take all of our free time.