DIY · Home & Garden

Everything You Need to Know About Home Renovations | Part One

Read all about my advice on renovating a home before jumping into a major home renovation project. I talk all about our old home and more.

A woman stands in her dining room, surrounded by produce after spending so much time on one of her latest home renovations.

Whew! What a roller coaster it has been living in our home over the last year and a half. We have been renovating our home the entire time we’ve been living here. Whether it’s been small, less invasive projects or long and drawn-out projects that just seemed to never end.

There are so many misconceptions and things that we really just didn’t understand about the renovating process until we actually got in the trenches of our home renovation. Today, I’m going to be discussing everything about our entire journey of renovating our home. All of the things people don’t always talk about on HGTV or on personal blogs when showing their before and afters.

Some of these might be even considered taboo because I’m going to talk money, relationships, and everything in between.

I have so much to cover that I’ll be breaking this into a two part series, so get a snack and cozy up on your couch because this is going to be a longer one. (You can read Part Two HERE.)

First, a little about our home. It was built in 1955, which makes it 67 years old–not quite antique, but definitely old. Our house sits on top of a hill–which at times feels regal, but has its own drawbacks–surrounded by similar 1950s ranch-style homes. We live just blocks away from the historic district in our town, which makes it feel more enchanting and cozy.

Before we moved in, we pulled up all the carpet and refinished the floors, painting just the living room and kitchen before moving all of our stuff in. We knew it would need a lot of work, but were eager to make it our own and transform it into something truly special. We wanted to stay authentic to ourselves and our personal styles instead of doing what was on-trend at the moment.

Let’s get into everything you need to know before starting a home renovation.

Old House Charm Goes a Long Way

I get it. Not everyone understands the old house attraction. They know the work involved in restoring or renovating it. They may cringe at the costs and time investment, and they just want something that is move-in ready. I realized as we were looking for a home that I am not that person.

I LOVE old houses. 

However, there are two types of old houses. Livable fixer uppers and old houses that just need to be torn down because they are far past repairing and too unsafe and expensive to pour money into.

Luckily, we found one that just needed some TLC. I’m not going to dive too deeply into our home-buying journey because I plan on doing that at a later date, but I do want to mention a little about the condition when we first moved in. 

Basically, the previous owners had tidied it up nicely so it looked cute and charming. But once they stripped all their stuff from the home and moved out, we were left with a house that was painted literally head to toe in a robin egg blue, with cheap fixtures that were original to the house (which were neither cute nor charming), and baseboards and flooring that hadn’t been cleaned in probably ten years. It needed a lot of work to make it look nice. 

Two men work on sanding floors in a bedroom to prepare them for refinishing.

That being said, everything major worked in the house. It was just a matter of updating everything aesthetically.

If you’re someone who doesn’t mind at least doing this much, then an old house may be for you. I personally love putting a special touch on things to make them my own. The design aspect of home renovations are enjoyable, and I love learning new, practical skills I can use for years to come. I also think old homes always have more character than newer cookie-cutter houses that just seem to lack depth and personality to them. (This is just my opinion, don’t cancel me over this.) 

Furthermore, old homes are also usually built better. If they can withstand the test of time and they’ve been well taken care of, they’re bound to keep lasting.

Houses these days are just thrown together, with lower quality wood and less craftsmanship. They just look very bland to me. Gone are the days of ornate engravings in woodwork and grand, sometimes unusual, layouts. I personally don’t like open floor plans like most people seek these days. I like feeling cozy in one room and having some semblance of privacy. 

As we continue our home renovation, I find myself drawn to classic, traditional styles instead of new trends. I have been working on making it look older than it is because I love the charm and character of antique homes so much more. I’m heavily influenced by the Victorian styles of the late 1800s, Arts and Crafts bungalows, English cottages and the rustic farmhouse styles of the early 1900s. I frequently draw inspiration from these.

The same thought just isn’t put into the architecture of homes built these days. The intricacy of the home are sparse, leaving a lackluster taste in my mouth.

This is why I am an old house person, and no brand new house could ever do it for me. If this sounds like you, you’re probably going to enjoy all I have to say about home renovations.

A dining room is finished and looking very cottagecore after being renovated.
A completed cottage kitchen shines brightly with natural lighting that enhances all its organic features.

Affording All the Things

This is a big one. Most people can’t fathom all the costs associated with a home renovation. Renovations do cost money, but they cost significantly less when you do the work yourself.

You’ll have to learn a little before starting some projects, but most of them require jumping in and learning from trial by error. You can’t learn unless you make mistakes. And believe me, many mistakes will be made if you decide to journey into home renovations.

One thing I do recommend is to make sure you have some sort of savings before going into any renovations. Even if you make enough at your job to cover the extra costs of renovating a home week-to-week, something could go wrong and that emergency fund may come in handy. Luckily, this hasn’t really happened to us much, but it makes us feel better knowing that if something were to go wrong we have that back-up money on hand. 

Additionally, you don’t have to have all the fanciest new stuff.

Even if you plan on replacing virtually everything in your home, you don’t need to always go for the most expensive thing. Some middle-tiered products are still high quality. If they’re things that are just for aesthetic purposes you can save money and be creative by adding details yourself to spruce them up.

Any time we add moulding (whether window, baseboard, or whatever) we go cheap because we know that just adding any moulding at all will make the room look much more put together. Buying expensive ones just aren’t necessary and wouldn’t look right in our mid-century home. (Every house has its own style and some things just won’t work in your space even if they look amazing in someone else’s. Lighting, layout, size, and the year it was built play a huge part in what will and won’t work in your space).

The point is, you don’t have to be wealthy to renovate a home, but you do have to be strategic. Have an emergency fund, find affordable & high quality products, and do the work yourself!

A DIY home renovation is complete by painting a living room a soft, light green.

Taking Breaks to Avoid Burnout During a Home Renovation

Oh, man. This is a huge one that I need to constantly work on. I’m a goal setter, a go getter, and relentless when it comes to getting projects done. I have a mental timeline in my head and calendar for when I want projects to be complete, but realistically it just isn’t always gonna happen.

Now that I’m a bit wiser, I always try to build in rest days where I’m not working on the same project for several days straight because it’s enough to make me go insane. Sometimes other emergencies and life happen and projects just have to wait. 

It’s best to go in with a timeline as a guideline instead of a fast, hard rule.

Sometimes even when I have rest days built into the schedule, I still end up needing to take another day or two in between off for my mental or physical health. You can’t run yourself ragged or the project will never get done.

Sometimes that day or two is all I need to relax, get reinspired, and get ready to jump right in once I return to the project. 

Bottom line: Rest days are important, so you won’t burn out during your home renovation.

In between projects, especially big ones, we’ll take a few weeks or a month off so we can put energy toward other things. We’ll spend more time with our families and each other for a month, we’ll rest, and just try to enjoy ourselves in our free time until we return to the home renovations.

Just like anything else in life, it’s a marathon, not a race. We value our rest and health. Take care of yourself first. 

A bathroom floor is being worked on as part of home renovations in an old home.

Tension and Stress in Relationships

One important thing to remember is that if you’re doing a home renovation with a partner or friend, it’s going to create tension, stress, and ultimately some arguments. It’s no wonder, though, considering you’ll both be pushed to the max, both mentally and physically, during work periods.

You’ll both be learning and making many frustrating mistakes on the way (which is okay since this is part of the process of home renovations). It’s going to prevent the two of you from spending as much quality time together, and you may be living in a construction zone some days.

Things are bound to get murky at times. The important thing to remember is that it won’t last forever.

The project will get finished eventually, the stress will dissipate, and all will be well again. However, during the course of the project, it’s important to remember to communicate. The other person can’t possibly read your mind. Listen and compromise because everything isn’t meant to always go your way.

All this being said, I highly recommend not doing home renovations during a stressful period of life. If you’re pregnant with your first child, just moved to a brand new city with a brand new job, or if you’re planning a huge wedding, do not renovate your home.

Home renovations will always be there and can wait. Waiting will only allow you more time to gather your thoughts and ideas together for when life gets less crazy.

In the meantime, you can make Pinterest boards for each room of the house and pin away. This is fun and so relaxing to me. It’s so accessible and easy to get a feel for your style this way, too. 

A man and woman embrace in their home.

People Will Ask About Your Home Renovation All the Time

One thing that really grinds my gears is people constantly asking if we’re done with the house. Or “What project is next?”

Yes, they are well meaning. These people are trying to show interest and curiosity, but it feels like a lot of pressure when asked frequently. This is one of the reasons I always feel so stressed about timelines… Because people are always asking for pictures and updates.

I suppose this sort of comes with the territory of running a home blog. But honestly I’ve been getting these questions long before I even started the blog… You’ll have to learn to smile through the 20 questions game or directly tell people you’ll let them know when it’s done.

I personally just hate the sense of rushing from one project to the next. I’d rather be slow and steady and do things right. Don’t let all the questioning get to you and stress you out.

Some people just truly have no concept of how a home renovation works and the timelines of these things because they’ve never done them. They sometimes just don’t realize the planning and execution that goes into these projects. They may even fail to realize that we are all still living, breathing humans who both have jobs and hobbies and families and relationships and personal health to take care of.

It is usually just the two of us, sometimes just me, working on these projects. We occasionally get help from my in-laws or my grandpa, but most of the work we’ve done has just been with our own two hands. Some people forget we also don’t have an unlimited budget and sometimes have to take breaks for that reason. We have to physically and mentally rest, too. We literally cannot renovate a new room each month, as much as some people would love us to. 

I sometimes say that we should make a rule that the next time someone asks when it’ll all be done, they’re required to come over to help complete the job. Especially if they feel the need to rush us so much. (I am obviously kidding, but I would sometimes love to say this.)

Believe me, people will know when the house is done. But even “done” isn’t really forever because once completed, the house may start needing new repairs. The joys of being a homeowner!

My only true advice is to get used to the asking because some people will probably never stop.

Now, if you’re the one asking and you’re reading this, STOP. It’s okay to show interest and make nice comments about the house. But no one likes interrogations about when it’ll be finished. I say this lovingly, but with all the truth in the world. Once you start your own home renovation, you’ll understand.

Patience is a virtue, my friends. 

Final thoughts…

Hopefully this part one about our own home renovation has helped you understand a little bit more about what you’re getting into and how to manage stress during this hectic time of your life.

I just like to share my experiences, so it’s not so hard for others when they’re tackling such a huge project in life. There may be times when you want to throw in the towel, but remember that it will all be worth it eventually.

Your home will be particularly remarkable one day. 

A bay window in an old home shines light through the living room, lighting up the red rug, hanging plants, and antiques.
A gorgeous burgundy rug adds depth to living space in a well-lit bay window.

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