Home Renovation Update No. 1 | Eight Things I've Learned + Where We Are At
Let’s just start off by confirming that everything that everyone tells you about renovating your home (or any space) is true. And I’m assuming we all go into it with the same thought; “But my project will be different”. Now, renovating your space isn’t all bad. In fact, the good 100% outweighs the delays, the fights, the toll on my bank account, etc. Getting to watch a space come to life that you dreamt up is actually pretty amazing and satisfying. So, I wanted to share where we are at (about 6 months into it) and what we’ve learned during this first part of our home renovations.
My husband and I broke our house down into a few parts or phases we wanted to work in. Phase one was tackling the front of our home which included:
Adding a loft. The dining area you see, that used to extend all the way up to the second story. We added in the loft because it just seemed silly not to have a whole extra room in the house. It will be my husbands space (with a little design help from me). Adding the loft didn’t make the dining room feel small or claustrophobic which I was worried about. I also think the white finishes really help that. In the loft we still need to add flooring, the banister, and any cabinets we decide on. We added a window up there as well which brings in SO much light. It does look at our neighbors house which is a bummer but it’s worth the natural light and we don’t plan to spend majority of our time in there.
Building cabinets in our dining room. For the size house we have, we have a huge lack of storage. We do not have any closet space downstairs at all. So, these cabinets were pretty necessary. Plus, I wanted an area that looked built in to display our glassware, vases, dinnerware, etc. With the amount of props I buy and own for my job, I felt that some of them needed to be put on display. We got a quote to have these custom make which was close to 10k (heart attack). So, we found a place that had pre-made cabinets and showed them what we wanted (I drew it out on my iPad). They worked with their pre-built pieces and drafted up a plan for how we could purchase and build something almost exactly the same. So we bought those (under 2k) and my husband installed them. The style of cabinets that we wanted did not come in white, so we did hire someone to sand and paint them. For the amount of use they will receive, I think this choice was okay… they honestly are not that durable and I’ve already seen a few chips. If it was our kitchen, I don’t know that painting them would’ve worked. They used a lacquer which should be pretty durable, but I think when you paint anything that wasn’t intended to be, you run the chances of chipping. I went to a slab warehouse with our contractor and picked out the granite for the counter. It was a pre-fab slab, so the front edge was already finished (this saves lots of $$$ FYI). All we had to do was hire someone to bring it to our house, cut it to fit, and install it. Lastly, I found hardware at Restoration Hardware. Not cheap, but with how much money we saved DIY’ing parts of this we were okay to splurge a little. Plus I wanted something a little higher end since the cabinets were fairly basic. In the end, we still came out under half of what the custom cabinets would’ve cost. The custom quote did not include countertops or hardware so I think we may have even done this all for a third of the price!
Some of my favorite items we’ve added so far!
Re-texturing all of our walls. When we were building the loft, we had to do a ton of electrical work in the dining room (and this was one of those unexpected disasters that added a few thousand dollars to the project). So when our drywall guy came in, he basically had to put up new walls here. I caught him mid-way through the process as he was putting plaster up. I loved the look of it (even though it wasn’t intended to be the finished product) so I asked him to do that to the rest of the walls instead of the traditional texture that they spray on your walls. This is one of those things that happened because I was there and I am so happy it did. It was a little more work for them, but it gives our home a much more modern/custom feel.
Adding a garden. The side of our house was unused and neglected. I decided to make it usable (and accessible) by adding the garden as well as French doors in the place of a big window that was there prior. I will do a separate tour here though because it deserves its own post!
Updating our floors. This is still in progress. Right now we have the raw cement slab exposed. We tore up the old floor to see what it would look like to leave the cement floors rather than putting wood or some alternative back down. I do love it. We will be having someone come in to finish just the dining room (sand, polish and seal) to see what we think. If we like it in there, we will likely pull the floor up throughout the entire downstairs and finish the cement as well.
Overall - updating lighting, paint, baseboards, and windows. These were little things that need to happen throughout the house and we will do room by room as we get there. The lighting and windows have made the biggest difference. You don’t realize how dated things are that you look at every day until you replace them! The old dining room chandelier was from the ORIGINAL HOUSE. I hated it but it was always too hard to replace with the 2 story ceilings. So honestly if you do one thing I would recommend these! And a nice coat of fresh white paint can be a game changer
A few of the before photos!
So, what have we learned so far?
Expect to be present for a big part of it. You do not want your contractor or anyone else guessing what you want. On days that work was starting, I was always home for the first few hours. There were ALWAYS questions that they thought should go one way, and I didn’t agree. So obviously that’s a bit tricky if you have a job! If you can swing it, at least be there as they are kicking off big things… or be able to pop in and answer questions. In the end, it could potentially save you money on things that were done incorrectly. Luckily I can work from home when needed, and our office is only 2 miles from our home. That was a huge lifesaver for us as my husband doesn’t have a flexible schedule like mine. Also, our neighbor is a contractor, so he was also super helpful in checking in for us and keeping me updated. We are extremely lucky to have someone we know and trust to do this for us. When hiring a contractor, interview and trust your gut. You want someone trustworthy, punctual, and a great problem solver!
It’s going to take longer than you think. Just finding people to do what you want at a reasonable rate can take a while. But, I can’t even tell you how many people never showed up or were late (so annoying). And they will tell you something will take 3 days… 2 weeks later they’re still working on it. I think it’s that every project is so different, and many of these guys were working on their own. It’s hard for them to REALLY know how long it will take. You never know what problems you might face once you start to rip things down and put things up. We found leaks, we found wiring going to places it shouldn’t, we found crooked walls, you name it. And all of that isn’t expected and puts a kink in your timeline. So be patient and don’t plan a housewarming party or anything like that, haha;)
If compromising with your partner isn’t a strength in your relationship, you better learn how, and fast. My husband and I usually have very different visions of how things should look. Of course, I sit on instagram and save perfectly curated white houses with marble counters. He, on the other hand, wants to hang a motorcycle in our new loft (this was discussed and I really hope it wasn’t a serious thought). You HAVE to compromise. Most likely, there is an option out there that will make both of you happy. So take your time and find it. It’s not worth the stress of fighting while your house is being torn apart. One of the biggest things that has helped us is finding a good balance between masculine and feminine details. I wanted white cabinets and light stone in our new dining room. He hates marble so we found a light grey granite that we both loved. I also found a cement dining table and black hardware to add to the space. It’s actually a really nice mix that we are both super happy with and I think will last for years. It probably wasn’t the direction either of us would’ve went if we made the decisions alone. BUT. We are still married and that’s what matters;)
Take your budget and add 50% to it. There were things that we absolutely couldn’t do ourselves that cost WAY more than we thought. So we invested there and DIYed to make up the difference. Like I said in #2, stuff comes up. And it usually adds to your budget. Not to mention things are so expensive these days (that makes me sound really old haha). But really, like a piece of wood is $20… and you know how many of those you need to build a loft? A lot. Don’t even get me started on windows and doors. I could have bought a new car with the amount spent on one tiny fraction of our home. I’m probably going to have to work until I’m 97 to get the back slider doors I want. So ya, make sure you budget over what your actual budget is unless it’s things that you can DIY.
You get what you pay for. I think this is pretty self explanatory. But, if you get a quote from one guy for $1,000 and another guy for $5,000, I think you know what you can expect from each. When you are talking to different vendors, I’d say get quotes from 4-5 if you can. You will get a good feel for where the actual cost of the job should be.
Get used to dust and dirt, literally everywhere. I broke down crying several times because I felt like we were living in a literal dump and I just could not keep up with the dirt. It’s gets in the vents and goes through the cracks and around the tape and plastic. No matter how many doors you shut or what barriers you put up IT WILL FIND YOU. I started to understand while people move out during a reno!
Don’t forget the little details, they add up. Think hardware, new furniture if you are redecorating, paint, trim, etc. The big costs are obvious in our budget, but when you start to add little things here and there that you actually need to finish a room, they can add up quickly! Remember to keep these in mind when putting a plan and budget together.
You won’t ever want to sit in any other room than the one you renovate (I figured I’d throw some good news in here). So as you can see we started on our dining, garden and loft area. The only time I sit in the other rooms in the house are if I want to watch TV or cook a meal. All of my time otherwise is spent in the front of the house where we’ve started the renovations. It feels huge to complete such a cool project and see everything that you’ve wanted come to life. Everything is exactly as you want it and all you want to do is sit there and soak it in. We aren’t even finished and I’m obsessed. I can’t imagine how it’s going to feel to have it 100% done!
We have a long road ahead of us to actually complete the entire house. I mean, we still have a lot of work to do in this little area! So you’ll be seeing quite a few updates here as we continue to work on it. Here’s what we have left on the dining/loft/front living room space:
Update all of the floors
Retexture all of the walls to match the dining room and loft
Replace all of the windows in the front of the house
Replace our front door
Update our banister (and add railing to the loft)
Put a floor in the loft
Put in baseboards
Yikes right? Right now, since we’ve taken a bit of a break, it’s daunting to even get started again… like where do I pick this back up? But the good news is, once we’re done here… it’s on to the kitchen which I am SO excited about!
I’d love to hear what you want to see more of as we renovate! Leave your suggestions in the comments.
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