Renovating – What I learned

I’ve had lots of great compliments on our bathroom makeover, so thank you very much for all the kind words!

I thought I’d share a few things that I learned along the way as a renovating virgin. Sure, we’ve changed things here and there but it’s always been DIY and mostly pretty minor changes, so this bathroom renovation took us into new territory for sure.

1. Be prepared for the Day One Blues

What’s behind your walls and in your ceiling is anyone’s guess. So unless you originally built the house and are now renovating you are likely to come across a surprise or two as demolition progresses. For us, that was how much spray foam insulation was in the walls. Luckily that surprise just meant that finding a receptacle was a bit (okay a lot) more time consuming than it normally would be. Another surprise that we uncovered on Day One was that the shower (the old one) was installed with basically no ceiling above it. That meant we would need to build out a new ceiling for the bathroom. An easy fix, but still a surprise.

spray foam madness

Not to mention that our shower line was cut to our other bathroom, our bulkhead was cut through, and I was told that the ceiling structure above the shower was questionable and the spray foam mess required the trades having attic access. By the end of Day One I was wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into!

2. Be at home

Maybe this goes without saying, but it’s not a good idea to be away while work is being done in your home. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t step out, but in my opinion being present keeps people honest, on time, and let’s face it… working. I think that on Day Two if I had been home while the electricians searched for the end of the receptacle I would’ve been able to direct them with more helpful locations to search. That may have saved them some time, and from searching in the back of my pantry and having to take down a light fixture in the process. And being around means that you can answer questions like “You wanted the tile to run this way right?” or “How high do you want the mirror hung?” or “What kind of tile pattern did we say again?”.

3. Ask lots of questions

If you’re home then hopefully you’re answering lots of questions (See item #2), but asking a lot of questions is just as important. It’s your house and your money, after all. Ask why something needs to be done – even if you’ve previously agreed in the contract or otherwise that the work needs to be done – if you want to know ask again. As your renovation evolves new issues arise and sometimes the original plan is adjusted, so just ask why option A was chosen over option B etc. During the renovation I was always asking my contractor how long he thought the next stage of work would take. I would ask when I would expect him at the house the next day. At the end of the day I would ask what tasks were scheduled for the next day. Communication is key.

4. Be prepared for your house to be taken over

I had no idea how much disruption would take over our house during the renovation. And by no means were the contractor or trades overly intrusive. I naively thought that my master bathroom renovation would be confined to my master bathroom, and maybe overflow into our bedroom, of course, as work was ongoing during the day. Cue the outrageous laughter. Yes our bathroom and our bedroom were out of commission while work was being completed. But, as I mentioned attic access was required and our attic access is in our master closet, so that meant that I lived with quite a bit of re-arranged clothing and closet organizer pieces throughout our bedroom. Our family bathroom was no longer just the boys’ bathroom. We needed to shower, brush our teeth, and get ready in there too. Our garage was used to store the larger fixtures and was used for work like painting trim and casing. We didn’t park our cars in the garage during the renovation at all. The driveway was taken over during the day with the large trucks and trailers that our contractor and trades used. Our (luckily) unfurnished living room was used to house the vanity and figure out how it was to be assembled. And during the day while work was ongoing our foyer and staircase was all covered in tarps so that the mess could be contained. And finally, Foster’s nursery was a no-no for daytime naps on the off-chance that some work was loud enough to wake him, so he slept in a pack and play in the basement. That’s 8 spaces in addition to our bathroom and bedroom!

5. Be flexible

There are so many reasons that you need to remain flexible. If you’re not flexible you’ll likely have a pretty awful experience. You need to be flexible with your time and expectations. As I mentioned in item one, you don’t know what’s lurking behind your walls and something as simple as spray foam can set you back a whole day’s work. That’s not your fault. That’s not your contractor’s fault. But there’s not much you can do about it. You need to roll with those punches. Even when I was told that my countertops were scratched I remained remarkably calm. It was an honest mistake. When I told my dad about the mishap he suggested that they could’ve put the drawer on the floor, but then I would’ve had scratched hardwood floors! They had no expectation that the drawer would scratch. And they immediately made suggestions on how they were going to fix it. We had our tiler in until 7:30 pm one evening to finish grouting the tile. We had our “drywall guy” in on the weekend so the walls would be ready to paint come Monday morning. We allowed these few minor disruptions to stay as on-schedule as we could.

Being flexible doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on your original vision (unless it’s just not possible) or that you need to be a push-over. Most definitely stand your ground and get what you want, but if you can keep a little flexibility your experience will be so much more enjoyable.

So that’s what I learned and I think the results are pretty darn great.

day twelve

Hopefully these tips will help you in your next renovation. I feel ready to take on the next project. How about you? Do you have any of your own tips to share?

Happy renovating!

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