DIY tips for a home renovation newbie...

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  1. My fiance and I are buying a house and the house needs a lot of work. We don't plan on doing it all at once, but we definitely want to prioritize. We'll likely start with the kitchen, main bathroom (there's 3 in the home), and our master. The master and the remainder of the house aren't too bad... mostly paint and maybe changing the window drapes etc. The kitchen and bathrooms are bad.

    We both come from condo living. Now we're buying a 2000 sq ft home in SoCal. My brother in law is a contractor but of course, he does this 40+ hours a week. He is always willing to help on evenings and weekends, but I really don't want him to bend over backwards for us. He will try and help us get materials that we need.

    Any tips on a new home reno'er? For major things, we will likely hire. But my soon to be husband thinks he can manage :smile:.

    Where do I look for supplies? Are there any tricks in saving money? My style is very simplistic so I don't ever see us buying crazy countertops or tiles etc.
  2. #2 Apr 23, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2014
    Go spend a few hours perusing the aisles at Home Depot to figure out what everything is.

    Spend every spare minute watching DIY network. (HGTV has some of the shows but DIY network gets into the guts of the projects. I especially like bath crashers and rehab addict, but you can get useful info from almost any show.) will give you ideas.

    I like the family of sites for fixtures. I used them ( for most of my bathroom fixtures. Look everywhere for lighting though, because no one place has all the perfect lights.

    Don't be in a hurry.

    Ask google every question you have. Look at the youtube videos that come up in the results.

    When you are ready to start a project, talk to the SAs at Home Depot. Get to know them (the friendly ones). It helps to visit repeatedly, and if you can go when it is not busy, they may spend more time with you. I forgot what times are less busy - they have contractors come in at certain times and they are less busy when the contractors aren't there.

    Take your time. Don't rush into a project. Research it thoroughly before buying anything or starting anything. Have your plan thoroughly flushed out before starting anything. I would not start a project for 6 months (unless you can't stand something, then I would minimize the investment and do a practice run).

    I like Benjamin Moore paint Regal (the expensive kind). It's super thick and makes it so easy and fun to paint. Get a paint consultant at the paint specialty store to help you pick out colors. Bring samples of finishes you are trying to match.

    Take your time. Enjoy it! Be infinitely patient and practice forgiving yourself for the mistakes you will make. One of the best things about DIY is you don't have to be in a hurry. Wait on kitchens and baths because those remodels are hard to live in. Plan those out for the smallest time window possible.

    I LOVE DIY. :smile:

    It also helps to be in shape. Yoga and strong abs keep you from getting sore.

    Have fun!

    Oh, on the bathroom, have it done professionally and check all work and get permits if you are going into the walls. Plumbing, electrical, and shower walls need to be done very well to prevent leaks and tiles popping. I was very concerned about the cement board that goes on the floor and behind the shower tile, and how it was installed. I also had a recessed medicine cabinet put in the wall which was a more expensive option but made my tiny bathroom so much roomier. I had a recessed shelf put in the shower too which prevents bottles from being tipped over. If you have a small bathroom, plan every inch and get to know building code. Building code is not usually published free on the Internet, but you can find references to some of it.
  3. We have spent a few years slowly remodeling our home. My best advice - don't remodel the most important spaces first. Live in them for a period of time first. You'll learn how your daily activities work in the spaces, and then you can make smarter remodeling decisions.

    Case in point, I absolutely hated our 70s kitchen and it was first on my hit list of remodeling once we moved in. But due to needing to do a few other things on a more immediate basis, the kitchen remodel was put on the back burner.

    Once we finally got to it, we made much better decisions on layout based on how we work in it and cabinet design and finishes. If we had jumped into it first, we would have made completely different decisions that I probably wouldn't be happy with now.

    Another case in point - one of the first things we did was to rebuild a staircase to a loft area. While the carpenter did a beautiful job, I now actually wish we had relocated the staircase to another part of the room based on how we use the room. But since we spent a lot of $ and it's beautiful woodworking, I don't have the heart to tear it up now and relocate it. Such a bummer.

    Good luck!
  4. Thank you!! I heard about Regal paint from friends doing DIY. All of our colors are neutral and earthy. So hoping it's easier to paint then something that has a lot of pigment in it.

    What I think needs to be done immediately that may be a "big fix" is bathroom first (at least one of them) and then kitchen. The bathroom... oh my, it needs to go. Once we get pictures, I can post, but I wouldn't shower in it without flip flops. LOL! As much as I try to suppress the germaphobe in me, I just can't with that one.

    Luckily for us, we will be able to live at our current residence for the first month. So for the bathroom that may take a few days, it won't be too difficult since we won't have to live there right away.

    We have about a $50k reno budget to spend up front. But of course, if we don't have to use it all, we won't.

    This is similar in size to our kitchen. It's not super big but it is open and somewhat a galley-like kitchen. No island or anything.


    The bathroom is similar to this side. Except with a single sink and a little more space between the tub.


    To me, I wonder whether if there's a difference between say... real hardwood floors and bamboo. We're going for the lighter wood finishing look. Or, if buying cabinets from IKEA is a big no-no.

    For countertops, what's the difference? I don't even know... is anything other then Granite really that bad? We want to do it right the first time, so we're not going to cheap out on the good materials, but if quartz is less expensive then granite (for example) and I like the way it looks. I would go for it if it holds it's value.
  5. Good point! I think you're right. There's more to remodelling then just design... it's functionality as well. Based on the layout, there's really not much we could do with changing it, unless we want to start knocking down walls. The house has a big laundry/pantry room. It's almost unnecessarily big! We might, down the road want to (if possible) to push the room back and make it a bigger kitchen allowing an island.

    But for liveability... definitely at least one of the bathrooms has to be updated. It's just the two of us and we don't plan on having children anytime soon. So we're OK with using the main bathroom and upgrading the master bath at a later date.
  6. Well, the word on the street is granite is good for resale, but requires maintenance. Quartz is less maintenance. I say get what you want. I like black granite. It's one of the most expensive granites. I personally don't care for a lot of color/texture in countertops, so I would get white quartz if there were no black granite available. But I have heard that the resin in quartz can yellow if exposed to a lot of sun. So I have designed my kitchen around a black granite countertop. (I haven't remodeled it yet - I've only designed it. I painted all the cabinets and replaced the sink and faucet, and now I know what I like for the remodel. I spent probably $700 on it so far, $500 of that will be trashed when I remodel, but I will have lived with it for about 7 years in this interim state which is pretty satisfactory, just not awesome new. It's "cute and quaint", not "amazing new kitchen".)

    For the bathroom, I don't have room for extra countertops, so I got a white kohler cast iron sink that consumes the whole vanity top. It's awesome. Cast iron works OK in my climate since it is dry here. I don't know how well it works in say, the ocean climate I used to live in.

    There are other options for countertops too, like paper, soapstone, glass composite, butcherblock, etc. Granite is most popular. In a perfect world, I would put carerra marble on everything, but it absorbs stains so it's usually not a good choice.

    I would consider ikea cabinets if they had the right color. However you might want to research particle board vs plywood cabinets. Cabinets to Go has plywood cabinets, but they have other issues with availability, etc. Also look at Home Depot, refacing, and at least one kitchen design specialty place, just to learn and get estimates.
  7. I could go on and on regarding this topic - we purchased a bank owned home and have renovated top to bottom! I've gutted 3 bathrooms and did updates (countertops, flooring, fixtures) to another bath.

    In terms of countertops, get what you like. Quartz and granite are similar in price. I prefer wild granite. You can always check out remnants. As stated above, absolute black is mid range pricey so there will not be remnants - we needed to buy an entire slab for our bathroom even though we needed less than half to do the job.

    Look at websites, especially houzz. Great ideas there.

    Hire a designer for a one time consultation. Some will come out for $150-$300. They will go through your home and give you ideas and can help repurpose things that maybe you thought needed to go, plus you get their discount. My designer was $150 and we came up with stellar ideas, things that would have scared me like mosaic tile on the stairs. We have to grout and replace the tiles that pop off, but it is already so unique!

    Also, if you need to revise the kitchen plan, get a designer/architect. It seems like money down the drain but it truly took my kitchen to another level. There are a lot of architects that work for companies that do commercial projects but do residential projects on their own. They can draw up plans that will maximize space in unique ways. We had a smaller kitchen given the size of the house. Given that it is adjacent to staircase, we were stuck as I was not ripping out a staircase. Our architect made our kitchen feel so much bigger.

    I also agree with the above suggestion to live in the space if you have some doubts before demo. Even the designer could not come up with an idea for our master bathroom to change the layout, which was very odd and full of angles. It came to me one night. If we didn't wait, I'd have a tiny shower. But now I have a huge one, complete with two granite benches. Instead of all that gorgeous granite tile from Africa, it would have been a vanity. I was anxious to demo as the master bath was rough but the best thing that happened was waiting! And I just had to post a picture of my tub since I waited 7 months to be able to take a bath. Using it over the past 2 weeks has been amazing - a retreat from the demo!

    Hunt for bargains when you can. We found our vanity for the guest suite at lowes for $600 including the faucet - normally $1000 plus the faucet. Maybe it would not have been my choice but it set the tone for a really cool modern look that I now love.

    Best of luck and try not to let the process make you crazy. It's rough but it is worth it to have the house of your dreams!

    ImageUploadedByPurseForum1398981730.000566.jpg ImageUploadedByPurseForum1398981748.566081.jpg
  8. #8 Sep 11, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017

    Not sure how relevant this still is, since the original post is from 2014. But it was bumped, and I feel I can add a little bit of valuable information on the topic of DIY home renovation/remodeling. And maybe someone searching for information in future will stumble over it this way.

    Besides a lot of other things "DIY" and especially home renovation/remodeling is a hobby of mine and I take great joy out of it. I have done a lot of things over time, from simple stuff like placing wallpaper painting, adding door trim/door frames, dry walling to masonry, demolition (taking a wall out), tiling, shed repair and electrical installation.

    In the end, everything is possible when done carefully and thoughtful and one doesn't dive in head over heels starting on everything and completing nothing.

    First of all, what you need is an inventory. An inventory of skills (most important) and tools (important).

    Think about what you have done in the past, how much time it took you to finish it and be realistic when setting up a schedule for the work to be done/completed. Take into consideration if you can work through your project or if you only have the evening/weekends after work (take fatigue from day job, possible business trips i.e. into consideration)

    Know what tools you have at hand.

    Think about what you want to do, if you can do that with the tools you have or if you need to purchase/rent additional tools.

    What do I mean by that?

    Example: Tiling.

    Basically tiling isn't hard to do. Let's assume you have a dead on straight, rectangular floor in your basement, no cut outs, no sink. What you need is a drill and mixing paddle/stirring cage, bucket, tooth spatula, spatula, tile spacers, a pretty long level. Tile cement, sealant, tiles (flooring and skirting (preferably pre cut/ ready to use from manufacturer). A sponge and maybe another bucket or two.

    Let's assume furthermore you're that lucky and the tiles you chose fit your floor perfectly (size wise: you start and end with a whole tile)

    Than it's a very easy job to do and accomplished pretty fast. There are a lot of great instructional videos on tiling on youtube.

    More realistically you will have to do cuts:

    Depending on the material your tiles are made from you can go with a rather "cheap" or cheaply to rent manual tile cutter. For some, very hard, materials that won't do it and you need a cutting machine that wets (cools) the blade and minimizes dust. You can buy a bargain at a big box store for that one time use or rent something more professional.

    Heating pipes, water pipes, wall mounted toilets - in short: cut outs.

    When you need to make cut outs, easy ones can be made by drilling and using special pincers.

    If you want neat looking ones that fit and can be re-produced easily you need a hole saw, I'd suggest a diamond hole saw for dry use (Much dust, don't forget protective equipment!) For large diameter holes (wall mounted toilet) it's never wrong to have an angle grinder with tile cutting wheel and means to securely fasten the tile to when working on it. (Again, don't forget personal protective equipment. Much dust, flying splinters....)

    Depending on style you might want/need mitered/angled cuts...


    Most floors aren't dead straight/leveled. Minimal differences can be overcome by simply adding a little bit more of the tile cement. Larger differences need special attention and depending on size special cement. Bathrooms need the lowest point were the sink is (think floor level shower) and all sides leading there - at least part where the shower is. However you also don't want a highly visible slope...

    I'm pretty sure I forgot some stuff as this isn't a instructional post, just some food for thought. A starting point for research.

    The same literally goes for drywalling, masonry, electrical installation and basically everything else. There are many, many possibilities to start and achieve great results with limited experience and minimal tools but there's almost always some sort of catch that will get you to re-think everything or spent more $$ than originally planned. I'm really well equipped with tools and hardware by now, but I have yet to finish a project without an unplanned trip to our equivalent of "home depot" and if it was just to get a single bolt that I'd missed the first time.

    For this type of work, experience is everything. Gaining it can be a lot of fun, but definitely not when you're on a tight schedule to move in, have a lot of other stuff to do, work a daytime job, need to budget and never did something like that before. I have seen marriages break over the "our DIY home"-dream and people getting completely lost in projects and stuff to do.

    Very wise advice was given before in this thread, have all necessary rooms ready/ made by a pro before moving in. Life your dream in the rest of the (unfinished) house. ;)

    1) Use all appropriate personal protective equipment, do your research what different tasks require - you only have one life!
    2) Never work on live electrical wires. (Never do electrical type work if you don't know what you're doing, it might even be illegal in your state/country of residence)
    3) Never drill somewhere where you don't know what wires/pipes i.e. might be in the wall
    4) Aks if you don't know something. Hire a pro if you're unsure.

    Pictures from a basement remodel couple of years ago:




    IMG_2218 - Arbeitskopie 3.jpg



    Working on patio ceiling this summer.


    IMG_6006-lr - Arbeitskopie 2.jpg

    Repair of shed flooring couple of weeks ago.



    Kind regards,
    staceyjan and cpdoll like this.
  9. And the last picture that didn't fit the previous post from shed flooring repair.


    Kind regards,
    rogue1995 and Materielgrrl like this.