Home Improvement

Keeping Your Sanity During a Home Renovation

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This subject is near and dear to my heart because I have lived it all too painfully, with and infant and toddler underfoot. I remember the year, 2006 to be exact. We decided to add on to our home when my son was still a brand new baby and my daughter was a toddler – we had this crazy notion to extend our home, to add a new kitchen with a bedroom above, and a studio above the garage. And it was one insane year.

In the end it was worth it but OMG there were some bad weeks we lived through (see the link below to our construction photos), which is where these tips come in so handy. You all know contributing writer Liz of It’s Great to Be Home, home flipper extraordinaire and the lady who’s lived through a home renovation herself. She’s back today sharing her tips on how to maintain your sanity during a home renovation and her advice is spot on. Please welcome back Liz!

“Many ordinarily sane people have been driven to the brink of bonker-dom during a renovation. Some may say such insanity is an inevitable byproduct of the messy ordeal of construction, but I say nay – you can keep your sanity and end up with a glorious renovation, all at the same time.

Here’s how:

1. Know thyself. Renovating your house is stressful, regardless of whether you’re doing it yourself, hiring it out, living in your home while it’s going on, or living in an entirely different time zone. Renovating is also messy, time-consuming, and sometimes seemingly endless. For some people, all of those stressors can combine into a stress tornado if you’re not careful, so take every step that you can to reduce the insanity swirling around you. Steps 2-8 will help with that!

black and white kitchen


2. Move out (or at least take an aptly-timed vacation) Construction is a dirty business, and living in a dirty construction zone with drywall dust on your pillow will not make you a very happy camper. Compound the dusty pillow with the fact that you can’t even wash your dusty pillow because the water is turned off and you will quickly understand why I have recommended that you live anywhere else but in your home during the renovation. I hear you saying, "But wait, I’m only renovating our guest bathroom! We have another bathroom we can use and we will be fine!" And maybe you will. If you are bound and determined to live in your home while it’s being remodeled, see #3-4 for further instruction.

3. Find an alternate space where you can carve out the same function. If your kitchen is being renovated, you likely won’t be able to use your fridge, stove, kitchen sink or dishwasher, meaning that if you’re living in your house during this destructive process you will need to find another space in your home to do all kitchen-y things. Maybe that means balancing your microwave on your nightstand or washing your dishes in the bathtub – whatever works for you is fine with me, but you need to have designated zones for cooking and cleaning up or else things will go downhill quickly. And obviously, if all of your bathrooms are being renovated you need to shower at the gym or a friend’s house.

gray walls in bathroom


4. Become best friends with plastic sheets and painter’s tape.  Drywall dust, sawdust, insulation…these are all nasty little particles that want to come to roost on your pillow (see #2 above) and in your air ducts. Do yourself a favor and section off the construction zones from the non-construction zones, using painter’s tape and plastic sheeting from the hardware store, to keep your living spaces as livable as possible. Katie has a great post about how to do this here.

5. Work with the best trades that you can afford. I know, renovations are expensive and it can be tempting to opt for the plumber that didn’t come quite as highly recommended but had a great price. Things may work out fine, or your frugal decision could turn into a budget nightmare as your toilets overflow during a dinner party because the budget plumber didn’t include a sewer test in his bid. The "best" trades aren’t always the most expensive, but they will have the most positive recommendations from your friends and family – go with those guys.

kitchen with coffered ceiling


6.  Plan ahead. One day your electrician is going to turn to you and say, "And where are all of your light fixtures? I’m ready to install them." Unless you have planned ahead and already purchased your lighting fixtures, you are going to have a minor heart attack. The same thing will happen with the painter, the plumber…you get the idea. Go ahead and buy all of your fixtures, appliances, hardware, etc. at the beginning of the project, get them delivered to your house, and have them ready and waiting for each trade as they need them.

chrome pendants above marble top island bhg


7.  Be flexible. Things will be broken, supplies will go missing, delays will happen, and your construction schedule will take a hit. You might wind up without your kitchen for 2 months instead of 4 weeks, or you could be living at your parents’ house for 6 months instead of 3 (I’ve learned that one first-hand).

While these delays are incredibly annoying, most of the time they aren’t life or death if you’ve built in a little flexibility, like making sure you can go month-to-month on your rental until your house is ready, or having a little extra stash of cash on hand, or buying a little extra tile so that you don’t find your shower half-tiled with discontinued tile. Have game plan for your renovation, but also have a few contingency plans in place in case the you-know-what hits the fan.

gray and yellow bathroom


8. Have a drink and complain a little. It’s incredible how much stress can be relieved with a little venting session. Of course, you don’t want to turn into the person that people run away from because all you do is whine about your house, but a few carefully considered complaints here and there are perfectly acceptable. Top it off with a margarita and you’ll feel better in no time.


9. Remember that it will all be worth it when it’s over.  I promise.

Image sources:  Better Homes & Gardens

Fantastic advice!  You can catch up with Liz at her blog It’s Great to Be Home. Her words of wisdom ring so true and the memories come flooding back. Want to see pictures of our home renovation from over six years ago? It took some rooting around through the archives, but I found some old pictures and posted these construction images and bit of story to go with it. It’s all the ugly “before” that had to happen to get us where we are today.

So many of the tips Liz shared today are exactly what we lived through six years ago. I remember buying my first Shop Vac just to get rid of all the incredible amounts of dust, and truly regret hiring the cheap plumber who never did get the bathtub faucet to work properly.

For those of you who have lived through a home renovation, what advice can you share from your experience?



8 More Ways to Add Curb Appeal

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I’m back home from my whirlwind trip to Salt Lake City, had a great time at the conference and got a chance to connect with a lot of blog friends too. Yesterday I did a little shopping since I’m sprucing the sit down section of our courtyard and wanted to pick up a few colorful accessories. I’m hoping to pull it together and show you later this week! 

We also spent some time in the yard doing all those necessary things like feeding and watering that come with shrubs and plants that are blooming once more – this is that time of year that gets us all thinking about ways to improve the outdoor areas. Today contributing writer Shannon from AKA Design is back to share with you eight additional ways to add curb appeal to your home.

“It’s a fact, a house with pretty curb appeal stands out in a neighborhood. Often curb appeal is a priority when a house is being listed for sale, but it needn’t be reserved solely for that occasion. Improving your home’s curb appeal adds to its value, and a home that possesses it brings a smile to both the homeowner and the neighbors that pass by, demonstrating that the home is well loved and well cared for.

Kate wrote a post called Curb Appeal: 8 Weekend DIY Projects back in 2012. Her ideas are still applicable and included painting or replacing the front door, creating a container garden, adding window boxes, creating a porch seating area, adding architectural accents, updating garage doors, investing in good landscaping and lighting a pathway to the front door. To build on those ideas, here are eight more ways to add that extra something special that will improve the impression of your home’s exterior.

1. Spruce Up the Side Yard.  Whether it’s the space adjacent to the garage or the area of yard that includes the gates, the side yard shouldn’t be overlooked when improving a home’s curb appeal. Extend the front yard landscaping around to the side and consider including an arbor, gate, or attractive pathway. 

side arbor with lantern sconces bhg

Better Homes and Gardens

side yard walkway

Amelia B Lima & Associates    

2. Add a Fence. There’s a reason we all cite the “white picket fence” as the ideal, it adds depth and encloses the yard but also draws the attention of a passersby with its clean lines and classic style. Other styles of fencing are equally attractive depending on the style of the home. Front yard fencing in the form of stone, wrought iron, or a wooden all accomplish the same delineation of property lines and offer a a place to anchor shrubs or grow trellising vines.

blue house white picket fence

Sarah Dorio for HGTV

black fence stockandhill

Stock and Hill

white home black shutters tom plant

Tom Plant, Realtor 

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