Despite the ubiquitous nature of home improvement television programs and websites, many people are still afraid to tackle their own home renovations. There’s a ton of good information out there on how to tackle thousands of individual projects in thousands of different ways, but how do you get to that ‘big picture’ moment? This article should help ease the feeling of being overwhelmed by your project and give you a place to start before you start watching the how-to videos and reading the DIY websites.
Getting motivated is probably the biggest step on the road to home renovation. The very concept of repairing and improving your own home can be very intimidating, but you have to start somewhere. This is perhaps the most daunting obstacle you’ll overcome, so once you win this mental battle you’ll be well on your way to a nicer home.
• Look for inspiration. Check out those DIY television shows, magazines and websites that show off those stunning before and after comparisons. Though your project won’t look exactly like any of those, absorbing yourself in someone else’s dazzling renovation success is a great start.
• Think of the time table—this isn’t going to last forever. If you make a plan and get started, you’ll be completely finished in a set amount of time.
• Keep the reward in mind. Parts of your renovation project are going to be unpleasant, but what’s the main reason you’re doing all of this? Concentrate on that light at the end of the tunnel.
• Just get started. Now that you’re full on inspiration, you have a time table and you can picture the glorious outcome of your work it’s time to get started.
You’re motivated and ready to spring into action. That’s great news. You don’t want to rush headfirst into a brick wall or feet-first into a tank of hungry piranhas, so it’s best to do some planning before you break out the drills and the paint.
• Make an exhaustive plan. This includes which project or projects you’re tackling, exactly what you hope to accomplish and a time table. Things will come up and your time won’t be used exactly how you envisioned, but you’re going to save a ton of money and heartache this way. Don’t make it up as you go.
• By all means, make a budget for your renovations. Do some research and plot it out the best that you can. You never want to feel like your home is a sinkhole that eats money and you never want to feel downtrodden because you went over budget.
• Kill two birds with one stone. If you have some bad wiring in the bedroom and you’re redoing your drywall, why not fix the wiring while the wall is open? Be practical and efficient whenever you can. Opening that wall again at a later date is going to be even less fun.
• Practical, as mentioned above, should be a main priority. It might be tempting to paint every room purple with a neon green accent wall, but that’s going to appeal to approximately 2 other people in the entire world if you ever try to sell the house. You can add a personal touch, but don’t get too eccentric.
Take it Slow
Now that you have a plan, you’re ready for the physical labor. You’ll likely be tempted to run full-steam-ahead into the project, but that might create a lot more problems than it solves. You need to keep this project manageable and realistic.
• Take small steps. Break each daunting task into smaller tasks. You’ll check them off quickly, feel accomplished and make real progress. Making the task feel manageable is just as important as the task actually being manageable.
• Don’t put your ladder in a precarious position because it will save a few minutes or save a small step. If you get hurt you’ll be so far behind that you’ll be praying for those old inconveniences. Take some time for safety—no one wants you to get hurt in the name of shaving a few minutes off of your goal.
• You’re a busy person. You probably have a job and a family. You have other worries. By all means, put a good amount of work and effort into your renovation project, but don’t work for 8 hours a day, come home and renovate for 8 hours, sleep four hours and repeat the process. Both the renovation and the rest of your life will suffer for it.
Don’t Burn Out
This one goes right along with taking it slow, but it needs to be mentioned as well. If you rush through your renovation like some sort of paintbrush-wielding human tornado you’re going to get sick of things and lose all of that magical motivation we found in step 1.
• Take a break every once in a while. Don’t exhaust yourself. Take a few minutes to have a glass of water, have a beer, watch TV, and walk the dog or whatever you like to do. You’ll be refreshed and ready for more hard work.
• Reward yourself for hard work. This is more than a break, it’s a day off, a meal at your favorite restaurant or anything else you don’t get to enjoy very often.
• Don’t isolate yourself. The next section will deal more with this, but don’t totally cut yourself off from the outside world and social interactions. You may be covered in plaster but you’re still a person.
Ask for Help
We started to touch upon this on the previous section, but there are times during the renovation process where you’ll need a friend. Sharing your hard work (or misery, which sometimes might be the case) with another human being makes everything much more tolerable.
• Draft someone else for the especially tedious or difficult tasks. Even if they’re just there to chat with and hold the ladder, you’ll be especially glad that you’ve enlisted them.
• If you’re not familiar with plumbing and you have a bathroom project to tackle, consider asking your plumber friend for help or advice. Don’t let pride get in the way of making your life much easier.
• Remember that you’re not paying your friends or family. Don’t yell at them, don’t snap at them and don’t demand too much from them. Treat them well and have fun while you work. They’ll be happy to lend a hand again.
• If a project is just too big, too complicated or too overwhelming you need to hire a contractor. There are a few things you just can’t do yourself, so know your limits and be ready to fork over some money if it’s something you just can’t realistically do. It’s not admitting defeat– it’s using your brain.
Home renovation projects are something you can accomplish. Your home is a great investment and you’ll always be searching for ways to make it just a little bit more perfect and livable. Remember that there are a ton of great tutorials on the Internet, in print and on television for you to use. These resources won’t actually become valuable, however, until you learn how to use them.
Tim Richmond is a writer, amateur historian and blogger who writes about the economy, finance, sustainable living and home ownership. He currently writes for the Native American home loan specialists 1tribal.com.