I have some HUGE updates for ya’ll. You read that right – we are moving! But, let’s rewind a bit to get some context cause let’s be real: I’ve been MIA for a little while (for good reason, though!)
Smack dab in the middle of the ORC for Spring 2019, we got a phone call – there was a medical emergency situation with a very close family member, and it was pretty serious. Within 12 hours, we decided to drop everything and drive home to Louisville, Kentucky to stay indefinitely while things got sorted out. (That family member is doing much better now, thank goodness)
We ended up staying around 3 weeks, I think, but it was time to go home. Living in someone else’s house for that long with two kids under two is a tall order! I cannot describe to you the relief I felt to sleep in my own bed again after such a long time away – bliss!
But even though it was awesome to be back home, there was something missing. I really enjoyed spending time with my family in Kentucky, and since most of our family cannot travel to Texas, we have to spend two entire days with very young kids on multiple airplanes just to visit. On top of that, we’ve felt the constant push of rising cost of living (ie: property taxes) here in Austin for the last few years. That and a million other reasons like:
We started toying with the idea of moving to Kentucky, but we weren’t really that serious about it. It’s just fun to dream and spend too much time on Zillow, ya know?
We were home in Texas for a little over a month before it was time to go on our (previously scheduled) vacation to Kentucky. (That’s another thing I hate about living far away from everyone…you never get to go on a real vacation to the beach or anything like that because you should really just go home and see family) I casually mentioned to my dad that we might go look at a house there in Kentucky while we were in town, and he was surprised but excited.
My parents are actually moving out of my childhood home and into a new house right now, too, so it was super easy for them to put me in contact with their realtor. I texted them, and they set up a showing of a house I had found online for the next day.
Now guys…we have to pause for a minute. Our realtors (they are a lovely married couple who worked with my grandpa at GE years ago) are THE BOMB. Amazing. I could sing praises about them forever. They legit feel like family. I wish I could buy 10,000 houses just to be around them all the time. If you want to buy a house in Louisville, send me a message so I can put you in contact with them!
The house was fine – I think we actually would have seriously considered it if the master bathroom hadn’t been comically small. And I’m not someone who really cares about bathroom size…it was just that tiny. Two people couldn’t stand in there if they tried.
So it wasn’t the house for us, but it got the wheels turning. We decided to look at a few more, and our realtors kindly set up some viewings for us.
We went to look at around 10 properties, I think. In that time we saw:
But the most important part? We saw the house that was going to make it happen for us to move to Kentucky – it was well maintained, had character, had the right number of bedrooms, etc, etc, etc. Here she is!
I’m pretty sure it was the second house we looked at – in a beautiful older neighborhood with heavily wooded lots and homes with lots of character. It’s also the same neighborhood my very best friend growing up lived (and still lives!) in.
We walked the house in the morning, and by 6 PM we were back for a second showing. It was the house we kept comparing everything else to – the one that stuck out as the one that would work the best for us. (PS: that’s how you know it’s the one)
By the time we got home, we were ready to put in an offer, but had to wait for some paperwork from Aaron’s office. They’re the entire reason we are able to make this move – because he’s a stellar employee and because they are allowing him to work remote full-time. I can’t say enough good things about his company, and especially his superiors. They’re the best.
We spent all day Wednesday agonizing over the situation – we never intended to actually buy a home while on this trip. I hadn’t even brought my checkbook. But after staying up WAY too late talking it over Tuesday night, we decided to go ahead and put in the offer.
Wednesday evening rolled around, and our lovely realtors met us at my parent’s house to sign the formal offer. A few short hours later, the sellers accepted!
All we had to do now was sell our house (our offer on the new house was contingent on the sale of our current house in Texas). Oh yeah, and the kitchen was only half complete.
Planning. Worrying. THE KITCHEN ISN’T DONE OH MY GOD. More planning. What-the-heck-are-we-doing? It’s gonna be fine. Worrying. Planning. Stress sweating. Sleep.
Our lovely realtors knew we were only in town for a few short days and were able to get a stellar home inspector to do everything Friday morning. (Have I mentioned that I love them?). The house looked great, aside from a few small things here and there, and nothing we couldn’t tackle. The inspector even put up with my wannabe DIYer questions and made renovation jokes. Who has fun at home inspections, you ask? THIS GIRL.
We finally flew home, ready to tackle the incredibly long to-do list before listing our house. Oh yeah, and I only had 11 days to do it. I wish I had taken more pictures of this process, but I was legit running around until I couldn’t stand in the morning and my feet were bleeding. 18-20 hour and sometimes longer days…no joke. Here’s a sampling of what I accomplished:
The real to-do list was a LOT longer, but I got it done and it was SO worth it. Check out the listing pictures:
I love how it turned out – there are still hundreds of things that I wanted to do, but it’s someone else’s home now. I’m pumped for the new one…there are some fun projects I’ve been dreaming about. Plus: WE’LL HAVE A BASEMENT! We have some leads on the sale of our current home right now that I’m hoping will pan out – everybody cross your fingers for us! I’ll update you guys again soon 🙂
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with friends, family, or acquaintances, and they were shocked at the projects that I tackle around my home. They say something to the effect of, “Wow! I could never do that. You’re so talented!”. While that’s super nice to hear, it’s totally NOT TRUE! I’m a normal human being, just like everyone else..no special talents here. If you’ve ever wanted to DIY a project around your home, then you can! It’s 100% within reach. That being said, I didn’t tackle a whole kitchen renovation as my first project. I started way smaller than that.
Like, way smaller. I’ve mentioned it a few times on my blog, but I grew up in a DIY-centric family. My grandpa is an engineer, my grandma is a master electrician, my dad knows his way around a sledgehammer and dremel, and my mom is a killer painter and quilter. Even when I was very young, my family involved me in all kinds of projects around the house. I knew a Phillips from a flathead before I could talk, and my knowledge grew from there.
You definitely don’t have to be part of a DIY-centric family to DIY, though. My friends got roped into helping too. Apparently, if you stick around long enough, we’d put a hammer in your hands and tell you to get to work. My VERY best friend growing up still fondly remembers throwing hammers to demo the back wall of my parent’s garage when we were in elementary school. (She’s the cutie with the pigtails and I’m rocking that orange scrunchie in the picture above)
As I got older, my parents included me in more and more projects – I helped demo the deck on the back of our house, was in charge of painting my room, knew how to cut the electricity when we installed new lighting, etc. I learned what different tools were called, safety rules, how things were constructed, and generally how homes work.
And then there was this. You’re welcome for that face, by the way. Thoroughly embarrassing, but it was too good not to share. My dad has the most kick-butt workshop in the basement of their house, and years ago he decided to paint the floors. I asked if I could help, and well…that picture was the result. Straight up model material, I tell ya. If you’re looking for your first project, paint is a great starting point – it’s pretty safe and you can’t mess it up too permanently (unlike this image, which is now burned into my retinas. Oh, middle school).
So, my childhood and adolescence taught me a lot about homes and DIY, but it wasn’t until I bought my own home that I really started learning more than the basics. One of the first projects I tackled in our home was tearing down a wall in the upstairs office (see that giant hole in our carpet?). It taught me about demolition, framing, and electrical. We painted everywhere, and that taught me about taping and how essential prep work is. Our dryer broke, and that taught me about appliance repair.
In other words – I learned through experience. You can’t be an expert at something if you don’t DO it. It’s one thing to read about it on a blog or listen to it on a podcast, and a completely different thing to actually make it happen. I have made SO. MANY. MISTAKES. But they’ve taught me a ton along the way, and I’m a better DIYer for it.
And in case you think I have a wealth of experience, most of the jobs in this house were my first attempt at that particular skill. I had never laid tile before installing it in our kitchen, I’d never put down hardwoods before installing 1000+ square feet of it throughout our home. Renovating stairs? Yeah, that was brand new, too. But I taught myself what I needed to know, and jumped in head first to slowly renovate our whole house. It’s okay to learn along the way – there’s no possible way to plan for everything.
Okay, cool motivating story, right? You totally want to tear down a wall now. I get it. But before you pull on your steel-toed boots, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Because DIY isn’t for everyone. I just so happen to genuinely enjoy it – I binge watch HGTV and scope out Lowe’s Youtube channel for fun. The bed in the picture above? I built that for fun. I generally just want to be Anna White when I grow up. And I think that has a lot more to do with my personality than my skills – I would enjoy it even if I was really bad at it.
If you demo your kitchen, you need to know that you can finish it. Even when you don’t want to. If you say you’re going to do something and you don’t often follow through, DIY may not be for you.
If you’re someone that delivers on what they promise, someone that people can count on…I’d say you’re the DIY type. Finishing projects is so important – nobody wants to live in a kitchen without a sink.
For smaller projects like painting or building/hanging shelves, there aren’t a ton of tools required. But the more complex the project, the more complicated your shopping list will become.
I have SO many tools to cut things – a jigsaw, a circular saw, a hand saw, a miter saw, a table saw, etc. Each serves a specific purpose and are all needed for what I do, but they didn’t come cheap. DIY projects often mean you’ll save on labor compared to a pro, but you have to buy the tools that a pro would have brought with them. Be ready to plunk down some change for the right tool for the job.
I hope that someday, I can cover 99% of the topics a homeowner could run into on this blog. And while I write several posts a week, my time and budget are limited. Someday I’ll be the female version of Bob Vila, but until I can figure out how to grow a rockin’ beard, I’ll be here. Don’t worry, though. There are wonderful resources out there that cover everything from how to fix textured walls to how to install a brand new kitchen sink (and everything in between). I learned everything I know from other people – from researching. If you love research, then you’ll love DIY. I probably spend just as much time learning about a future project as I do actually doing it.
DIY, like any other hobby or task, takes time. And I get it! We are all busy. I’m a mom of two kids born within 15 months of each other, a wife to a wonderful husband, a blogger for my little corner of the internet (which takes way more time than you’d think), and I have a home to take care of. But you know what? I have enough time to accomplish a TON.
If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll make the time no matter how busy you are. As I said earlier, I genuinely love DIY. I love the smell of sawdust, getting my hands dirty, and lifting heavy things. It makes me feel SO powerful! And because I love it, I find the time. I get a lot accomplished at night and during naptime. If you are passionate enough about the project you want to tackle, you’ll find the time.
Remember that troop-mate at girl scout camp that screamed when mud got on her leg? Or the classmate that wouldn’t share her water bottle
It’s dirty. And gross (especially plumbing). You’re gonna get sweaty, you’ll definitely be sore, and there will probably be mysterious bruises somewhere. And it’s TOTALLY worth it. I don’t enjoy being disgusting, but maaannnn that shower afterwards feels good. Especially when you think back on all you’ve accomplished.
DIYing can test your will faster than most other hobbies – it can be straight up frustrating. But if you can keep an even head and realize it’s not the end of the world if x, y, or z happens, you’ll be just fine DIYing. I actually think this is the most important point on this list – if you get frustrated to continue and give up too easily, DIYing is not for you.
Would it have been a great idea to tear out a wall as the first project in this home if I had never done any DIY before? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Start small. Do something inexpensive, that can be accomplished quickly, and is okay if you mess up. My favorite? Paint.
Our master bedroom has transformed since moving in, and it’s mostly because of paint. We brightened everything up with an almost white grey, and it completely changed the space. Does that mean I got it right the first time? NOPE. It was a way-too-bright blue for a few years before I came to my sense.
Once you have a few simple projects under your belt, it’s time to push yourself. Try something a little harder. Maybe build a piece of furniture or rewire a light fixture! You’re still going to make mistakes (I definitely do, all the time), but you’ll be better for it. Remember, even the masters started as beginners once (except for Tim the Tool Man Taylor…he was born with a wrench in his hand). They learned, and then they got better!
You (probably) have the exact same set of hands and the same perfectly capable body that the pros do. Experience (and great tools) are the only things that really separate you from them. It’s all just knowledge. You can learn to do anything! Want to rewire your entire house (don’t do that, guys), go ahead! Just do some research first. And if you just want to throw a hammer at a wall, I’m sure my parents could put you to work.
Remodeling a kitchen is ALWAYS a long proposition, and it can certainly be stressful. But here’s the thing – I don’t actually think the remodel is the hard part. It’s doing your dishes in the bathroom sink and the setting up of the makeshift kitchen. There’s nothing more infuriating than trying to wash a full-size baking sheet in a too-small basin.
If you’re planning (or dreaming about) a kitchen remodel, then chances are you’ve also won the very sexy prize of setting up a makeshift kitchen! It’s kind of like cooking in college was, but now with the added difficulty of feedings kids and a spouse. And I guess less beer pong happening in the background. Don’t worry though, I’ve already waded through these treacherous and murky waters and have some survival tips for you. Seriously Pinterest-worthy spaces ahead, friends…prepare to be amazed.
PS: Wanna catch up on the renovation so far? Check out our plan to deal with a load bearing wall, how we framed a wall directly over our ceramic tile, how we planned for our first three-way switch, when shared some tips for the IKEA delivery day, and how I messed up my first tiling job. We’re finishing drywall this weekend, and I should have another update for you Monday!
I think my favorite thing we’ve done in our remodel so far is to do it in phases – I actually built one wall of cabinets before even demo-ing anything else. While it would have definitely been faster to demolish everything all at once (and way more fun), having those cabinets in already means that all of our kitchen stuff is still actually in our kitchen. It’s not organized at all, and everything is kinda shoved in there, but it works.
Obviously, the idea of phases isn’t going to work for every kitchen remodel, but if you’ve got any hope of keeping at least SOME cabinets accessible, I think it’s totally worth the extra hassle. Right now, even though our kitchen is torn apart, we still have a microwave, fridge, and stove (though it’s so caked with drywall dust I don’t want to touch it right now), as well as plenty of space to store food. Without doing it in phases, that wouldn’t have been possible.
If you don’t have the luxury of a phased renovation, then you’re gonna have to find a place to put all your stuff. It’s amazing how much junk kitchen cabinets can hold! The best solutions I’ve seen to this problem involve setting up bookshelves (either borrowed from other spots in your home, friends, or thrifted) like an open-door cabinet or pantry.
If you don’t have access to a bookshelf, those clear organizational bins are a great way to store kitchen items. I have all of our pots and pans that wouldn’t fit in our ‘phase one’ cabinets in a bin in our dining room, and it has worked out extremely well. Laundry baskets would work, too, and that serves as a GREAT excuse to not have to do laundry!
There’s one more thing that I did that really helped when we started this renovation – I got rid of a ton of stuff. From old waffle irons that we rarely used to chipped plates, bowls, etc…a lot got donated. It feels good to go into a renovation a little lighter, and if we truly miss any of those items in the future, we can always repurchase them. Basically, call me Marie Kondo. (hahahahahahaha)
I really want to save our beautiful planet, I do. We use cloth diapers and wipes, I drove a hybrid car for a number of years, and we fill up our (HUGE) recycling bin every pickup. But during a kitchen remodel, you’d better believe I’m stocking up my makeshift kitchen using paper plates. And cups. Also mugs. And everything. (Don’t hate me…I’ll plant a tree or something later, I promise)
I set up our new disposable dishes in the ‘phase one’ cabinets, and even put together a little utensil caddy to wrangle everything. My favorite disposable purchase though, hands down, are the hundreds of insulated coffee mugs that make mornings SO much easier. I don’t have the energy to wash mugs when I DO have a kitchen sink, so coffee that doesn’t need extra cleanup is a win in my book.
If I was a better cook, I would invest in some of those disposable casserole pans that people use to cook freezer meals. They are great – I used a ton of them when I was prepping for Tyler’s birth, and they saved my butt with dinnertime more than once. Which leads me to my next point.
Bless you, Costco. Thank you for low prices and free samples, for paying your employees a living wage and having fantastic produce. But most of all, thank you for delicious pre-made meals (especially those stuffed peppers GAHHH they are so good). I stocked up on basically any non-prep meal Costco had to offer during the first few days of our renovation, and it has been so nice. Pretty much all their pre-prepared meals require an oven at 400 degrees for an hour, and you’re ready to go. Throw some foil over it if there are leftovers, and pitch the whole thing when you’re done. (Eek…maybe I’ll plant two trees, just to be safe!)
If you don’t have a Costco, don’t worry. There are all kinds of delicious freezer meals out there these days! I picked up a few things here and there, and have been pleasantly surprised with what I could throw together.
Other than that, I’ve been serving simple stuff – bagels and cream cheese, cereal, etc for breakfast, lots of applesauce and yogurt for snacks…you get the picture. If ever there was a time to justify buying the pre-packaged stuff from the grocery, this is it.
Finding a place in our makeshift kitchen to prepare everything during this remodel hasn’t been too rough because of that phased renovation concept I talked about earlier. That being said, prep space has been a little bit harder to come by. Beyond our desk counter pictured above (which is lower than a regular counter anyway), I’ve been doing some preparing at the dinner table, as well as at our makeshift countertop in the dining room. I just have to remember to NOT step in the dog’s water bowl with new socks on…not that that has ever happened or anything.
I hate dishes. I hate them I hate them I hate them. Definitely my least favorite household chore. But even with all the disposables in the world, they’re still going to accumulate. We’ve set up a little washing station in our guest bath, and a makeshift drying rack on a step ladder next to the sink. And yes, it is as cramped as it looks in that picture. Get yourself some tunes, a soap that you like the smell of, etc. Doing dishes during a renovation just sucks, there’s no way around it.
My only word of advice in terms of dishes? The shower helps. Yes, I’ve done my dishes in the shower. Large pots and pans just don’t fit, and I miss my sprayer. And what looks like a giant sink sprayer? A shower head. Did I get a little wet? Yep. Worth it to rinse off the spaghetti pot NOT in the comically small sink? 1000x yep.
It really isn’t that hard to live through a kitchen remodel (says the girl who still has working major appliances) if you plan ahead of time, manage your expectations, and put together a makeshift kitchen. Try and do it in phases if you can, and run to Costco if you can’t.
When I was in either late high school or early college, my parents and grandparents put together my first toolbox for me. It had all the basics – screwdrivers, hammers, a stud finder…you name it and it was in there. It was SUCH a neat gift – they personalized it just for me, and I truly cherish it. Think of this post like that toolbox. I wish I could give every single person in this world a basic set of tools and get them started with DIY! Until I win the lottery (and some serious frequent flyer miles), I can at least get you pointed in the right direction, so here’s my list of basic tools every DIYer should own.
Here’s the thing…in
If I could only take one item with me to a remote island, it would be my cordless drill and drill bit set. On the list of basic tools every DIYer should own…it’s number one. I put the drill and the drill bit together because there really isn’t a reason to have one and not the other. I have seriously used my drill on every single renovation or even regular household project I’ve ever done. Even if you don’t like DIY (which…why are you here then?), you need this.
The Ryobi One+ 18V Drill/Driver with Keyless Chuck and Ryobi 90 Piece Drilling and Driving Kit. I love them. The drill is lightweight, heavy duty, and has worked flawlessly for what I’m sure is hundreds of hours at this point. And investing in a large set of bits to go with your drill is a great idea – you will spend way more (in gas to the store and for the actual items) trying to piece together what you need.
From unscrewing outlet and switch plates, to drilling holes to run new wire, to drilling into our subway tile backsplash, during our custom desk build, when we installed door hardware, to putting together all kinds of furniture, etc, etc, etc we’ve used
It doesn’t get much more basic than this tool – h
A basic Stanley hammer, though I definitely intend to upgrade someday when I need something heavier duty. I also have a cheap rubber mallet that has worked just fine for those times that you need a gentler touch.
Framing a new wall in our kitchen, installing our new floating bamboo floors, refinishing and installing a runner on our stairs, and many more projects. This is another tool, while not as near and dear to my heart as my drill, that I would never want to give up. It isn’t sexy, but it sure is functional.
Every DIYer should own
An awesome Kobalt (Lowe’s) brand one that I picked up on a whim and LOVE. It has tons of features, a decent
Every project. I feel like a broken record, but seriously, I use this thing all the time. SO much so that I actually keep it in my kitchen so I don’t have to trek out to the garage to get it. We used it when installing the new wall in our kitchen, when we installed our new floating bamboo floors, when we installed a runner on our stairs, during our custom desk build, the list goes on and on.
Cutting things by hand takes forever, and isn’t nearly as accurate as cutting with a power tool is. We actually built our first bed with only a
I have Ryobi’s 18V Cordless 6 1/2″ Circular
When we framed a new wall in our kitchen, during a few straight cuts for our bamboo floors in our bedroom, and to rip the stair risers when we overhauled our stairs. There are tons of uses for a circular saw, though, and it’s a worthwhile investment.
Drilling holes into the wall, or knocking on them, just isn’t efficient or accurate. Plus, it won’t tell you where electrical or plumbing is. Having a stud finder can keep you from nicking things behind the wall you didn’t intend to, and save you time patching drywall later.
I bought a relatively inexpensive Stanley one a few years ago after one that was passed down to me died, but I definitely want to upgrade to a fancier one when this one dies. This is a list of the basic tools every DIYer should own, so you definitely don’t NEED the extra features (I’ve done just fine with the one I have), but they’re pretty nice to have and will save you time.
From mounting TVs to walls, to hanging shelves in our kitchen, to hanging heavy pictures, this thing gets a workout and is in an easy to access area of my garage.
The most important basic tool (that EVERY DIYer should own) is a set of safety gear. Safety is really important. Imagine going through life with one less eye, or limited vision because you didn’t feel like putting on your safety glasses…that’s just silly. You only get one body – take care of it (especially around power tools!) It takes less than a second to put on glasses/gloves/safety gear and it can truly save your life (or quality of life).
The gloves I use are actually Mechanix brand (just a brand, not specifically designed for car mechanics or anything), and I love them. We’ve gone through a few pairs in the past few years, but they are seriously tough. The safety glasses were just some from the home improvement store (no brand or anything, I just picked them because they matched my Ryobi tools), and I wish I had bought something without any kind of UV protection or filter – they’re DARK when you wear them indoors!
Every project! Even just picking up leaves in our front yard – I did it once without gloves and my hands were completely torn up. We’ve definitely used them a ton during the rewiring of our kitchen and hallway.
Sanding by hand is incredibly inefficient, and tough on your body. And if you don’t prep your surfaces before you paint/prime/finish them, the finish won’t last nearly as long. When
I have the Ryobi Corner Cat Sander, and it’s awesome. The small form factor makes it light, easy to use, and great for getting into small places. It’s pretty inexpensive (I bought it back when I first started DIYing) and I’m definitely thinking about upgrading for some of the big projects I have planned for the future, but so far it has served me extremely well. Even if I do upgrade, I’ll keep this little guy around, since it’s great for detail work.
Fun story – our half bath on the first floor of our house had a badly
This is the only one on my list of basic tools that every DIYer should own that has an asterisk by it. That being said, if you were to skip one tool on this list, I’d recommend skipping this one. It’s absolutely fantastic and has saved me TONS of time, but it’s also pretty expensive. Worth it, but expensive. While you can drive nails by hand sometimes, a powerful tool can get nails or brads into much harder materials easily and quickly. Not to mention, the finished product is usually much cleaner.
While it’s definitely an ‘advanced’ beginning DIYer’s tool, I do think they should be more widely used, which is why I’ve included it on this list. Attaching boards, trim, etc are so much cleaner and easier to finish if they are done with a nail gun rather than by hand.
I have the Ryobi 16 Gauge Finish Nailer, but you could definitely go with something a little less expensive, depending on the project. I opted for a bigger model since I didn’t want to purchase another one in the future. You can always turn it down, but if the motor isn’t large enough, you can’t turn it up.
I’ve mostly used this on the stair remodel so far, but it would have been impossible without it. This is also the tool to use if you’re installing any kind of trim or baseboards. I have big plans for the backyard someday that will give this puppy a serious workout (stay tuned!).
Probably the most overlooked by DIYers, but still basic tool on this list is the quick clamp. Holding things by hand is possible, but dangerous when you’re cutting. And? Sometimes you just need another hand (moms out there, I KNOW you can relate). These are a fast way to sturdy up whatever you’re doing.
I have several Irwin Quick Grips, and I love them. After growing up using my parent’s old style twist ones, the quick change mechanisms are a HUGE upgrade. They’re easy to use, lightweight, and a snap to store. Plus they come in tons of lengths. Maybe I’m weird, but I like all my tools to match…the fact that they have every length I could dream of is a big plus for me.
These were super helpful when we installed the hardwoods both upstairs and downstairs to hold boards in place while I cut them. They’re like an extra hand. Now if only I could figure out how to use them to help wrangle my children when strangers are staring at me at Costco. Kidding. Kind of.
Inexpensive, agile, and powerful, m
I have a Skil brand jigsaw, and while it doesn’t have many features, it has
If you’ve read my floating hardwood floor installation tutorial, I actually used this thing to rip every single board. Silly. That’s definitely not the use case for a tool like this (buy a table saw!), but it got the job done. If you ever intend to cut something with a curve or strange cut-out, this is the tool to use.
So now you’ve got an idea of the basic tools every DIYer should own. If you’re a DIY newbie and you don’t have ANYTHING, this is the place to start. With the tools on this list, you can tackle almost any easy/medium project, and you’ll feel great building something yourself. And if plunking down the cash for tools intimidates you, just know that they’ll pay for themselves the first time you DIY something and don’t hire it out. I’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars with the tools on this list vs. hiring a pro – they are definitely worth the investment.
Have you ever wondered if that big check you just wrote to a contractor could have been saved if you had just done it yourself? You’re smart, and can do anything if you learn! Well, I completely agree – that’s basically my mantra for life around here at DIY Without Fear: I think 99% of home projects can be completed by the average homeowner, and you shouldn’t have to hire things out if you don’t want to. But sometimes…it’s the better choice to call a professional. (Spoiler alert: I’ve never regretted it)
In the past few years of owning my home, I’ve tackled some pretty big projects – tearing down a wall in our office, installing bamboo hardwoods on our stairs and throughout the second floor, wiring new fixtures in the downstairs hallway, and now I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation that I intend to do almost completely by myself (with my lovely husband’s help, of course.)
And I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve called a pro in. Once for a plumbing issue that I can’t even remember what it was now, a few times for our old AC unit (you often can’t DIY that legally), once for an electrician for some non-code wiring that needed sorted out in our attic, another time for an electrician when something went bad in our main panel (DON’T DIY that one…you could legit die), and once for baseboards because I was being lazy. That’s it for the 3 years we’ve lived here so far.
Deciding when to DIY and when to hire a contractor can be complicated. There are lots of things to consider, but I’ve gathered them all up in one place for you! Let’s get started!
It took us almost 5 MONTHS to finish the bamboo floors we laid throughout our second story. Part of it was that it was a big project with a lot of mundane elements. It wasn’t exciting. Part of it was that I was pregnant and really uncomfortable, so spending my weekends laying hardwoods wasn’t my idea of a good time. A professional, though? Probably could have knocked it out in a few days.
When you’re considering when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, think about how long it will take for you to do it vs. a professional. Then double the DIY estimate – that’s more along the lines of what it will actually take. It’s not usually the do-ing that takes forever, it’s the getting ready to do it, running to Lowe’s AGAIN, cleaning up in between, taking care of kids, etc.
If you have that kind of time – great! Or if you don’t mind stretching out a renovation over a few months, that works too. But if time is of the essence, or if you’d rather spend your time doing other things, consider hiring it out.
Another thing to consider is whether or not it is possible to live in your home with a
This is usually the biggest influence for me – I think if I had all the money in the world, I’d still DIY a few things but I’d hire out a lot more things than I do now. Not that I don’t love DIY, I really do, but I hate drywall, and plumbing is just plain gross. And u
Budget is the main reason that we’re choosing to DIY our kitchen remodel (and because I love a big project!). The quotes I got back from contractors were 5
When choosing between when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, there’s never going to be a time when a contractor is going to be cheaper than DIY – and there shouldn’t be. Contractors are skilled professionals that deserve to be compensated for their time. But if cost is the most important factor, buckle in and head to your home improvement store…you’re gonna DIY. Keep reading though, I get into this much
Would you jump off a cliff with nothing attached to you? Probably not. Would you jump off a cliff with a safety rope? Maybe (still a nope for me, though!). Would you jump off a cliff if it didn’t even feel like jumping? Sure.
Look – basically every home renovation/DIY project involves some sort of safety hazard. Even something as mundane as painting – if you were to ingest the paint you would get seriously sick. But you know not to do that, so painting seems super safe, right? It’s a risk you are willing to take, because it doesn’t feel like a risk.
Think of your knowledge and skills as your safety net. Can they make it feel like you’re not even jumping off that cliff we just talked about? Then you can probably do that project you’ve been thinking about! But if you feel like your knowledge and skills are only enough to be a safety rope, then maybe take a moment to pause and consider if you are willing to take that risk.
You can only decide what you are comfortable with. If you think your skills and knowledge are solid enough to keep you safe, go for it. But if you have any hesitation, I’d say err on the side of caution. For example, a few years ago our AC unit died. You can’t legally work on (parts of) an AC unit as an unlicensed homeowner, so we called our AC guy. He came out and fixed everything, but it turns out when the AC died, it also killed a breaker in our main box.
Electrical is an easy thing to DIY most of the time – as long as you cap everything off and know your wiring diagrams, it’s hard to mess up. Plus the danger of the project can be managed since you can turn off power to whatever outlet or fixture you’re working on. The main box, however, cannot be turned off. That’s where power from your provider first comes to your house, and it’s a LOT of power. Like, touch it and you’ll be thrown back and probably die. (This got super dark, but it really is that dangerous). I knew exactly what I needed to do to fix the fried breaker, but wasn’t willing to take the risk of accidentally touching the main bus and making my hair frizzier than it has ever been before. My kids need me more than I need to save a few hundred dollars, so I hired it out.
So when deciding when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, figure out what you’re comfortable with, and if you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it – it isn’t. Don’t jump off a cliff just to save a few bucks.
YouTube is an amazing thing. My grandparents and parents lived in a DIY world where you could only look things up in books and there weren’t hundreds of videos on every topic. But we live in an amazing world where you can learn SO MUCH for free just by typing it into Google or YouTube.
That being said, just because the information is out there doesn’t mean you are going to be able to understand it. All knowledge is built on previous knowledge, and if you’re looking up how to wire
Part of deciding when to DIY and when to hire a contractor is being honest with yourself. And sometimes you just suck at something. For me, it’s drywall. Every patch in our home looks like something out of a nightmare. I’m getting better, and learning a ton in the process, but…yeah. It’s not a good look. If you aren’t as stubborn as I am, it’s probably worth it to outsource the things you aren’t very good at.
Additionally, there are some things you just can’t teach yourself. In our kitchen, we’re moving a sink hookup around a vent in an exterior wall to a new location about 3 feet over. That’s such a specific job. I haven’t been able to find ANYTHING about it online or at my local library, and I don’t think it’s something that I could teach myself. So? We’re hiring it out, and I’m super okay with that.
Basically, if you have time to dive deep and learn what you need for a project, AND the information you need is out there, I’d say you’re looking at a fun weekend of DIY! If not, hire a pro. It doesn’t make you any less of a DIYer.
The backsplash I recently tiled isn’t going to win any tile awards (is that a thing? I hope that’s a thing, and if so, sign me up.), but I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out. Because we did a decent job, it adds value to our home.
But just for argument’s sake, let’s say someone did a mediocre job on major plumbing installs in my kitchen. They worked okay, but not perfectly. Let’s say they leaked juuus
And it isn’t even hypothetical in our home. The sink install I mentioned above? Yeah, it’s been leaking for 20 years, which led to lots of
Pros are much more likely to install things correctly, but you also have the law on your side if they mess it up (in your insurance’s eyes anyway). Insurance probably won’t cover issues like my kitchen sink, but newer work that is done incorrectly will most likely be covered. But if you do it? Tough cookies – you won’t see a dime from your insurance and will have to foot the bill to fix it.
One more thing to consider when deciding when to DIY and when to hire a contractor is tools. Tools are expensive, yo. And lots of projects need very specialized (and often expensive) tools. If you’re an avid DIYer, it might be worthwhile to invest in them, but if you are just trying to fix something once? Ehhh, probably not worth it. Think about if the cost of the tool would outweigh the cost of the professional…if so, you’ve got your answer on whether to hire one or not.
That being said, you can rent things WAY cheaper than buying. I think most people won’t need a huge industrial grade auger for anything outside of digging post holes for a fence. It definitely doesn’t make sense to buy one, but renting it would be
Whether you buy or rent, tools are only good if you know how to use them. A pro will certainly know which tool you need, how to use it, and already have it with them. If you can learn those skills too (and the tool or rental is in your budget), then tools shouldn’t stop you from DIYing.
I’m gonna let you in on a dirty secret in the DIY world. A lot of the projects you see people DIY actually require permits (depending on where you live, of course). But are code officers knocking on people’s doors? No way – they just don’t have time for that. For example, in Austin (where I live), you are required to get a permit for anything not on this list. Do you really think everyone in Austin got a permit to unclog their drains when they had to remove and replace some of the plumbing? Or that a code officer would really care? I don’t. And they won’t know unless you tell someone (or a code officer happens to knock on your door).
I’m definitely not saying break the law, just to be clear. I’m just saying a lot of homeowners do work that requires a permit without even knowing it because permits tend to be really restrictive. But permits are there for a reason – to keep people safe. If you need a permit, you might need a contractor. It doesn’t mean you can’t complete the work yourself, but it should probably give you pause about whether or not to hire a pro.
Some people (like you and me) really enjoy DIY and working on their homes. There’s something really satisfying about being able to say that you built that. Or you fixed that. It’s fun to accomplish things! If you’re going to enjoy it, go ahead! Dig in! But PS: The inverse is true, too.
When we installed the bamboo floors on the top level of our home, I enjoyed the process (mostly) but was happy when it was over. Except I never got around to baseboards. And when I went to do it, I sucked at it and it was taking FIVE-EVER. I don’t like sucking at things, and with two under two, I just didn’t have the time. I called a pro and never looked back.
Or plumbing. It’s just gross. Even clean water lines – there’s not a person in the world that likes water pouring from a mysterious pipe splashing on them. Or worse, fixing a toilet. If you enjoy those things, more power to ya (but you’re probably already a plumber!), so I’m gonna agree to disagree.
Remember when I told you to keep reading in that budget section up above? Here’s the part in this post I was talking about.
When considering when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, DIYing will always be cheaper (and in my opinion, more rewarding), but that doesn’t mean it’s always the better choice. It’s hard to compare apples to oranges, so let’s break it down. You need to know whether or not it’s worth it to pay a pro to help you complete your project. Here’s how:
But that’s not the whole story. Your time is worth something. Think about this – even if you worked a minimum wage job, your time is worth a heckuva lot more than $0. So let’s figure out your hourly wage for this potential DIY project.
The question is – are you willing to work for that rate? When you’re deciding between when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, you can justify an awful lot with whether or not you think you’re worth it, but if you don’t have the funds to pay a pro to do it? You’re gonna be DIYing it regardless. I don’t think it’s necessary to do these calculations if you know you can’t afford the bids from the pros…just go ahead and roll up your sleeves and get started. (Just like we did in our kitchen remodel)
Just to give you an idea of the kinds of things (in my opinion) that should and shouldn’t be DIYed, I’ve put together some lists below. They are certainly not exhaustive but can give you an idea of the scale of things you can tackle. BUT! Just because something is on the DIY list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire a pro if that’s what you feel in your gut. And on the other hand, if you feel capable of tackling something on the Pro list (as long as it’s legal and you’ll be safe), go for it.
Overall, when deciding when to DIY and when to hire a contractor, you just have to weigh the pros and cons. Your home is a huge investment, and it’s perfectly acceptable to want to make sure you’re making the right choice. Don’t be scared to tackle DIY projects (you can absolutely do 99% of projects in your home), but at the same time, don’t be penny rich and pound foolish. A good contractor is worth his or her weight in gold.
And if your head is spinning after this over 3,000-word blog post? Never fear. I put together a little flow chart for you to access anytime you’re considering whether or not to hire a pro.