When Scott and I made the decision to move into our house last August, we did so knowing we would be remodeling the entire thing. We moved in on August 7th, our 3rd wedding anniversary, and celebrated by eating takeout next to a stack of boxes and falling asleep on a mattress in the middle of the living room. The next morning at 8am, before we ever unpacked a single box, we began demolition. Over a period of 2 days we tore out the wood paneling in the living room, the entire kitchen, three walls and over 1000 square feet of carpet. We even ripped broken skylights out of the ceiling, pulled down old light fixtures and yanked incredibly heavy curtains right out of the wall.
We were elated. We were remodeling royalty. We had seen the shows on T.V. and knew we would be enjoying our gorgeous, newly remodeled home within a month or two.
We were terribly wrong.
In fact, it took us just under 5 months to have a functioning kitchen- it wasn’t pretty yet, but the electric and plumbing were in the right place and we had enough working lights to see. We were able to cook our first meal in our house on Christmas Eve, which we laughingly called our very own Christmas miracle. See how happy I was to have a working sink?? Praise the Lord! 🙂
Over the past year we have remodeled the kitchen, the dining room, the pantry, the sunroom, the hall bath and are just beginning work on our bedrooms.
It has been messy, exhilarating, exhausting and irritating, all at the same time, but over the past 18 months I feel like we’ve gained enough real-life experience to share some tips for how to gracefully survive living in a house you are remodeling. These are things I didn’t know from the beginning, but certainly have been learned!
1) Be realistic. I’ll tell you a little secret: sometimes, T.V. shows can be misleading. Surprised? We were! When we told our parents we thought we’d be done with our kitchen remodel in a month or so, they laughed. Once again, our parents knew best. Remodeling a house when you aren’t a professional designer or contractor and when you have full time jobs is much different than the scenarios on television. Also be realistic with your budget- my husband and I now tell everyone who asks our opinion to take their timeline and budget, and triple them to get an accurate number. We are being serious. Do not be afraid to beg for help. We are super lucky because our parents and friends were a great support system- physically and emotionally! We could have not done it without them!
2) Be prepared. Luckily we took our parents’ advice and set aside one room to use as an efficiency apartment. This 100 square foot room housed our T.V., couch, books and had an entrance into the guest bathroom which we used solely as a makeshift kitchen. We had wisely decided to have one box of absolute kitchen essentials set aside when we packed, and at the end of each day we could go into our little “kitchen”, shut the door and “cook” up some sandwiches or microwave a meal, handwash our dishes and leave them out on the counter to dry. Here’s a super ugly photo of our effeciency apartment. Notice the giant bottle of wine by the tv? There’s another tip for you. 😛
3) Be flexible. There are times when things simply won’t go as planned. An electrical outlet will be in the wrong place, a wall won’t be able to be moved, a faucet won’t fit in the sink. It happens. If you are able to be fluid with your timeline and your design, you can look at these setbacks as challenges to solve, rather than roadblocks to your goal.
4) Be inspired. Look for inspiration in unexpected places. We were debating about what kind of countertops we wanted to get, and happened to be in North Carolina on a trip, sitting at this beautiful restaurant when we noticed the countertops were amazing. Turns out they were concrete. We researched the process and ended up casting and placing our own concrete countertops into our kitchen. We both agree they are one of the best projects we’ve tackled so far. Inspiration can strike you in many places- magazines and the internet are obvious places, but what about dressing rooms, shops and restaurants? Take note of your favorite places, take pictures, study things you love. Then find the common theme and implement it into your own space.
5) Be social. For us the worst part of the remodel was the first several months when we were determined to finish as soon as possible, and spent literally every weekend and weeknight working on our house. We turned down invitation after invitation to spend time with others so we could plow through our remodel, which led to burnout and resentment. Big mistake! Take the time to dress up, go out and have fun! Don’t let your remodel take over your life- it will try. Have people over…if they love you they won’t mind that your house is kind of dusty and covered with nails. 😛
6) Unplug and get away. Whether it’s a weekend trip, or a day trip, or just an hour- take some time for you. Relax with a book or get your nails done or get a massage. Downtime is awesome- even if it’s in your own back yard on the best swinging outdoor bed of all time! 🙂
7) Be able to think long term. We looked at our remodeling process in stages. Stage one was to get the basic necessities up and functioning. Stage two was to make them look somewhat decent. Stage three was to decorate and finish. For example, our kitchen’s stage one was to have the stove, sinks, cabinets and countertops all in place. Stage two was to add the cabinet doors, backsplash and paint. We left our kitchen in stage two for six months or so while we took our hall bathroom, dining and living rooms through stages one and two. 18 months later we were finally in stage three of our kitchen- grouting backsplash, adding cabinet pulls, upgrading appliances and installing pendant lights. Figure out what you absolutely need verses want, and what will make your life the easiest.
8) Be kind. This is important for those of you working with a significant other or a friend. Be kind to one another. It’s easy for tempers to flare when you are both tired, irritated and overwhelmed. Take time to laugh about the frustrating things, and be nice to one another- after all you’re in it together! Enjoy the ride! 🙂 People have often teased us that our marriage must be crumbling (like our walls), but I can honestly say our marriage has never been better. We have so many inside jokes between us, and have truly learned how to support one another. I can say with certainty Scott has seen me at my worst. We have survived sparks flying out of the wall, crawling under the house and ripping down walls like the Hulks we are. What can’t we tackle together? 🙂
Above all…take heart! It’s just for a season….there’s an end goal in sight. And it looks sort of something like this:
Just hang on for two years-ish or so. You’ll be just fine. 😛 I’m right there with you all. Maybe I should start a support group? Remodelers Anonymous?
For those of you who have lived through this ordeal- what are your tips? Add them in the comments- I am not done yet so I will soak up any wisdom you have! 🙂
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