A guide to DIY home renovations

Household 4 min read

How to transform your DIY dreams into reality

If you’re a homeowner like me who loves to learn new things and tinker around the house, chances are you’re probably sizing up your next potential do-it-yourself (DIY) renovation right now.

Before you get started, consider some of these helpful DIY tips I’ve learned along the way to get you on the right track.

Start small, then go big

My wife and I purchased our home in 2012. To help cut expenses, I took on some rather small DIY projects that I felt were easy to conquer. Things like painting the walls and trim, and installing new ceiling fans, toilets, and faucets around the house.

As time moved on, I built up the courage to tackle some bigger projects—like epoxying our basement floor, installing drywall in the garage, and even building a paver patio in the backyard.

So, before you take on that entire master bathroom remodel, choose some smaller DIY projects around the house to sharpen your skills and boost your overall confidence for the bigger projects ahead.

Ask yourself, “Can I seriously do this?”

A couple years back, I purchased a bath exhaust fan to install in our bathroom. “This will take no time at all,” I thought to myself. Famous last words.

I pulled the fan from the box and stared in disbelief at all of the wires and components. I dismantled the old fan and noticed it stretched into the attic space. After I took a peek into our attic and came across about 10 inches of ceiling insulation covering the floor, I said “No way!” and called an electrician.

The lesson here is to be realistic about what type of DIY renovations you’re fairly certain you can complete and which ones you should probably pay someone else to do. Take into account the total cost of your renovation, including the tools you’ll probably have to buy or rent—and don’t forget the sweat equity you’ll be putting into your project, as well.

Talk to the masters

I began a small tile job in our half bathroom. I purchased all of the essential tools, including a spreader, sponge, grout, etc. Everything was going smoothly until I ran into a problem. I wasn’t sure how to cut and place the tile around the vent cover, which caused me to panic.

Then I remembered a co-worker, who was a contractor in his early years. Coincidentally, he had just tiled his bathroom. I gave him a call and he patiently walked me through my problem. Thanks to his sage-like tips, I successfully finished the job.

The lesson here is to tap into those experienced DIY friends for advice. Take them out for a cup of coffee and bend their ear on your upcoming DIY project. Take note of the types of tools, techniques, and products they used. Save some pictures on your smartphone to share with them. Ask them what mistakes and lessons they learned along the way. These folks are loaded with helpful nuggets of renovation wisdom to get you on your path to DIY success.

Go online, DIYer!

My wife wanted to hire a contractor to transform an oversized closet near the kitchen into a food pantry. I told her that I could save us some money by doing the job myself. That said, even though I was pretty confident in my DIY skills, I truthfully had no idea how to do the job.

So, before heading off to the hardware store, I slyly grabbed my smartphone, logged onto YouTube, and typed in “turning closet into pantry.” A cornucopia of videos popped up. I pulled the best advice from a handful of the videos and gleefully jumped into the project with newfound confidence. My wife was impressed with my craftsmanship as well, which is always a plus.

DIY success is seriously only a click away via social media. Whatever home renovations you want to do, I guarantee someone has written about it in a blog or filmed themselves doing it online via helpful step-by-step videos.

DIY pro viewing tip: Be sure to choose those high-rated videos with mostly positive comments.

Double-check those city ordinances

When it comes to DIY renovations, there are many big differences between implementing small cosmetic touch-ups to your bathroom and installing a culvert in your driveway—and one of them has to do with regulations.

Depending on where you live, your project may require a city permit. And, if you’re in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, it’s always best to ask someone on your board if your project adheres to their bi-laws.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to be asked by the city or your HOA to tear down your beautiful outdoor renovation because you failed to adhere to some specific code. Even worse, you could accidentally bust an underground gas, electric, or water line. So, just be sure to get the proper approvals before getting started.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

I can assure you, during all of my DIY renovation projects, things never went exactly as I had planned. Sometimes the end result turned out even better. Other times, not so much.

That’s why it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected when you delve into a DIY project, because you never know what obstacles or surprises may come up until you roll up your sleeves and get started.

If you approach your upcoming renovation knowing that (a) something more than likely will not go as planned and (b) it’s going to take more time then you originally thought—then you’re already on your way to DIY renovation success.

And when you’re planning your next big DIY project for your home, make sure to keep everything you love protected with Progressive. To learn more about buying homeowners insurance for the first time, click here.

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