In our first significant DIY Remodel project, we decided to update the cramped bathroom in our former house. Phase 1 of this project – demolish the bathroom.

Once we had cleared the debris and rendered the room completely useless, we started to envision what it should look like when completed. We were without that bathroom for a year.

Important lesson – do not destroy anything until you have a clear vision of what the new room should look like when completed, and all the major steps in the project planned and scheduled.

The second major remodel we did was our previous kitchen remodel in our previous home (pictured in before and after shots to the right). In this case we hired contractor friends for design and project planning support, and I used a combination of friends, subcontractors and sweat equity to get the job done.

This project was a big success – from start to finish it took about 12 weeks to complete, starting with a demolition down to the studs and finishing with all details completed.

Here are some of my key learnings from that project. Before you start any remodel project, establish a vision for what you want the space to look like when completed, and have all major finishing materials and design details nailed down.

  • Spend time thinking about a project before you launch. Understand the key problems or opportunities available in the space you’re working on, and consider many options on how to address those problems or take advantage of opportunities.
  • Browse magazines, design books, and websites like pinterest.com for ideas. Make sure that the ideas are consistent with the overall décor and character of your house, particularly if you plan to sell the house.
  • Collect pictures of your favorite ideas, along with drawings of your space in a design porfolio. Share these with the design professional that you have selected to support you on your project.

The most critical success factor in completing our first kitchen remodel rapidly was having the great support of a design professional. We used our good friend Tonia Stark on our first Kitchen Remodel (sorry, but she is no longer available).

Classique Floors has designers on staff, but if you decide to hire your own design professional for a DIY remodel project, these steps are critical:

  • Look for references from friends, and from resources like Angie’s List.
  • Ask potential designers if they have worked with homeowners on DIY remodel projects before, and how they feel about engaging in such projects.
  • Be sure that your designer can not only develop detailed design plans for your project, but also can help you with planning your project schedule, including the order in which tasks must be performed, and about how long each should take.
  • Look for a designer who has a solid list of experienced subcontractors to help you with tasks that you choose not to do yourself.
  • Make sure the designer understands your vision and can help you pick out suitable finishing materials that are within your budget.

If you have kids, try to find a way to have them underfoot as little as possible. If at all possible, hire a babysitter or invest in an after-school program or summer camp; the expense will be justified by the time you gain working on your project. If they’re at least 8 years old, encourage them to work on bits of the project with you, making sure that they take proper safety precautions.
The final bit of advice – hire a handyman or someone who has experience in general construction for help on 2-person projects. A handyman can coach you on critical skills that will improve the quality of your work, and the speed with which it is performed.

It’s also useful to have an extra person around for some tasks. Make sure you pick someone with good references and who has experience with and is supportive of your DIY aspirations.

Make sure that the person you hire is licensed, bonded, and insurance to protect you from liability in case of injury or damage to your property.
Kristin & Mac
Southeast Portland

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