I come from a long line of do-it-yourselfers. My grandfather built his own house; my grandmother always sent care packages from Denmark with handmade dolls, sweaters, socks, and cookies; my cousins remodel their own homes; and my dad rarely hired anyone for anything my entire childhood. So when my husband and I bought our first home, learning how to renovate was high on the priority list. The house was in serious need of repair and quickly became our learning ground. Mistakes were made, but lessons were learned. And by the time we moved to our new home last Spring, the realization that we were buying a fixer upper did not phase us at all. We knew we could handle the repairs and renovations on our own. We really felt confident in our ability to do anything...until our new master bathroom happened. Things are supposed to hold up in a new home for a little while, right? Haha...not in our house.
So it was early Spring of last year, and my husband and I thought it would be pretty cool to tear out the old plastic shower and tile it. We figured we would start there and save removal of the brown, 70's-style wallpaper and pink vintage (and not the good kind) vanity, toilet, and tile for the Summer. The 5x7 bathroom was made smaller by a strange wall that jutted out several feet next to the shower...we literally had to squeeze by the sink to get into the shower. What was behind the wall, we wondered. Bodies? Luckily, no. But we did find mold everywhere...and rot that extended all the way to the outside of the house, all due to a leaky shower window. All I remember thinking was oh shit! I was 4 months pregnant at the time, and my husband worked full time. This was too much to take on. So we caved and called contractors out for quotes, only to find that no one in our area could start for 6 months. We live in the country (I can literally walk down the street and see cows) where it is like pulling teeth to get anything done, which is another reason we do everything ourselves. So we did.
Little by little, the bathroom came down. My husband and father-in-law demoed the rest, all the way down to the rotted studs. And besides a window company replacing the rotted window and framing, my husband, his dad, and I (admittedly to a much smaller extent) rebuilt the bathroom, tile by tile, starting in the shower, then moving to the floor, and finally setting in a new vanity and toilet. The wall that took up so much space was knocked down to allow for a large, walk-in shower, so maybe it was all a blessing in disguise! And now it is a totally new room that I am sure the prior owner would not recognize.
If you have ever done a remodel of any kind, you probably know that point when you've ripped everything out and feel like you're stuck in the middle of an overwhelming project that will never end. But if you know what you're doing, it goes so much quicker. We have done a total of 5 bathroom remodels now, and here are some little tricks that have helped us speed up the process while still doing a good job.
1. Do Things In Order
There are good and bad orders to doing home improvements. As a general rule, work from the top down...it would be horrible to lay a nice floor only to have it damaged when you demo the shower. And you don't want to caulk floorboards only to sand walls a few minutes later and damage the caulking.
When remodeling a bathroom, our MO is demo first, followed by laying new tile, grouting, and caulking in the shower. Then tackle the floor (floor is second to avoid stepping on "unset" tiles to reach the shower), again laying tile, grouting, and caulking. Then put in a new vanity and toilet, and caulk. Finally, caulk and paint the floorboards. Lastly, I paint the room, making sure to cover everything so paint does not splatter all over my hard work!
2. Buy Good Materials and Equipment
I cannot stress enough the importance of buying the better materials and equipment, even if it costs a little more. There is really a difference when it comes to home improvement. Painting for example...cheaper paints may take several coats, whereas more expensive brands usually have built in primer and often require just one coat.
3. Set a Schedule and Stick to It
Map out when you will work, whether it's weekends or evenings, and try to stick to it. Projects only get done in a timely manner if you're committed to working on it. That being said, if you feel like you really need a break from the schedule, take it. I find that I start messing up when I feel burned out.
4. Take Your Time
It sounds contrary to saving time, but spending those few extra minutes on a task and doing it right may save you a few hours of trying to fix a mistake. If you do not feel like you are in the mood to work, then don't...you probably won't do a good job. Set aside time when you know you can concentrate and take your time to do it correctly. And take the time to research what you are doing before you start...watch YouTube videos or ask a knowledgeable friend for help.
5. Give Yourself a Reward
Stay motivated throughout the project by giving yourself a gift to look forward to. Maybe it's a new vanity you've been admiring or rustic wall shelves you've always wanted. Pick decor for your bathroom that will make completing it more exciting, kind of like chasing the carrot!
I hope you feel inspired to do your own home reno project! Just remember to be organized about it, take your time, and ask for help. Thanks so much for reading! Please share your remodeling stories in the comments below!