7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Buying My Fixer-Upper

published Feb 1, 2019
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When my husband and I finally started looking for a home (after years of renting a barn loft that was short on insulation and long on character), our budget led us to two options: a newer home we would reluctantly call “nice,” or an older home in need of some major updating but one that we could definitely see becoming ours. Despite the fact that everyone who saw option number two clearly had reservations about the work involved, it didn’t take us long to start dreaming up all the changes we’d make, and how we would turn this fixer-upper into a dream home.

The home we have today barely looks like the place we bought two years ago — in the best way. But the journey to get here? It didn’t look quite like what we originally had in mind. In honor of those home renovation ups and downs, here are (most of) the things I wish I could tell my wide-eyed, pre-homeowner self.

It Will Take Longer Than You Think

The word you’re looking for is probably, “Duh.” But guys! This one is so important. Not only did most of our projects take longer than we thought on an individual basis (whether that was because we discovered the subfloor in the laundry room was somehow questionably stained, or that our popcorn ceilings were painted, making ceiling scraping much tougher than expected), but also our renovation as a whole took so much longer than anticipated. As in: the paint in our bedroom is still only half-finished, and has been that way for two years. Someday.

It Will Cost More, Too

We started our homeowner (and home renovator) life with extra money set aside. But it didn’t take long for that new house fund to begin disappearing, like once we realized we needed to install a fence pronto — as much to keep the deer out of our yard (Colorado problems?) as to keep our dog in it. Our workaround was to reallocate part of our monthly budget to home projects, but that slowed down our progress. Realistically, we should have priced out more of our ideas in advance and made sure we definitely had the money ahead of time.

You’re Probably Going to Need Some Help…

Not only were some of our plans incredibly time-consuming (scraping about 1600 square feet of popcorn ceilings, then priming and re-texturing them ourselves, for one), a few of them also required skills that we didn’t already have. Because our plan was to carry out as much of our renovation as possible without contracting out the work, we ended up reaching out to friends and family members for advice, a little bit of coaching, and even some on-site assistance.

…and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for It

It’s becoming clear to me that my personal Achilles heel is a pretty deeply-rooted independent streak. I do not like to ask for help, especially if it’s with something I know I’m capable of accomplishing on my own. That said, our fixer-upper taught me that it’s okay to reach out for a helping hand (or a half-dozen of them). And it also taught me that, more often than not, friends and family are happy to step in — especially if there’s a chance they’ll be compensated with quality time, good food and a few adult beverages.

Invest in Quality Supplies

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, two people set out to paint the interior of their home. But instead of taking the advice given to them and purchasing high-quality paint, they decided to try to save money and bought the cheap stuff. Four coats later, they vowed to never skimp on paint again. Sometimes you’ll be able to opt for the budget option, but other times it’s definitely worth it to splurge. Think about the cost and value of your decisions ahead of time — and purchase accordingly.

Know the End Game Before You Begin

Not with the whole house, per se. But before you start a project – at all – know where you want it to go, and how you’re planning to get there. I mean, I’m totally a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl, but when you’re staring at the interior of a home that’s going to require changes in every single room, at least having a list of what those changes will be is essential. Especially if you’re working as part of a team, whether that means two people or ten. If you don’t? You may end up with gaping holes in your backyard for a whole year because you got your wires crossed on when landscaping was going to come into play.

You Will Develop Blind Spots

The biggest risk in not having a carefully-laid plan of attack for the entire scope of a renovation project? Getting most of the way done, stalling out, and then becoming numb to the partially-complete state of your home, room, closet, whatever. That aforementioned, half-painted bedroom of mine? The project has been pushed off again and again because no one outside of my husband and me sees that room. But guess what: It’s been two years since we started, and we’ve developed blind spots. We don’t see it either.

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.21.2018 – LS