In TMRW’s “My First” series, we highlight true stories from readers who open up about the pivotal moments in their lives — from their first jobs to their first breakups and more — and what they learned from these personal milestones.
My family moves frequently because of my husband’s work. We’ve already moved three times in the last three years, so when it comes to finding the "perfect" house, we have started taking matters into our own hands by renovating homes to fit our family's needs.
Where it all started
My first home renovation began about six years ago when my husband and I were starting a new chapter in our lives in Louisville, Kentucky. We wanted to own a home that was large enough for our growing family but we couldn't afford to buy a completely renovated house and then sell it again in a few years without taking a big loss.
Instead, we decided to buy a 1970s ranch house that was nearly 1,800 square feet with a plan to renovate it ourselves. We figured we could become people who fix things and learn something new during the process, even though we had no fixing-up skills to start. We did almost every project on our own and we learned "on the job" through YouTube videos, articles we found online and hours of phone calls to our fathers. When we moved in, we had one child, who was about 1 1/2, and we had another child while we lived there, so renovating the house with a toddler and a baby didn’t make for a very fast process.
The house was a nicely-sized starter home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The previous owner had kept the house in good condition but it hadn’t been updated in at least 20 years. We ended up renovating 70-80% of the living space upstairs, redid bathrooms, whitewashed the fireplace, filled in cracks in the driveway, planted grass and added a shed in the yard for more storage space before we sold the house three years later.
Lessons learned along the way
One of the biggest changes we made was painting every square inch of the house — every wall, trim and ceiling. If you’ve ever painted trim, you know it’s not the most fun job around. When I first tackled it, I didn’t realize the trim had previously been painted with oil paint. I used latex paint, and when I was done, it started peeling right off because latex paint won’t stick to oil without the right preparation. I then had to go back and sand all the latex paint down and prep the trim with a product called Rust Scat before painting it yet again.
There were plenty of trials and errors like this one but we kept working steadily throughout each room.
The most eye-opening experience came when we removed a vanity top and found that the space between it and the wall was filled with garbage. Apparently, the original builder needed something to fill the gap and used paper garbage in the space as a filling. In that moment, I realized that renovating a home sometimes means doing what works. Now, I'm definitely not filling crevices with garbage, but I have moved forward with the understanding that not everything has to be completely perfect. We often think that home projects require a lot of skill and precision but in reality, they require a little bit of knowledge and the guts to give it a try.
My advice to you
With any home renovation, you start out really excited. Maybe you think, “I have a plan, I researched, I'm good to go.” But there’s a moment in most projects when it starts to feel really hard. Things don't fall into place like you think they will and every task seems more challenging than it looks on YouTube. You might even get a little discouraged.
Start small, with easy DIY jobs like pulling up old carpet, painting walls or changing out a vanity, and build from there. Don't start knocking down walls without any experience. Know where your skill level is and if you need help, reach out to your community for recommendations. As you become more confident, tackle harder tasks.
Now that I’ve turned my passion for home renovation into Love Remodeled, a home and DIY blog, I’ve learned that when you power through and get to that other side, the satisfaction that you feel is a pretty great thing.
Home renovation has become a part of life for me. We're busy all the time, fixing something, renovating something and we love the process.