This may come as a shock, but I know nothing about home improvement. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. D is a much more handy with tools than I am. I like understanding how things work. But if you looked at me and said “So, here is a laundry list of things that need to happen to your house to update it,” I would have laughed at you and cried at the same time.

That is exactly what I did after D and I met with our home inspector before buying our house. I broke down in tears with that weird cry/hysterical laugh that comes from not enough sleep and too much caffeine. (Y’all know which one I’m talking about.)

After some (read: many) intense conversations, D and I obviously decided to purchase the house with the idea of making it our own. We had many pep talks before looking at the laundry list of things to tackle in “Phase 1:”

  1. Attic insulation (rip out, get rid of all rodent droppings, replace)
  2. Electrical (replace knob and tube wiring and up the amp panel)
  3. Plumbing (repipe the entire house because there was no water pressure)

Luckily, we had to hire all of this out because there was no way that he and I were going to rewire or repipe the entire house. Usually this is when people say “Whew! Well at least you didn’t have to do it!” On the contrary, we still had tons of work to do, and it was never as easy as we believed it would be.

Now that we’re officially past it (and I get to blog about it with laughter instead of tears), I’d like to share all of the things that no one told me until we were in the throes of the work. We’ll start with some of the basics here, but move on from there as we hop into each project.

  1. Start with the big picture in mind: It seems overwhelming to say this, but it really helps. For example, if we hadn’t mentioned that we would want to replace our oil furnace at some point in the future, our electrician wouldn’t have recommended increasing our amp panel beyond what was acceptable for 1950s appliances. Thank God, because now we can upgrade the kitchen, too!Think about all of the things that you’ll want to do to the house someday – not today, not tomorrow, but someday so that you can plan ahead.
  2. Get at least 3 bids, but go with your gut:  D and I found a system for screening those bidding on doing our work. They had to come over and meet me – not him. This allowed me to have to dig in and learn a ton so that I could screen people effectively, but it also allowed them to know that we were not going to cut corners with our work. It also allowed them to treat me like they would any other client. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t get our business.
  3. Anticipate every job to take twice the amount of time and effort (and extra money, too): You’ll be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t! Chances are, a job will go an extra day or two, just because there are unforeseen circumstances that you just can’t predict. For us, we needed to have the city water boosted to the house when we hired the plumbers to repipe the house. I remember getting that call from D while I was running through an airport. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and reevaluate.
  4. When you’re getting work done on any part of your house, dust will inevitably fall in EVERY part of the house: Just plan on it. Also count on the fact that you’ll probably be ordering in most of those nights because you either won’t want to cook or thoroughly clean every surface of dust.
  5. Drop cloths are your best friend: See point number four. Our floors have been saved so many times thanks to drop cloths and moving blankets.

Somehow, I went from a girl who was terrified to unscrew an electrical outlet cover to one that doesn’t flinch to break down brick/concrete walls. How did that happen? Let’s journey through this together, shall we?!

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