This past summer we sold our first home and it had me reflecting on the lessons we learned as first time DIY fixer uppers. I’m sharing my biggest regrets (luckily nothing major) from designing and renovating our first home.
Mistake #1: Trim Color
This one was just a rookie mistake. I went to the paint store to pick our trim color over my lunch break. We had a short window of time when we could paint before moving all our furniture into the house. I looked on pinterest for colors I thought would work. When I got to the paint store I pulled the White Dove by Benjamin Moore color and thought that looks so yellow! Yuck! I quick changed my plan and decided on Simply White by Benjamin Moore, but in telling the paint guy what color I wanted I said, “I think I want Simply White.” No swatch in had just a verbal color. He thought I meant I simply want the color White by Benjamin Moore. I left the store with White by Benjamin Moore and started painting my heart on all our trim work. Three coats later, I realized I had the wrong trim color and it looked very grayish in some lighting, especially at night.
Lesson Learned: Bring home swatches or small paint pots to see the colors in your space BEFORE you buy all your paint.
Mistake #2: Color Matching Paints
The colors I choose in our house were all Benjamin Moore colors, but I had them color matched at Sherwin Williams because it was close and they were having a sale. Nothing is wrong about that, but I ran into a big hiccup only 2 years after moving in when I needed to get the same color for some touch up paint in our living room and Sherwin Williams had changed their base formula. The guy at the paint shop and I tried everything to get the right match, but never did for our living room color. I had to repaint the entire space, which was a bit of a pain. Since then, I use Benjamin Moore paint when I want a Benjamin Moore color and Sherwin Williams paint when I want a Sherwin Williams color and so on. Makes getting touch a paint waaaay easier.
Lesson Learned: Buy the brand of paint to match the color you choose (i.e. Benjamin Moore color, use Benjamin Moore paint). Makes your life a million times easier when you need to do touch up work in the future.
Bonus Lesson: Also, expensive nice paint has always been worth the money in my book! A single can costs more, but you often use much less paint than the cheap stuff and save yourself a lot of time. My favorites are Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams paint.
Mistake #3: Tedious DIY Project on Doors
One of the first DIY projects I wanted to tackle in our house was to update our hollow slab doors. I saw on pinterest where people were adding small trim to mimic a more traditional door and decided our doors needed some character. I think I was just looking for something to do since most of the major renovating was out of reach as we saved up money. This project was suuuuuper time consuming and in the end probably wasn’t worth it. In our basement renovation we used solid wood doors and they are so much nicer than our upstairs hollow ones. I wish we would’ve replaced all our upstairs doors with solid ones, but realistically it wasn’t in our budget at the time either and I’m not sure it ultimately would’ve been a worth-wild investment since this isn’t our forever home.
Lesson Learned: Just because you can DIY doesn’t mean you should. Don’t forget to take into account the time a DIY project takes even if it’s a cheap fix. Ultimately might not be worth your efforts.
Mistake #4: Not Reworking Kitchen Layout
This was one was mainly dictated by our budget. We waited a year to save up money to renovate our kitchen. It was pretty darn ugly and really needed some help. We needed to replace the floors, open up a doorway, new appliances, new countertops, backsplash and lighting. I would’ve loved to have expanded the footprint of our kitchen but we were on a tight budget of about 10k, which is a good amount of money but for kitchens that’s pretty small. Our appliances ending up being about double what we expected because of the specific counter-depth and standard width fridge we needed. For resale, expanding our kitchen would’ve likely been worth the money, but again we were paying for this all ourselves (no loan or credit cards) and it just wasn’t really an option. We had to find ways to do it on a budget and keeping the existing cabinets and painting them was the right choice for us at the time.
Lesson Learned: Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. It would’ve likely been worth some extra money to expand our small kitchen for a bigger, more functional space. I’d recommend talking with your realtor to help you spend your money strategically for the best return on your investment, especially if you know it’s not your “forever” home.
Mistake #5: Not Finishing All the Detail Work Before Baby
Sometimes life happens and projects only get to 90% done. That’s the case in our basement. I was about 6 months pregnant when we got to all the finish work in the basement. I just couldn’t do as much physical work, understandably, in my third trimester. Things that still needed to be done before we listed our home for sale were mostly finish work in the basement like trim, add shelves to the linen closet by the bathroom, add a stair runner and touchup paint. That little list of to-do’s had been on my list for nearly two years!
Lesson Learned: Ask for help or hire it out if possible. I wish we would’ve just finished all that darn trim work before we had Harriet. The space is completely functional but the unfinished trim work was like a thorn in my side. I wish we’d just hired out the last bit or asked a friend to come help us (or really just Joel at that point) to finish it up before baby. Also, I should’ve had a more realistic timeline for our DIY basement project. DIY projects always take longer and cost more than you initial thought.