Tips For The DIY Remodeler

This is my first post! Hopefully it is somewhat coherent and interesting. I did originally publish this on my other site back on January, but am adding some new pieces after a few more months of reflection.

After going through a self-directed remodel of a condo I purchased in August, I thought of several tips that might be helpful for any aspiring DIY/budget remodeler out there! This was a lot of work fun, and I probably wouldn’t do it by myself again would totally do it again. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to look at your house and think to yourself, “I made this!” None of it was inherently “hard”, though all of it was a lot of work and some pieces took some googling/youtubing and research. There is definitely more that goes into a remodel than you expect. And now, without further ado, the meat and bones of this post!

My pride and joy…

The hideous disaster prior to beautification

The 90s mess that I FIXED

Note: I did a fairly involved cosmetic remodel, including tiling the kitchen and bathrooms, painting almost every wall in the house, removing the laminate floors and carpet in master bedroom; replacing with a gorgeous espresso engineered hardwood, adding quartz counter tops in the kitchen, re-painting the kitchen cabinets, and scraping the popcorn ceiling in the master bedroom (popcorn ceiling = my nemesis).

I am really happy with most of it, and I love thinking about how much money I’ve saved by doing it myself. However, there are several things I wish I had done differently, which I’m sharing here in the hopes it will save you some heartache.

1. If you are removing popcorn ceilings, just hire someone to do it. Get it done before replacing flooring or moving anything in! Seriously, get a few different quotes, but in looking back it would totally be worth the money. The DIY lesson here is not to DIY lol. I HATE popcorn ceilings but I ended up giving up after the master bedroom. If you absolutely must conquer the popcorn ceilings yourself, put plastic sheeting up on the walls, and then two layers on the floor. Spray the ceiling with a garden sprayer: lukewarm water + a couple drops dish soap. Let that soak in for 10-20 minutes, and then scrape off with a metal putty knife (which is 10x easier than using plastic… learned that the hard way 😉 ). Be sure you don’t spray too much at once or you could damage your drywall. Also, keep the putty knife as parallel to the ceiling as possible so you don’t create holes. No biggie if you do, they can be patched easily with joint compound, but it’s easier to just avoid creating holes in the first place.  It’s easy, but the clean up is real rough. You can find lots of tutorials and how-tos on google and youtube. If you hire someone, definitely get multiple quotes. I had someone quote me $2,500 and another person did it for $600.

2. Plan to spend 10-20% over your budget. The little daily stops at Home Depot for screws or grout mix or hinges definitely add up. I also regret not taking advantage of their credit offers… I didn’t think it would really benefit me, because I bought my floors online ( and didn’t account for the thousands of dollars I spent on paint, drill bits, equipment rentals,  screws, etc. I don’t love opening up random credit cards, but at the end of the day, if I had opened one up and paid it back off before the APR kicked in, I could have saved 10% on my purchases, or whatever the offer was at the time.

3. Get a good paint brush cleaning solution, and buy mid to high-quality brushes. Take care of them. I probably bought (and tossed) 50 cheap paint brushes, and I also removed untold amounts of little brush fibers out of the paint on the wall. Not ideal.

4. Don’t do semi-gloss paint. Except in the bathroom. My hallway wall is almost disturbingly shiny now. On a similar note, keep in mind that each brand of paint has different gloss levels. My “hallway of shiny sad” was Behr paint with semi-gloss, but my bedroom was painted with Olympic (cheaper brand) semi-gloss and it turned out great. How the lighting hits the wall will also impact how shiny it looks. I do wish I did high-gloss on my cabinets, though. And I wish I bough the mid-to-high quality paint right off the bat, instead of trying to skimp with the cheap paint.

5. TAPE. I thought I would save time by “cutting in” the paint on by the edges and the wall-to-ceiling corner. Every time I did that, and I do mean every time, I messed it up. Now I have to repaint some ceilings so you can’t tell … eek! You’d think I would have learned already! Tip: Buy a lot of masking tape in advance. Or, hire your perfectionist friend to do the cutting in for you 😉 Thank you, Nikki!

6. Get samples- for every d*mn color! I thought I’d be soo smart and efficient and wing it … because the way a paint color looks on a little paper sheet in the store is TOTALLY how it’ll look on your living room wall, right?! NOOO. Ohh man, no. I thought I wasn’t picky, I mostly just wanted to cover up the awful yellow paint that was on every wall. But after two coats and dry time, I regretted my color choice – again, EVERY time. I wish I went a few shades darker here, a few shades grey-er there … Nothing huge, but little things like that irritate me every once in a while. A great resource to help with painting is Pinterest, there are many blogs that will show a cabinet or wall color, and then give you the brand and color name so you can go check it out in stores. I desperately wish I had done that.

7. It’s going to take wayy longer than you expect- and you’ll be sick of it by the end. I thought to myself, “perfect. We close on the 7th, and I’ll stay in my apartment until the 30th. I’ll spend 4 hours a day 5 days a week working on my condo, and by the end of the month it’ll be ready to go!” Oh, except I’m not a professional. And I had to “how-to” YouTube half the things I was doing. And- get this- I got a little tired of working by myself in my hot, smelly, and dusty condo, doing things that took me at least twice as long as they would have taken a professional.

Scout was a HUGE help… This was when I was still bright eyed and bushy tailed, believing I would be done in a matter of weeks. Notice the couches out on the porch! Fun anecdote- one day I brought in my little siblings to help, and there was a homeless guy sleeping on my porch-couch!! Luckily, he woke up and left without any fuss. After that, I bought a lock for my patio gate.

8. Little things that you’re not planning for will crop up, and I don’t mean you’ll find broken sub-floor and monkeys in your wall (though I suppose depending on your geographical location, that’s theoretically possible). I mean you’ll realize things like “I don’t know how to transition the new hardwood floor to the carpet,” and “I have no idea how to cut this glass tile,” and “now that the tile is in the bathroom, the floor is half an inch higher than it is in the rest of the house and it looks really weird.” Oh, and my personal favorite, “Why did I cut this floorboard too short and then nail it down? Turns out that the baseboard and door frame do not cover it, and now there is a HOLE in my floor.” But never fear, there are solutions to every problem. (Though the solution to the latter may be replacing the whole dang floor!) Here’s to hoping the next owners won’t notice/care.

9. If you tile, wipe up grout diligently! I kind of slacked here and lived to regret it (starting to notice a pattern yet?!). Eventually it all came up off of the tile, but I had to use a metal putty knife and quite a few rounds of cleaning. Also, don’t use as much adhesive as you think… It shouldn’t come up the sides of the tile very much, if at all. Remember, it’ll squish down further as it sets, and it doesn’t come off easily!

As you can see by the wall, I finally learned what a paint sample was! This is also a pretty good view of the refinished cabinets- for the old look, scroll down.


All in all, I’m super happy with what I did to my house. No, it’s not perfect, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done and thrilled with how much money I’ve saved! By my estimates, I had a $20,000 remodel done for about $5,000, which is certainly notable! The value of my condo has increased by about 30k, not including appreciation. If you are ambitious and like a good project, it’s an experience I would recommend.

More pictures of before and after…

bedroom mashguest bathkitchen 1kitchen 3kitcnen 2