Home Decor, Home Improvement

Yellow Brick Home: How We Renovate (Even Through the Tough Times)

This summer, we will have lived in our current home for 4 years, and for the entirety of our time here, we have been in the midst of a renovation! The day we closed on our house, the questions from friends and family began. How long do you think it will take to renovate your home?, they asked. This was typically followed up with, If anyone can do it, you guys can!

Our house was in rough shape when we bought it. The floors were bowed, ceilings were poorly supported and more windows leaked in a rainstorm than not. The walls were bright orange and damaged with holes, staples, and tape, and the entire second floor had an unforgettable scent that had us scrubbing the walls with soapy water and vinegar. All this to say, we have loved every minute of making this house our home, even through the surprises, arguments and road blocks. When we look back on how far we’ve come, we agree that it has been worth every second of hard work and endless perseverance.


You may have learned more about us earlier, but today, I’m excited to share a handful of lessons learned – lessons that we’ve stumbled through twice or thrice, no doubt! – throughout our crazy renovation journey. Here’s what worked for us, with a dash of foolproof tips that have gotten us through the tough times.

Live with it first.

While it may be tempting to dive into your kitchen, bath, or bedroom renovation immediately, we’ve found that taking the time to live, work and play in the space first helps us to realize exactly what we’ll want down the road. There are money saving benefits to this as well – start stashing your money for your dream kitchen now while you’re cooking your famous lasagna, and take note of exactly where you want that 36″ deep pull out drawer. Which brings me to my next point…


Update first, renovate second.

In the meantime, paint the walls and swap out the light fixtures that bother you. You’ll never regret saving your pennies for the perfect layout once your time and budget allows.



The right tool is everything.

If you’re going the DIY route on a project, invest in the proper tools. Chances are, the pricier wet saw you need to tile your backsplash is probably worth it! That said, it’s always a good feeling to save where you can, and we’ve been able to purchase costly tools through online auction sites or our local classifieds to save up to half the retail cost. If you only need the tool once, your local hardware store most likely has it available for rent, too. With the right tools, your job will be completed more efficiently and quickly.


Talk with your contractor.

We’ve learned the hard way that not all contractors are the same! You probably know the importance of collecting a handful of quotes before starting any project, but keep in mind that the most expensive might not always be the best, and the cheapest may not be the worst. Talking with and getting to know your contractor is always a safer bet. Your contractor should be knowledgeable and be able to answer the thousand questions you have (remember, you’re paying him or her a lot of money!) and willing to sign a detailed contract. (And most importantly, never, ever assume they know what you mean without illustrations and/or measurements.) We found ‘The One’ after many failed relationships, and it’s always a relief knowing that he’s in charge of our next major overhaul.


Always plan for more (but don’t let that scare you).

You’ve likely heard that there’s a surprise behind every wall, right? As your project moves forward, you’ll probably also discover a few edits along the way. Sure, these costs will add up, but don’t let that scare you. Dive into the project knowing that you’ve set aside an extra chunk of change should your heart take you on a renovation detour. Plan for it, but don’t be surprised by it.


Wait for sales.

When we were in the beginning stages of our kitchen renovation, we pulled the trigger on our refrigerator during a Memorial Day sale that included a cash back incentive. We used that cash reward towards a dishwasher during a 4th of July sale, and we used that cash back for our stove during the same store’s Labor Day blowout.


Invest in the classic choice.

In our 130-year-old home, our money gets spent on classic. Marble tile and polished chrome will no never go out of style, therefore, we don’t think twice about spending money on permanent fixtures that will stand the test of time. If you’re feeling the itch for something a little outside the box, have fun with accessories and swappable finishes! You know that antique brass shower head you’ve had your eye on? Go for it; this is an item that can easily be swapped down the road as your tastes change.


Whenever possible, finish one room or area before starting on the next.

This tip has not only been our sanity saver, but it’s a good representation of how we’re able to budget, too. Our cycle looks a little like this:

  • Step 1: Plan for our bedroom renovation, gather inspiration photos and calculate renovation costs.
  • Step 2: Set aside money each and every month to save, save, save (this includes any unexpected cash bonus – into the savings jar it goes!)
  • Step 3: Once our bank account allows, we begin the renovation!
  • Step 4: While this renovation is unfolding, we immediately begin saving for the next room. During the course of one room’s makeover, we’ll effectively save enough for the next room’s makeover.
  • And so the cycle continues!


And finally, have a safe zone.

There are certain spaces in a home where the above tip won’t apply. For example, our first phase of renovation in this house included new ceilings and recessed lights throughout the entire first floor of our home! Renovation typically equates to an endless amount of dust, so it’s important to have at least one room where you can close the door and get away from it all.

Are you already in the midst of your own renovation? What’s the best advice you could give to someone else who is about to embark on the same?

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Happy house hunting!

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Kim and Scott Vargo are the muscle behind the blog Yellow Brick Home. Together with their two rescue pitties and a silly, cranky feline, the team is DIY-ing their way through their 130-year-old house, taking down walls, building them back up and nurturing back the character that was so rudely taken away over time. They share their story with an honest rapport, encouraging friendly feedback and discussion from readers around the world. Follow their adventures at YellowBrickHome.com, or on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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