A couple of months ago, while reflecting on some of our wants and needs, we mentioned that we had plans to make some major changes to our kitchen and dining area in 2015. But doing a DIY renovation on this scale (while living in the house!) takes some major planning. Here are the steps we are following when planning our next big project.
1. Observe Your Life Annoyances
No house is perfect. But sometimes you don’t know how much the imperfections in your home’s design will affect your everyday life until you live in it and experience these annoyances first hand. Of course, there are differences in scale. Focus on the major annoyances for the biggest bang for buck on your happiness ROI, but also keep a list of all the minor annoyances nearby so you can address as many as possible when completing your renovation.
Our major annoyances are going to drive the bulk of the renovation:
- Ugly, worn, poorly installed tile
- Aging pressboard cabinets in an inefficient layout
- Not enough seating area for guests indoors
- Low ceilings shrink the feel of the space in the kitchen
But we’re also going to try and address more minor annoyances at the same time like:
- Pantry, fridge, and door all open into the same small area creating traffic jam
- Microwave takes up too much counter space
- Need a couple extra electrical outlets in specific places to prevent cords spanning walkways in living room
2. Look For Dependencies
Dependencies are aspects of the project that make the most sense to do at the same time whether for reasons of labor or materials. It may result in a larger upfront project to take care of all dependencies at once, but over the long haul it will result in lower costs and less work than to complete both parts at separate times.
Our biggest dependencies are the tile and cabinetry. Since the tile was put in after the cabinetry, any change to the layout of the cabinetry will leave us with gaps in the tile. And we wouldn’t want to redo the tile without fixing the layout of the cabinetry since we know we’ll want to fix the cabinetry layout issue eventually.
3. Start Dreaming & Drawing
Once you start to get an idea of the basic goals of your project, now it’s time to start dreaming. Why only dream after you know the basics? Well, to keep it focused on what you want to accomplish without the project spinning too out of control.
In this phase you want to talk more about your design priorities, perhaps learn more about the architectural style of your house (the local section of your library might surprise you with some great finds on local architecture!), and talk to friends and acquaintances about the renovations. Now is the time to peruse sites like Houzz or Pinterest to brainstorm ideas.
For us, we decided pretty quickly that what we wanted most out of the design of this project was for the interior of our house to match the bones of the house. With some research at the local library, we learned that our house, built in the mid-1980s, is kindof a mix of two local architectural styles: the Florida Cracker dwelling (19th century), and the Florida Beach Cottage (mid 20th century). And then we talked with some acquaintances that had renovated their own “historic” Florida home (historic in FL is anything over 50 years old…) and restoring the older architectural feel.
Only after talking to these guys did we see that what we really wanted were some major changes to the layout of the kitchen to add more light, airiness, and space to get back to the “roots” of the house. It was in this step that we started dreaming about moving a wall and raising the ceiling of the kitchen, which was originally a drop ceiling complete with ugly fluorescent lighting.
4. Reality Check On Time & Money
But how realistic are these dreams? This is where you need to start brining things back out of the dream world and into reality. Sure, you can tear off an entire chunk of your house and rebuild it with legos, but how realistic is that in terms of your time, money, effort, and making sure that your final project adheres to your local building codes. =)
Even those who hire contractors and have teams of workers can go nuts from the time and mess involved in a major renovation. Are you prepared for the (possibly) months of mess and dust that may be involved with this? With not having that area of your house be capable of “normal” function? Especially if you are working your renovation around full time employment.
Here’s where we started to estimate costs and a timeline. We drew up a spreadsheet and started adding up the costs of all the various parts of our plans (our goal is to spend < $20K on this DIY renovation), and also started sketching out a timeline.
For us, ripping out the tile is going to be one of the biggest and messiest parts of our project. So we wanted to have it happen when work isn’t insane (this leaves out Q4!), but also when the weather is cool enough that we can leave the A/C off to prevent the HVAC system from circulating all that dust throughout the entire house. So we expect this part of the project to commence in January and are planning the rest of the timeline around that.
5. “Finalize” Scope of Project
In many ways, steps four and five are really done in concert, where part of your “reality check” is getting more into the nitty gritty of what tasks and subtasks you’ll be including as part of your renovation. And for this, you’ll be going back to step 1 – all of the annoyances that you observed.
For this, we like to start with the major annoyances that we plan on addressing and consider them the major tasks in our project. Then under each major task, we list as many of the minor tasks (including minor annoyances!) that we will also be addressing concurrently along with that major task.
This is where you’ll want to determine if there are any subtasks that you need to outsource, trading money for time and expertise.
Here is what some of our scope notes look like (but not inclusive as these go on and aren’t all completed yet):
- Remove current tile and sheet vinyl that we know to be underneath at least part of it (rental of removal tools, taping off areas to prevent debris tracking)
- Install additional electrical outlets in floor of living room (need to check FL building code)
- Smooth subfloor as needed (leveling compound)
- Install new tile (mortar, tile, grout, sealer)
- Microwave off counter?
- Wide (but not deep) pantry with sliding doors?
- Separate spice cabinet built into wall
- Bench seating under window made out of cabinetry for extra seating and storage
You can tell we’re a lot further along on what we’re doing with the floors than we are on the cabinetry. But we’ll get there, as it’s a process.
6. Determine Order of Operations
This isn’t a return to second grade math where you need to instill PEMDAS into your psyche. Rather, this is where all those dependencies you identified in Step 2 come into play. You want to figure out an efficient way to complete your project that will allow your space to be (at least partially) usable for as long a time as possible, especially if you are living in this space while you renovate.
While it’d probably be the most efficient to rip everything out and rebuild from scratch, the reality is that this is our kitchen. Doing that means we wouldn’t have anything remotely like a kitchen for months, and neither of us wants to rely on eating Publix subs for that long (no matter how amazing they taste).
So instead, we’re going to attempt to maintain a semblance of sanity amidst the construction and make the periods of complete un-usability as short as possible and for that we need to have a game plan of which steps come before others.
Here’s the current order of our main plan:
- Frame out changes necessary in garage adjacent to kitchen. (Relocate attic access, plumbing, etc)
- Frame out changes to ceiling line and wall move
- Install new windows/door (get approval from city code enforcement on all of these structural changes), then finish the frame-outs with new drywall, relocating vents, etc.
- Remove tile in living room, dining area, and kitchen, attempting to retain as much cabinetry as possible during the process to retain usability.
- Install tile, starting in living room working into the kitchen last. Only remove cabinetry and appliances when ready to tile in the kitchen. When the cabinetry is removed, smooth and paint walls behind cabinetry.
- Simultaneously be working on finishing countertops in garage if possible. (Long process, lots of waiting.)
- Install cabinetry, sink, etc. If wasn’t able to install window over sink earlier, install now and get approval from city code enforcement.
- Install countertops, backsplash, smaller touches.
- Build table for seating.
- Profit! I mean, enjoy!
And as we get closer to each of these subtasks we’ll create order of operations for each of the smaller tasks. While that might seem a little OCD, hopefully it prevents us from forgetting steps and then having to spend time undoing and redoing work because we forgot a step.
7. Be Flexible
Most importantly, remember: It’s not always going to go to plan, so plan for that.
These steps in planning your major DIY renovation aren’t set in stone. More than likely, you’ll find yourself needing to repeat a few sometimes completing them out of order or concurrently or even iterating them on different levels (like repeating the order of operations process for individual tasks). It’s a process, so give yourself plenty of time in the planning stage and hopefully that will help things go much smoother when it comes to executing your DIY renovation. But most importantly, always remember step 7. =)
Have you done some major DIY renovations while living in your home? Would you add any steps to this plan?