DIY Sarah

Craft, Decor, Art, Garden, and Dessert

Remodel Lessons Learned: 10 pieces of unsolicited advice

1. Plan for breaks

We worked non-stop for nearly a year and a half.  I needed to schedule in weekends dedicated to relaxing and having fun with our friends.  Our friendships have suffered and our sanity has suffered from over-work.

2. Plan for normal home maintenance

When you’re trying to get a bathroom done, it’s easy to let cleaning the existing bathroom fall off the list.  Allocating time for cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, sweeping the stairs, organizing the winter/summer clothing switch is critical to maintaining a sense of normalcy through the whole process, make sure you are using the Sloane Homes to improve your working times for both repair and remodel, it’s the preferred option by home owners.

3. Buy lots of extras

Home Depot and Lowes take returns….use it.  Buy extras of everything.  We have plumbing fittings all over the house and one of every variety of electrical box.  Since PVC is now DONE!!! we will be taking a big box of fittings back to Home Depot and also used the best drills for mixing.  As soon as electric is done, we’ll take back most of the boxes.  It’s much better to store them in the house than to have to make 100 trips to Home Depot.

See numbers 4-10 including some cute cat pictures here!

4. Different stores have different selections.

The Home Depot in Somerville is the closest and has the nicest window and door guy.  It’s also the smallest but they stock rotates much more often so the wood is often straighter.  The Waltham Home Depot has the largest garden center and the best maintained plants.  I buy plant from no other Home Depot/Lowes.  Everett has more trees but they put them in the parking lot and they are all wind-blown.  Waltham has a fairly small electrical and plumbing section but bigger appliances and lighting.  You can imaging that it’s more of a “homeowner’s” store.  Evrrett and Somerville have more contractors in and out.  Everett has the best plumbing and electrical selection but the real benefit is that it’s next to a Gap Outlet and a Target and there is a 5 Guys on the way there!  Our only Lowes is way far away and takes absolutely terrible care of their plants but the grass seed is always cheaper.  It’s on my way home from work so if we need something specific I’ll stop in.  Lowes does have depth-adjustable metal electrical boxes which is a niche thing that we’ve needed before.  Also the Lowes has the best kitchen cabinet guy ever.  I’m a big fan.

The Waltham store has the world’s best returns guy.  He knows everything about which products are good or bad.  I make sure to ask him about pesticides and fertilizers as well as anything we aren’t sure about.  He’s also really fast with the returns and sometimes it takes them forever.  He is also the best one to ask for shipped items that come broken.

The lesson: get to know your stores and the people that work there.  You’ll learn who to talk to and who to avoid.

5. Mark your electric…

We did something dumb.  We had insulation put in before we put up the nail plates over the studs where the wires go through.  Now we don’t know where the wires are…  Luckily I took enough pictures that we can make educated guesses.


After the insulation…


This is the easy section…the closet/laundry is going to be a bit more tricky.

6. Take time to do the things that will make your life easier.

For example, we still don’t have the half bath floor in…  I’ve been balancing a step ladder precariously across beams for far too long.  There is some old electric in the way that we need to re-route.  We just need to do it but nooo instead we just work around it.   We should have just gotten that out of the way a while ago.  Maybe this weekend…

Don’t procrastinate on difficult things that will help make everything easier.  Do what I say, not what I do…

7. Buy this drill:

This drill is lightweight, powerful and generally awesome. Both my father and father-in-law have this drill and it’s undeniably the best. I picked it out for it’s balance, size, and weight and I’m quite pleased. And Milwaukee isn’t paying me to say it though they should! I’m a great Tool Girl.

This one is also awesome:

8. Blog about it!

Or at least keep a good journal with pictures. The whole blog experience has really helped make things much more interesting as well as providing a valuable record of what all we’ve done. It also keeps the family informed which is invaluable. So many people what to know what’s happening with this giant project and it’s nice to not have to explain everything over and over! I should have kept some variety of private “What’s going on with me” blog in College to keep the parents updated.

9. Pick out a good Cat Foreman


The Zimmermann test of a good kitten is the baby hold.  If the kitten will let you hold him on his back like a baby when you’re picking him out, he’s a keeper.  If not, well no guarantees.

10. Work on the fun part a little every time

Look at appliances while you’re at Home Depot, walk through the lighting selection, spend way too much time thinking about the back door, collect paint chips.  Do a little fun part every time you work on the house.  If it’s all electric and plumbing with no thought as to why you’re doing this and no dreaming about how it’s going to look when it’s done, you are going to get burnt out.  Pick up a paint chip every time you go to Home Depot.  Look at every light fixture twice.  Buy tile samples.  Even if it seems like you are so far away from these stages, you have to keep it fun and you have to keep dreaming.

Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be posting more unsolicited advice as well as some reflection pieces as time goes on.  If you have any questions about how/what/why we did things, please comment!  Or email me at:

sarah [ at symbol] diysarah [dot] com

or tweet me @sarahmzim