Skip to Content

What it’s really like to live in a fixer upper while you renovate it

What it’s really like to live in a fixer upper while you renovate it

Sharing is caring!

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a fixer upper while renovating it all yourself in DIY fashion(with no prior experience)? In today’s post I am getting some stuff off of my chest and sharing some truths you won’t ever see on HGTV…

When I decided to sell my brand new construction home for my first ever fixer upper almost five years ago, I never could have imagined what kind of roller coaster ride I would be embarking on.

Particularly inspired by the dramatic,  eight-week transformations on Fixer Upper, if you had told me I would still be renovating my 1980’s rancher several years later, I would have foolishly laughed in your face.

My God…how clueless I was.

modern farmhouse diy fixer upper reveal

While not everything about the experience has been negative (hell..this website is the product of the whole fiasco), I thought it might be helpful to share some surprising truths I have discovered from my first home renovation …things they won’t ever show you on HGTV.

Renovating with Children in the Home

When my husband and I first set foot in our fixer upper home, we only had one child- a thirteen month old baby boy to be exact. Given we started with renovations immediately (mostly painting and scraping popcorn ceilings), I found it such a blessing that our son was a late walker as it was relatively easy to keep him out of the mess- working on projects during the plentiful nap sessions.

Once our second child came along several months later, it did get a tad bit more difficult (we now had a toddler and a newborn on our hands). Nonetheless, we managed.

With regimented nap times and an agreement with my husband that I would watch the babes while he worked on the home (sometimes we would reverse roles), it wasn’t all as horrible as I had initially imagined it would be.

Oddly enough, I have actually found it much harder to complete projects now that the kids are older. Between the absence of nap time and all of the extracurricular activities they are involved in, life seems much busier now.

As a DIY blogger I feel weird (and kind of guilty) admitting this, but I am starting to grow weary of weekends filled with home improvement tasks. Between the DIY projects, the children’s needs and my husband’s long work hours, “fun time” is getting more difficult to come by.

The Process Has taken Longer Than Expected

As a rookie DIY-er, you are pretty much learning on the fly (lots and lots of Youtube tutorials). What might take a professional one hour to complete, will most likely require at least a half-day of your time.

Not only is the process slower because you have no effing clue what you are doing (and you will probably have to correct some of your rookie mistakes), there is only so much time in the day. Until this blog grows big enough to support my entire family, my husband has to work long hours-leaving us with only the weekends to complete projects.

To maintain our sanity (and ease up on construction materials spending), many times we have to put projects on hold or approach them with baby steps.

While I used to be ridiculously impatient about projects, I have learned when to freakin’ chill.  Come to think of it, spacing out projects (we prefer only one to two major endeavors a year), has been our saving grace (not only for our sanity, but for our marriage).

When you are doing everything on your own, it’s ultimately a marathon- not a sprint, like HGTV would have you believe. Eight week timelines my a$$!!

When Hiring Professionals feels Impossible

With our recent DIY-burnout, we decided to approach the professionals for  some quotes on more daunting projects. You would be amazed how hard it can be to find anyone willing to work.

Not sure if this is due to the real estate boom, or just our specific location -Chattanooga, Tennessee, but it seems no one can even be bothered to supply us with quotes at the moment (whether it be for a stair rebuild or a relatively extensive garage conversion).  Chip and JoJo never prepared me for this odd situation.

And one more tid bit of wisdom when hiring professionals, only pay them for the work they complete. We learned this one the hard way a few years ago when we paid a contractor for decking materials (upwards of $3000) only to never hear from him again. Surprisingly enough, the guy had great references (two of which were family members).

diy modern farmhouse kitchen transformation

Boring Sh*t that drains your budget

Perhaps it’s a good thing we haven’t been able to find any professionals to complete our next exciting projects, because we just recently ran into a plethora of boring sh*t to allocate our budget to. Actually…this has been a recurring theme the entire duration of our home reno.

Just as it seems you have saved enough for a sexy, “fun” project, you find more pressing and boring issues to tackle.

Most recent case in point? Rotting casement windows. Just to have the front of our home addressed is costing us over $12,000. There goes my bathroom remodel (for the fifth year in a freakin’ row).

Other items that have reared their ugly heads during our remodel have included septic tank and septic lines, a pool excavation, A/C unit issues and broken appliances.

diy pool deck transformation

When Your Style/trends change

In case you didn’t feel like a dog chasing its tail with all of the unexpected expenses and surprise projects, just as you start to move on to the next room, you notice you aren’t loving the “finished” rooms anymore (ya know…the ones you completed 2-3 years ago?).

Whether it’s because you have fallen in love with another trend or your former style simply doesn’t resonate with you anymore (or it’s already outdated), when you take years to remodel your home, you will most likely (especially if you are design-obsessed) want to return to rooms you once thought were complete.

The Perils of living with OCD in a Construction Zone

If you are a neat freak (which is definitely the case for me), you may want to think twice before you commit to living in a never-ending construction zone.

While some people can block out the noise and mess of a remodel, I am undoubtedly not one of those people- messes give me heart palpitations.

While I have gotten a bit more chill during projects (like 15% more chill), the constant chaos still weighs on me. Returning from a vacation this week all mellow and zen, as soon as I stepped foot into my home with a wall knocked out and sheet rock dust everywhere, I felt a panic attack coming on.

What should have felt like a comforting return to my home sweet home, felt like a stressful return to the daily grind of unfinished projects.

what it's like to live in a fixer upper

On the bright side…

Not to turn this into a downward spiral of negativity and b*tching, I feel it necessary to also share the bright side with you.

Believe it or not, some blessings have actually manifested from this whole quest.

For starters, my husband and I have grown so much more confident in our own talents and capabilities. As you may already know,  I have turned this blog of mine into a legit profession- these daunting projects have essentially fueled the majority of my website. Even more,  my husband has discovered his gift and love for carpentry.

Not only that, despite all of the surprises, we have still managed to afford much more home for our buck by restoring our dilapidated ranch .

Looking at the current housing market, if I wanted to put this whole fixer upper situation behind me and purchase a brand-new home, we would have to take on a much larger mortgage or compromise on square footage and property acreage (not to mention, I find builders’ design taste to be greatly lacking).

My husband even reassured me, pointing out the fact that, with my design criteria, I would ultimately  turn a builder-grade, new build into just another construction zone. He knows me too damn well!

erica van slyke of designing vibes

So…for any of you still reading this rant…please do not be discouraged from embarking on a fixer upper journey of your own. Please just know there is so much more to the process than what television producers include in a thirty minute episode.

I hope you are now a little more informed.

Now get out there and design some good vibes, and if you found this post helpful, please share with a friend or on social media. It truly makes all of the difference.

tips for buying a fixer upper

Sharing is caring!

how to decorate and renovate on a budget
Project Plans: Dining Room Reconfiguration and Wall Demo
← Read Last Post
modern neutral fall decor ideas
Home Tour: Transitioning from Summer to Fall
Read Next Post →
Comments are closed.