What We’re Thinking

March 25, 2015

We’ve just begun to share the projects and plans that we have for this house, so we thought it would be fun to take a moment and share a few thoughts that typically cross our minds when working on completing all these crazy projects.

You want to do what?
M: When I heard Blair say, “Let’s convert the closet into a library”, my response was, “Wait…what?” There are a few times that Blair’s project ideas have given me pause. Sometimes I don’t understand why she would want to do certain projects; some are just so different from anything I’ve heard or seen done. Still when you get down to it, even if it’s some wild never-done-before project or a run of the mill task, it’s all about how you prepare. We get a list of materials needed, read up on specific techniques or tools, list what needs to be done first followed by the next thing, and then do it till it’s all done. Breaking it up into smaller chunks has helped me tackle the big picture.

B:  Typically things go something like this: Me: “Hey let’s demo the kitchen / put a library in our closet/ put a cat door in the wall to the office / etc ourselves.” Michael: “ You want to do what?” “It shouldn’t take that long.” <—Famous last words. Not to make it seem like I am always the one coming up with these crazy ideas, Michael has had a few of his own. Michael: “We need to remove and insulate every outlet and light switch in the house.” Me: “You want to do what?”


(Turned a closet into a library. Blair’s “out there” idea that I am so glad we did.)

What if we mess something up?
M: I have no problem calling a pro to fix something that I’ve completely screwed up. I try to prepare as much as possible before hand, but I’ve always kept in mind that there has to be a point when you just need to call a pro. Instead of something being broken for weeks till you figure out how to fix it, it might be broken for a day until the pro comes to fix it. For me, it’s about swallowing my pride, and looking at it from a “this will make my house better” perspective.

B: This thought has definitely crossed my mind; more so in the beginning than now. At first, I was terrified that we would do some sort of irreversible damage. Now, I realize that short of demolishing the house, all things can be fixed. If we mess something up, we figure out how to fix it. If it’s something we can’t fix ourselves, there is a professional that can. We generally only do things that we know we can handle, however, so if it does need to be fixed by someone else it shouldn’t be crazy expensive.


(When Blair tried to change the bathtub handles that ended up with water shooting 6 feet into the air. We called a professional plumber.)

Should we hire a professional?
M: Now that I have a few projects under my belt, from laying a [shed] foundation to replacing a wall, I feel pretty confident doing projects on my own. That being said, there is one thing I won’t touch, and that’s anything having to do with gas. If the water heater or stove need fixing, then I’ll call a professional. For everything else, I will simply ask myself these questions: Do I have the time to complete it in a timely fashion? Will it be cheaper to do it on my own, taking into consideration tools, manuals and help? If I answer no to any of those questions, then I’ll hire a pro to do it. Case in point, when we had some of our windows replaced I didn’t have the tools or experience to do it on my own, so I knew it was a job for the professionals.

B: Pinterest says you can! That’s what I joking tell Michael when he is feeling doubtful about doing a project ourselves. We do research projects and read as much as we can (not just Pinterest), but I think we just know what we are comfortable with doing ourselves. Changing faucets? Sure. Changing pipes in walls or under tubs that could leak without detection? Not so much. Add a plug to a range hood? Yep! Adding recessed lights to the kitchen ceiling that requires doing some rewiring? Nope!

shed foundation

(Laying the foundation for our shed. Not something I want to do again any time soon.)

How will this effect our property value?
M: I really don’t think about this when starting a project. I was raised living my entire life in one house until I moved away at the age of 22. So, the whole “up-ing the value” to sell later down the line is foreign to me. I feel like that’s only an investment, not a home. The way I approach doing a project is not how it will effect the property value, but will it make my existence in this home better for me and my family?

B: When we were interviewing realtors, we explained to each one that we wanted a house we could make our own. We had one realtor tell us, “You don’t want to price the house out of the neighborhood!” I agree with this in part, but we weren’t talking about doing crazy stuff, so I was also slightly offended. (We did not hire him. We loved the agent we did hire, however!) We never went into the home buying process looking for a “starter home”. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a starter home, but after multiple years in various apartments we wanted to put down roots. We couldn’t afford to build the house of our dreams, so the next best thing (in our minds) was to find an affordable house that could we could personalize. We live here, and while I can’t say we’ll live here forever, while we’re here I want to make a life here. I mean, we do consider resale value to an extent. I do ask myself, “Will this still look good in a few years?” Not because I’m worried if some future buyer will like it, but because I don’t want to have to do all that work more than once! I’m more concerned with how an update works for us, not some person whom I haven’t met that may eventually buy our house.


(We spent 25 hours over 3 weeks installing marble subway tile in the kitchen during our renovation. Property value win? I actually hope so about this one.)

Buy new or refinish?
M: I think this is a per item decision. There are things at the store that I would love to have and I think would go perfectly in our house, but there are some things that I see for sale on Craig’s list or at a garage sale that I think would be better that any store bought item. It’s all a matter of perspective and creativity. When you refinish an item you can go in a completely different direction than what is was used for previously and still not waste as much money if the projects goes to hell.

B: Number one, will it take a lot of sanding and painting? Yes? Buy new. The exception to this is if it’s free or has a lot of sentimental value (e.g. my late grandmother’s credenza that I repainted.)

Man I hate doing this:
M: Pouring a foundation – for anything! I did it for the tool shed that we set up in the back yard. I hurt for days afterwards. #BackBreakingWork

B: Sanding

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  • Reply Rachel March 25, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    “When you refinish an item you can go in a completely different direction than what is was used for previously and still not waste as much money if the projects goes to hell.”

    YES! I screwed up the poly layers on a wood coffee table and now it’s all scratched up. Oh well! It wasn’t a $300 purchase to begin with! (Though when you’re as broke as me, it still sucks to lose ANY money, haha. We’re living with that table, though, since we have other priorities for our money, and I made sure to do the next poly project RIGHT!)

    • Reply Michael March 25, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      losing money either way sucks. Let us know if you ever fix it, I would like to know what you did. – Mike

  • Reply Ruben Rincones II March 25, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    You both have done an AWESOME job. It take a lot of patients to do that kind of stuff. I can wait till I have my own home to do that. I have been helping dad redoing the back porch, next is a small storage shed then the front porch. You both should do a Home Improvement show….

    • Reply Michael March 25, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks. Yeah it’s a lot of work, more than I thought it would be. I think we’ll eventually video record some of the projects to show people the process. – Mike

  • Reply mom-vet March 25, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    GreaT job Mike you Will get it Dunn !!!

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