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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

5 (preventable) reasons DIY home reno projects fall behind schedule: Week 4 of the One Room Challenge

This week's One Room Challenge update is a little different... I do have some progress to share with you, but mostly I want to talk about why DIY home improvement projects like this one can fall WAY behind schedule--and how you can prevent it!

I'm working with my "clients"/good friends Matt and Gabriela on this project at their home. I'm the designer and consultant, and I've been going over at least once/weekend to help with labor like laying tile, but they're doing most of the work themselves (and have a contractor replacing a window). Matt and Gabriela are new homeowners and doing awesome projects around their house--they completely overhauled their yard last year and saved thousands by spending all their weekends tilling and demoing for a while!--but they're new to interior projects and have been nervous about this project.

If you haven't been following, here are the previous posts about this project, including where we're starting and more about the scope. It's a big project! 

And there are a lot of steps, scheduling, planning, and hard work that are going into it. And to be honest... we are making progress, but more slowly than I'd planned--we are several weeks behind the schedule I initially put together, which had us finishing a week early and not working much on weekdays. 

It's common for projects to have small delays and unexpected surprises. But, there are ways to avoid those changes affecting your overall schedule. With my friends/clients' permission (and contributions to these tips based on their experience this project!), I'm sharing 5 preventable reasons that DIY home reno projects fall behind schedule, and how you can avoid them on your project!


preventable reasons that DIY home reno projects fall behind schedule


Obviously, things come up and we have to change plans sometimes--I'm not talking about when you got sick the 2nd weekend and only got in a few hours of work. No, these are avoidable problems that you can plan ahead against. (And if you give your schedule enough padding, you'll have time to get sick or whatever and still be mostly on schedule! That happened when we planned 2 bathrooms in 2 weekends and we still did it in 2.5 weekends.)

1. Not having everything on-site. We ALL know this rule, and yet in the craziness and rush of ordering and planning, even the most careful DIYers can slip up! In our case this happened right away--Overstock sent 3 of the 5 boxes of tile we ordered and we didn't notice until a week later, when we were ready to tile. (Thankfully they were super easy to work with after and did send the other 2 in a rush order out to us, but it still messed up that weekend's agenda.)

In fact, Gabriela recommends ordering all of your materials to have them on site at least 2-3 weeks before you begin the project so you can open them up, check for cracked or stained pieces, make sure the website description was accurate, etc.

The same is true of tools. Thankfully there's a hardware store 5 minutes away from the project, but it is still a big pain and delay to have to run over there for subfloor screws, handsaw part (when you thought you had borrowed the right tool to trim down the door frame but it didn't have the right blade), or replacement tile wet saw blade (all real examples from this project).

Sometimes, missing just one piece can cause huge schedule delays. Not having one tool or getting one answer from a contractor or company can cause a domino effect and really impact the schedule.

2. Not testing before demo. I know it's not always possible to do this, and you probably don't have x-ray vision technology you can borrow from work for the weekend, but you CAN peel back flooring (carefully, in case of asbestos glue), chip off a few tiles, even cut holes in drywall before you demo your entire bathroom, kitchen, whatever. For example in our kitchen we have these two very small soffits in the corners of the sink wall, above the cabinets. We planned to demo them and have open shelves on one side, but just in case they were blocking something important, we put an endoscope up them and turns out there's a big electrical box inside one. We hadn't ordered our cabinets yet, so were able to change the upper cabinets and open shelves around to accommodate (or could have allocated more budget to electrical work to move them). 

In this bathroom project, when Gabriela and Matt peeled up the red vinyl flooring the previous owner had installed, they didn't know what kind of subfloor they'd find. My scheduled hadn't included replacing the particle board subfloor, but they decided to do it anyway because of some water damage and to leave plenty of room for the door swing. But that meant several hours (turned into a day) of delay because then we had to demo nailed-down particle board and cut new subfloor before laying the tile backer and tile!

Another example in this project is vanity placement. We're using this wall-mounted vanity and want to install it to the studs. So, we're cutting into the drywall before vanity install day to double check where the studs are and see if we need to add on an extra 2x4 to mount to. It's worth the added/early mess of cutting into drywall where you will probably cut eventually anyway!

3. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. This balance is so hard. Doing a great, thorough, high quality job is GOOD! And DIYers get a bad rap for cutting corners and not knowing how to do things right. But for some DIY home improvement fans, that reputation makes them extra cautious (and slow). That subfloor is a great example. Most contractors would probably see a little water damage, coat it with some anti-mildew treatment, and put tile backer right on top of it. They would also probably not measure everything (including hidden things like the new subfloor) 3-4 times before cutting it. This bathroom project we are doing will be high quality!! But done slowly.

You don't have to be a professional to be so skilled and careful at things like cutting tile, drywall, subfloor, etc. Honestly, sometimes cuts them don't matter that much (like cut tiles that will be behind the vanity and edges hidden by the baseboard anyway) and if you can just take a deep breath and not worry about it too much, you'll keep moving a little faster. 

I know, it can be so hard because you don't know where the line is of when cutting corners makes sense, will make your lives easier, won't matter in the end, and is what the pros do anyway--versus when it will be something you regret! Do some Googling (before you demo, if you can) to get comfortable with the options, ask at the hardware store, ask a contractor friend/relative if you can, and use your best judgment. You learn by doing, too. The worst thing that can happen is you have to redo it, and that might only set you back a couple hours anyway--you could spend that long researching and worrying about it anyway. If it feels in your gut like it might work for your project, you should probably try it! (Within reason!)

4. Make a (realistic) schedule. This is hard for newbies, but definitely possible. When we did our 2 bathrooms in 2.5 weekends I learned this--map out all the tasks, what needs to come first, how long each will take... make yourself a construction schedule with realistic timelines and (as best you can) ideal order of operations. Like, it's great if you can paint before you do the floor. But you have to repair drywall first. So you have to demo stuff on the walls first. And so on......

It can be helpful to start making notes on scratch paper, but I recommend making your real schedule in Google Sheets or other shared online document, where you and your renovation partners can make changes/comments, updates, etc. If you delay one of the first steps, you can drag all of the others around to accommodate. 

Also--PAD the schedule. As I said, I started ours finishing 1.5 weeks before the final reveal day for the One Room Challenge, and doing very little on weekdays. Well... we didn't finish the tiling until 2+ weeks later than I'd originally planned, but because of the padding (I think) we will still finish on time!

Gabriela's words on this topic... "To stay on schedule, hire a Suzannah Stanley magical unicorn to keep you on track and motivate you not to give up!" I am flattered! Ha!! (If you don't have a DIY blogger friend helping you, give yourself other deadlines like friends coming to help you or a day off work to do a big part of the job.) "...Have a schedule and update it constantly. It was so important for us to have Suzannah's help because she knew all of the orders of operations and we could play around with them in our schedule when things got delayed or just quickly switch things up. It was also crucial because it kept us on task and remembering the little things, like 'order towel bars'--so have a checklist and figure out when you have to do every little thing. This way it's easy not to lose track of your to-dos!" Again, I am flattered. But it's true, to-do lists are great, but turn your to-do list into calendar items and find times when you can reasonably get to those tasks, in the right order. 

Gabriela also adds... finding the time and energy for a bathroom reno after 8-5pm job is hard. Don't schedule big/fun events on the weekends if you want to get your bathroom done in a reasonable timeframe. You may need to work 8-12 hours/day on the weekend days, and/or 4-6 hours on weeknights. Take a couple weekdays off if you can, and (this goes along with making a good schedule) time them with when you know you'll have hours of labor to do (great example: tiling). It's also helpful to have those set days in place, to give you some external deadlines to work toward!

All that to say... I thought these tips would be more valuable this week than progress photos--but here are some. Tile is laid, should be grouted today as this goes live, painting and baseboards also happening this week. Contractor is working on shower tile around the window. LOTS TO DO this week!!

In case you missed them... you can find all the posts about this One Room Challenge here:

Follow along on my Instagram stories for more updates!

Remember: I'll share a blog post every Wednesday on our 6-week One Room Challenge progress. You can also follow a ton of other exciting room reno projects right now, check out the ORC blog for the featured designers and guests like me!

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