Tips for Starting a DIY Kitchen Renovation & What I Would Have Done Differently

When I started our DIY kitchen renovation in December, I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing.

From a design perspective, I had a detailed vision of how I wanted the space to look. However, taking the tools and materials and turning our kitchen into an industrial farmhouse dream was more time and work than I ever anticipated.

Thankfully, my dad was here to help, and he taught me a lot of new skills along the way. This post isn’t about that, though. This is about all of the lessons I learned outside of adhering ceramic tile to my walls and spreading concrete over my countertops.

Here’s what I learned from this major home improvement project — our largest yet:

Don’t be scared

Honey, don’t be afraid to create the home you want.

I am somewhat impulsive when it comes to home improvement, and I never let fear hold me back. If I have a vision of how I want something to look, I go for it and assume there’s nothing I can’t fix (or pay someone to fix if I mess it up too badly).

That is the first thing I learned (about myself) from this kitchen reno. And I encourage anyone starting a DIY kitchen renovation (or any home renovation) to not be frightened about it. If you stop to think about any fears you have, you’re likely not going to go through with the project.

Have a vision

While I just told you not to be scared about starting a major DIY home renovation, you should still have a solid vision for the space you’re working on.

Never start remodeling or renovating without knowing how you want the space to look in the end. Not having a vision leaves too much room for error and the likelihood that you won’t like it along the way. This typically means shelling out more money to correct whatever it is you’re not happy with.

Your vision should be a reflection of your personal style but still complement the existing style and structure of your home. For example, we have a brick ranch that was built in 2005 and has lots of natural light and beautiful high ceilings. Our home lends itself well to an industrial farmhouse style, which is great because that aligns perfectly with my personal style — a mix of old and new, grit and pretty with clean lines.

I use Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, and I create mood boards to pull my ideas together in one place.

For our DIY kitchen renovation, I created this mood board:

Create a budget

I didn’t do this before starting our kitchen, and I wish I would have. Having a budget would have kept me from over spending on this project (which I feel like I did).

I bought the subway tile backsplash on sale during Black Friday before we even had an inkling we would redo our kitchen. I simply thought it would be good for us to have it on hand for “one day.” Once the boxes of tile were piled up on our spare bedroom floor, though, my wheels really started turning.

It didn’t take long before I had a vision in place, and I had to start working on the space — never stopping to think about how much I was spending along the way.

When the project was complete and I added up what we spent on all of the materials and our new sink and faucet, I was shocked. Our total investment was $652 ($150 more than what I thought we had spent).

Buy all materials in advance

Something else I didn’t do was buy all of our materials in advance.

Doing this would have saved a ton of time and prevented us from making daily trips to Lowe’s or Home Depot. No, really. Every day.

I also waited too long to order the eco-friendly and food-safe lacquer that went on top of our finished countertops. It took a week for it to arrive, and during that time we were literally just waiting because we couldn’t start the backsplash until we had the lacquer on the counters.

We would have shaved a week off of the project timeline if I would have ordered the lacquer in advance.

Have a plan of action

Once your budget is done and you have your materials, create a plan of action that includes what you need to do first to start the project, what needs to happen next, and what needs to be done last.

For us, it was important to do our countertops first before putting up the backsplash or installing the new sink since we were covering our existing laminate countertops with concrete feather finish.

We wanted to have the backsplash come all the way down and meet the countertop, so finishing the counters first made sense for the all subsequent plans.

Not quite finished here, but you can see the countertops are cured and we were starting to measure out the subway tile backsplash.

When creating your plan of action, remember that your kitchen still needs to be somewhat functional during this time. We were able to pull our stove and refrigerator out to the middle of our kitchen floor while we worked on the walls behind those appliances. This allowed us to have access (although cramped) to the stove and fridge if we needed.

Try to anticipate all ways the project can go wrong

This is a big one for any DIY home improvement project but especially your kitchen or bathroom.

Make it a point to imagine any possible ways it can go wrong (plumbing issues, electrical, what you might find behind your walls, etc.) and be prepared to handle whatever it is. I also recommend building a cushion into your budget for unexpected expenses.

Let the internet be your friend

Don’t know how to do something or achieve the look you want? Don’t worry about it. There are plenty of DIY how-to guides and YouTube tutorials to teach you whatever you want to know.

My dad and I had no idea how to spread concrete feather finish over my existing countertops and while I was eager to get started, he was adamant. We were able to find some great tutorials on the web that left him more confident taking this on.

My dad spreading on the first layer of Henry Feather Finish.

I will say, we didn’t change anything with the electric and the only plumbing we altered was under our sink to go from a double-basin to a single-basin (which was easy). If your project requires you to do more extensive electrical or plumbing work, I highly recommend hiring a professional. Those are two things you do not want to mess up doing it yourself.

Be patient & have fun

This is the most important tip I can give you.

If you’re passionate about home DIY and brave enough to take on major projects on your own then enjoy it! But remember to be patient when tasks take longer than anticipated, go with the flow, and be open to change.

Our kitchen reno took four or five weeks, and I had estimated it would only take two (max). Not to mention, it was extremely messy.

By the end of that last week I was beyond ready to have our kitchen back to normal working order. I wish I could say I loved every minute of it, but there were some days it was touch and go. I definitely lost my cool once or twice.

I love the results, though, and am glad we stuck it out to the end.

My original plan was to paint our cabinets a creamy white this summer (when I would be able to take the doors off and sand them outside), but once the countertops were done and the backsplash was up, my husband and I really liked the contrast of the wood-grain cabinets against the bright subway tile. So, we are going to leave the cabinets as is for now.

And that’s me going with the flow and being open to change.

I hope this helps anyone starting a DIY kitchen renovation. If you have specific questions on how we completed certain tasks, let me know!

To see our kitchen reveal, visit this post.


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