architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

If you have never done anything like that, your first question will be: What home renovations can be DIY?

Home improvement reality shows and home makeover ideas on Pinterest can give you the impression that do-it-yourself home renovations are a walk in the park and very easy to accomplish. 

Indeed, with primary research and simple planning, there are many tasks that you can do on your own when renovating a home. Whether it is your own home or you are in the business of buying houses to renovate and sell, going the DIY route can go terribly wrong when the project’s scope surpasses your abilities.

If you want to renovate your house, read on to know how to remodel your home the do-it-yourself way, the skills you need, the pros and cons of DIY home renovations, and many more!

DIY House Renovation Explained

Essentially, DIY home renovation means putting in your own time and effort to practically improve your living space instead of hiring a professional to do so. DIY home renovations saves you a lot of money, but at the same time, it consume a lot of time as you try different styles to transform your space. 

To have a successful DIY house renovation project as a beginner, conduct in-depth research and start small.

DIY house renovation also helps you develop basic home makeover skills since you’ll have to try out different variations. Online interior design is also a helpful service for DIY renovations.

With some basic research, you can give your home a bespoke facelift without breaking the bank. 

Benefits/Disadvantages of DIY House Renovation

If you are fond of changing things up in the house, some tasks might force you to choose between going the DIY route and seeking expert help at a cost. But, of course, both options have pros and cons, which you can always weigh against each other. 

Below are some expected benefits and disadvantages of DIY house renovation projects

Benefit: No/Minimal Labor Costs

The cost of labor is usually higher than the cost of materials when you hire an expert. If you choose to go the DIY route, you’ll incur nearly zero expenses in labor until you finish the project

On average home renovation expenditure* in the US revolves around 460 billion U.S dollars. Of course, it varies from year to year but it is a good indication of how big the DIY sector is.

*Statista

Disadvantage: Time Constraints

Doing a home renovation all by yourself is a rigorous task that often eats up time, especially if you are remodeling spaces, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Hire a professional to get the job done quickly when you are time bound.

Benefit: Maximum Control

Sometimes hiring a professional to do your home renovation might force you to redo the entire project. DIY gives you maximum control of the project since you’ll know the quality of materials to use, manage your time effectively, etc.

Disadvantage: Insufficient Experience

When you lack experience, not only will you take longer to complete various home renovation tasks, but you are also likely to do a substandard job that would require revision.  If you’ve never handled any home renovation projects, hiring a professional will save you time, and money.

Benefit: Exploits Your Creativity

Completing a home renovation project without seeking expert help shows that you have the knack to exploit your creativity and visualization, which you can use to make a fortune without being hired by another company

Is DIY House Renovation Legal?

Whether you don’t want to bring strangers to your home or you want to save some money, DIY renovation projects may be illegal to some extent.

In the US, the legality of conducting DIY repairs on your property depends on the rules and regulations that govern the local building.

Moreover, every state, county, and town has its own rules, but generally, when renovations on a property exceed basic cosmetic improvements, a permit is required. The project is considered illegal if you lack the necessary permits. 

Some jurisdictions also recommend specifically licensed professionals for renovating specific parts of a house.

Most Common House Style Renovations

If you want to renovate your house, start by conducting research on the most suitable house style. The past few years with the raise of TikTok, Instagram and other video platforms DIY house renovation videos have been on the raise. Especially these ones where influcers show how easy it is to DIY entire house.
Are you ready to do anything to make your home stand out; or even be a tiktok star?

Below are the most popular house styles in America that you can choose from to start your journey: 

Cape Cod

Thanks to Reverend Timothy Dwight, today we have the term “Cape cod design” in our architectural vocabulary. The simple one-and-a-half-story Cape Cod–style house originates from the Cape Cod settlers.

The early colonists (1600’s) who put down roots on the sandy peninsula were primarily farmers, fishermen, carpenters, and shipwrights.

Timothy_Dwight
Timothy Dwight IV In Wikipedia

In 1800 during a visit, Mr. Timothy Dwight observed many tiny homes dotted across from Cape to Bourne and  Provincetown shaping into a defined pattern that he constituted as an early version of the architectural class called Cape Cod houses.

fishing-shacks-Cape-Cod
Fishing shacks on coastline, Cape Cod, Mass (Historical Society of Old Yarmouth)

Originally these tiny houses were on two levels. Four multi-purpose and equally shaped rooms on the lower floor and two or three unfinished bedrooms on the upper.

Covered on the sides and roofs, with pine shingles, 16 to 18 inches in length. The chimney is almost always central, splitting the straight roof in half behind the front door. Most houses featured a cellar where vegetables were stored in the winter, and perishables were kept cool during the summer.

Cape-Code-early-house-Yarmouth,-Massachusetts
Cape Cod early house design; Yarmouth, Massachusetts

 The phrase Good Morning Stairs comes from the early settlers who slept upstairs; with the stairs being central, almost symmetrical habitants met on opposite sides of the landing every morning and greeted one another with a cheery “good morning” before descending to the first floor.

Victorian

Victorian houses became popular from 1837 to 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Their main features include a porch, bay windows, colored or decorated bricks, dark furniture, fireplaces, high-pitched roofs, sash windows, a narrow hallway, stained glass windows, and wooden floors.

In the US, common variations of Victorian houses include Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Eastlake, Italianate, and Romanesque Revival.

Colonial

Popular in the 17th century, colonial-style houses were introduced in America by early settlers who constructed them using different variations concerning their places of origin.

During colonial times, British colonial-style homes were ordinary in America.

Other colonial styles introduced over the years include French Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Federal Colonial, and Spanish Colonial. Generally, all variations feature symmetry and a dormer.

Craftsman

Emerging from the Arts and Crafts movement in the 20th century, the craftsman-style home focuses on using nature-inspired materials and themes, such as geometric-shaped woodwork.

The houses are also characterized by an earthy color palette, such as natural browns, forest green, etc. Some common variations include bungalow, stickley, and mission.

Prairie

The renowned American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was the first to develop a prairie-style house.

The houses are nature-inspired and are characterized by handcrafted materials, including built-in furniture, stained glass, and simple woodwork.

Also popularized by the Arts and Crafts movement, very few houses constructed using the prairie style still exist.

Ranch

Popular in the 1930s, ranch homes generally have one story or split level (downstairs and upstairs are separated).
The Spanish colonial style of homes inspired the ranch style because they have open floor plans allowing easier access to the outside.

Tudor

In the early 20th century, historical English homes inspired Americans in affluent suburban areas to build Tudor-style homes.

These homes are characterized by much brickwork, excessive half-timber work, rectangular windows, multipart roofs with gables, etc.

Mediterranean

Common in the early 1900s, this home style is widespread in the southern states of America. Most of these homes are characterized by stucco exteriors, warm tones as well as striking decorations on bricks and tiles.

Modern

Many people erroneously use the terms ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ interchangeably when describing a home.

The difference lies in when they were built and by who.

While most mid-century modern homes were commonly constructed in the 1940s-1970s, contemporary homes came in afterward. Modern homes generally use simple lines and geometric shapes. 

Contemporary

Today, the contemporary style is constantly evolving. The word “contemporary” means ‘of the moment,’ which may change in a few years.

Contemporary homes come in various styles that combine interior design and exterior design. Besides using minimal techniques, the contemporary style is also characterized by soft and rounded edges

Farmhouse

A farmhouse-style home is constructed on vast land and generally mimics the appearance and impression of days in the past.

It prioritizes functionality with simple details and characteristic elements, such as front porches, exposed wood, etc.

Its enormous space allows for open living spaces, especially for Victorian and Colonial houses.

Cottage

Initially constructed in Europe, cottage-style homes make up a large proportion of vernacular architecture (specific to a particular region) in many rural towns in America.

They are characteristically small because they prioritize living in limited spaces. Commonly made of wood or stone, cottage-style homes usually combine Tudor and Georgian styles.

Cabin

Cabins refer to one-room homes predominantly built in the woods using logs.

From classic log homes, which were first constructed centuries ago, to contemporary cottages, which focus on casual indoor-outdoor living, cabin-style homes typically have open kitchens and large porches.

A vertical log cabin is the most cost-effective and easy-to-build cabin-style home even if you lack any building experience.

Row House

Also referred to as terraced houses, row houses refer to residential properties that share a wall because they are built next to each other to form a row.

Commonly found in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, these houses largely accommodated the working class.

Row houses save a lot of space and are mass-produced in many urban districts where land prices are at a premium.

Greek Revival

Dating back to the fifth century, Greek revival architecture became popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in America.

Famous buildings inspired this classical non-functional style of architecture in ancient Greece, such as the Parthenon, characterized by stucco exteriors and large columns and porches.

Best House Style to DIY Renovate

Whether they are 20 or 30 years old, ranch houses are the best house style to renovate thanks to their large open living spaces and unique layouts.

Let’s face it! Americans are obsessed with single-story and split-level houses. 

This is why today, ranch-style houses stand out as the most searched style in 34 US states, with a large proportion found in suburbs and cities on the East Coast and Midwest.

The key distinguishing features that make them the best to renovate include: 

  • Single-story with low-pitched roofs
  • Rectangular, “L-” or “U-shaped” open floor plans
  • An attached garage or a finished basement 
  • Patio or deck space attached to the house

How to DIY Renovate

With reference to various home renovation TV shows, such as HGTV and DIY Network, a typical renovation project takes about 24 minutes.

Such a generalization does not delve into the complexities surrounding DIY home renovation. 

The following key components of renovating a house can guide your DIY renovation project.

Design and Planning

Average DIY complexity; requires high experience

Whether you choose a full-blown architectural plan, mood boards, piece of paper, or a napkin, you must find a way or organize your thoughts and ideas on the best way to remodel your home by yourself.

This helps you pinpoint mistakes and address them before they are implemented. Four key steps are required:

  • Create a to-do-list of all tasks
  • Mark the ones for DIY and those that need a professional
  • Seek bids from at least three contractors and hire the most suitable one
  • Apply for requisite permits

*Check loony for some really easy ideas to plan

Foundation, Roofing, Siding, Windows, and Water Issues

High DIY complexity; requires high experience

These areas are usually categorized as ‘large projects, and they must be completed first because they affect smooth transitions into other areas.

Ensure the foundation is dry and free from structural issues by repairing joists and beams that hold the siding and the roofing.

Also, repair any cracks on the siding that allow water infiltration and repair all ill-fitting windows.

Demolition

Low DIY complexity; requires no experience

If you want to reduce or extend your house, this is when demolition comes into play. To ensure all debris and other waste materials are efficiently collected and dumped, rent a large container first, then start demolishing all areas that require renovation.

Structural Carpentry

Average DIY complexity; requires average experience

This involves the repair and construction of areas associated with doors, windows, foundations, floors, and drywalls of your house.

You need structural carpentry work for moving walls, building new walls, reinforcing support using beams, adding or removing doors, and enlarging windows.

Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing

Average DIY complexity; requires high experience

Generally, these are tasks that MUST be done when the ceilings and walls of your house are open. You’ll need to install ductwork for air conditioners and water heaters. You also need to complete renovations related to plumbing and electrical wiring at this stage.

Windows

Average DIY complexity; requires average experience

If you are installing new windows or resizing existing ones, ensure you do them before insulating the walls.

It is important to note that several home renovations often conduct the partial or whole installation of windows, so it is advisable to budget for it.

Insulation

Low DIY complexity; requires low experience

For comfort and efficient use of energy, insulating your walls and ceilings during renovation is essential.

You can also choose to insulate unheated spaces, such as basement walls, porches, garages, and floors located directly above vented crawl spaces.

If your house has low-slope roofs, insulating the walls after the ceiling is always advisable.

Drywall

Average DIY complexity; requires low experience

Also referred to as wallboard or plasterboard, drywalls play a significant role in the construction of ceilings and interior walls of the house.

Before sealing the walls, check whether you need an electrical inspector. Once inspected (or not), you can apply your preferred drywall compound to seal the walls before sanding them smooth. 

Fine Carpentry

High DIY complexity; requires high experience

This refers to unsupportive carpentry and included elements, such as baseboards, trimmings around doors and windows, and built-in woodwork, such as bookshelves. Choose to hire a fine carpenter to give your house an expert touch for your carpentry.

Interior Painting & Surface Finishes

Low DIY complexity; requires no experience

Painting the interior walls of your home, fixing new wallpapers, and other detail-focused finishes must come last because they can damage what you’ve already completed.

For example, if you choose to sand your flooring before painting your walls, loose paint might spill on the floors. Choose wisely and tread carefully.

Flooring

Low DIY complexity; requires medium experience

Irrespective of your choice of floor covering (tile, hardwood, laminate, terrazzo, etc.), it is essential to install your flooring towards the end of the renovation project.

This will save you a lot of damage that often occurs when working on other areas, such as the ceiling and walls. Otherwise, let the plastering begin now.

Siding and Gutters

High DIY complexity; requires medium experience

With your house renovation project almost ending, you can now focus on the exteriors , including the siding and gutters. Avoid working on the siding early because you might accidentally punch out the windows and doors, and in the process, the siding will be damaged. 

Auxiliary Buildings

High DIY complexity; requires high experience

If any adjacent buildings or facilities are detached from your house, it is advisable to focus on renovating them as well. These include servants’ quarters, swimming pools, sunrooms, etc.

Hiring the right contractor that matches no matter how small your budget is probably one of the very best actions you will do. Always pre-select at least three local ones with adequate reviews. Ask for their proposals and timelines, then compare. The lowest bid is a no-no; aim for the offer that fits your price range

DIY Home Renovation Skills Explained

While it can be a thrilling and satisfying experience to go the DIY route when renovating your house, don’t forget that the right set of skills is key to successfully and adequately completing the entire work. 

Below are 3 key levels of DIY Home renovation skills that you can use to gauge yourself. 

Beginner Skill Level in DIY Home Renovation

If you have never done a DIY home renovation project, technically you are a beginner, which means that you have a few basic home makeover skills.

Those with beginner skill levels can effectively do renovations within 24 hours using everyday tools and equipment, such as hammers, hand saws, nail guns, shovels, and various electric tools. 

As a beginner, go for tasks that will not overly task you physically and mentally. Consider hiring a professional to do other complex tasks. Examples of DIY renovations for beginners include:

  • Painting interiors
  • Rearranging furniture 
  • Hanging artworks on the walls
  • Changing ceiling lights
  • Replacing door knobs

 

Intermediate Skill Level in DIY Home Renovation

This level includes individuals with home renovation skills that are midway towards achieving expert skills.

People with intermediate skills in DIY home renovation have additional experience with power tools, and can effectively do renovations that last a few days or weeks.

In a DIY home renovation project, intermediate skills are determined by a number of factors including budget, timelines, physical strength, years of experience, etc.

A home renovation professional with intermediate skills often uses special, low-cost tools. 

Examples of DIY home renovation projects that require intermediate skills include:

  • Painting exteriors (Roof, siding, doors, etc.)
  • Replacing toilets
  • Installing circuit breakers
  • Sanding floors
  • Unblocking sinks

Expert Skill Level in DIY Renovation

Being an expert in DIY home renovation means that you have similar skill levels with licensed professionals, such as interior designers, plumbers, electricians, etc.

Experts in home renovation conduct projects that need costly tools and specialized equipment with limited utility, such as power-actuated tools.  

An expert in DIY home renovation can perform all tasks at all previous levels as well as a number of complex tasks, such as:

  • Remodeling the bathroom/kitchen 
  • Replacing the roof
  • Replacing the water heater
  • Extending the house

 

7 Most Common DIYs per Room

Many times on TV shows we’ve seen home makeover projects taking less than an hour. This shows you how sprucing up a home does not require a lot of time and can be as simple as moving a chair.

Below are some common cost-effective DIYs that work for every room:

If you want to breathe life into a gloomy room, paint it with your favorite bold color, but not all four walls, just one side! This will not only cost less but will also save you time.

Leaking a faucet means higher water bills, and you don’t want that. With just one wrench, you can effortlessly replace your faucet. Just make sure you turn off the main water supply before you begin.

Did you know that it can take you less than one hour to build a square garden bed? All you need is eight pieces of boards, screws, landscape adhesive, and construction adhesive. You also need a saw for cutting the boards into pieces and a drill for securing them together.

If you have a pressure washer lying around idle, pick it up and use it to clean your gutters, walls, siding, doors, and windows even if they are on higher floors. All you need to do is aim and splash on!

When water heaters are used over a long period of time without being cleaned, the grime that settles at the bottom of them creates insulation that slows down the rate at which the water gets heated. To prevent leaks arising from the buildup of sediments, every 3 months, drain 25% of the water.

Breathe life into your carpets by renting or buying a home shampooer for cleaning them. One or two people in the family can help you move furniture off the carpets, and in 15-20 minutes, you’ll be done with one room!

Is your shower head old, rusty, or too small? Swap it with a new one that has a modernized nozzle! You can do this all by yourself with just your hands. You will not only experience improved water flow but also conserve water and money.

Key Takeaways

  • DIY home renovations costs but can consume a lot of time 
  • In the US, a permit is required when home renovations exceed basic cosmetic improvements.
  • Ranch houses are the best style to renovate, thanks to their large open living spaces and unique layouts.
  • Beginners should conduct in-depth research and start small DIY house renovation projects

Header image: Photo by Roselyn Tirado on Unsplash

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.