Lessons from Home Renovation: Part Two

lessons from renovation

It’s the time of year to look back and assess progress made on projects, goals and big ideas. My biggest project was building a backhouse / rental property, aka casita and there were many life lessons from home renovation found throughout the two-year project.

Building anything takes everything you’ve got in terms of strength and patience. Building during a pandemic turns that into a Herculean effort.

Every item on the long list of things to do took double the time thanks to building departments and inspectors working from home. In addition, there was a major influx of construction work that kept my contractor and his team running from job to job with only so many hours in a day.

Because of this, there were times when I had to learn how to do things on my own to keep moving forward and then, when the dust settled so to speak, to add some final touches that make something special — transforming an inexpensive door with stain and varnish, doing simple tile work, adding some landscaping and drip irrigation, and finally, a privacy fence.

Many things took more brain than brawn. So many hurdles, so many lessons.

To keep going, I tried to do at least one percent toward my goal each day. If that meant going to Home Depot one more time for a little part, so be it. That was my one percent. Little by little those small actions added up and I finally reached the “end” of the project! Are there still little things that I want to do? Of course! But I’m going to take the win. After all, it’s about progress, not perfection.

lessons from renovation
From Garage to Glam

Three lessons from Home Renovation


In life, business and construction, what isn’t scheduled doesn’t get done. Hope will not get that electrical issue solved, or stop a faucet from dripping. I had one punch list for myself (ordering things, finding resources) and one that kept track of the crew’s projects. No matter what, I just made sure something happened each day, even if it was one percent. It adds up. Small steps will take you where you want to go.

lessons from renovation


On the many times I was waiting for someone to finish (or start) the big things, there was a lot I could do alone — replacing drip irrigation and pea gravel that had been moved during installing sewer lines, cleaning up old phone cables, even learning basic electrical work so I could replace the outdoor lights.

But then there were times I just had a small job and no time to do it or learn how to do it. I’d try all the usual places for help — the contractors, Craig’s List, referrals.


Small jobs. Everyone is too busy for them. But you know who does want the work and is very clear about that? The guys who stand outside of Home Depot and list their services on their trucks. They want the business and make no bones they are there and ready to work.

It’s important that I stop here for a second and say that I don’t mean this to be a discussion on legal status and right to work, etc. This is simply an observation I made on my many trips to Home Depot about rudimentary, yet effective, marketing.

Signs on the trucks clearly state capabilities. Demolition. Hauling. Cleaning. Available now. There is something we can all learn here about the strength of a clear marketing and sales message and the importance of a clear call to action.


How do we learn new things today? I had to become an immediate expert on so many things I’d never thought of before to make them work (I’m still learning about sleeve anchors, hex bolts and hammer drills. Oh my!)

Being an expert, knowing things, doing stuff — I’ll say it again — hoping it will happen doesn’t get anything done.

It takes decision making followed by action. But how to even know what action to take?

The author Austin Kleon writes — “It’s always your job to get yourself an education. You have to be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anyone else. That’s how you’ll get ahead.”

Always be reading, watching, asking, learning. Youtube and Google replaced Netflix and Hulu for me and See Jane Drill, Garden Answers and any guy explaining live, neutral and ground wires became my nightly viewing.

Ultimately, it really is about beginning with the end in mind. I had an idea that became plans (literally), and once demo began, there was no turning back.

Not every goal has to be that dramatic, but perhaps it should!

>PS For fun, here’s an article I wrote in 2016 when I was renovating the kitchen. I’ve recently re-posted it: Five Lessons From Renovation! <<

Next, I begin on the garden!

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