Remodeling: A DIY Guide

Remodeling: A DIY Guide

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Remodeling: A DIY Guide

Published at April 03 2024 by JFord

So you bit the bullet and are going to remodel your home. No, put the sledgehammer down. As with anything a remodel needs to follow a certain natural course of events. It takes a lot of work to do correctly and we want to make sure you have this in the bag.

House plan featured above is Washington Cove (SMN 1034).

Remodeling anything is a big undertaking. This guide is intended as a rough step by step of any project. It should help you figure out what your specific project needs.

Before you get started with the project, you should check online to see approximately how much your remodel project will cost you to do. And it is best to check with local contractors just to get a baseline amount of how much they would charge for the job. Compare the amounts and see if it would be more cost effective to have a professional do it all for you.



Now is when you want to hash out all those nasty little details. How big of a project are we looking at? What materials do we need? What do we want it to look like?

Also, Nelson Design Group does custom plans for any size remodel project. We can take your existing plan and make it into whatever you need it to be. For a large project, this is incredibly useful.

Contractors and Permits

Here is where you make a decision on whether you want to tackle the entire project on your own or hire some parts of it out. Small projects are ones you may be able to do entirely on your own, but large ones, especially those with electrical and plumbing work, you may have to call in a professional for at least part of it.

This is the best time to apply for a permit. Remember, if you’re adding value to your home or restructuring it in some way, you’ll probably need a permit.


When you are planning your remodel project, figure out exactly what you want done. After you get that big picture idea, you can break it down into manageable pieces.

For example, my husband I built a shed for storage last year. We had shopped around and figured out that we couldn’t afford to buy one outright and financing one was worse than going to a used car lot.

First, we looked at what we wanted. We measured and compared and, yes, googled until we figured out the scope of the project. Then we broke it down into manageable pieces.

We started with the floor. After getting the materials home, it only took us about a day to build the floor. That was a huge confidence boost to be able to see what we finished.


Another part of planning is to figure out what materials you need. You take each piece of the project and calculate what it will take to do it. Then, you can either buy as you go or buy in bulk. A lot of the big box home improvement stores will give you a small discount for buying in bulk.

If you are like us, though, you just don’t have a place to store all of the stuff associated with a project. We had to buy as we went through the process. Hopefully, you have a better set up and can get that bulk discount.

Damaged Foundation

Large Projects

It’s always best to get the large projects out of the way first. Try to go from the bottom up. If there are any problems with the foundation, now is the time to fix them. If your foundation is damaged or has problems, this can cause issues for the rest of the home. A cracked foundation can cause cracks in your walls and kinks in your plumbing. So while we’ve got everything out of the way, let’s fix it.

Next, you’ll want to work on the walls and roof. If the windows are badly damaged, now is the time to replace them. If the walls are damaged or if you need to work on them in some way, go ahead and do that now. Conversely, if you are going to be removing walls, now is the time to decide for sure. Walk the floor plan and make sure that is what you want. It’s easier to fix a wall than it is to replace one. If the windows are not damaged in a major way, leave them alone. Even if you want new windows, that comes later.

Lead Paint


If you are living in the home while you are remodeling, obviously you’re only going to tear out what you need to. If you aren’t living in your home while you’re remodeling, this is the time to go full throttle.

You’ll need to rent a large container for waste. To do so you’ll need to contact local trash disposal companies. You can usually rent a dumpster by the month and this will give you time to get all of the nastiness out of the home. If you need it dumped, you just call the company and they’ll bring you a new one and take the old one away.

Lead Paint

Be careful. Older homes may still have lead based paint. You’ll need to be extra cautious when you are demolishing anything with lead based paint on it. To deal with lead based paint, you’ll need to wear gloves and a respirator or mask. You want to make sure that there aren’t any animals or children around while you are taking care of this. Lead paint is highly toxic but it has a sweet taste that makes children and pets want to eat it.


Lead paint is not the only danger that can be hidden in your home. Many older homes have older insulation which may contain asbestos. Make sure you wear safety equipment including a respirator, gloves, pants, long sleeve shirts, sturdy shoes and eye protection as much as possible during the demolition. If you think you may have found asbestos, it has to be removed by a professional. Don’t try to do it yourself.

Asbestos will settle on objects and look like a fine, dark grey dust. It is highly toxic and has been linked with mesothelioma. If you think your home may have it, please get it tested. It’s not something I want to see anyone exposed to.

Structural Carpentry

Structural Carpentry

This is when you move walls, change doorways, change windows, etc. This will be what holds up the drywall and lets you put in windows and doors. You’ll want to do as much framing as possible right now. You want to be sure that you have everything secured into the subfloor and that all of the carpentry work is level.

HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing

Before you move on to drywall, you’ll need to make sure the plumbing, electrical and HVAC are all working and where they are supposed to be. If it is something minor, I would probably be able to do it myself. I am excellent at the Google.

If it is something major, however, I would recommend calling in a professional. Electrical fires can destroy a home and bad plumbing can cause your home to flood. When in doubt, get someone licensed to do the work. This will also be the time when electrical and plumbing inspectors will need to come in and have a look. They will have to clear you before you can put in the drywall.



While it may seem like it’s not important, insulation is crucial to a comfortable home. You’ll want to put this in between the walls now. Insulation cuts down on heating and cooling costs significantly and is actually really easy to put in. Just remember to wear protection. You’ll need to cover as much surface area as possible. Wear long sleeved shirts, pants, sturdy shoes, face mask/respirator and eye protection. Insulation is typically made with fiberglass which is extremely irritating and can even cause rashes.



After the plumbing and electrical inspectors have cleared your home, you can now start putting in the drywall.

Drywall comes in very large sheets. You “hang" it by screwing it into the studs in your walls. To cover the seams, you can apply a clay-like compound (it feels like play doh) in a process called “mudding". Once the compound is dry, you can sand it to make the wall appear seamless.

Sometimes it is easier to use a type of tape called drywall tape before you mud the drywall. The drywall tape is wide and has a grid pattern cut out in it above the adhesive. This grid pattern allows the clay compound to be caught in the tape and lets you layer it up without added a lot of weight to the drywall itself. The tape goes over the seam created by hanging the drywall. You can then mud it, let it dry and sand it. The tape also helps you keep track of the seam and holds it together while you are mudding it.

Installing Windows

Windows and Doors

We’re getting closer and closer to the end of the project. If you need to replace the windows or hang new doors, this is when you would do it.

Trim Work

Trim Work

Now for all those little things that make you realize how nice a home looks. Baseboards, molding, trim around the windows and doors, etc. These are all things that should be put in at this point.

There’s a mild debate concerning the next two steps about what order they should be in. Some say paint should come before flooring and some say flooring should come before paint. I say it depends on what type of flooring it is. However, I have also learned to lean heavily on the idea that drop cloths are a wonderful thing.


Interior Painting and Wallpaper

Painting and hanging wallpaper seems like an easy day after everything else. There is one mistake most people make while they’re painting and hanging wall paper. That mistake is not priming the wall before you start.

Yes it seems unnecessary, especially if you’re decorating clean, freshly hung drywall, but it’s not. Priming your walls help cut down on mold and mildew. It also creates a uniform surface for the wallpaper to adhere to.

Installing Flooring


While there are many types and styles of flooring, one thing is constant. You have to have an even floor before you begin. Hopefully, you fixed all of that in the “Large Projects" section. If you didn’t, now is the time.

Make sure that you protect your subfloor by sealing it against water damage. Otherwise you’ll just have to put in a new floor in a couple of years.

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