Tan Rutley, a teacher/blogger/maker/hugger, is the creator of Squirrelly Minds where she shares DIY creations, recipes, and more to make your life pretty and fun. Her mind never stops thinking, planning, and making (squirrelly mind, get it?) and her projects nearly always leave her covered in glitter or flour. Sometimes both. Tan is an island girl living in Canada's west coast with her husband and overly fluffy kitty Lucy.
Renovating a basement is always exciting—the possibility of livening up a dark, dank space is enough to send any interior design fiend straight to Pinterest. But there's a lot that pretty pictures won't tell you, and they certainly won't prepare you for what's in store. At least they didn't prepare me, the girl who grew up around construction sites and once dreamed of being an interior designer.
We're currently knee-deep in our own basement renovation. We're updating a nasty, 1970s one-bedroom plus den suite with wall panels into a modern, dry-walled two-bed plus den (above). The most valuable lessons we've learned have been through living the experience and, like any first time home buyer/renovator, making several mistakes. I'm here to share just a little bit of what I've learned, what to do, and what to expect when renovating your basement.
Give yourself a lot of time People always say renovations take longer than you expect, and they don't say that for no reason. Always budget extra time to get the job done because it's 95% certain that a hiccup will come along the way.
Plan ahead to avoid last minute changes While we drew up preliminary sketches and had a good idea of what we wanted, we still were pretty much flying by the seat of our pants. We found ourselves making decisions last minute because we had to, and often couldn't make the best decisions due to the time crunch. Plan as many details as you can beforehand by making a list and outlining your wants and needs room by room. Make a note of your desired light fixtures, trim, flooring, paint colors, and so on. The more organized you are from the beginning, the smoother the process will be.
Know what you want and keep an eye out for deals If you already know the type of faucets or floors you want in each room, you can spend your very limited extra time (you will have no social life during the reno) scoping out flyers and sales. You might not need light fixtures for another month, but if you see them on sale now you'll save yourself time searching for the perfect one and, ultimately, save money.
If they have skids and skids of the product in stock—buy it anyway! We knew the exact flooring we wanted and were told there were several skids of it right there on location. "Perfect! We won't have to buy it now and find a place to store it for the next month" we thought. For the love of all things good, I urge you to clear out your entire kitchen and turn it into a storage facility if need be and buy it right then and there! Just because even if there are hundreds of the product in stock now, we learned the hard way that it might not be there when you need it. Avoid the tears and whip out your credit card.
Always overestimate on materials It's better to have too many leftovers during a job then run out part way through, especially given the above situation. But make sure you know the store's return policies so you can return unused items.
Regardless of who they are, never refuse help that is offered If your overly chatty neighbor offers to lend you a hand, and they also happen to be a plumber—say yes. Resist the urge to do it all yourself. Unless you have unlimited time, money, and resources, you won't be able to get the job done and done right in the time frame you want, so get all the help you can. Watch your neighbor, ask questions, and be right there to help. That way maybe you can do some of the work yourself next time. And don't forget to thank them with a nice bottle of something yummy.
Know your team, know their limits For those who do offer help, know what they can and cannot do, and don't push them further. Don't assume they'll know how to do the specific things you want and appreciate them for what they do know and can help you with. In short, know when to hire a professional. If you have a budget, spend it wisely on the things you wouldn't feel safe doing or wouldn't be able to do at the quality of work you're after.
Don't get too attached to your new walls After framing and electrical, drywall is one of the first things to go up. It's a beautiful clean slate with not a single nick, bump, or dent. Isn't it a beauty? Well, it isn't going to stay that way for much longer. You'll be installing floors and moving appliances and furniture in and out. With that comes bumps and nicks, so enjoy the fresh clean walls for this short time and buy a bucket of wall filler.