Renovation Survival Guide

It sounds great doesn’t it “A Renovation Survival Guide” — I can’t guarantee you’ll survive a renovation, but I can share my top FIVE tips (and maybe you’ll even have some fun along the way too). I’m not a pro but I have been around the reno block a few times.

Growing up, I remember my grandad and dad being super handy, so handy that they wouldn’t blink twice at building anything – sheds, boats, garages, and in fact our childhood house. My older sister Sid inherited all of those genes – ALL – she can do anything, literally. Me, not so much. I inherited the “dreamer” gene & have lots grand ideas that I assume are all easy to implement. (awkward laugh)

Having spent many many years living in NYC, let’s just say DIY isn’t a typical “single girl in the city” hobby as let’s say going to gallery openings or people watching while sipping wine on a barstool. As such, I’m not the most natural DIYer, but that doesn’t stop me from having a go (read: after weeks of serious procrastination). Thank you YouTube(tm) for all those tutorials.

I hate scrolling through blogs for the good stuff, so I’m just going to give you the goods here & now. My best & brightest tips to make it through a renovation …


“Deer in the headlights” (do you use that expression in the UK?!) best describes my first renovation. I was a nervous wreck every time I spoke to the builder and I’m sure he had a good laugh at my facial expressions as he talked about pumps, waste pipes, venting, and grout colours. I was young & clueless. At the time I would have jumped out of an airplane than organise & manage a bathroom reno.  To say it was a learning curve is an understatement and what followed was a divorce & sale of my first home. Now, am I blaming the bath reno for my failed marriage? Hell yes! Just kidding. Not kidding. No, of course I’m kidding.

What did stick with me was the sense of pride & accomplishment of the simple bath reno and being able to put my creative spin on things. So onwards & upwards. Next up was a trail of renovations to a charming Victorian house that needed a lot of TLC (read: money pit) including a new kitchen, bath, windows, and led to blowing out the back of the house for two sets of French doors to a new super sized porch for the grandest of BBQs. During the reno, ancient electrical wiring and pipework was uncovered, all needing replaced. Ouch. Did I say money pit?!

A year or so later, my third renovation took the form of converting the basement into a studio apartment, a completely blank canvas, needing everything built. Why did I think this was a good idea? I’m still not sure but I learned a heck of a lot about what NOT to do.

And here I am now, across the pond in Scotland, a year after my 4th renovation. A top to bottom, all in renovation – electrical, plumbing, heating, knocking down walls, putting in steel beams, moving the kitchen, moving the bath, everything they say not to do, we did & we survived all with a 1 year old baby who didn’t sleep in tow. Did you notice the “we”? yup, I’m hitched again.


If you follow me on Insta, you’ve seen some of the before & after pics and you’ve heard me blabber on about “Renovation Wednesday” and the super sexy topics of the renovation brief and how to think about electrical/lighting plans. Yes, I do have the best chat. (please laugh now). I’m not going to say that the Renovation Brief (aka The Plan) saved my marriage, but we are still together & this was an entire house renovation.

Will it take all the stress out of the reno? Hell No. Will it make life a bit easier? Hell Yes. Will it help manage your costs better? Hell Yes. Will it get you & your crew on the same page? Hell Yes.  Caveat: I can not guarantee it will save or improve your marriage.

So what is the “Renovation Brief” or “The Plan” all about? It’s a simple document that outlines everything you plan to do in the renovation, room by room. No biggie, right? Ha. Okay, I’ll admit, it does take serious planning to pull it all together. It’s time to dream about what could be. It’s time to geek out over floor plans. It’s time to think about taking a wrecking ball to your place and starting over. Hmmm, okay, maybe not THAT extreme, scale it back sister. I’m writing another blog post all about the mysterious brief, but here is a quickie:




I pinky swear that I will write a blog detailing all the ins & outs of the super sexy Renovation Brief. Renovations are stressful and full of headaches. Did I say that already? Well, it’s true. Even the best made plans will be full of bad news. So, it is BEST to EXPECT the WORST. At that point, you can most certainly expect something else will go wrong. Yikes.

source: liznylon

Once you accept this, it makes managing the day to day of a renovation more entertaining & you can laugh about all the chaos around you. Like finding out your house could burn down at any moment because the electrics are ancient and are rubbing up against the insulation (read: old newspapers stuffed into the walls). Note: this was not in the budget or on the home report. Forget the house going up in flames, I have flames coming out of the top of my head. Where’s a good emoji when you need one?!

Keep a running list of these “hiccups” and work with your build crew on a general ballpark cost – so you know if you have to “re-think” those luxury tiles for the bathroom. This is why it’s important to visit the build every couple of days. Plus adding a 10-20% contingency on top of your budget is essential, if not critical.

One piece of advice I ignored during my first two renovations and severely regretted was the suggestion to plan weekends away or better yet, move out while it is being renovated. Did I mention that renovations are messy? Did I mention that renovations are stressful? Did I listen? No. Did I regret it? Yes. Get away while you can & while you still have money (note: above story about electrics).

source: liznylon

Now, I don’t want to be all doom & gloom here. The real truth – do you want the building crew to see you in your PJs when they arrive bright & early and you’ve slept through your alarm? How about showering at the gym everyday for months because there is no running water in the bath. Or washing your dishes with the outside hose? Realising a bit too late that the dress you wanted to wear to the “party of the year” is covered in dust & soaked from an undisclosed random burst pipe.

I could go on & on & on, but just watch the stories of Jess at Gold is a Neutral about her luxe bath renovation or Malcolm of Design Sixty Nine about his guest bedroom RevampRestyleReveal or Kasie at ForTheLoveOfColour mega extension renovation and you’ll quickly see how important getting away is to keeping your sanity. Plus who doesn’t love a sunny sultry getaway? Am I right?! Just don’t flaunt that Ibiza weekend to your build crew. Ciara Elliot had it right, she moved her family out during her mega renovation and extension plus she’s traveling the countryside with Fashion Reboot.

It’s easy to get caught up in the cray cray of a renovation. Did I mention renovations are stressful? Did I mention things go wrong all the time? Did I mention there are lots of random people in your home tearing it apart (read: creating your new lovely home).

source: liznylon

Sticking to deadlines & budgets can make any (insert: owner/build crew) want to break down & cry. One thing I started to do during my last two renovations was “pay it forward”.  The idea of doing something nice for someone else (i.e. your build crew). I decided once a week, I would splurge on nice coffee & some treats, just a small gesture of thanks. It put a wee smile on everyone’s face and made me feel good too.

While you are pumping everyone full of caffeine and sugary treats – it is the perfect excuse to talk about progress, what’s scheduled for the coming week, what looks FAB, and any concerns (or dare I even say it, changes). Like any relationship, open communication is key. It’s best to be specific and direct and kind.

Speaking of treats. This one is critical. Speed dial. Put your local wine merchant on speed dial & make sure they can deliver too!

source: liznylon

I don’t think I’ve ever consumed more wine than I have during a renovation. White, Red, Rose, Bubbles. I keep the house fully stocked at all times and make sure the corkscrew is close by too. It’s also helpful to remind friends of the need for wine.

That’s it folks, my top five tips to surviving a renovation. Phew, we made it to the end. I hope you found it helpful and of course entertaining. Don’t forget to check out my Insta Stories every Wednesday for more Renovation Tips & Tricks. If you want more info, just message me or leave a comment & I’ll shout back.


Liz xx






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