The Ultimate Home Improvement Guide to Home Renovations

Tips and tricks to know before starting your next home improvement project by Tantrums and Tools

​If you’re thinking about home improvements, big or small, this guide is for you! From planning, budget, design, decorating, and DIY projects, I’m going to give you all my tips to help your home improvement dreams come true. My first piece of advice, this guide is long, so pin it now and refer to this again later!

Disclaimer: Please remember that I am a DIY enthusiast, not a professional. This article is for general information use and is not a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions, consult a professional! Additionally, this may contain links to affiliate websites where I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using my link. All opinions and recommendations are my own. I appreciate you taking my suggestions and using my links. Thank you for being so supportive!

Home Improvement Project Planning

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The first thing you need to do is plan your home improvement. Ground-breaking information, I know! But hear me out, I’ve learned the more time you take on this step, the smoother the rest of your project goes. This is coming from the queen of changing her mind, but I still find it helpful to take the time and plan before beginning. I’m a visual person, so my “plans” usually change as I see things in real life, and I’ve learned this is ok.

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Are you doing whole home renovations or planning one-room home improvements? I like to walk through the space where I plan to work and visualize the changes I want to make. I recommend making a list of all these things. Break it down by room what it is that you want to change. I’m a little old fashioned and use pen and paper, but you can also type this out if you want. 

Example From My Kitchen Home Improvement Project

Here is what my list looked like when planning my kitchen renovation:

Home Improvement Timeline

Another important aspect of your home improvement planning process is the timeline. The purpose of setting a project timeline is to help keep things in perspective when I feel like there is no progress being made with the home improvements. My best piece of advice is to keep in mind things take way longer than you would ever imagine. I am notorious for underestimating how long something will take, so my rule of thumb is to at least double what I think it will take and build in a buffer. Life happens as a single working parent, and home improvements sometimes have to wait. My timeline keeps my stress level down because I’ve built in a cushion for these life delays.

Everything you need to know about home renovations

Where To Start

There are many ways to approach what to tackle first. If your home renovations are anything like mine, the wish list is long, so you’re going to have to prioritize. You can start your home improvements with the room you just can’t stand any longer, or you could base it on what you have the money to accomplish.

When I bought my late 60’s home, every room in the house needed work. We’re talking about an orange explosion from floor to ceiling. I did not have the budget to do everything at once, so I approached my home improvements room by room. I decided to start with my formal living room because it only needed cosmetic changes, and the DIY projects I wanted to do wouldn’t cost much.

Your home renovation project timeline will vary depending on whether you are doing DIY projects or hiring out the work. My dad and I are working together on my home improvements, which we both have “real jobs,” so my home improvements can only happen on the weekend.

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Project Time Management Tip

​When making your timeline, you need to consider the amount of time you can devote to your home improvements, plus factoring in how long it takes to get the supplies. Seriously, a trip to Home Depot can eat up an entire day by the time you make your list, shop, load, and unload everything back at the house.

My tip for making the most of an available project workday is to squeeze supply shopping trips in on a different day. I do this by supply shopping on a weeknight after work. When I do this, it allows me to devote an entire weekend day to working on the actual home improvements.

Tip: Shop for supplies ahead of your project workday

If you’re hiring a contractor to do your home improvements, then you are at the mercy of their schedule, which at this point, I can tell you they are booking way, way out. If you find someone available right away, I’d want to know why because you’re most likely going to have to wait for the good ones.    

Home Improvement Budget

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Now that you know what you’re renovating and how long it will take, it’s time to talk budget. You can look at your budget one of two ways, depressing or challenging. It can be depressing because everything costs so dang much. Or a fun little challenge because your home improvements are going to totally transform your home on a budget. When setting your home improvements budget, the biggest favor you can do yourself is to be realistic. Yes, you will have sticker shock, and once you get over that, you can create a realistic budget.

Tip: My tricks to sticking to a budget are shopping around and being patient

Home Improvement Shopping Tips

​Patience will be key to sticking to your home improvements budget. I generally do not compromise on big things that change the space’s overall look. So, to ensure I don’t have to compromise, I patiently wait for an item to go on sale. Sometimes, I have to practice my patience while saving money for a splurge item.

I also suggest checking local stores and seeing if they have a bargain or outlet section. My local tile shop has this where they sell off project leftovers, returns, etc., for a discounted price. Remember that you’ll have to check back regularly before finding what you’re looking for.

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Online Shopping Tip

Another source for budget shopping is online. I consider myself very (very) particular, but I’ve still had a lot of success shopping online for my home improvements. The trick to this is to review the return policy before ordering because many times, things arrive and don’t look quite like you thought. You’re not going to want to keep the item because it’s not what you had envisioned, and you’re not going to want to spend a fortune shipping the item back. A good return or exchange policy is key to sticking to your home improvement budget when shopping online.

DIY vs. Professional

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I’m guessing you’re reading this because you’re planning to tackle at least a portion of your home renovation on your own, right? Good, because I, too, love DIY projects. But, it is important to know your limits. For me, this is water and electricity. I’m not going to DIY either of these because I have no interest in plumbing, and the safety implications of working with electricity make me nervous. Knowing what DIY projects you can safely do versus when you should consider hiring a professional will affect your timeline and budget. 

​I will also add that I am far from a professional. So being resourceful and getting help from those who know what they are doing is really helpful when tackling home improvements. For me, this person is my dad. Through working alongside him and self-teachings through online DIY project tutorials, I feel pretty good about what I can do and think you’ll get the hang of it too.

Home Improvement Project Design

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You obviously didn’t like something about your home, or else you would not have started this home improvement project in the first place. So, how do you want it to look instead? I approach the design portion of my home improvement projects by searching and saving images of what I like. This way, I know exactly what I’m looking for when I start shopping for supplies. You can use many platforms to save images, but my favorites are:

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

I head to Pinterest and start scrolling until something piques my interest to begin the design portion of my home improvement project. After finding an idea I like, I will pause to take in all the details.

I ask myself “what exactly is it about this that I like.”

Example Of My Home Improvement Inspiration Image Exercise

Pausing and asking myself this question forces me to tune into the precise components of the image that I like. I’ve learned that I don’t actually love everything about the inspiration image once I slow down and analyze it. Before I save the photo, I change the comment to remind myself what it is about that picture I liked. Having the ability to leave a note to myself right on the Pin is one of the benefits of using Pinterest for home improvement planning.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. As I’m scrolling through Pinterest, I come across an image that slows my scroll.

White shaker cabinets, double farmhouse sink vanity in farmhouse style with shiplap walls
Image Source:

I’m breaking down the photo, looking at each component to decide what I actually like, and deciding if I want to use this design idea in my home improvement.

So, in my head, I’m thinking:

  • I love the white vanity, the mirrors, and the shiplap wall.
  • I don’t love the light fixtures, the chrome faucets, the farmhouse sinks, or the flooring.

Next, I take it further and ask myself why I liked those particular things.

  • What I like about the vanity is the white color, the color and style of the hardware, shaker-style doors, the drawer detail versus all doors, and the furniture-styled bottom.
  • I like the mirrors: how tall they are and the thin black frame.
  • Notice how the shiplap is hung? I not only like the white paint color, but I also like how it is hung vertically.

These things would be nice to consider incorporating into my home improvement, so I will make this note on the pin and save it for later.

Tip: When saving inspiration images, be extra specific about what and why you like it

How To Prevent Being Overwhelmed

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When you’re shopping for your home improvement project, you will find the options are endless and, at times, overwhelming. The detailed information you have collected through the above exercise is perfect for keeping you focused on your design vision. You will be able to look for these specific details and know whether a product does or does not match what you had envisioned for your home improvement.

Taking the time to do this exercise helps me feel less overwhelmed by all the options since I know what exact details I am looking for. Because of this, my home improvement project ends up looking just as good and often even better than I had imagined.

Home Improvement Wall Treatments

Tips and tricks to know before starting your next home improvement project by Tantrums and Tools

I want to talk more about one of those details you should consider when designing your home improvement, the walls! Adding a DIY wall treatment is an affordable way to take your home renovation to the next level. If you’re looking to attempt a DIY project, your walls are one place you should consider trying your hand.

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​Let’s start by talking about paint because even though this may sound basic, it’s not. Paint can profoundly affect the outcome of your home improvement. There is more to paint than color selection- you will also need to pick a finish and brand. Lucky for you, I’ve gone through this process several times, and I’m going to give you my favorites to hopefully make this part of your home renovation a bit easier.

Paint Color

If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start, you can find ideas online by searching Pinterest for inspiration. In my home renovation, I knew I wanted white, so I searched around for top suggestions on different shades of white. I then went to Home Depot and purchased several different color samples to take home and trial in the actual space. 

Now that you have your samples go ahead and paint a small section in the area you are renovating. Keep in mind lighting has a significant impact on how the color will look in your space. Before making a final paint color decision for your home improvement, you’ll want to have viewed each option at different times of the day.

Tip: My go-to paint is Behr Ultra, in an eggshell finish, and in the Sherwin Williams color Alabaster

Paint Finishes

Next up is paint finishes. Again, there are many different options, each designed for specific rooms in the home. My go-to for home improvements is an eggshell finish. The reason is that my preferred paint Behr Ultra comes with a built-in primer and scuff defense. This combination gives the eggshell a more durable surface while also giving me a more matte look that I prefer.

Paint Brands

I have trialed several different pain brands for various home improvements and found I like the consistency and coverage of Behr Ultra the best. Many people prefer the brand Sherwin Williams, but I found this paint thick and didn’t love it as much as the Behr when it came to ease of application. I have found the Behr Ultra to be extremely durable and easy to work with, which is why it’s my go-to paint choice for all my DIY projects. I’ve even painted my kitchen cabinets using this paint, and two years later, I’ve not had a single chip.

Home Improvement Wall Treatment Ideas

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As I mentioned earlier, wall treatments are an affordable way to take your home improvements to the next level. These DIY projects are relatively easy even for a beginner, and best of all, they are also budget friendly.

​Here are a few of my favorite DIY wall treatments:

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Home Decorating

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By now, you’ve figured out home improvements can get quite expensive. So, if you’re looking to keep your home decorating costs to a minimum, then this is one other area where DIY projects can keep you on budget. My three secret sources for decorating on a budget are second-hand stores, Facebook Marketplace, and local barn (or garage) sales.

My tips for shopping these budget friendly home decorating sources are:

  • Check back often
  • Be patient while you wait for the perfect piece
  • Act fast when you find something (because odds are it will sell quickly)

It’s also helpful to have a general understanding of what an item should cost. That way, you know when you’ve stumbled upon a good deal or when you should pass because something is overpriced. Keep in mind the item that you find will need a bit of love and your DIY touch, but the time you invest working on this DIY project will be well worth the reward. If you’re interested in learning more about this budget friendly decorating option, check out my post on thrift store decor secrets you should know.

Budget Decor

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I love decorating my home, but I’ve always been a frugal shopper, so the items in my home aren’t necessarily expensive, just selected. It may sound superficial, but decorating and the aesthetics of my home matter to me; it’s about creating a feeling. I have an eye for seeing the hidden potential in things, which is why I’ve been able to haul home furniture from the curb and transform it into something I’m proud to display in my home. In this post I give nine unique budget decor ideas.

​Would you believe me if I told you that my entire dining room set (table, chairs, and hutch) was a DIY project and cost me less than $500?! I understand that not everything can be a DIY project. Although I wish it could! When decorating for my home improvement, I will purchase home decor from the store like any other (non-DIY-loving) individual. I’m still pretty savvy and good at finding the deals even when doing this.

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Quick Bathroom Updates That Add Value

Quick Bathroom Updates That Add Value To Your Home

Maybe you’re getting ready to list your house on the market and need quick bathroom updates, or you simply don’t have a lot of extra time to spend on a full bathroom remodel.

Whatever your reason, if you’re looking for quick bathroom updates that add value, here are my best suggestions:

  • Replace cabinet hardware
  • Spray-paint light fixtures
  • Paint the vanity
  • Frame the mirror
  • Update/replace window treatments with a more on-trend shade
  • Replace the shower rod, curtain, and hooks
  • Update/replace outdated towel bars with something more stylish
  • Add decor through plants, artwork, and baskets
  • Use bathroom supplies as decor- fill the baskets with toilet paper and towels
  • Paint the entire room
  • Get a new toilet seat. You don’t have to replace the entire toilet; a new seat is a quick bathroom update that will go a long way- trust me!

I have an entire post dedicated to the best bathroom updates that are also affordable, and I linked that for you here- quick and affordable bathroom updates

I hope you’re feeling more confident about tackling home improvements now that I’ve covered all the essential steps. I’m no expert, just a girl building a life I love, with a passion for sharing what has worked for me. 



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