Project Renovation: Mama Guide

At the beginning of every episode of Fixer Upper, JoJo asks the viewer, “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?” Well, that is the perfect question to ask. Also, do you have the time, the funds, the patience, and God’s good graces to take on a fixer upper? Because you’re going to need them; especially with little ones running around!

Last summer, my husband and I decided to move into a home built in 2003, which had not been updated (and in some places, cleaned) since 2003. Granted, the house was not our taste, but the bones were good, and it had everything we wanted: one-story, 5 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 3 car garage, large yard, cul-de-sac lot that backs to a green belt with mature oak trees in the front and back yard, and has the best schools in the Round Rock School District, plus the price was right for our budget, so we snagged it and started the renovation process.

Here are my tips for making home-renovation easier, especially as a Mama.


We learned that the schedule is everything. We wanted to have the floors done before the cabinets, and you have to have the cabinets before the countertops can be done, etc. etc. Setting a schedule will help tremendously, but be prepared to be off schedule.


Figure out what you can spend and stick to it as best you can, but be prepared to spend more. Like I said, the schedule is everything. Vendors will get behind, which will put you behind, and you have to be out of your old house and moved into the new by a certain day, so, sometimes you have to hire more help to get the job done.


Our renovation was a long time coming. My husband and I knew we wanted to move and had been visiting model homes for a year or so to get an idea of what we wanted. We considered building for a while, but when the new (old) house became available, we decided to renovate it on our own to save money. We did a lot of research, we contacted local builders for paint colors and textile names and prices, and we used Pinterest to get a visual of what we wanted.

Know before you go:

You can get stuck in limbo trying to choose tile at the tile store; the options are endless, and if you’re not careful, a salesperson can talk you into buying tiles that cost $10 each. Stick with your budget as best you can, (but be prepared to spend more) and try to avoid glossy-looking tile stores that force you to work with a salesperson; you’ll end up paying too much and wasting time.

Start early:

The company who created our custom kitchen cabinets booked up completely for the summer with bigger, multiple-home development projects right after we met with them; plus, they don’t always do single home renovations, so we were lucky that we were able to get on their schedule.

Hire a general contractor:

We did some major renovation: we removed a wall and rerouted the kitchen sink, added windows in the living room and completely redid all of the bathrooms, floors, doors and paint. We needed a general contractor. At one point we had a temporary wall holding up the ceiling as we added and changed the windows. The general contractor helped ensure we followed all of the building codes and was certified to do the heavy-duty renovations correctly and safely.

Hire a decorator:

We hired a decorator to help with tile, paint, carpet and other selections. She basically told me that I did a great job with my selections I’d so carefully researched, so that gave me peace of mind. It is extremely hard to choose every last detail because there are soooooo many options; it helped to hear that I’d chosen wisely.

Buy a paint sprayer:

And paint the ceiling the same color as your walls, trust me. The painting was an animal all its own. We thought a paint sprayer would be the answer to all of our prayers, but we ended up rolling and edging a lot more than we wanted because the tile floors got installed before we finished painting.

Paint first:

Before the new floors are installed: Okay, we wanted this to happen but it just didn’t. We decided (after several days of struggling), to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls because the wall color splattered on the ceiling, then we couldn’t find the same ceiling color to cover up the splatter, so we ended up painting the ceiling, and that paint ended up aye-yi-yi. Then we had to scrub the paint off the tile and we are still finding spots to this day.

Hire painters for trim and doors (trust me):

There is nothing more labor intensive than painting the baseboards, trim and doors. Hire professionals. That is all. Do it; throw some money at it, and let it go. Unless you want to spend the next couple of years doing it on your own, hire a painter.

Enlist the help of friends and family:

Ask for help or accept help when given. We had friends and family helping with paint, helping with packing and moving, helping with bringing meals, helping with watching and entertaining my daughter, so that was definitely a God-send!

Simplify meals:

When your friends and family are helping, it makes them happy to have food and drinks. We did pizza, lasagna, tacos, take-out, candy, cookies, brownies, sandwiches, cokes, Gatorade and beer to keep up the morale and make our lives easier as well.

Visit the house everyday:

Despite the busyness of moving and renovating at the same time, I visited the house daily. It is important to stay on schedule; everything has to be done in a certain order, so it helps to be current on the progress of the reno.

iPad and busy bags:

I’m not going to lie, if I had to help with the house and watch my daughter, I let her watch movies and play games on the iPad. It just wasn’t safe for her to be running around the construction zone, most of her toys were packed up, and everyone who usually watches her was already helping with the house. When she got bored of the iPad, I kept a bag of “busy-bag” toys for her and tried to save a new one for each day. Check out busy-bags on Pinterest.

Give the kids chores to do or ways to help:

If you have older kids, give them a paint brush and let them help. If you have younger kids, let them help pick up trash or bring snacks to the people working. Sometimes it is not appropriate to allow children in a construction zone; it can be extremely loud, or paint fumes or dust can be hazardous without the proper gear.

Be ready for no sleep, late nights and early mornings:

It is going to be hard, stressful, and exhausting. We stayed up until 2:00am, and got up at 7:00am. We were up and down on ladders painting, squatting low with caulk around every new baseboard and doorframe, and sweating profusely moving boxes out and in in the July heat. You have to have endurance and a strong will, for sure.

One step at a time:

One year later, our home-reno is not done. We just had to let go of some things and move in. We still need paint touch ups, caulk, landscaping and various other finishes to make the house pristine. It is a work in progress, but thankfully, my husband and I both enjoy taking the time to make it our own.

So tell me, do you have the GUTS and the GRIT and the GRACE to take on a fixer-upper?








Erin Ellis
Erin owns Events by Erin, a custom event planning business and co-owns Ellis Designs LLC, a custom woodworking business with her husband, John Ellis. Together, their greatest design is their wonderful daughter, Elizabeth. Erin is an Austin native and graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a degree in English. She lives in Round Rock, enjoys running, going to the movies and the beach, and of course, writing for Austin Moms Blog!


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