By Marni Jameson
“I want to paint,” my daughter tells me. Paige, age 25, and her long-term boyfriend and family fixture, John, also 25, are buying their first house, in Texas.
“Of course you do,” I say. Being my daughter, Paige is already remodeling even though the sale isn’t official for two weeks.
“What color do you think?” she asks.
“I can’t pick a wall color from another state,” I tell her from my home in Florida. “I have to see it in the space.”
“I don’t want to wait,” she says.
“Of course you don’t.” Being my daughter, she has no patience. “But you should always live in a house first before you make any changes,” I say.
“You painted and refinished the floors of your house before you moved in.”
“Never mind me.”
“And I’m thinking of changing the flooring. And John wants to build a deck out back, around a firepit.”
Here we go. I shake my head. But what should I expect from a kid raised by a serial home improver?
Like many young adults scraping funds together to get a first house, Paige and John have big dreams and small budgets. And, like many millennials who have watched a lot of HGTV shows, they are ready to roll up their sleeves and get confidently to work.
A recent Home Depot survey of 1,000 new homeowners found that more than 57 percent of Americans felt they could remodel an entire room completely by themselves. Of those, Millennials were the most confident: 64 percent said they could remodel an entire room without any professional help.
Fools rush in … Pride goeth before … What do I know?
“The biggest challenge I face when working with new homeowners is that television has made house renovation look too easy,” said HGTV’s Chip Wade, who’s appeared on Designed to Sell, Curb Appeal: The Block, and Ellen’s Design Challenge.
“Today’s TV programming reflects what America wants,” he said. “They would rather watch someone throw a sledgehammer through a wall than watch a craftsman meticulously build a cabinet. Viewers today want entertainment, and easy, fast results.”
Like Paige, who wants to pick a color, paint the whole interior and have all the art hung in one day.
A licensed general contractor with a degree in mechanical engineering, Wade was in Atlanta last week demonstrating DIY projects at The Home Depot’s New Homeowners event, to a group of reporters more familiar with the kind of screwdriver you drink than the kind you turn.
“Chip and Joanna Gaines make it look so easy, but many new apartment dwellers and first-time homeowners don’t know the first thing about painting a wall, laying floor, decorating a space, or even simply hanging a picture,” he said.
The same could be said for seasoned home owners, I add.
When working with entry-level home buyers, Wade strongly encourages them to take on the improvements themselves, both to save money and to gain the gratification. However, to help new homeowners, like Paige and John, fix their places up with more success and less frustration, Wade offers this advice:
- Start with a complete plan. Don’t rule out hiring a professional designer for a couple hours to give you a direction. “If you start renovating randomly you will head straight for trouble,” said Wade.
- Be patient. This isn’t “Fixer Upper,” and your home makeover won’t happen as fast as it looks like it does in a 22-minute show. Live in your space. It will tell you over time what to do.
- Make a spread sheet. List all the home improvement projects you’d like to complete, and what they will cost in terms of materials, special tools, and labor you can’t provide. Then prioritize. Fix the leaky roof before you replace the floor or buy the sofa.
- Get educated. “First-time homeowners can do a lot themselves,” he said. “But they have to look in the right places for information and fill in the gaps for what they don’t know.” To learn how to work with a product, go to the manufacturer’s website, or look at YouTubes, he said. The Home Depot and Lowe’s also offer how-to videos.
- Lay it out. When installing flooring, such as vinyl wood flooring — a good project for entry level homeowners because it’s affordable, and good looking, he says – or tile, take the time to get measurements exact. Lay out the materials completely before you make a cut.
- Don’t skimp on prep time. When painting, for instance, spend 30 percent of your time prepping and 70 percent painting. “Most people spend 100% of the time painting,” he said. Mask the trim off, patch the holes, prep the surface, and cover everything you don’t want painted. Use painter tape (not masking tape), and don’t let it stay on too long. The bond gets stronger over time and could pull up the paint. Don’t use cheap paint. Two coats of cheap paint costs more than one coat of high quality paint.
- Be realistic. “HGTV is good for inspiration,” said Wade, “but if you think you’re going watch a show where you buy a $50,000 ranch and turn it into a paradise for a few thousand dollars and a long weekend, you are completely misguided.”
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.