Our First Flip – The Ultimate DIY Project



first flip

This is us. I am a First Grade Teacher and he is an Environmental Specialist. I am not Joanna and he is not Chip; it would be so awesome if we were. We aren’t great, but we are good enough. We have 2 small kiddos and are renovating my grandparents’ old house 2 hours away. We can only work on the weekends and have been doing *almost* everything ourselves. Some people call us crazy and I’m starting to think they may be right.


Here is the story of our first flip:

We inherited a small, 3 bedroom 1 bath house near the beginning of February just as our son turned 3 and our daughter 5 months. We officially started working on it March 11 and  didn’t know the extent to which we were planning on fixing it up, but knew from the start that the end result would be to sell it and hopefully make some moolah. In the beginning, we were just going to paint some walls, freshen it up and call it a day. Well, that was 3 months, 100 trips to Home Depot, 50 gallons of paint, and 3 brand new appliances ago. Our “little flip project” has turned into a full fledged renovation and we are pretty proud of the transformation so far.

There have been many good days and many bad days along the way. There has been crying, laughing, screaming and eye rolling.  There have been countless 16 hour days.  There have been many lessons learned and even a few moments in which we were actually in awe of ourselves and our capabilities. It’s not quite finished yet, but as we near the end of our first flip, here are our top 5 things that we have learned and what we can’t live without.

Things we have learned:

  • Have a vision, set a budget and decide how to fund that vision. I am a very visual person and I love making inspiration boards before I start any project. This type of planning keeps me on the right track and helps me stay focused on what I am envisioning the outcome to be.

Kitchen - cabinet side with words

As for our budget, since we inherited the house we really didn’t have an initial investment and had no clue as to how much things were going to cost until we actually got started. About a month into the flip we evaluated what we *thought* we would spend and ended up opening up a credit card to fund the rest of the reno. The CC we chose has no interest for 12 months, and we have high hopes that the house will sell by the end of the 12 months and we can pay it off before having to pay any interest. For us this was a better and faster choice than a home equity line of credit. There were no closing costs associated with it and the turnaround was very quick, about 5 days. Because we have a small budget this was the best fit for our project.  Evaluate what is the best fit for your budget before you start, factor in whether or not you will be able to do it all on your own or if you will need to hire a general or appliance repair contractor, and know all your options.

  • Do it right. Whatever it is, work hard and don’t cut corners. The finished product is a representation of you and your effort. Give it your best shot.
  • Walk away when you get frustrated and take a break when you need to.  Frustration equals mistakes. Don’t make unnecessary ones; believe me, you will make enough legitimate mistakes to last a lifetime!
  • Design with the end in mind.  Remember, it’s not your house. Make design decisions based on what you believe will help sell the house to potential buyers, not necessarily what your favorite Pinterest ideas or personal tastes are.
  • Take LOTS of before and after pictures. Having a starting point to look back upon makes the process worth while and can be a big morale booster. On the really rough days, I like to look back at how far we’ve come and all of the hiccups of the day seem to disappear. Isn’t it funny that the really rough days always seem to coincide with plumbing?!? Yuck.



Things we can’t live without:

  • Rubber gloves would be my number 1.  Closely followed by Aleve, scrapers, a pry bar, tile saw and screwdrivers.
  • Help.  You will need it. Whether it’s from a You Tube video on how to re-caulk a bathtub, the man who works in the paint department at Home Depot or your family who cooks you dinner and watches your kiddos while you do work, believe me, you will need it. Take it.
Take all of the help you can get!
  • Trust. Trust your gut. I am a very indecisive person on a normal day and am always second guessing every choice I make. I promised myself that I would “go with my gut” on every decision regarding this flip; and so far it has worked.  Whether it’s picking out paint colors in 5 minutes, deciding which faucet to choose for the kitchen sink or even what to have for lunch – go with your gut. It will save you lots of worry and wondering whether or not you made the right decision.
Pick it and stick with it!
  • Compromise. Arguments will arrive any time you are making decisions that revolve around money. Whether it’s how much you are spending at the moment or how much profit you want to make in the end, or both. Keep an open mind, listen, take a deep breath, swallow your pride and think about the big picture; you have to have thick skin during a renovation.  Weigh all of your options and do what is best for your project. Admit when you are wrong and don’t rub it in (too much) when you are right.
  • Each other. It sounds corny, I know.  But it’s the truth. I don’t think my husband or I could ever imagine taking on this project without the other one by our side. We have learned when we work well together and when we don’t. We have learned when to push and when to just keep our mouths shut. We have learned that we can do anything we put our minds to. We have learned a lot.

This process has been the most rewarding, frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating experience I have ever had…and it’s not finished yet!  If you want to know more about our first flip which we like to call  “The Inheritance Project”, click here to see more behind the scenes pics and watch  as we finish up hardwood floor restoration (kind of), landscaping and some simple staging.  We are nearing the finish line and couldn’t be more excited!



  1. You may not be Chip and Joanna, but you are doing awesome! That vision board is perfect and I love the new backsplash. (I hate how excited I get over backsplashes as an adult!)


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