22 Simple, Easy, Realistic Renovation Tips For Parents

by Hannah Murphy
home renovation
Radist / iStock

Recently, the neighborhood that my family and I live in has seen an increase in popularity, interest, and, you guessed it, equity. My husband is a carpenter by trade, and I felt that my semi-problematic addiction to HGTV qualified me as a designer (don’t we all?), so we decided that we were prepared to renovate our house. In theory, our renovation sounded simple, but in reality, well, toddlers.

We saw the money signs, so we decided to move forward with our renovations, while also raising two feisty boys (and a dog), and it has proven to be a complicated experience. Actually, more than complicated. I’d go as far as to say it has been an infuriating and mind-altering experience, one that has made me flip the bird to the TV while the craftsmen of HGTV tell me how “simple” and “easy” laying tile floors can be. Lies, I tell you. Lies! Maybe laying putting down tile floors wouldn’t be so difficult if I didn’t have a 3-year-old trying to feed thin-set mortar to his younger brother, or a dog who didn’t continuously steal our spacers.

So, in the hopes of helping other families who might also be considering taking on a “quick and easy” renovation, I compiled a list of tips to get through renovations with children. You’re welcome. Also, I’m sorry.

1. Be realistic. Renovating houses looks easy on TV, but in reality, those smoking hot contractors don’t have toddlers hanging on their shoulders while they blow out walls. I respect the professionals on HGTV and all, but I’d respect them more if they did their work effectively while children ran around demanding popcorn for hours at a time. Your renovation isn’t going to look like a show. Well, maybe a shit show.

2. Make plans. A plan is essential in any parent’s life, but it’s especially important to have a reno plan laid out when you’re making home improvements. Those plans will likely get squashed, but their value shouldn’t be reduced by the bowel movements and/or tantrums of tiny humans. When you wing construction, you also wing the digestion of small children, which is somewhat unpredictable. Maybe part of your plan should involve filling your children with copious amounts of cheese, so as to reduce the odds of frequent and/or explosive poops.

3. Also, make backup plans. Because kids, man. And poop.

4. Budget for babysitters. Let’s be honest — you’re not going to get shit done during a renovation unless your kids aren’t present. For us, leaving our kids is a big deal because we rarely get help, but for our renovation, leaving our kids in a perfect stranger’s possession sounds better than having them make poop prints on our freshly painted walls.

5. Budget for alcohol. Just trust me.

6. Put the kids to bed early. I mean, when does any parent ever get anything done, other than when their kids are asleep? Answer — Never.

7. Drink said alcohol. When your kids just aren’t feeling the early bedtime, and they’d rather torture you with multiple episodes of random emotions and ridiculous demands when you should be grouting, pour the kids some Kool-Aid and yourself some adult juice.

8. Get the kids plastic tools. Allowing your kids to participate in the construction process in their own way will help them learn new skills. Monkey see, monkey do, right?

9. Buy childproof paint. That plastic tool set sure is awesome for your toddler’s curiosity, but it also sort of sucks for your freshly painted wall’s sheen. Just buy the kidproof paint. Trust me.

10. Reconsider your purchase of kids’ tools. Because, damn. Kids are destructive.

11. Consult a professional. Because “DIY or die” sounds more like death than a catchy hashtag, and suddenly finishing sheetrock with a couple of little dictators running around doesn’t seem quite as simple as they make it look on YouTube.

12. Also, consult a physician. Because you might need meds that require a prescription.

13. Rethink why you’re renovating in the first place. Is your new bathroom closet really that important? Do you lose sleep over your wood floors or your French doors or your new kitchen island? If not, reconsider why you’re subjecting yourself to such torture. Renovations aren’t for the faint of heart, so unless you’re cool with living in an unfinished house that looks more like a disaster zone than a home, you should probably have some wine and reevaluate your life decisions.

14. Cry. That’s really the only reasonable thing to do at this point. Life is hard and renovations, although privileged, are stressful.

15. Drink. Because, merlot.

16. Cry some more. Most likely after the merlot, and while you’re sitting in a pile of stripped wallpaper that’s likely covered in asbestos.

17. Red Bull and vodka. Find your wings, my unrealistically optimistic little friend.

18. Don’t quit in the middle of a project. Because you aren’t a quitter — and having walls without sheetrock is sort of annoying and slightly hazardous. Channel your inner DIYer and conquer this bitch, because, well, you don’t really have a choice at this point.

19. Consult HGTV. I mean, everyone needs some inspiration every now and then, right? They make it look so easy and so simple, so you can definitely rewire your entire house after watching five minutes of electrician work on TV, right? Right??

20. Pretend like you have your shit together. Confidence is key, no matter what. So as long as you pretend like you know what you’re doing, you’re good to go. (Not really, don’t listen to me.) The people on TV never renovate with children, so hanging drywall or wallpaper with kids climbing up your legs kind of makes you a badass, even compared to them. Actually, why isn’t this the theme of a show yet??

21. Drink more wine. Insert white flag here.

22. Just…don’t. Unless you enjoy things like torture.

Honestly, renovating with kids is a tortuous task. Trust me. However, sometimes it’s necessary.

So, if you’re stuck in the midst of a construction zone that you also happen to call your home, just budget for wine, chocolate, and possibly professional help. It’s honestly the most useful purchase you could make. Seriously.