Renovating a Whole House is a Lot!

UPDATE! Be sure to check at the bottom for an update on our whole house renovation!

Last night I was overwhelmed with the thought that our house renovation is never going to get done., renovating a whole house is a lot. Renovating a Whole House is a Lot

Overwhelming Feeling

I think that feeling is stronger on this project for a few reasons, 1. We are living in the house, now in the basement apartment, but still most all our stuff is in storage, so it’s not our settled home. 2. The time of the year that we’re doing this project is the fall, going into winter. That means Thanksgiving and probably Christmas are being gravely affected by this renovation. 3. Our project has been side-tracked more than once with issues as we’ve gone along.

It’s one thing to see that schedule delay possibility on paper before you start, but another thing when the snow starts falling, (yes, up here in NW Wisconsin we’ve already had some snow!) Christmas movies are running back-to-back on the Hallmark channel, and Thanksgiving is next week with Christmas around the corner.

I now realize our whole house project will not be done by Christmas… Renovating a whole house is a lot, and compromises must be made. We actually had originally held out hope when we first started, but then we hit one snafu after another and had to keep digging deeper into the renovating.

One Snafu after Another

Here’s an example of a ‘snafu’ we have had to deal with. We weren’t going to build the front porch this fall, that was going to be a next spring project before we replaced the roof next summer. But then we found it… at least 3 leaks in the attic from the roof. Dang! Waiting another 6 months to replace the roof was now out of the question.

Roof was Leaking

That meant that all the additions and/or changes to the house that affected the roof would have to quickly be done this fall before the new roof could go on. Roofers really don’t like to install a roof in the snow and ice, so the pressure was on to get our roof squeezed into their crazy busy schedules before it got too late to do it this year. Renovating a Whole House is a Lot!

Donahue Roofing

For all you locals that follow along on my blog, I just have to give a very thankful shout out to our roofer, Joe Donahue of Donahue Roofing! They have been crazy swamped this summer and fall because our area got hit with a huge hail storm in June. Plus this has been a rainy summer and fall, which really messes with contractors that depend on dry days to get their jobs done. Donahue came through for us big time! First, on our 100 year old house that had to have the hail-damaged roof replaced before we could close on that sale. Then totally worked with our schedule and squeezed us in to replace the roof on this Mid-Century-to-Colonial-Revival house even though they weren’t planning to do it til next spring. To have reputable contractors that you can depend on when things don’t go as planned is such a huge relief. If you’re looking to get your roof redone, I highly recommend Donahue Roofing in St. Croix County, WI. Not only did they bend over backwards to work with our schedule, they are extremely professional, and they are very competent roofers that do it right. Thanks Joe! (and no, they didn’t pay me in any way to say that… we are extremely impressed with their work ethic and help to us!) Renovating a Whole House is a Lot!

Schedule Change

That made for a huge change in the schedule and budget however… It’s not how I wanted the schedule (nor budget) to go. I wanted to have more time to design and consider for the porch. Something I would have next spring. But instead, with the winter wind breathing down my neck, I had to cram it in with everything else right now and lickety split too.

It Gets Hard!

This is where renovation gets hard.

When the proverbial ‘wrench’ gets thrown in the works and you have to adjust… There are constantly things that are coming up in the renovation project that demand a compromising attitude… almost daily.

If you’re thinking about renovating, I’m not trying to discourage you… I’m just trying to educate you on what it’s really like and what it feels like to bend in places you didn’t think you could. (I know it looks like a rain cloud on my title page, but I’m really not trying to rain on the parade… LOL!)

Fireplace Snafu

Take for instance just the other day, the fireplace insert was measured incorrectly before ordered, so when it was time for the installer to put it in place, what was supposed to be a flush mounted face, now was going to be sticking into the hearth room an inch or two.

It was either that or get a new fireplace that is smaller. The fireplace guy was willing to give us a little break in the price, because it was his error. And they are going to have a new back plate built so the gap is filled with a piece of metal. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be fine and we’ll adjust. It’s just something that we had to decide how and what we could compromise on.


If you think about it, when re-doing an existing structure every part of it is about compromise. It’s trying to make something function and/or look better, but still working with what the existing structure it. That’s what I love, (and sometimes hate) about renovating. Sometimes the compromise is really hard but it is so satisfying to hit a snafu and creatively figure out a solution. It may not be what I had originally designed but sometimes it winds up looking or functioning even better in the end.

Unlike building from scratch, where you can build it any darn way you want… with renovating it’s already there, you want to change it, but what can you really change? What has to be compromised?  And how much is that going to cost?


Just like in life, in renovating, every decision has a sacrifice… time, money, something on the other side of the wall… something will be impacted (sacrificed) by every single renovating decision. Some of those compromising decisions are impossible to know ahead of time until you get into each project and uncover an issue…


So my reminder to myself? (and a tip to you…) I must be constantly willing to compromise and be creative with the possibilities and design changes that come my way during this renovation process.

Here are more posts on our whole renovation:

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This post is also found on these other sites: Between Naps on the Porch

Reader Interactions


  1. Donnamae says

    I’m sure this must be hard on you…but at least you have experience on your side. I would think that would be a benefit. Good luck these next few weeks….if I remember correctly, you have other family close by to share the holidays? It’s going to be wonderful…you just have to get to the finish line! Happy Thanksgiving! ?

  2. Worman says

    It is really tough to live in a house while renovating it. Sounds like you need to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving and get away for a couple of days. ?

  3. Margaret Robinson says

    I know how hard this must be on everyone, doing a whole house at once but it isn’t all about compromise. We’ve built 2 homes together and several individually. Yes, compromises must be made with somethings, but for example, when you are the homeowner and the fireplace installer makes a mistake – it’s his fault and the cost should not be passed over to you. If what you were saying was the “little break in the price” was that you pay for the original as planned, but he would pay for any adjustments to be made, that’s fine. However, if he’s saying a “little price break” revolves around the whole incident, I say that’s wrong. In that case it sounds as though he did it on purpose (whether he did, or not is your call) and wants you to pay more than you originally planned. We had 2 fireplaces built and an extra one removed (it was in a place where a staircase had to be built) in our current home. If there were any costs involved because of wrong orders, things not fitting correcting, et al. they were picked up but the contractor. You should not be paying for his mistake(s) and your are the one footing the bills and it is your home. Making compromises may be necessary in some cases, but when you do it to play nice, you will lose and get taken advantage of especially when money is involved. If you don’t trust this man to do his job and you’ve asked him to pay for his mistake, then he was the wrong man to do the job in the first place. Being nice is a great trait, but it doesn’t always get a job done correctly and efficiently. Be aware!

    • Liz says

      Yes, I agree with you Margaret. He is paying entirely for the fix and giving us a break on the price of the fireplace from what we originally planned. He felt really terrible about mis-measuring it. Thanks so much for your sound advice… it is easy to get taken advantage of, hard sometimes to know the balance of when to stick to your plan and when to give…

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