You can survive an unexpected home remodel/rehab! Some helpful advice on getting through it…

 So. Things have gone totally wackadoo at your house and you are suddenly faced with a $10,000 remodeling project you did not plan for and don’t know where you are going to get the cash from.

Some helpful advice on how to survive an unexpected remodel

Welcome to the Rizzo house.
I know most people carefully plan out and save money for a major renovation, but around here,we normally remodel when the poop hits the fan.
‘Cause that’s how we roll.
I would love to remodel once, just once, because we wanted to.
Does it sound familiar?
We’ve had to do 4 big remodels we didn’t plan for in…uuumm ….3 years.
But you know what? While it completely sucks while its happening;We have learned  it’s going to be okay, and we can make it through.
Our remodels under duress were our kitchen when a pipe burst under our sink,
How to survive an unexpected remodel.
The where’s-Noah-when-you-need-him flood
which we are still gutted from.
And now The Oak House,which,when the tenant moved out, I figured was a 3 week-let’s flip it on the market – kind of a thing, and it turned into the
Summer of rehab…. aaaaannnnnnd we still aren’t done.

While we have seemed to have hit the remodeling lotto,

 I am certainly not an expert on the subject, but we have learned a few things each time it happens and I’d like to pass on some advice. It’s never easy, and this last time almost sent us over the edge. We can say we’ve actually gotten some great lessons from every ulcer-inducing experience.
1. Don’t jump right into panic mode, but take care of any immediate problems.
With the burst pipe, the plumber came out,the leaky toilet, we turned off the water, and the flooding, we bailed. Literally. The Oak House, we had a few drinks first.
2. Once the emergent part is taken care of, assess the damage. What has to stay what has to go? What can be saved? With the kitchen, it was the flooring and lower cabinets, The bathroom the floor and toilet, and the basement it was a gut, but we did save anything above the water line and that didn’t get contaminated by the water/sewer cocktail.
3. With any home situation, check your home owner’s policy and call your insurance agent. Our kitchen remodel was about 75% covered, the bathroom wasn’t covered at all, and the flooding, well, we have some coverage, but to be honest we were under-insured. The Oak House has been all out of pocket with some amazing sponsorships.
And sometimes you have a friend or relative who might be able to financially help you in someway, whether it’s a loan or something else…No one likes to ask, but sometimes you need to.
4.Fix what you can. With the kitchen, we could not afford to replace the upper cabinets and insurance did not cover it, so we ended up painting them. In the bathroom the only thing we could afford to replace was the floor, so the rest of the bathroom sat for two years until we could afford to fix the rest, and  our flooded  family room  is going to have to be a work in progress. It’s a bit of a pay as you go thing.
5. You are going to live in chaos for a while. While it’s frustration, you need a realize that it’s not forever. I am now living in 400 square feet with my kids, the toys they have left and anything we could save. I love my kids lets, but I love them more when we can spread out a bit. 🙂 But, there were people that were so much worse off than we were. they lost their entire homes.We still consider ourselves blessed.
6. Have a sense of humor. At one point during our kitchen remodel, we were using our laundry room as a makeshift kitchen. We were out of room, so the coffee maker had to go in the bathroom. At one point my 8 year old said, “That’s so gross.You know people poop in here.”
7. Tap your resources. For our remodels, I’ve bought on sale,I’ve found things on Craigslist and most recently I’ve been haunting my local Habitat for Humanity reStore.  Plus, if you have  a good friend who drywalls or has a another skill, offer to trade skills. Or, just ask. Sometimes people want to help you out of the kindness of their hearts.
8. On that note. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We never could have made it through with out the help of our amazing neighbors and friends,they made that first day after the flooding bearable.They came and slogged through our wet, gross shambles of our family room and helped us for hours in so many ways I can’t even begin to express my gratitude. Sometimes, it’s hard to be on the receiving end instead of the giving end, but sometimes you really need it. We’ve also had some amazing friends and fmaily come and help us with menial labor at the Oak house too like painting and weeding.Please want to help , sometimes they just don’t know where to start.
After the flooding, our church had an out reach to help people drywall and other construction needs. Sometimes help/resources can come from where you least expect it.
Use my made-up ABC’s of emergency home repair when you are beyond what you know:
Assess what exactly is happening and how badly it’s happening.
Breathe.Breathe.Deep breath.Breathe.
Call the dude who might know how to fix it.
Should I add a D for drink a glass of wine? 🙂

9.Get support. Especially if you are dealing with it alone. I am sure people were completely sick of hearing me talk about it, but they listened anyway. It helped to talk to other people who have been through it.
10.Work through it together. If you have a significant other, I can guarantee you are going to fight, it’s so stressful. Some days you feel like it’s all ruined, and things are never going to be good again. You are going to have days where you cry and wonder how you are ever going to get through it. We have been so blessed that each time, even when it has been so dark, that we have come out with a deeper faith in the Lord and learned in what ways we need to lean on each other as partners. If you don’t hold tight to your togetherness, it can break you.When one of us was having a really hard time, telling the other person and letting them be  your strength is a big thing. No one person can hold the weight of everything.
11.Really good things can come out of really bad things.
When our kitchen happened, we really thought we were going to be financially ruined. We didn’t know how we were ever going to be able to fix anything on top of all of our other bills.We managed though, and having my kitchen featured in Country Living magazine was someone up above showing me every cloud does have a silver lining. When our bathroom happened and we had just come off of the kitchen remodel,we were financially tapped out. But, we fixed the minimum we needed to in our budget, and we actually got rid of a smell that had been in our basement forever. The toilet must have been leaking for years, it was a blessing that even though it happened at a bad time, we caught something before it made us all really sick or had structural damage to our house.
At the Oak House, I learned how to tile a bathtub which I am quite proud of!  There is always an upside!
12.Take a break. Sometimes when you are in the middle of it, it seems counter-productive to step away, but we took a vacation in the middle of all of our chaos and it really helped recharge us to know there was other life that still goes on. DIY can be really fun, but it can also be really stressful.
13. Hang in there. It seems like the most basic thing, but reminding yourself that time does pass, it will all eventually move on and so will you. With everything going on,I keep looking back at other things we have been through and I ask myself “What will I think about this in  a year?” It kind of puts it back in perspective for me that time does pass and so will this.
Because it can be right again, it can be okay again, and it will be.
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*This was posted Via Jennifer Rizzo. com


  1. Great advice, Jen – always a good reminder that perseverance may eventually pay off!

    I think your silver lining of having your kitchen featured in one of the BEST magazines ever is about as good as it gets, and you must be SO excited about that.

    I am so sorry you had bad luck x 4? Yikes, that’s a LOT – glad you kept the faith and hung in there together as a team. Whoo hoo.

  2. excellent advice Jen!!! I am going thru it right now, my first with our kitchen, and thru this roller coaster ride, I realize that it is not the ‘end of the world’ when things don’t go as planned – I always look at my healthy and happy family and I immediately get off my slump. In the end, I know that the home improvements are for them and that they are truly what’s important! And oh, a good glass of wine really helps at the end of the day! CHEERS!

  3. What a great post! Your positive attitude and ability to just laugh always shines through and I think that is what resonates with people! Have a wonderful week and have a glass for me 🙂

  4. Good advice and somethig to think about when things get crazy.I am jealously-in-love with your kitchen and can’t wait to see the rest of the oak house when its done.

  5. So true! You know what? I say that people who want renos and save up for them are delighted with the renos but people who have renos forced on them hate every minute of it! That was me because of a where’s-Noah-when-you-need-him flood caused by a bad plumber, which ruined our 100yr old Craftsman heritage house floors back in January. The light at the end of the tunnel is near now and, maybe I’m a bit more creative than most, I’ve left the house in Vancouver for the house in Oxford while I get the moving contents back stage of it over with from a distance, but this time has really been more stressful that anything I’ve gone thru recently. I certainly hope your stress is short lived and you get thru everything in a smooth way, poor girl. My thoughts are with you. 🙂

  6. Yes—A B C’s, help comes from unexpected places, again~breathe, and lots of wine and hUMor dOES help!
    We had a tornado 24 hrs after getting back from Haven. STill dealing with the aftermath -and insurance claims adjusters- oy.

  7. Oh my goodness, this is perfect for me right now! We had a houseguest who arrived at short notice while we were in the middle of redecorating and updating our front room- in serious need, it hadn’t been touched since the seventies, and we found a damp problem in the corner which we had to sort because of my health. He- and his dog, who fights with mine so I have to keep them separated- was supposed to stay two weeks and stayed four. Three days after he left my godmother arrived, and she did over £1000 damage in six nights. Mainly in our bathroom, but also to our car and spare bedroom. She undid every bit of training I’ve done with my dog, she destroyed our spare bedding, and spent most of her time on our sofa eating our food and watching TV. I have M.E/ CFS and spent the whole of her stay running round after her, which has triggered a big relapse. The dust from the bathroom, and the stress, have contributed to making my asthma worse than it has been in three years. Because ours is a small house we’ve had to move most of the bathroom contents into our tiny kitchen, and the kitchen stuff has had to go into the living room. We haven’t been able to use our washer, bath, or shower for three weeks. We decided to make the best of the nightmare, as by the time the bathroom’s finished we’ll have redecorated the rest of the downstairs we may as well update the kitchen by painting it- and houseguest number 1, with the dog, came back on Friday with 4 hours notice. He’s supposed to be stopping for a week…
    Seeing posts like this makes me realise there is hope, it will be better when it’s finished (although not as gorgeous as yours!), and that it is possible to survive enforced renovations… Think I’m just swamped atm, since we moved in April we’ve done enforced work on 6 rooms and the garden shed, have had house guests for ten weeks in that time, and now my godmother is acting hurt (!) by me being angry at the damage she’s caused- not that she’s taking responsibility, even for what I saw her do. Please excuse my big old rant, and it seems awful saying it, but it’s so nice to know it’s not just us.
    Vodka anyone? 🙂

  8. Oh, Jennifer….bless your sweet heart!! Sometimes life gives us almost more than we can handle, but then we realize that our family who has survived whatever horrible event we’ve just been through is what’s really important. Sounds trite but it’s so true. Won’t go into how I learned that lesson….Keep your chin up, girl, and praise God in advance for all he is going to do for you…He is ALWAYS good!!

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