All The Little Things: One Small Room Remodel

The recent bathroom remodel has set me thinking about all kinds of different things. Like how much drywall dust one human can reasonably inhale before becoming a plaster-cast statue of themselves. But also about all the little things that go into remodeling a room, no matter how big or small.

Do you know how many tools I’ve used in that one little bathroom? All of them.


When I started this blog, I shared a lot of stories about “things I tried.” Not necessarily things that worked, or things I did well, just my own personal, “well, shit, let’s give this a try” experiences. (And, honestly, a lot of “well fuck you for telling me I can’t do this, I’m going to do it anyway” experiences. But, for the most part, people don’t tell me I can’t do things anymore.)

I did a lot of things wrong back then. I learned. I did a few things right. I learned some more. I took classes. I learned from professionals. And ten years later, I don’t know everything… in fact, the only thing I know for sure is that I’m still learning. But I used to pride myself on providing tutorials for people like me. You know, people who have never done this shit before.

And then a lot of people started making internet DIY tutorials so there was already a lot of information out there (and they actually take a ton of time to write, if done correctly) and the work started to become an old hat for me. Rewire an outlet? Pssht… done it a thousand times, no big deal. So I don’t explain things the way I used to explain things. And I actually think that’s a miss on my part. It’s a little bit lazy, and a little bit presumptuous. And when I wrote this update on the bathroom I was actually thinking “aw, hell, I should link to posts on electrical and plumbing and drywall work” except sometimes I get a little stressed out about just posting something that I don’t always provide as much information as I could.

Which, frankly, that’s such bullshit. This is my hobby, and my passion, and I do make money off of it, so I should at least be doing it right. Even if it takes more time. (I mean, it’s pitch dark by 5:30 anyway, so what the hell else am I going to do?)

So, here’s what I thought… I thought I’d do some little tutorials– possibly linking to my own stuff, or to some other great resources– on all of the little things you need to know in order to remodel a room in your house.

Because the truth is you can be good at drywall, or good at carpentry, or good at sweating pipes, but that won’t get you a finished room. You’ve got to have a certain comfort level with all kinds of skills or you’re not going to be able to get very far on most of the rooms in your house. Renovating is definitely a “jack of all trades” kind of work.

Over the next few weeks I’ll cover fun things like:

  • Basic Electrical Work – Changing out switches, outlets, fixtures, etc.
  • Drywall – Hanging, patching, and finishing.
  • Trim work – Installing crown molding, baseboard, and window trim.
  • Flooring – Installing hardwood or tile.
  • Painting? Does this require a post? I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re looking for tips…
  • Bonus for bathrooms and kitchens: Plumbing for showers, toilets, and sinks.

If you go back far enough in the archives you’ll find a lot of this stuff, but who in the eff has time for that? No one. So I’ll try to post one or two of these instructional posts a week, along with my progress on the bathroom (which I hope is done sooner rather than later.)

And if there’s anything else you’re dying to know about remodeling a room in your house, let me know and I’ll see if I know enough to add that on to the list.

Let the fun begin!

43 Responses

  1. This makes me so happy. Because yeah, there are tutorials out there, but they’re not as good as yours, or as funny. And they aren’t written by a badass woman who can inspire other badass women.

  2. I think you meant renovating is a “Jill of all skills” kind of work, right?

    You are seriously the best. Whatever you post, I’m with you.

    1. Ha! There is a contractor in my neighborhood called “Jane of all trades.”

      I would like a tutorial on figuring out which walls are loadbearing and which ones are not. I promise not to sue you if my roof caves in! And also? How to put in an exterior door or window where there wasn’t one before. I realize that these are a bit out of the scope of your current project, but in case you ever fancy the idea of knocking a hole in an outside wall…

  3. yay! Just in time for delusional li’l old me to build a granny unit with a small amount of money. Ha ha. I like your writing style and ability to use your foot for clamping… Thanks!

  4. YAY!

    Yes, there’s an awful lot of tutorials to be found on the web… and many of them are shit, so it’s always good to tip the balance more in favor of instructions on how to do it right. Or at least on how to probably do it right.

    Also, I’m no internet scientist, but I’d wager that a solid 95% of those other how-to posts aren’t have no chickens, donkeys, or general badassery, so… there’s a definite market for your brand of information.

  5. I have a few flooring transitions in my house that are incomplete or done badly, and need a redo. I’d like to see how you transition hardwood/tile/slightly different floor heights so they look good and don’t trip everyone. And any related creative troubleshooting.

    Actually, pretty much all troubleshooting experience is interesting to me, no matter what the project (everything handy I do seems to have complications that require workarounds and/or extra steps).

    Also – I’d appreciate it if you mention favorite non-tool products, like: caulk, paint, primer, stains, sealants etc – what’s easier to work with, or lasts better.

  6. Ohthankgod! I am so grateful that this isn’t a take-a-break-from-writing post. Thank you so much. As a new-ish homeowner of a 100+year old house, finding solid tutorials online is damn near impossible and you are definitely a go-to resource/inspiration. Thank you (again).

  7. Yes – there is something I would like help with please… Swapping out bricks in a chimney breast and repointing. Its next on my list.

    *Oh – and many thanks BTW for inspiring me to go ahead, pull on the big girl panties,and buy a chainsaw 🙂

    1. Yay for chainsaws! (I don’t know if I’m a good enough mason for swapping out bricks etc. My own house needs a little tuckpointing done too though, eventually. So that may be on the list.)

  8. I like the reference links in your posts(right click-open in new tab). I’ll bet you’ve already written all that shit up, but maybe some could be touched up/amended in new versions.

    You could compile a list of links in a Word doc for certain ‘basic’ tuts, an index of sorts, to cut and paste from to pop into whatever latest project post you write….maybe you’ve already done this somehow.

    KtMcDid….love the ‘Jill of all Skills’ term…and would love to know the story of your handle.

  9. Yeah! And maybe something on refinishing hardwoods – especially the transitions if it’s only one room at a time…

    Thanks either way!

    1. I’ll third that! We are remodeling an old farmhouse from the 1920’s and have a lot of repair work on the old hardwood floors. How to patch really bad spots or spots where the flooring is missing (like where an old chimney was removed) would be awesome.

  10. love this! one thing I am curious about is if it’s extra complicated to turn a 2 prong outlet (old!) to a modern 3 prong outlet. I have seen tutorials on swapping them but none that specify 2 prong to 3.

    The one I have wont even really hold the plugs- one slight tug and it falls out. Since there is another working outlet in the room I have avoided calling the electrician to fix it but I am wondering if I can just do it myself. Your expertise would be appreciated!!

    1. I have one of those in my apartment. My fix was to take a two to three prong adapter and place it in the socket. I used one that has a metal prong, which can be placed under the screw; this holds it in the socket fairly well. I have only seen these with the polarized prongs in one orientation to the metal prong for the screw, so it will only fix one of the two sockets. There might be some that have the prong on the other side, but I have yet to find any (not that I looked very hard). I will not say that this is a great way to deal with the problem, but I can now plug in a bedside lamp and my cell phone with the use of an extension cord. I would not try and yank anything out of the socket since it is still a little loose but will not fall out on its own. In theory the screw allows you to ground the outlet, but I would not assume that this is true and plug in something you really care about using this method. Good luck in your repair.

  11. This will be excellent. Thank you!

    I was reminded suddenly of the “impossible things” drawing you were making. If I remember correctly you intended to offer it as a download.. Or was this just wishful thinking on my part? If so, then ignore me!

    1. No, I was totally going to offer it as a PDF, I just never finished the damn thing! Its a winter project for sure, so I’ll get back to it soon. 😉

  12. Yeah!! I have an electrical outlet that works if it feels like it so look forward to that tutorial!

  13. I’m excited about the upcoming tutorials!!! I think you’re awesome and you inspire me with every post,even if I don’t comment very often.
    Can you please add “how to build and install your own railings” to your list? I want to replace railings that go on either side of stairs going down, and one side will wrap around to be a railing going down the stairs. After I install oak treads and risers, but that looks pretty easy. Thanks!

  14. Yay! I’m totally looking forward to this. I’m in the mist of remodeling my late grandmother’s house (a little 1br cottage we’re expanding for our family of 4!) … and WHEW I’m learning a lot (the hard way, ha ha). Always love some tips and ideas!

    1. You know, the standard search widget doesn’t show up on a white background, and I haven’t been able to find a customizable one that works (or figure out how to customize the dang thing myself) so I totally know I need to add one of those back in! It’s on my list. 😉

  15. I have always been very impressed with your articles on how to do various things. You’re right. It is NOT an easy thing to do well because you have to make very certain that you assume nothing on the part of the reader and that you include every step. I have read some of your tutorials, and I have to say you covered all the bases.

  16. Yes! Yes! Yeeesss! Just closed on my first house -a major fixer upper. My excitement lasted until I used my new keys to open the house, walked around, smiled and took a deep breath… Followed with a crushing feeling of what the heck did I get myself into! I am grateful for any tips you post. Haha, whimper

  17. Thank you, Kit! You are my first go-to to find how to do pretty much anything DIY, so these tutorials will be priceless.

  18. Whatever you write is awesome! But… I might have had baseboard sitting next to the wall in my living room for the last… oh… month? 🙂 If you squint, it almost looks installed! That is, until my dog goes crashing into it during a run down the hallway and knocks it over. ha! So I’ll be paying special attention to the trim work post… 🙂

  19. How about a tutorial on moving a light fixture socket on a bathroom wall? I think you did something similar in another bathroom (moved an electrical plug in??) but don’t think the steps were included. I **may** have replaced a wall light in one of my bathrooms w/ a really nice, updated fixture, then realized when I was doing the final step of putting the globes on that the damn medicine cabinet door on adjacent wall totally hits the new light. Oops! Need to move the light to the right by 6″ and up 6-8″…ughhhhhh…what if all the existing wires aren’t long enough to reach new location? F-word.

  20. The whatever-it-is-that-covers-the-exterior-basement wall is chipping. You know that stuff? It’s like stucco and it’s smeared over the cinder block to – what? – protect it? Make the wall look less ugly to passersby? Whatever the stuff does, mine is chipping off. I don’t know if I need to take it all off and re-do it, or take it off and put on some waterproofing first and then re-do it, or if I have to dig down to the footer (don’t wanna) and remove and then put on some waterproofing and then re-do it, or if I just to need to patch the flakey-falling-off bits and call it a day. HELP. ME. PLEASE.

  21. I know it would be a HUGE amount of work but #tagging posts could potentially be a huge help on your site. I’ve do this using Evernote for my projects so that I can tag pictures, sites, resources, etc instead of trying to remember of bookmark anything I find useful. I love when I come across a site where the author has done that themselves so I can browse through all the categories that interest me.

  22. I would love a crown molding tutorial. I have re-read your old one numerous times, about coping with the rotozip tool, but I kept picturing myself losing control and ruining the trim or one of my fingers. I’ve done quarter-round and base molding in my house but those trim profiles are pretty easy. Something about the crown molding just scares/confuses me.

  23. I would definitely appreciate painting tips. I hope to paint a room soon, and never have before. I don’t know things like: how to spackle and sand to prep?; do you paint the ceiling before walls?; when do you paint baseboards?; how much time do you need before coats?; how do you paint sliding closet doors?; what tools do you need?; how do you prevent the cat from getting covered in paint? You know, the usual…

  24. That would be fantastic! We’re going to be replacing the walls in our bathroom when it gets warm again and I would be great to be semi-confident when jumping in!

  25. I love your blog and have been following you for a long time. I have what is probably a pretty dumb question, but this seems like a good opportunity to ask. Is there a way to access your archives? Previous posts by date? Many times I remember something you posted and try to find it and I never can. What’s wrong with me???! lol

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.