Renovating my attic space into a walk-in closet addition was my first big DIY. The process of getting here wasn’t easy, but it was so incredibly worth it.
Learn how I went from never using a power tool and being scared of a saw, to falling in love with DIY!
(My husband, Chris, using the miter saw because I was still afraid to! PS: Don’t wear sandals with power tools!)
About the attic space
We call it an attic, but is it really when it’s on the second floor of a two-story house? Who knows! Essentially, it was an unfinished space, that drastically slopes down with the curve of the roof.
Most people use these spaces for additional storage for things like Christmas decorations. But, we also have an unfinished basement that we store these things in. Of course, what ended up happening is that some of our stuff ended upstairs, and some downstairs, and it was kind of a mess.
The first time we looked at our house, we knew we would be renovating the attic space. Initially, we thought we’d be putting in a second bathroom upstairs, and that was our plan for a couple of years. Eventually, we tossed that plan out when we realized how difficult it would be to get plumbing up there.
There are also two guest rooms on the second floor. One was used as a traditional guest room/catch-all. The second was used as my closet. Each bedroom in this house has a closet, but they are very small. I set up these clothing racks on either side of the room and had a vanity in the middle.
(Yikes. I forgot how cluttered this room was. This was when I was starting to purge.)
My husband ended up eventually needing the second guest room for a side hustle, which meant we were now without a guest room. Do we frequently host guests? Nope. But, it’s nice to have. That’s when I decided that the attic space should be finished off so that I could use it as a walk-in closet.
The lengthy process of finding a contractor
By the time we finally made the decision to do this, it took about another year, maybe even a year and a half before we finally had someone come out to look.
Honestly, if you’re not handy and you don’t have personal connections with someone, this process is incredibly hard.
Not only did it take forever for someone to come look, but how much can you really trust them?
The one guy we had come look twice seemed decent at first, but by the second visit, there were several red flags. I won’t get into details, but let’s just say if you show up 90 minutes late and your breath smells like beer, I’m not crazy about handing you over a bunch of cash. But, I was also desperate to move forward, so there was a part of me willing to overlook it.
About a week after his second visit, we still didn’t have an estimate. We ended up having to reach out a couple more times, which seems crazy to me!
Eventually, he came back with an estimate. Mind you, we had told him that we were willing to paint, do trim, and even flooring to save on costs. This means that the estimate was only for structural, insulation, and drywall. In our heads, we were hoping for $2-3k.
We were wrong. The estimate was $5500.
Making the decision to DIY
Obviously, $5500 was way more than we wanted to spend. But, I do know that some people end up deciding to go for it.
We did not.
I’m honestly still a little surprised that we went this route, but after sitting with the idea, and dreading trying to find another contractor, I decided to give it a shot. I confided in my dad and older brothers, and they encouraged me to go for it. The oldest even offered to come help me get started, which was a godsend.
I had done a couple of small DIY projects in past. But most of that included paint. It took us years to decide to rip out the carpet in our living room because we were afraid of what would be underneath. Once I convinced Chris that it was a good idea, it took us a weekend, and the floors were in great condition. It was a huge win and I felt awesome afterward. This was going to be much bigger than that.
Thinking back on it, I think that I have 3 qualities that make DIY make sense for me.
First, I’m frugal as hell. I hate overspending and almost never pay full price for anything. The cost to finish the attic space ended up being SIGNIFICANTLY less than $5500, and that includes everything from tools and drywall, to lighting and organization. Keep an eye out for a future post on budget breakdown!
I’m also extremely stubborn. Once I got it in my head that I could do this on my own, there wasn’t really telling me otherwise. I became so curious about what this journey was going to teach me, that I couldn’t imagine missing any of it. I also knew that this meant that I wouldn’t give up, even when things got tough…and they did!
By now, I had already spent a few years wanting to get this project done, and I couldn’t imagine waiting any longer to try again to find someone I’d want to hire. This is where my impatience kicked in. I decided to DIY in September, with a goal of moving my stuff in by January. And I made that goal.
Now, it’s two years later, so you’re probably assuming that it’s 100% complete, right? Haha, nope. I’m definitely part of the 95% club, and I still have a couple of things I want to finish in the coming months before I can finally say it’s done.
But, are you ever really “done” with home projects? Again, nope! But that’s part of what I love about it. If I don’t like something or I change my mind, I know that I can fix it! I don’t have to wait around anymore for anyone. I got this.
How I learned
As I mentioned, my oldest brother offered to get me started. Before he came, he assigned me a handful of small tasks and gave me a shopping list. Then he, his wife, and their son came up for a weekend. We had a big list of things to get done, and we definitely didn’t tackle all of them, but it helped get me past that first hurdle, which is honestly the hardest part.
Not surprising, YouTube was also a huge teacher for me. This was before I discovered the network of DIY’ers on Blogs and Instagram. If I had found them before, I probably would’ve avoided a lot of mistakes! And there were a lot of them. And I plan on sharing all of that with you.
Now that I’ve been DIY’ing for officially two years, I feel like I’ve had the chance to reflect on my projects enough to hopefully provide some valuable information.
My first priority is sharing with you the rest of the process of renovating the attic space to a walk-in closet addition. It’s a long process, so be prepared for several posts!
(A little sneak peek of the after! What a difference!)
I have completed several other projects around the house, and have lots more on my list! I also have a mountain of design ideas that I’ll never get to do. I want to share them with you in hopes that you can be inspired to turn a space into something you love.
I’ve learned so much from the DIY’er blogger and Instagram communities and now I think that I can give back too.
Ready to follow along? Let’s do this!