I've learned that I'm very good at demolition. Putting things back together is the big challenge for me.

new house tour kitchen

This is what what our kitchen looked like when we first moved in. See that wall to the right?

Gone!

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

You'll recall that we also removed the hanging microwave and then I swapped out the dishwasher, reorganized the cabinet placement and started in on painting the interior and exterior of the home. A DIY home renovation can get pretty far with some simple paint and drywall knowledge.

country house

The garden window adjacent to the front door, though, was a huge hurdle that I kept circling around. I had no idea what to do with it. Garden windows have a place (like in a greenhouse, maybe?) but in this particular spot over the kitchen it served as an awkward juxtaposition against the modern aesthetic I was trying to command. It also created a cramped area where dust and dead flies liked to accumulate. Gross. For months I worked around it, always coming to a screeching halt at its edges, stewing in frustration and trying to figure out if I could tackle it myself.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

I decided, one way or another, I was going to have a 4×6 slider put in place of the 2×3 box. So I swung my trusty wrecking hammer, got this far and quickly realized…NOPE.

I could not handle this myself.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

Several issues faced me once I opened up the wall. First, there were big giant studs right where I wanted to put the window. Challenging, but still semi-doable for a novice like myself. Worse than that, though, were the lines. The gas line to the right was smack dab in the middle of where I foresaw my new window falling, and the plumbing line to the left needed to be lowered a smidge to make room.

Right around this time, I went to a conference and met with a company called HomeAdvisor. They match screened, certified, insured home improvement pros with homeowners who need help. Obviously, with three little boys, I'm extremely suspicious of anyone who comes into my home. The in-depth personal identification process that HomeAdvisor puts contractors through was a huge stress-reliever for me. People looking for help no longer have to blindly cross their fingers and call up strangers off the internet. HomeAdvisor details the expertise of each business, even showing reviews and photos (yes, real-life proof!) from previous work and giving job cost estimates based on national data. I asked if they wanted to help sponsor the project, and they agreed! I was SO thrilled to have someone walking me through the process of my very first contractor hiring.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

You read that right. I had never called an outside person for help with anything before (that's how distrustful I am). I'm glad I did, though, because the crew got the window and weatherproofing in place right before a huge El Niño storm drenched Southern California.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

If I'd still been fumbling my way through this on my own, my kitchen would have been up a creek. Literally.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

The guys dealt with critical things like cripple beams, headers and king studs (which terrify me) as well as mesh wiring and stucco (which I have experience with but am still loath to touch).

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

When their work was done, it was up to me to finish, tape and paint.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

BOOM. Window, conquered.

Doing a bunch of kitchen renovations *mostly* by ourselves. Here's what you can do on your own...and what you should really, really hire out.

You'll notice I knocked out the front porch arch in the interim as well. Slowly modernizing this space, one corner at a time. Next, I have to do something about the landscape. I also feel compelled to redo that window over on the right by the living room. It'll have to be updated to match eventually…I'm pretty sure that thing is from 1970's. It shakes violently at the slightest gust of wind.

Before an after paint, arch replacement, some landscaping and a window replacement.

I'm a DIY girl at heart, so I'm certainly not planning to start bidding out all of my home upgrades. I do place a high value on my own time, however, and I see that on the right job – with a very well-chosen partner – a bit of help can go a very long way. It can give a huge boost to the finish and lifespan of an update. I can stretch my budget by getting detail work done on my own, and calling in the pros for the big stuff.

Have you ever hired a contractor? How was your experience? I highly suggest giving HomeAdvisor a try!