For designer Basma Masood and her husband, renovations seemed like a no brainer. Both working in the industry (he’s a Project Estimator at a large construction firm; she runs design firm Basma Interiors), they knew that if they wanted to find their dream home in a competitive Washington D.C. market, they’d have to roll up their sleeves and create it themselves. Their home was built in the early 1970s, and though it had some really nice architectural details (including vaulted ceilings), the kitchen was dark, dingy, and disjointed from the rest of the house.

Basma shared quite a few details about the DIY renovation here, walking her followers through the entire journey. From swinging sledgehammers the weekend they signed, to the budget-friendly choices they made… the 11 month journey ensured that, for better or worse, construction was a major part of their lives. Today, Basma is sharing 8 detailed lessons they learned along the way:

1. Plan ahead.
Finalize a design, take your time to measure accurately, order most of the major materials (or at least have a plan in place), know lead times on those materials, check return policies for your local supply store and account for waste on those new materials. All that said, know that no matter how much you do plan, you will absolutely encounter changes and setbacks — time and budget wise. And ultimately, be ok with those setbacks, because hopefully it will all be worth it in the end!

2. Don’t underestimate the amount of debris you will have.
This was one of the biggest things we struggled with. It kind of goes in hand with the first point, but we didn’t have a plan of action of how to remove all the debris. You can rent a dumpster or hire someone to haul it away, but those options can get really pricey, especially if you have multiple phases of demolition. If your budget allows, purchase an old truck for under 2k that will allow you to pick up new materials and haul away your trash. If your renovation is extensive, it will easily pay for itself over the course. Once you are done, you can even sell it!

3. Biggest tip to save $$ on material? Buy flat packed cabinets.
We ended up saving a lot of $$$ (albeit at the cost of a lot of time + energy) by purchasing flat packed boxes and putting them together ourselves. This did allow us to spend a little more on other finishes throughout the kitchen to give it that designer look and feel. If you purchase flat packed cabinets, make sure you have the space (and patience!) to put them together. Generally speaking, flat packed materials come in many, many separate boxes. Space is required to not only store all the boxes upon delivery, but also needed to be able to open up multiple boxes and put things together on site.

4. Hire out the countertop install.
However, before you do this, make sure all your base cabinets are plumb, level, and secure prior to having countertops measured. Be sure to pick out a compatible sink and have it available on sitewhen your countertop contractor comes to measure. Once they measure, don’t make any further adjustments to your cabinets until install.

5. Double check everything when it comes to plumbing.
Check and recheck all joints for new plumbing to make sure they are secure. Pressure test lines for at least 15 minutes prior to closing in a wall or underground. When turning on water to check for lines for leaks, make sure you have someone close to the shut off valve to close it immediately if there is a leak!

6. Always check your local electrical codes.
National Electric code typically requires at least (2) 20A dedicated kitchen circuits. Also, make sure your microwave is on its own dedicated 20A circuit to avoid overloading the circuit. Make sure the power is off! Never work on live circuits. Invest in a non-contact voltage tester. Even if the circuit is off, using this cheap little tester can give you some extra assurance. Additionally, cut, cap and make safe any previous lines that served the space prior to demolition of any walls. If you don’t feel comfortable, hire a professional.

7. Make some time for self-care to avoid burnout.
While it may be tempting to work day and night to complete your renovation, too much time dedicated without any sort of fun or self-care can lead to burnout and ultimately contribute a lot of frustration. Schedule a massage, take a walk, have a picnic or have your friends cook you a home cooked meal!

8. If you are living through the renovation, be physically and mentally prepared for the amount of dust you will have EVERYWHERE.
I wasn’t personally ready for this and struggled throughout the process despite the fact that we tried to close off the space, changed filters, and cleaned as much as possible with a renovation. Our renovation was also quite extensive, and because of this we ended up eating countless meals in the car for months! Eating in the car was our refuge and break from it all.