Can Your New Marriage Survive Buying a DIY “Fixer”?


Buying a house is the biggest investment you’re probably ever going to make, and you can certainly make your budget stretch if you buy one that needs some extra loving care. Before you take the plunge for a fixer, though, some honest assessments are in order. There are no right or wrong answers to the following questions, but they’ll give you an idea of how to proceed:

Do You Have the DIY Skills to Tackle the Work?

If neither one of you has ever held a power tool or a pipe wrench, remodeling a kitchen or bathroom from the studs out isn’t the place to learn on the job no matter how many home improvement shows you’ve watched.

It might turn out that you’ve got untapped natural talents, but it’s a smart move to hire professionals for the big stuff. Electricity, gas, and plumbing are not things to fool around with. Not only will having the work professionally done be safer for life and limb, but it will save you money in the long run.

Do You Have the Time and Energy to Spend?

If you have demanding careers and all you’ve ever wanted to do on the weekends is catch up on laundry and sleep, a fixer isn’t for you. By the time you drag yourself around for a few Saturdays, you’ll begin putting things off and you’ll wind up with half-finished projects all over the place.

Not only does walking around raggedy piles of lumber and paint cans make for an uncomfortable living arrangement, but it tends to bring up resentment and other unattractive emotions that will not keep the honeymoon going.

Do You Have the Temperament to Work Together?

You’re in love and adore spending time together, but have you ever joined forces to complete a big task without squabbling over details large or small? If one of you is a slapdash speed demon and the other is a precise and careful snail, can you coordinate your work styles without coming to blows? Is compromise a concept you’re both familiar with and good at?

Married couples who have gone through renovation projects say that it’s one of the biggest stress-producers out there. That’s because it combines so many components that have the potential to create conflict — over money, individual preferences, and the myriad of decisions that have to be made about them.

Having said all that, if you decide you can put up with the noise, the mess, the stress, and the general chaos that’s bound to be part of the process, working together to remodel or refurbish your new house is going to be a great bonding experience that will give you a shared sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished.

If you’re able and willing to join forces and put some sweat equity into your new house, here are the easiest projects to tackle DIY:


Vinyl flooring is a great budget-friendly alternative to other materials for rooms that get a lot of traffic and are subject to spills and moisture. Modern vinyl floors from are a far cry from what it was in your grandmother’s day. If you like the look of stone, you can find vinyl tiles that replicate the look of marble, travertine, and sandstone. If the look of wood is what you’re after, you can find vinyl in easy-to-install planks in finishes like rich oak and walnut, country-style distressed barn wood, and even a whitewash that would be right at home at the beach. Some vinyl flooring is embossed with texture that feels like the real thing.


Installing granite in a kitchen or bathroom is best left to the pros, but it’s relatively simple — and much more cost effective — to DIY tile, seamless composites, concrete, butcher block, or reclaimed wood. Clever do-it-yourselfers have even made customized counters using self-leveling epoxy to encase and provide a durable surface over such things as coins, maps, or other flat items with personal meaning.


If kitchen and bathroom cabinets are structurally sound, all you have to do is replace the doors and hardware to get a brand new look. Sometimes all you’ve got to do is paint or refinish them for the result you want. And replacing all or some of the upper cabinet doors with ones that have glass panes is another idea that’s easy and effective for changing the whole style of the room.


A new coat of paint freshens up a room more than almost anything else. It’s worth the time to study up on technique, but after that, it’s just a matter of selecting finishes and colors and you’re off to the races. Magazines and online sources show endless examples of ways to make your paint jobs extra-special by painting focal walls, adding contrasting trim to the woodwork, or highlighting nooks and other architectural details with colors that are lighter, darker, or entirely different than the rest of the room.

One Last Note

In addition to the aforementioned plumbing and electrical work, unless you’re experienced at these specialized tasks don’t test your skills repairing a roof, replacing windows, repairing garage doors, or trimming large trees. You do want to be around for many anniversaries to come.