Try your hand at a DIY renovation, and chances are you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel more than once. How to diminish that feeling of defeat? Seek expert advice before hammer meets nail. We caught up with Brian McCourt, contractor and co-host of HGTV Canada’s new series Backyard Builds, to enlighten us on everything from outdoor must-haves to reno lessons learned the hard way.
Biggest piece of advice for reno rookies:
Do your research. We live in an era of accessible information, and there’s tons of it. You can learn from others just by reading a few reviews or watching instructional videos. Chances are, you’re not the first person to run into the same problems!
Stylish backyard must-have:
Storage so you can keep the rest of the yard tidy and functional. You also need a place to entertain, because there’s no point in having a beautiful backyard if you aren’t able to share it.
How to make a tiny yard or balcony shine:
Respect scale and proportion when shopping for items. Experiment with bright colours, and choose low-profile furniture as it creates the illusion of more space.
Pink flamingos in the garden: design do or don’t?
I’m going to say no. Garden gnomes however, I think I can work with those!
Reno lesson learned the hard way:
One of the best lessons I learned in my early years was that sometimes it’s cheaper and requires fewer materials to tear down and rebuild a structure than it does to renovate it. Experience is key in knowing which route produces the least amount of waste.
Reno project people waste too much time on:
I don’t find any renovation project to be a waste, but I would say sometimes people make commitments in children’s rooms that have a short shelf life and need to be redone shortly after they’ve finished. Have fun in kids’ rooms in non-committal ways so the space can easily evolve with your fast-growing child.
Reno project people don’t spend enough time on:
People often don’t spend enough time on their closets. The key to a clutter-free home is strong closet organization. Tailor your closet like you would a suit: It has to fit well and reflect your lifestyle.
One tool you can’t live without:
I love my interchangeable hand screwdriver. The bits flip up with a lever to ensure I never misplace them. I also love my 18-volt battery-operated tool set, a seven piece kit that runs off the same battery. It’s so convenient and life changing.
First thing you do when you’re feeling uninspired:
I take a break and get some exercise. It’s usually a sign that I’m tired and need to recharge somehow. Coming back to the project with a fresh mind is a superpower.
What you wish you knew when starting your career:
When living through a renovation, I wish I knew to create a sanctuary, or one room that was either finished before moving in or untouched until the rest of the house was done. Your sanity goes out the window when you’re living in a layer of dust.