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Why We Called It Quits.

We’ve realized that there are not enough hours in the day to do it all ourselves. Earlier this week, the realization hit us like a ton of bricks. Continuing to handle all of the millwork at our ongoing Two Flat project was setting us (way) back, so we quit. Here’s what’s happening next.

A piece of vintage trim is held up to the top of a door opening in a house that is mid-renovation with white walls and dirty floors // via Yellow Brick Home

Admitting defeat is difficult for many of us, but we’ve learned to never be too proud to know when we’ve gotten in over our heads and need to call in the pros. You win this round, Two Flat trim. We’re giving up on tackling you ourselves and have scheduled our favorite contractor to come kick your ass.

Calling It Quits

Earlier this week, we were a few hours deep into our usual Two Flat Tuesday project day and it hit us: At the rate we were working, casing out all of the windows and installing all of the trim and baseboards in the house would take us weeks. Months, even! We were both frustrated beyond belief at the slow pace of progress. Kim was overwhelmed and nearly in tears. Right then and there, we sat down on the floor and called Patrik, our favorite contractor (and guardian angel). We asked if he could add the millwork installation on to the back end of our already-scheduled door install project next week. His answer? For you guys, this is no problem. We will do it. And just like that, with one phone call, we had hired out all of the installation of all of the millwork at the Two Flat. The weight of the world had been lifted from our shoulders! We hung up the phone in tears of joy!

Two pairs of dirty work shoes are in the foreground of a room filled with tools and renovation supplie // via Yellow Brick Home

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Doing things yourself is rarely (if ever) the easier way, but we also know that ‘throwing money at a problem’ and hiring it out can feel like a luxury. It’s a privilege. Sometimes we can swing it, and sometimes we can’t! Kim and I both still absolutely love DIY projects and get immense amounts of satisfaction from this portion of our work. However, when DIY begins effecting other aspects of your work, life and relationships, it may be time to work smarter, not harder. The logic is fairly simple; Patrik’s team of three can work exponentially faster, since they’re a well-oiled team that does this work all day, every day. And when it comes to the Two Flat, time is money.

A man pries nails from vintage door and window trim in a white room with new windows // via Yellow Brick Home

It’s Okay!

This is not to say that we aren’t capable of this work. We are, and therein lies the problem. The truth is, we are simply incapable of getting it done within a timeline that’s smart. And that’s okay! Renovation ebbs and flows. Some projects take less time than anticipated. Others take significantly more. This is an example of the latter. We’re here to share our story honestly as it unfolds, and we certainly won’t pretend that we can do it all – because we can’t. Since the Two Flat is not our primary home, every day that these two units sit incomplete and unrented costs us money. This comes as no surprise to anyone, but now that we’ve reached the point of completing finish work and planning for kitchens and bathrooms, we can’t afford to waste time.

A man in work attire hammers nails from vintage trim boards among a floor full of nails // via Yellow Brick Home

So About That Trim

The other reality that hit us on Tuesday is that all of the original trim that we’ve worked so hard thus far to salvage won’t be able to be used throughout the house. I know. I know! We’ve spent countless hours on salvaging everything we could, pulling out nails (hundreds of them), and piecing the puzzle back together. But while the vast majority of the trim is in good shape, many pieces are more warped or twisted than we realized. The time spent, the mental drain, the toll on our spirits – man, it’s not for the faint of heart. Our plan is to donate the millwork we can’t use to one of our favorite local architectural salvage shops. We’re putting good renovation karma into the world by saving it and letting someone else tackle the finishing touches.

A pile of vintage trim sits in the middle of a dusty room with fresh drywall and new windows // via Yellow Brick Home

We’ll try to match our new trim selection to the vintage trim as closely as possible (thank goodness for all our documentation), maybe with our own little twist on it. We’ve already begun choosing vintage replica trim for the baseboards, window and doors, but more on that soon!

Two blue vintage doors are flanked by the trim that will eventually case them in // via Yellow Brick Home

A Positive Realization

Our intent is not for this decision to come off as defeatist or negative, rather, we view this realization as a positive one. We feel liberated by our choice to hire the project out! While this installation will cost us money in the short term, we’re confident that it will more than pay for itself in the long run via lower holding costs and a shorter road to rental income.

Understanding when a situation has gotten the best of you is a skill that comes with practice. We’ve been renovating houses for more than a decade, and all of that practice has paid off… But this time it will just result in us paying someone else.

Who out there is strong enough to share your own DIY realizations? We can all lean on one another!

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  • Stacy3.12.20 - 5:47 AM

    Last fall I was trying to finish my kitchen renovation – I mean, it’s never finished, right? But I committed to hosting Thanksgiving at my house and it was down to the wire. I needed to install a double wall oven, which I’m certain I could do (with help to lift it, of course, it weighs 400 pounds) but I was just so. tired. But it’s so simple! Just connect the wiring and slide it into place. I’m totally confident with electrical! It can’t be that hard! But it would kill an afternoon. And I’d need to find that lifting help. And also I was tired? So I found a company who could do it the Saturday before, and they sent a team who did it in an hour while I installed the sink drain. I had a functional kitchen on Wednesday, and make Thanksgiving dinner for 20 on Thursday. And then I slept all weekend :) You’re doing great, guys!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 8:25 AM

      Aw, love this. Our first thanksgiving in this home will always be one of my favorite memories we made here. I committed to hosting because our friend who normally hosts was due with their first baby any day. Little did I know that our contractor (at the time) would be installing the remaining ceiling drywall UP UNTIL WEDNESDAY. We ate a feast surrounded by bare drywall and dust, but damn, the turkey was delicious.ReplyCancel

  • Karen3.12.20 - 7:09 AM

    I gave up on painting the walls and ceiling of a cathedral staircase this weekend. There’s a high window whose trim was never primed and painted, a chandelier hanging from a three-story ceiling … I got a lot of it painted, but in the end, my ladders were inadequate and my sense of self-preservation regarding being at the tippy-top of ladders on wee staircase landings was too strong. I called my favorite contractor. He’s also going to tackle the drywall cracks on various cathedral ceilings. ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 8:22 AM

      Three cheers for having a contractor you can trust! We love ours so much, and he GETS US. A good one is hard to find.ReplyCancel

  • Susan3.12.20 - 7:59 AM

    I could have tiled our shower, because I’m smart and tackle DIYs on the regular. BUT it is our ONLY shower and we have 3 teen boys. Also I own an interior painting business. It did not make sense for me to stop work for my clients and do the tiling, or do it on a weekend in between painting gigs. I need rest too. Also, I dont tile regularly. It would have taken me a lot longer than a pro. For us it was an easy decision to hand that baton to someone else. Just because you CAN doesnt mean it always makes the most sense. You definitely made a good call.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 8:22 AM

      Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. You’re so right. I bet it felt so celebratory to see it done in a day!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca3.12.20 - 8:04 AM

    My husband stripped (the finish was all crackely and paint dripped) and refinished all of the trim and doors in our Bridgeport 3 flat while we lived there (removed them all, stripped, refinished, reattached). It took 4 years of nights and weekends , with other projects in the tenants’ units taking up time along the way), and we had no kids for 3 of those years. ???? we’ve lived in our single family Norwood Park East bungalow for about 18 months and with 2 small kids the DIY projects are so hard to get done. He’s currently working on matching trim in the upstairs bedrooms to the original on the first floor (the upstairs trim was garbage and mostly falling off the walls). But he commented last night how this house still doesn’t feel like ours in some ways bc the bathrooms, kitchen and even some of the paint we haven’t made it to yet aren’t what we’d pick. A labor of love for sure. But it’s different when you’re planning on living there for the next 20 years.  When you’re losing rental income, it’s definitely time to call in the experts. Can’t wait to see the finished units. ????ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 8:20 AM

      This makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER. It’s such a labor of love, and even though we won’t be living there ourselves, I already feel so attached to the Two Flat, making decisions a little harder.ReplyCancel

    • Toby3.12.20 - 10:50 AM

      Rebecca – we are about to be neighbors in early June! We just bought a house on West Circle that my partners and I will be doing much of the same so give us the scoop on all things Norwood please! We can’t wait to dig into our place!ReplyCancel

      • Kim3.12.20 - 11:01 AM

        Toby! I have been meaning to text you! SO YOU GOT IT?! (See, now that we’re not focused on millwork, I can be a better friend, haha.)ReplyCancel

  • Katie Richards3.12.20 - 8:19 AM

    Time is the only resource we cannot get back. I’m glad you’ve found a way to save some of yours!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 8:26 AM

      You’re so right. Why do we so often forget this?!ReplyCancel

  • Nahyun3.12.20 - 8:30 AM

    It takes such courage to admit defeat and you guys have been putting your everything behind that trim, it was so clear to all of us readers!  But I always wondered how you were gonna piece it all back together it seemed so daunting (that’s an understatement)!  But I’m happy you guys hired it out it’ll save so much peace of mind!  And it will still look amazing!!! Keep on doing what you do because I loving watching the transformation! ReplyCancel

  • Juliet3.12.20 - 8:54 AM

    I think that given the amount of trim work that was needed, donating what you have and starting with the more expedited process is the way to go. If you aren’t working on a rental/flip, and you can just live on end with incomplete trim and work on it over time, that’s a different story. ReplyCancel

  • Brigid3.12.20 - 8:59 AM

    This is the biggest battle in our home right now!  My husband has worked in remodeling and is literally the handiest man ever and has a HARD time paying anything for something he can do himself.  But with 2 little kids, it is just not feasible for me to be on solo kid wrangling for weekends on end, dealing with a torn up section of our tiny house (and keeping said 2 children OUT of the chaos) when we could pay someone to have it done in a day and a half.  Its an ongoing compromise and sometimes accepting that we are in the place of luxury to be able to pay someone to do something needs to be tapped into in order to save our sanity and possibly our marriage! ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 9:10 AM

      You’re absolutely right. The same decision making happened for us when Lucy was about 6 months old. We thought, we could either keep DIYing all weekend long and lose out on time with Lucy. Or I could quit the blog, and be with Lucy. Or Scott could leave his job, and we could work on the blog during the week AND have our weekends as a family! We chose the latter, and we’re so grateful that we had the hindsight to take that risk. Just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should – for sanity, for family togetherness and SO MUCH MORE.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie3.12.20 - 9:02 AM

    My husband and I bought a cute 1920s house last spring, and our goal has been to get the backyard into shape by this summer so our dog will have a place to run (we were told a neighbor used our yard for dumping trash years ago, so it’s a mess and very overgrown). My husband worked as a landscaper for a few summers while in school, so of course we could tackle it ourselves! But after many Saturdays raking and pulling up ivy, it just started to feel impossible. We’ve finally decided to hire someone to tackle it for us. We are in the process of meeting with various landscapers now! Thank you for keeping it real and sharing when things don’t go as planned! ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 9:08 AM

      Hooray for getting your weekends back!!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan J3.12.20 - 10:08 AM

    If it was your own place, you *might* look back on it and go ‘remember when we spent 6 million years (approximately) piecing back the original trim?’ and reminisce with each other but you’re definitely not going to do that about a investment property so hiring it out was def. the way to go!
    Me, we tried changing a light fitting in our kitchen (first home), only to discover that there was the tiniest amount of slack and some weird wiring choices left by the previous fitting installer and I am not messing about with our ancient wiring to try get a bit more so we’re getting a sparky in to deal with that one and the matching (working) mate and it’ll be worth it – especially as we’ll probably get them to replace the outdoor light at the same time.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 10:09 AM

      Oh, for sure, if we even think for a hot second that something looks funky behind a wall (or ceiling), we step away and call a pro. Smart move!ReplyCancel

  • Theresa3.12.20 - 11:54 AM

    In your writing it feels like you’ve found peace in this decision.  So happy for you; hope that you let those feelings of pride sink in that this was the right call!!
    We needed to replace our roof a few years ago.  My husband had done roofing in the last and his brothers offered to help, but we were looking at a month of weekends gone. With 3 small children, it just didn’t feel worth it to me. I finally convinced him to hire it out, and it was completed while we were at preschool one day!!!  Came home after lunch to see it already done = amazing.  Since then he’s been a little more open to hiring help when we need it. ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.12.20 - 12:20 PM

      So much peace. Relief. Happiness. I’m happy you made the best decision for your family, too!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy3.12.20 - 1:07 PM

    And Patrik really is the best!ReplyCancel

  • lak3.12.20 - 3:20 PM

    Work smarter…not harder.  Sometimes it is more timely and cost effective to hire a professional to do a home job and for me to go to work and even pull a little over time to pay for it.  It turns into a timely win win finish for all!  Smart decision on your part.  ReplyCancel

  • Kacie3.12.20 - 3:37 PM

    Thank you!! Thanks for the reminder that even seasoned vets need to re-evaluate  sometimes. We moved in a year and a half ago and completely gutted our second floor. We finally moved upstairs in September and now we are picking away at re-installing all the trim we saved. When we first took it down we labelled it all, and intended to refinish it (really shiny but uneven shellac finish, with lots of scratches… rough). But as the renovation has progressed we realized stripping and refinishing the trim would literally take us months. So after labouring over it, we decided we need to just paint it. When we get to working on downstairs we will allocate the proper time to refinishing all the beautiful trim down there :)ReplyCancel

  • Kristen3.12.20 - 4:20 PM

    After the headline, I thought you were calling it quits altogether bc if the current apocalyptic situation. Glad that’s not the case! ????ReplyCancel

  • christina3.12.20 - 5:45 PM

    Thank you for your honesty in this post! I think it’s so important to see and understand what happens behind the scenes of a reno and that everyone is human….although you guys are still totally DIY rock stars!!! Knowing when you need to ask for help is a huge skill. One I need to get better at ;)ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa3.12.20 - 10:07 PM

    Another nice way to think about it is that you are sharing your money with someone, who is sharing effort with you.  It’s mutual.ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

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