In 1986 my mum and dad bought our family home. Like many family homes it has undergone a fair few cosmetic changes over the years, and a few physical ones too to accommodate a growing family. One room which has barely changed however is the main bathroom.

Their bathroom has become not only a Davis family joke, but a joke among relatives and friends too. My dad – a practical man with an aptitude for DIY – famously said to my mum “We can have gold taps if I do it myself” (gold taps were the thing apparently in 1986).

Well, they have said gold taps and he tiled it all with some fancy Porcelanosa tiles, as well as fitting a new (at the time) suite. However, the ceiling is still waiting to be repainted, and the floor is still bare wood, which has miraculously survived the early years bath-times my siblings and I put it through without rotting.

Once the bathroom was in a useable state, these minor finishes to the space got usurped by other demands – a new kitchen; decorating nurseries; creating a child-friendly garden – and there the bathroom has sat for nearly thirty years. In the meantime, dad has justified not tiling the floor by using the hatch in the floor to gain access to the foundations, and uses this space as a makeshift wine cellar. So it’s not all bad.

The thing is, it is incredibly easy to start a project and run out of steam (and time) halfway through — and I’m worried my own house is turning into one of those. For many – myself included – squeezing jobs in around your actual job and other commitments is not the easiest thing to do. There are only so many nights you are happy to stay up past midnight sanding skirting or painting walls.

So what can you do to keep momentum? Here are the things I am finding help to give me a little kick when work seems to have ground to a halt.

Top Tips for Balancing a Renovation with a Full-Time Job

1. Tackle One Room at a Time
If you are only working on one room, it is fairly easy to move everything out of that space, solidly work on it over a weekend (or a few depending on the extent of the works), and just get it done. The problem with a renovation project is that you may have several rooms to do at once, usually because you have related jobs to do elsewhere in the house (such as major heating, rewiring or plumbing jobs).

For example, when we had the loft done, it affected the bathroom and our old bedroom too, meaning that it gave rise to three room renovations at once (four if you count the hall). There were certain high-priority jobs we had to do so that we could actually live in the house, so we did these first. But after that you end up in a pattern of doing a bit here, and a bit there as you fancy.

Don’t! Once the essentials are done and you have a room you can live in, pick a room to finish. However, make sure this room isn’t a hall or thoroughfare, as works on other rooms could mean you undo all the hard work in that space.

Once your chosen room is done, you can tick it off the list and start the next. Which takes me on to my next tip…

2. Make Lists
I love making lists — and love crossing things off even more. Make a list of every job you need to do, no matter how small. That way, when you come home from work and can’t be bothered to paint a whole kitchen, or tile a floor, at least you can make progress nailing the smaller jobs which take a few minutes.

Some of my common weekday jobs are:

  • Filling holes in wood or walls
  • Sanding down filled holes
  • Caulking and sealing
  • Tidying work areas
  • Prepping surfaces for painting (sanding, cleaning and masking taping)

Leave larger jobs for days when you have time to do it properly. There is nothing worse than starting a messy job which involves lots of cleaning up, only to do half and know you will have to repeat the cleaning up job when you come to finish it.

My least favourite job is washing paint rollers, so I always make sure I can do it all in one go. If not I make sure I can finish it the next day and just wrap the roller in clingfilm to avoid washing it twice.


Painting the stairs was a full-day job. I started early so that I could do two coats with four hours of drying time in between. They also needed six hours once I had finished for them to be useable (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get upstairs to my bed)

3. Start Early
Get a good night’s sleep, get up early, have a hearty breakfast and a cup of tea, and get cracking. When you work full time, the weekends are your only chance to make headway, so avoid the temptation to lie in. The later you start, the fewer hours of good daylight you will have to work in.

You will feel much better (and far less guilty) finishing jobs at a reasonable hour and still having some of your evening left to enjoy.

4. Take Breaks
Once you have overcome the effort of getting started, you might be reluctant to stop. This however, is one of the main reasons that I end up leaving too much time between big jobs and feeling like I am getting nowhere. I push myself too far over a certain space of time, burn out, and put myself off starting again.

To avoid this listen to your body. Yes, work hard and dedicate some time to your objectives, but have a tea break every few hours. Manual labour is physically taxing, so stop before you are too tired to go on — or too tired to do a good job.

On the same note, remember that you do need a weekend off. With limited time, the pressure is there to spend all of your free time working on the house, but again, this only leads to fatigue. If your project is likely to span a few months, make sure at least one weekend a month you are DIY-free. This might mean leaving the house and going out for the day to get away from it.

5. Ask for Help
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That is unless you have been trying for six weeks (or *cough* thirty years) and it is holding up other jobs. If this happens, call in the pros. It will cost you more, but be far less stressful.

Do you have any tips for part-time renovators? Post them in the comments section below

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