My DIY Story and How I Got Started

DIY bar at home where I'm holding up the tile we're picking from along with my wife. There are some power tools in the background that are ready for our home renovation.
I'm Alex!

I'm a self-taught DIYer and I build cool sh-t in my home. I feel like the internet is over run by fake perfection, so we don't do that here. I teach you how to tackle DIY projects by documenting my journey and showing you the lows just as much as the highs.

My mission is to normalize mistakes, remind you that you aren't alone, and inspire you to build cool sh-t too. So if that's something you're interested in, then you're in the right place.

yo what's up!

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Losing My Power Tool Virginity

Hi, I’m Alex. My power drill virginity (first time using a drill) was taken in 2020 and it was to hang a picture that still sits crooked in our home to this day. Yeah, I know. I’m a late bloomer, but so what. Since then I’ve gone on to tackle projects in my home that would’ve costed over $10,000 to hire out…all by my damn self. How did I get to this point? Let’s talk about it.

From my drill story, I think it’s pretty evident at this point that I did not have any prior experience in anything even remotely related to DIYing home renovations before we purchased our first home in the summer of 2020. So why did I start? Because I’m cheap damnit. That’s why. I want nice things, but can’t afford to pay someone to do it, so I do it myself. I mean that’s why you’re here isn’t it? I would hope if you were a millionaire you would just pay someone to renovate your bathroom. Not a millionaire? Cool, same.

Anyways, I had no experience but I wanted to upgrade our home. So I did what any 25-year-old would’ve done and it’s exactly what you’re doing now – I went to the internet in hopes to teach myself.

Proud Student at the University of Youtube DIY

My First Project

My first true project was a coffee table. My wife (Kylie) wanted a $500 coffee table when we moved in. Mind you we were broke af after spending all our money on a 3% downpayment and closing costs and so I did what any husband would do in that moment. I told her I would build one. She laughed. Like a lot. But I told her that I could buy a $200 set of tools and $80 worth of wood/stain/paint and make a table for like half the price. She laughed again. But harder this time. I was adamant because people on the internet made it look really easy, so I was (overly) confident in myself. And so I built the damn coffee table and she (kinda) loved it. It had its imperfections for sure, but I built a mf’ing coffee table with my own two hands. That’s pretty damn cool.

Farmhouse-style coffee table that I built. Brown stain on top, faded white paint on the legs.
Was going for the rustic farmhouse look. I wish I didn’t, but hey it’s a table and I built that sh-t.

Looking back, it was the perfect starter project because if I f–ked it up, it wasn’t a huge deal. It’s not like my second project where a bad outcome would have been detrimental and really expensive to fix. So it was perfect. I tell everyone that wants to get started DIYing, do NOT start on your home. Unless it’s a really simple project like painting because the last thing you want to do is get way in over your head on your first project and end up in a really shitty situation where you end up with either a bad result or an expensive fix. Trust me, I’ve been close.

Where I Truly Earned My Stripes

Anyways, let’s talk about my first real project. That’s where I truly earned my stripes and felt the rush of completing a successful project in my home. It all started when Kylie complained about our old washer and dryer. She wanted to buy brand new ones. They were in bad shape, but I wasn’t gonna admit that. A new set is like $2k and I did not want to pay that. I tried everything I could to fix them and bring them back to life. But they were like 15 years old and it was their time to go.

This is what our laundry room looked like originally. A 15-year-old set of a washer & dryer and some ugly cabinets.
Here’s where we started. Not great.
Washer machine with the front face of it off in order to try and fix it.
When I say I tried everything to fix it, I really did. It was unfixable.
Laundry room with the washer and dryer removed. You can see the disgusting linoleum flooring beneath.
Our laundry room needed a lot of work. It looked atrocious.

So after I realized the inevitable that we needed to buy a new washer & dryer, there was no way we were putting them in this laundry room the way it was. I mean look at it. It would’ve been like putting lipstick on a pig. So we went out and bought a new washer & dryer and I naively got to work with Kylie, thinking that this would be a weekend project. Hint: It wasn’t.

We removed the cabinet and drying rack, ripped up the linoleum flooring, ripped up the baseboards, *noticed the floor wasn’t flat*, poured self leveling concrete (3 times because we kept messing up), installed Schluter tile membrane, and then tiled. Oh and then we painted, installed a shiplap feature wall, built the countertop, and installed a new light fixture. All of this for the first time ever. It was scary, we made a bunch of mistakes, it took 6 weekends (instead of one like we planned)…but look at the result.

New laundry room featuring a new washer & dryer, tile, shiplap wall, new light fixture, and DIY countertop from wood.
You know what they say…you never forget your first.

Now I Had The Itch

We did that for our first project and ever since then I never turned back. I loved the process just as much as the result. It was so gratifying. All the stress was worth it. But, Kylie didn’t feel the same. As I had the ambition and itch to crank out bigger and bigger projects, she slowly phased herself out and left it to me. I don’t blame her, it’s not for everyone. But chances are if you’re reading this right now that you’re just like me.

And so with the confidence from this laundry room, I went on to tackle some amazing projects that I didn’t even think I was capable of. Slowly I increased the difficulty from painting our kitchen cabinets, to renovating our half bathroom, to building a massive built-in bookcase, to a complete demo to the studs and rebuild of our primary bathroom, to framing & building an entire finished office in my unfinished basement, to a custom bar, and so much more. I taught myself carpentry, plumbing, electrical, tile, concrete, and everything in between – all from the internet. And I’m guessing that’s exactly why you’re here right now too.

So What’s My Secret?

Well…I tell everyone that’s nervous to start DIYing that your biggest asset that you have is that no one will care more about your home than YOU. And that’s what’s carried me through. Compared to a professional – I am surely not the best or the fastest. But no one cares more about my home than me. So I may take 10x as long to DIY a project than it would’ve been to hire it out. But I’m gonna make sure it’s to my standards as the homeowner and I’m gonna save a lot of money while doing it.

Plus it’s fun and rewarding – at least to me.

So if you’re anything like me and my story resonates with you even slightly, then I can with 100% confidence tell you that you are not alone. We’ve built a giant community (of nearly half a million of us here at Real Life Renovation across social media) where we aren’t afraid to keep it real about our journeys/mistakes as we learn to DIY our home renovations. So if you like to build cool shit or you wanna get started, then this is the place for you.

Check out some of my other projects here and please don’t be afraid to hit me up with any questions along your DIY journey!


For the homeowners that love keepin' it REAL.