Remodeling Your Home? Avoid These Common Mistakes

Dreaming up remodel plans for your home is an exciting time and the possibilities are endless.

7 DIY Tips and advice with homeowner and professional DIYer Jeff Kopp

Photos by Josiah Kopp
Project photos provided by Jeff Kopp

Dreaming up remodel plans for your home is an exciting time and the possibilities are endless. But, before you pull out the hammer and start tearing out your old cabinets, there are some important things you should know. Being a DIYer means not just doing things yourself; it means making smart choices, careful considerations, receiving professional recommendations, and well-planned executions. I caught up with longtime carpenter, professional DIYer, and my dad, Jeff Kopp, for some pro DIY tips and advice.

Tip No. 1: Order Matters

“When you’re going to start in a room, you have to decide how far you’re going to go—and then do it in the right order. When we remodeled our kitchen, we decided we wanted new flooring. So, we put the flooring in, and then the cabinets looked terrible; they didn’t match. And then we realized, you know, we’re probably going to have to get new cabinets.

A lot of newer appliances models won’t fit in your old spots, like the refrigerator. Changing out the cabinets meant we could put any sized refrigerator we want, so it’s important to look at the big picture and decide, ‘Okay, if we’re gonna get new appliances, let’s look at a total remodel.’ But start with what’s most important, which I’d say are kitchen cabinets, because they’re going to stay permanent. Flooring can wear out, most likely. So pick the cabinetry you like and then find the flooring to go with it.”

Tip No. 2: Decide Your Layout and What Appliances You Want

“When you’re planning your new cabinets, decide what appliances you want and where you want them. This way, you allow for the correct openings and how your kitchen layout can look. We changed ours from an L shape to an island—so we had a total remodel.”

The older countertop L shape was cut and turned into a makeshift island during the flooring remodel process. Soon, all of these countertops and cupboards would be torn out.

Something you should NOT DIY: Wiring

“Wiring can be dangerous—hire an electrician. I would say you can do just about anything when it comes to DIY. The only thing that can become dangerous and cause a hazard later is electrical. You have to be on top of your game for electrical work—it’s best to be safe and hire a professional.”

Jeff’s Background

If there’s one thing Beulah, ND’s Jeff Kopp is known best for, it’s building things. From working for carpenters right out of high school to building (and then remodeling) his home in Beulah to his impressive 33 years as a machinist (as well as carpenter and plumber) for Dakota Gasification Company (DGC), Jeff is a true industry expert and one of those all-around handymen.

After retiring from DGC in 2018, Jeff went back to work, this time building garage doors with a couple of friends, learning from one of the best in the industry, Ralph Nordick (founder of Midland Garage Doors). Though he is enjoying retirement, he also works part-time as a maintenance technician for a local church.

After he and his wife Sandy became empty nesters, remodels for their 1993 home took shape in their minds. The main priorities were getting new appliances and redesigning the entire kitchen floor plan. Fast forward to now, the Kopps have completed most of their desired remodel plans, with some notes to share from their experience.

The Finished Remodel

Tip No. 3: Even if you’re doing a DIY remodel, get a professional’s guidance

“There are so many options when you sit down with a professional. There were things my [my wife] Sandy and I hadn’t even considered. Professionals have seen everything—they can draw you up the basic plan and you can make any changes you want from there. Our builder was wise enough that when he had the cabinets built for around our refrigerator, he put a two-inch spacer on each side, because he said whenever you purchase your next refrigerator, you can go another four inches wider. We thought that was a great idea. It’s good to get a professional involved who knows this stuff instead of really trying to wing it all on your own.

If you’re working with a contractor who specializes in one thing—let’s say cabinets, for example—but they don’t do countertops, you can ask them for other contractor recommendations, and they’ll oftentimes give you two or three recommendations. And you can ask additional questions like, ‘Who’s your favorite?’ and, “Who’s more timely?”

Tip No. 4: Found a contractor you like? Ask to see other projects they’ve done

“Once you’ve found a contractor you like based on their rates, selections, and availability, you can ask to see some of their past projects to get a real idea of what you can expect within your own home. One thing to pay attention to is the quality of the work they’ve done and how their work has stood the test of time (and kids). I never would have went through any of these [contractors] if they couldn’t show me some of their work.”

Tip No. 5: Watch YouTube for ideas and talk to other DIYers

“Another tip I’d offer is watching YouTube channels and looking at what you want to do and learning what tools you’ll need to complete the project. I’ve watched so many YouTube videos on how different things are done and what people are doing. And, if you know a friend or somebody who also does handy work or DIY projects, talk to them. [Ask], ‘Hey, if I want to do this myself, what would I need?’ Most often, people are more than happy to tell you.”

Tip No. 6: Invest in the right tools for the job

“Being a handyman for a long time, I thought I had all the tools I’d ever need. And then I talked to other builders and handymen who recommended I get a track saw. And I’m like, ‘Why do I need a track saw? I have a table saw.’ Then, one day I’m lifting a four-by-eight sheet of plywood up to the table saw trying to make a cut. And I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not 20 years old anymore—I need an easier way to do this.’ Finally, I bought a track saw. Oh my gosh—an absolute game-changer for cutting lumber. So, research the tools you want to use— good quality tools are always worth the price.”

Tip No. 7: Invest in a smart home system for lighting

“Bluetooth switches are so nice. Especially when you’re in the kitchen and your hands full. You don’t have to flip a light switch manually; you can set up everything via Amazon Alexa. You can group lights through voice commands or phrases, and you can set lights to turn off or on based on current sunrise and sunset times. You can also turn them off from anywhere while you’re away from home. It’s just so handy to have.”

Great! Now you have some helpful tips and resources for getting started on your next DIY project. And remember: be safe, ask for a professional opinion, and of course, have fun!

Jeff’s DIY YouTube Channel recommendations

Bourbon Moth Woodworking

Fix This Build That
Walkers Woodworks


To Top