“Wow, this place has such great potential!

Imagine what it will be like when it’s all done!”

Just like an episode of House Hunters Renovation, I uttered these famous last words when I first walked into my new island residence.

Well, let me tell you it is certainly an entertaining venture to renovate a shack (not a literal one, it’s just what I call my home) on a rock. Everybody dreams of owning a beach shack, so I like to have a little fun and call my condo a shack. In said condo, my family and I figured out that not a wall is square, not a piece of wood straight. I knew this condo would need work, but we clearly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Everything in the place smelled musty from years of abandonment and the bottom of every piece of furniture was rotting away due to water damage. When renovations eventually started, I thought to myself, “Oh this is going to be a long few months…” It definitely was a long process, but I learned many new things along the way.

Renovating on a rock taught me many valuable lessons:

1.Never assume a wall is straight.

Just because you expect it to be straight doesn’t mean it is straight. When measuring for your new kitchen cabinets that you’re so excited to finally be getting put in, double and triple check your measurements. When you’ve triple checked, check again. No, I’m not kidding. You’re spending a lot of money on cabinetry, make sure these measurements are done right.

2. You’ll find that someone once improvised.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you discover that all of your curtain rods are made out of PVC pipe. Yes, you read that right. So is the outdoor “furniture” set. Well, that’s actually kind of genius… that’s at least one thing that won’t rust.

3. You become thankful for certain things.

Like power tools. Like the fact that prior to moving to your rock, you never appreciated how close you were to the nearest hardware store. Because the fact is, Home Depot is now almost an hour drive off your island each way.

4. You can NEVER hoard enough tools or equipment.

One day you’re going to tear your shack apart looking for that darn hammer. Or, you will get to the hardware store with your handy dandy list that says, “screws, screwdriver (no, not the drink. Although, you may find yourself in need of a few of those after said trip to hardware store), plate covers. Simple, right? Just 3 items. Yeah, no it’s not. Screws? I never knew there were so many different types! “Just the basic ones,” I told the worker. Yeah, not so easy. After a lengthy conversation about what type of project I needed the screws for, I was handed a box of screws that were supposed to work. I got a screwdriver, a few plate covers and was headed back to my shack.

Only, once I drove all the way back to my shack, excitedly set down my purchases and tore open the packages, I realized, “Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me. Dang it, I bought the wrong ones AGAIN.”

Well, that’s why you keep a crate labelled, “returns.” For days like this, when you bought all the wrong equipment, and, in order to keep your sanity, so you can decide not to make the return trip to the store until at least next week. If you do happen to buy the right tools the first, or second trip to the hardware store, buy a second set of the tools you know you’ll need. Paint rollers? Can of paint? Spray paint? You never know when you’ll convince yourself to make the trek back to the store, only to discover that they’re sold out of the specific item you needed. Instead of wailing and throwing a tantrum like the toddler across the aisle from you – like you really want to do – just do yourself this favor in advance.

5. Just buy extras of EVERYTHING.

Or buy labels. Labelled boxes! Ha, what an idea. You’ll need lots of those too. Everything will need a sealable box – food items, linens, paperwork – so go ahead and buy those big plastic boxes in bulk. Roaches, construction dust, and sand are things you just don’t want mixing with your groceries or toilet paper, trust me. Labelled plastic boxes also are great for when hurricanes come and you just want everything to be in waterproof packaging. Store these boxes at the top of closets if you live in areas prone to flooding. You can never have too many plastic boxes, they’ll all get used eventually!

For when you need a peaceful moment while your renovations are going on, I’d highly recommend taking a walk like this one.

Amidst all the lesson learning, there have been quite a few memorable moments in the process too…

Memorable Moments

“How on Earth did they get this thing up here?”

I posed the question, referring to the old massive living room couch we were trying to get rid of. It literally wouldn’t fit through the doorway and certainly wouldn’t fit down the stairs or the elevator. Time to take out the power tools! My brother happily sawed through the middle of this mammoth of a couch to break it down. They say renovating is hard work – it is, but it’s also fun because after breaking down the couch, we had a night “dumpster operation” where we scouted the dumpsters in the area and decided which dumpster to put all of the construction debris in. Fun times! Got an email from the condo association a few days later, not naming names, but politely saying no construction crew should be putting their waste in the dumpsters. Ha! I mean where was I supposed to put it? Don’t answer that.

Using renovating as a way to destress

The old, water damaged kitchen cabinets won’t fit in the elevator? No problem! Time to use the God-given gift of your foot to get the job done. After you’ve busted up a few cabinets, you feel invincible! When work stresses you out, come home and take your stress out on some demolition. Trust me, it works. Bonus: You feel like Wonder Woman when you’re done!

Just when you think you’re done with working on the place…

Haha, you’re not. When you’re done working your day job, you still have a shack to renovate. When you’re done renovating for the day, you’re too dang tired to do anything but sit on a cardboard box on your balcony, eat cold pizza and drink a margarita or two. No matter how many times you sand down and repaint that front door of yours, the rust will still come back. But, a well-stocked closet of supplies will make the semi-annual repaints a not so difficult task.

Mind the creatures.

“Oh hellll no,” I said when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night as a large roach scurried across the floor. Eventually, you learn to just exit the bathroom, shut the door, turn off the light and hope that the creature goes back to wherever it came from. Or you become a ruthless roach murderer. And no matter how clean your shack is, you’ll still find these suckers everywhere. Get real comfortable using a shoe or the nearest non-breakable item to get rid of them.

Embrace your sense of humor.

When you’re ready to cry because nothing is going right, just go ahead and laugh, cry, or cry laughing. Like when you’ve cut beadboard for one section of wall 3 different times and it still doesn’t fit, when your eyes are so tired of staring at the barely different color you picked out to paint the bead board and your eyes are twitching uncontrollably for a day or two. When the new plate switch you want to install is the wrong type, when you have to get crown molding up several flights of stairs because a. the strips of molding are each 12 feet long, and b. the elevator is broken. 

Or, when your hurricane shutters are installed backwards so that the closing/locking mechanism is facing the outside of the building. But, you just wanted these strange men out of your shack, so you said, “Yep, looks great!” When they finished and asked, “You want to try it out?” I said, “I’m sure it works. Thanks you guys.” As soon as they left, I realized the shutters would only shut if Spiderman decided to scale the building. Not too likely in a hurricane. In a frenzy, I called my trusty dad, who called the men right away. Thankfully, the men hadn’t even left the parking lot yet and came back and fixed the shutters so that us mortals can shut them when we need to.

Would I trade island renovating for anything?

Hell no. It taught me more lessons than half of my college degree courses put together. But really though. I learned how to use power tools that scared me to death. Sander? Drill? Electric saw? Yup, yup, and yup. And many other tools I can’t remember the names of. But we did it! It was a family effort to get this shack up to code and into a liveable paradise retreat, but worth it!

Are you renovating a shack on a rock too?

I’d love to hear your stories and lessons!

Written By:

Current Rock of Residence:

Perdido Key

Island Girl Since:


Originally Hails From:

South Louisiana

A water baby since toddlerhood, Olivia was in the water any chance she got. Waves, pools, sprinklers – it didn’t matter. This girl is willing to swim in any body of water deemed safe (or not), and the only person crazy enough to swim in the ocean without a wetsuit in the middle of March. She moved to the beach and became a “professional” boogie boarder, margarita tester, beach runner, and roach killer. She loves boating, traveling to any new beach, and enjoys trying (and failing) at new water sports.

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