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How I Renovated So Fast

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Don’t be disappointed if this post doesn’t live up to what you were hoping or expecting. I don’t really have a magical answer for how we renovated so quickly, but since it’s been asked so often I figured I should share the process. Basically, as I mentioned in my house hunting post, Paul and I were looking for a “cosmetic fixer,” a term I invented to help him understand that the house we bought needed to be structurally what I wanted but cosmetically (aesthetically speaking) needed some work. I wasn’t down for major construction, but I was down for some tile, hardware changes, fixture updates, etc. You know, “easy” stuff. Granted, I’ve never really done construction so I’m not entirely sure where I came up with this idea that I’m a contractor? Our last house was pretty move-in ready, which was great, but it didn’t give us the opportunity to learn all the ins & outs of a remodel. We did work on our backyard, but it was a DIY project that didn’t require much more than us and my dad.

In this new house, the projects in my mind seemed very easy and quick. Things that could / should be done right away. Here’s what we agreed to tackle right away:

-The TV Room: Ripping out the paneling & carpet. Adding hardwood floors to match the rest of the house, painting the built-ins white, adding cabinet doors, changing the light fixture, and painting the room bright white.

-The Sitting Room: Ripping off the rock facade in front of the fireplace & changing out the light fixture.

-Kitchen: Painting the cabinets, changing the hardware, swapping out light fixtures, ripping out all the extra wood paneling under the island and backsplash, and adding tile to the concrete floor.

-Exterior / Interior paint: I refused to move into the house with hand prints all over the walls. I needed a fresh coat to give me the feeling of moving into a “new” house. The house was also a dark brown on the exterior, which made it kind of dreary to drive up to.

Mind you, I still have plans to re-do the bathrooms (all 3), the laundry room, the pantry, the backyard, etc. But those aren’t as immediate to me, aka I can live with them how they are until we finish the above. When we began our house search we obviously set a budget–that number needed to be everything. If the house needed renovations, then the purchase price needed to be lower. If the house was move-in ready then it didn’t matter, we could spend the entire budget. I was hoping we would find something a little under our budget so we would have room to do minor changes. Thankfully, that is what we got (not that it was by luck, we clearly spent a lot of time looking until we found exactly what we were looking for). Keep reading for more about this project, but here are some images of the process.

OKAY. So fast-forward to us getting the house keys. There’s A LOT to do: so much research to do, so many decisions to make, so many appointments to make. I spent a solid week taking appointments with painters, AC people, fireplace experts, dry wall people, engineers, electricians, you name it. Paul is a researching genius–he’s the guy who really knows how to use Yelp and read through the reviews to find the legit ones (not the ones where people complain about an issues that’s clearly their own problem lol). Basically he has insane patience (which I don’t), and being a lawyer he knows how to read & process information much faster than I ever will. So I left it up to him to find me people. In this case he used Angie’s List (kind of like Craigslist for all things construction), and he read through a ton of reviews and sent me about 5 contacts per project / job. The next phase was me calling all these people and setting up appointments and let me just say….it’s not as easy as it sounds. People don’t answer the phone, people don’t call you back, people don’t show up, sometimes there is a language barrier….the list goes on.

There’s a lot of wasted time in the process of trying to find people to do the work. I now see WHY people use a contractor. However, Paul and I are both WAY too controlling to trust someone to do a job that we are both fully capable of doing. Therefore we chose to manage all the projects ourselves. After finally hiring people for each job, it was time to get shit done. In a dream world, things would be done in a different order (ie: I would have painted last), but there was no time. We were moving in, I’m pregnant, and the paint fumes needed to be out of the house before we moved in. So with the exception of demolition (fireplace, wall paneling, wood, etc.), the paint was first up. Of course, upon demoing we discovered lots of unexpected surprises that added an extra layer to the job. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things we found along the way, but let’s just say that you should always plan for extra work that will cost you extra time and money.

Ultimately, here’s what I’ve learned during this process. There are good, hard working people out there. They are hard to find (and usually booked up), but they are definitely worth the wait (& money). I only want to pay for a job once. The alternative is taking a risk with someone who might be cheaper but the quality might be sacrificed, and depending on the outcome, you might be paying another person to fix the job. No bueno. Also, if you have the money, people will show up and finish the job. I’ve found that establishing a trust with my guys has taken me far–when they start a job I give a deposit to show good faith. When the job is done, I pay. Obviously this has to fit within my budget, but I would never hire someone to do a job if I knew I couldn’t afford it, that’s just bad business (& that’s when people stop showing up for work, too).

So, with all that said, here are some final thoughts. Somehow, someway, I’ve been in this house just over 1 month and I’ve pretty much spent the budget….not too excited about that, as I have other projects planned, but in a way it’s a blessing in disguise. Once all the projects we started are completed, we will take a little break from construction to furnish, get the nursery set up, and really just live in the house. Right now we are still holding off on furniture and hanging stuff on the walls because there are so many people trekking through the house daily that it’s just not worth it. While we save up some $$ for our next round of projects I will hopefully get us a little more settled and cozy in the house.

Stay tuned for the after pictures & video! In the meantime, here’s my Before video.

I hope this post was helpful. I know every situation is different, but honestly, just do your homework, read reviews, meet with multiple people, have the money ready, and micromanage like a mother f*cker!!! Happy to answer any questions below in the comments. 

Penny for your thoughts?