What was the total cost? Can we see real numbers? How close have you stayed within budget?
I can’t share the total cost, because we aren’t finished yet. But I’m happy to share a few insights around this subject. Before you begin a renovation project, it’s essential to sit down and make a budget. This is true if you’re doing the work yourselves or you are hiring it out. Having a budget gives you the freedom to assign an amount of money toward the project and it also allows you to not stress every time you spend money.
For us, the budget for this project is coming from the sale of our last home, which we sold for approximately a $200K profit. Of course we put a lot of money into it over the 6 years we lived there, but because we used other saved money for the down payment on this new home, we decided to put everything we made off the sale of that house directly back into this house. Not all at once, but a large chunk of it right up front to lay the groundwork for the projects we want to do in years to come.
Before, and frequently during this project, we sat down with our contractor to go over the budget. He gave us an itemized list of labor, materials and allowances that painted a picture of where the budget was and how we have been progressing. “Allowances” are listed out for things, like a railing, that he will have one of his subcontractors make. Basically stating, I’m working in $5000 for your railing and if you stay within that, then this budget will stay on track.
Because we sold all of our furniture with our last house (that was on top of the $200K), we knew now was the time to get a lot of the big, heavy lifting projects out of the way. These are things that actually almost made us not buy this house–the former double story dining room that we put a ceiling on and walls and are making our music room is something we made a plan for the second time we walked through this home. And the space that is now going to be our large dining room used to be a hot tub room (we heard) and we had grand visions of making that usable, heated, permitted square footage in our home. Those two projects were basically the clincher projects for buying this house in the first place so we knew that investing in getting them done first thing would allow us a lot of years in the future to tweak everything else.
We purchased this house for a really great deal (our neighbor’s house is currently listed for double!), so we knew we could invest money into it without fear, but we are still very mindful of our spending. We set a budget of $120K for all of these up front projects (dining room, fireplace, some exterior work, bedroom, music room, window installation, floors, etc) and are on track so far! I will say, surprisingly, the demo has been the largest line item. Brutal!
How to decide where to splurge and where to save?
Because of the nature of our work, we do have the opportunity to work with brands for some materials (tile, windows, flooring)–and those things are not counted in our budget and do help us save. But even when our budgets were smaller we trained ourselves to save money by reusing what you can. An example of this in our current home would be we saved the two arched doors from the former sunroom to reuse–one as our front door and one to put back into the dining room. We had a door restoration specialist come and look at the one for the dining room because it was really sun damaged and wasn’t closing properly. He said it wasn’t salvageable and would be $17,000 to replace!
We didn’t have room in the budget for that so we knew there had to be another option. We called in a second opinion who said that if we didn’t mind the use of some wood filler, he thinks he can make it look great and operable.
Because we plan to be here for a good, long time, we want to choose materials that will last so we won’t have to do this again (like ever! haha) but that’s another beauty of a budget–it restricts you when you need it to and pushes you to see potential elsewhere.
What is your biggest regret so far? Do you regret doing so much so soon?
Biggest regret so far is definitely hiring painters too early. They literally finished after demo started. I don’t even have after photos of their job because there was already tarps STAPLED into the fresh paint job. Of course this was not planned. Demo started in July (Way before it was supposed to!) and it has escalated a bit. Part of me thinks it has helped during all of this to see white walls instead of sponge painted on top of all of the other chaos but it will likely have to be painted again. In fact, the rooms that are currently being worked on have paint and primer as a very cheap item in the bid so we definitely shouldn’t have had that done. Live and learn!
Although it seems like we’re doing EVERYTHING right now, we’re actually just getting ourselves to a starting point of floors and walls in most areas. I don’t want anyone to have the false assumption that our house is going to be “done” in a few weeks when the contractors are done. Our last house took 6 years to do. We initially said this one will take 10 and it will probably take somewhere in between those two numbers if I were to guess.
How do you deal with all the dust?
I am actually pretty certain that the majority of our family came down with pneumonia a few weeks ago (only Faye and I were spared) due, in part, to all the renovation dust. We have air purifiers going in all the bedrooms (we love this one!) and that helps. The contractors are also really good at draping off a room they are working on to minimize it. Also, remember, we don’t have a ton of furniture right now so most of the dust is just settling on the floor where we sweep it up a couple times a week.
Even then, renovation debris does wear on you. We wear shoes in the house ALWAYS. Like, even if it’s the middle of the night and you have to use the bathroom, you put on shoes because there’s staples and debris and dust everywhere. I think it’s a good expectation to set for yourself–there will be dust. It’s just a part of it.
How did you decide when to leave?
You can read more about that decision here. We decided to move out for two weeks so a few large projects could get completed that would be very difficult/cold/dangerous with three small children present. Chris and I are still working in our office and spending most of the day at the house making decisions, moving furniture around so the floors can come up and answering a lot of questions. We will be laying wood floors in the office as well, so we’ll be flexible on those days.
Flooring (what type, where, when, carpet or hardwood, dining room and bedrooms)?
I got a lot of variations of this question, especially after I shared the tile being ripped up in our entry. There are 3 different types of flooring that will be going down in the next couple weeks. Wood, carpet and tile.
We chose this beautiful, brand new flooring from Stuga for our home. It’s ideal for families and has an innovative, never before used ultra matte sheen. We looked through probably 35 floor samples from everywhere and this one was so stunning it was the clear winner for us. It’s brand new and hasn’t been used ever before so we’re excited to share lots of photos of the progress. The wood flooring will extend throughout the main floor, including the entry but excluding the dining room. We will have it laid into the breakfast nook as well, but will wait until we redo the kitchen to bring the flooring in there because there will likely be layout changes. It will also go up the stairs, down the halls, into the master bedroom and new master closet and into the playroom area.
The carpet is getting installed next week and it will be in all three girls’ rooms.
How to find a good contractor- recommendations- how did you find yours?
There’s no better way to find a good contractor than a recommendation. Ours, Austin Crystal, was recommended to us by dozens of people. We sat down with him and went over our plans and he gave some expert advice and also didn’t try to talk me out of my design plans. I’ve met with so many contractors–so many!–and I love working with contractors who can handle my vision and don’t try to temper it too much. But also weigh in when we need some guidance.
Biggest challenges to deal with as a family and as a married couple during the reno?
The biggest challenge we have dealt with as a family has probably been making sure our home is safe and comfortable for our girls and Willow. That has been a lot of stress. We have a 2 year old who doesn’t exactly know better all the time so keeping a watchful eye and making sure our house is safe for everyone in it has been a stressor and, of course, why we ultimately took these two weeks to stay elsewhere while the biggest portions of the house are being done.
As a couple, I would say always being on the same page has been a struggle at times. Not disagreeing per se, but there are SO many decisions to make and sometimes they have to be made RIGHT THEN without talking to the other person so you just hope you’re doing the right thing. Chris and I are accustomed to making decisions together so feeling confident in my own choice has been something that I have had to grow into during this project.
How do you deal with decision paralysis/financial anxiety?
There are more decisions to be made than I ever thought possible and some that I stew over for days. (Like our stair railings–I still don’t know!). I’ve learned that there will likely always be a better option out there, so when I find something that I like, and it’s within our budget–go for it. Luckily almost everything has a deadline and I’ve learned that once I make my choice, I get a lot more excited than staring at 6 options.
Setting a budget has allowed us not to have too much financial anxiety. Of course things have come up, so we built a cushion into our budget that is nice to have, just in case.
Where do you start with a renovation?
For us, we started with the things that would basically get us to a starting point for us to step in and make this home our own over the next several years. Defining rooms and fresh flooring are BIG decisions, but everything else we’re going to be taking slow. It’s kind of like if you walk into a house with great bones and then you start adding trim and paint and wallpaper and textiles and furnishings. We’re bringing our home up to that blank slate status so we can work on it more ourselves.
But that doesn’t mean that’s the only way. Before we started our big renovation in this house, we pinned a lot of inspiration photos, we talked through what would work best for our family in this house. We chatted about the future. We did a few budget friendly makeovers to test out a vibe. We made a budget. We mapped out spaces. For us, it was important to get the main living areas functioning how we wanted.
Estimated finish date?
I’m assuming this question is referring to when these contractors will be finished? We had a calendaring meeting with our contractor, Austin, yesterday and went over each day and what will be getting done and figured they would be finished around mid-January (knock on wood).
Update wanted. Are the ghosts still mad about the renovation?
I shared a couple months ago that we had had some paranormal activity happen in our house. It had been happening since about 2 weeks after we moved in in June and we desperately called two energy workers in September to, literally, clear the air. We haven’t had any issues with lights turning off or on, doors opening or slamming, weird noises or any other paranormal activity (besides one weird day) since. Our home feels like our own now–whew!