How to Plan for Your Home Renovation (Because I Just Bought a "Fixer-Upper!")

I've been on a blog hiatus because, well, life.

In the span of 2 months, we made the decision to move, sold our house, found a house, had a contract, terminated a contract, found and bought a new one and began renovations. I finally got myself a fixer-upper (cosmetically speaking). This house has projects galore and the old owner apparently went balls to the walls at a peach, brown, and brass sale. In addition to that, the overall "design" was about as boring as waiting at the DMV. Needless to say, it has enough projects to keep me busy for a looooong time. Okay, so maybe just a year... or a month. But you get the point. Below are a few of the MLS listing photos of part of the downstairs (thank you Zillow!).

Renos can be tricky. If you're not careful (and sometimes even when you are), money can magically disappear from your bank account like the worst kind of party trick. So I'll share the biggies of how I created my renovation plan.

-Create a budget with categories and stick to it. When you do, it helps you know where to shop and what you can and cannot have. I kept the budget for this renovation pretty small, between $12,000-$13,000. So I divvied it up and made decisions at the get-go of what I wanted done immediately and what would have to wait. Here's what my "do-it now" categories looked like:

  1. Paint (painter + materials) - $3,500
  2. Back splash and fireplace (tear out + install + materials) - $1,250
  3. Kitchen floors (tear out + install + materials) - $3,000
  4. Expand wood floors (install + materials) - $1,500
  5. Lighting (My handy hubs did all the electrical) - $600
  6. Hardware/Misc. decor/Add'tl furniture - $3,000
  7. Contingency - $650

Things that would just have to wait were new kitchen counters (current ones are granite and neutral enough for now), master bathroom overhaul, decorative elements like wallpaper, and replacing all the knobs and fixtures upstairs.

-ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS create a contingency line item in your budget. If you're doing anything with construction, I can pretty much guarantee there will be some sort of crappy surprise that will be unveiled and to move forward, you'll have no choice but to dole out the dollars. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 5-10% of your entire budget. Now, I'm a self-proclaimed budget nazi so I'll hammer this point home 'till my dying day. 

Mid-kitchen overhaul. Now THIS is my dream situation with two dogs and a toddler and working from home. Just.Kidding. We ate a lot of Spongebob microwave macaroni.

-Figure out what you can (and are willing) to DIY and make look awesome, and what needs to be done by a professional. Because my husband, Jon, and I didn't want to poke our eyes out with nauseating how-to youtube videos, we decided to hire a contractor to tear out and re-tile our kitchen floors, back splash, and fireplace surround and expand the wood floors. And, we hired a painter to paint pretty much the entire downstairs and cabinets. While we could have done the painting ourselves (because I LOVE to paint) we have 20+ ft. walls. So, no. Excuse me, it was really a hell no.  Oh, and thank goodness for the contractor because the old back splash was so stinking heavy, it ripped the drywall off, and the floors were uneven so they had to lay self-evening concrete (remember that contingency budget?!). Things we'll be doing ourselves: staining the banister, installing cabinet hardware and lighting fixtures, replacing outlets and door knobs, painting upstairs walls and cabinets, a fireplace wall feature, general handymanish stuff, and landscaping.

This is what happens when your contractor and his peeps take a little too long doing their thang. And yes. That is a refrigerator in MY LIVING ROOM. It was fun. Really really fun.

-For the professional work, get SEVERAL bids from individual tradesmen as well as contractors. It may slow you down at the get-go but it is so very worth it. It can literally save you thousands of dollars, it did me!  After all my bids, I ended up choosing a contractor which was the last bid I got. Some caution though. DO NOT get bids or hire a company or contractor without seeing or hearing multiple referrals, and looking them up on BBB. Also, when working with a contractor, you should know, they have certain reputations for a reason. Nearly every single one of them. While they're technically the "project manager", YOU are the person that is in charge and needs to stay on top of progress, and by that I mean, stay on top of the contractor. Reason? They have a ton of clients at once and are not usually at the project sites very long or very often. I called my contractor about two times a day to give update reports, issues that I saw, and to also tell him to hurry the heck up!

So there's the beginnings of my renovation plan. Stay tuned next week for progress pictures!