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Remodeling the whole house

17 years ago

We are a few months away from completing a remodel of the whole house. We tore down the back half and we are living in the front half and will move into the back while the upper part is done. If anyone is thinking about this, we would be glad to give you our two cents worth. It has been a long process, a great experience, and we will be glad when it is complete. J says it is like camping with a roof over your head. Looking back, there are some things we would do different, and such, but for us those decisions have already been made. Anyway, if anyone is interested we will be glad to answer any questions you might have.


Comments (20)

  • 17 years ago

    We are in the stage of picking our GC. We are hoping the plans (2nd version) we have from the architect are within our budget this time and we can decide on our GC and get a contract signed. We want to start our work as soon as possible. We are remodeling what feels like the whole house as well.

    Here's our project list-
    Small Storage addition to front of garage
    Larger Hallway style addition to back of garage for mudroom
    All new windows
    All exterior stucco above brick to be removed and replaced with other siding material, probably cedar shingles
    New roof over entire house- back part of house changing roof style
    Room over garage with leaking shed dormer to be expanded and new roof line created for better water run off and added style
    new master bath/ walk in closet area
    Reno kids bathroom
    Reno Kitchen
    Reno front entrance- new door, new stone steps, add potico detail

    I am hoping to shop around this summer and pick out all siding material, flooring, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, lighting fixtures etc. so that we will know how much this will cost us before we start the remodel. We are still figuring 20% over contract price for unkowns but then an additional 60k for the above mentioned shopping list.

    Besides signing a fixed price contract and knowing as much as we can about our GC and his business history what other advise can you share?

  • 17 years ago

    I'm in the middle of a whole house remodel myself. 60k wouldn't have covered my "stuff" (three bathrooms, one kitchen, all ceilings removed and replaced, wood floors etc.,) So my first thought would be to spend time on your budget, and make it a really detailed one so you know where you'll end up. (If you want a buget sheet to work from feel free to email me and I'll share mine).

    I think pricing out the big stuff first is a must. Cabinets were around $40 of my "stuff" figure and then you start adding in appliances, plumbing, etc., and even the little stuff (knobs, switch plates, etc) and it adds up fast!

    I think the biggest thing we've done to make this easier is to carve out some family space during the remodel. We have a "galley" kitchen in the garage and have carpeted it as well as the outside area by the garage so we have a place for the little guy (19 months) to play. We added a temporary door at the top of the stairs to the bottom level to keep out dust and construction mess and made sure to leave ourself a living room and bathroom (as well as bedroom) to live in during the long months of remodeling. Having this area makes it much better than if you're stuck in a bedroom when you're home because the house is a mess.

    I personally also recommend either not quitting drinking, or taking it up. The plumbers alone will drive you to it :oP heh heh

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  • 17 years ago

    igloochic- we were hoping to stay in our house during most of the exterior work and not move out until the bathrooms are going to be done. We can stay at our in-laws house while they are in FL and hope the timing works out. With three kids (15, 12, 7)and a dog it won't be easy no matter what we do. My GC says it will be better if we move out but I have heard horror stories of work slowing down because once your out they assume your not in a rush to get back or aren't there everyminute to watch over them. I am the only one in the house that sees whats ahead- make shift sleeping quarters, make shift kitchen, sharing smaller spaces for months. Remodeling doesn't sound fun, but a must at this point in order to keep the house standing for several more years!

    Sent you an email- would love to see your budget sheet.

  • 17 years ago

    I don't have much advise on picking out a GC. I own a hydraulic sales and service shop, so I already knew my GC before we started. We have worked well as a team. I had him come over, walked the house with him and telling him what we wanted and then he gave me his input as to what would be best for living and resale, and then we would eventually come to an aggreament. I had him do it all, draw up the plans, we did get it engineered, but about all we decided on was the appliances, flooring, and I did take care of the retaining wall myself.

    I will aggree with igloochic, don't quit drinking, and go get a good supply of extension cords for when the electrial work starts and you have to hunt for a working electrial outlet. Also, it would not hurt to throw a few extension cords on the floor and get use to walking on them barefooted, at night on the way to the bathroom.

    We did put up a web site and have been tracking it process with pictures. We have not updated it in a while but will soon, it is: Go by and have a look and you will see, we did quite a bit.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Roberson house

  • 17 years ago

    We're about 60% done with a major remodel which involved new basement family room, two 2nd floor bathrooms, and now gutting and doing new kitchen layout with new windows, entry doors, new laundry area.

    All of our upfront planning (long time) has really helped this go relatively smooth. We eat/live in basement and sleep on second floor where 1 functional bathroom is located.

    The one thing we didn't plan well for is our dog. The dog is incredibly stressed out: barks all day when crews are using power tools, throws up & had a long diarrhea bout. We took him to dog day care and he ran around so much that he came home limping. We don't have an option of another family/place to take him other than a kennel. Our project is now in 3rd month and kenneling him that long isn't feasible.

    Summary: If you don't have a pet now, be thankful and wait until the remodel is done. If you have one, think about the effect it might have. (One of my friends just said that her cat was so scared that she hid in a wall and got drywalled in). Our dog goes beserk over vaccum cleaners. That should have been a good warning.

  • 17 years ago

    I didn't have email up yesterday, but I'll get you out a budget today :)

    We have two cats. I did think of them in the remodeling planning. We (the baby, two cats and DH and I) live on that lower level. The temporary door/wall has been a godsend. I have a small landing for the litter box, cat food and water is in the bathroom, and they have some room to run around in (the family room). During the day they hide under the covers in the bed, but they are out in the evening. When the contractors have to work down here, we lock them in the bedroom with their stuff so that they aren't under foot (or in walls). All openings made in the walls on this floor are covered with plastic and stapled closed until phase two when we'll move up and they can finish this level. It costs a bit more to do the job in phases this way, but it's worth it for your sanity.

    There hasn't been a day gone by where i haven't needed to be on site. Questions arise every time a wall comes down and I don't want other people guessing what my answer will be. If I did that, the plumbers would have built soffits throughout the house (part of the remodel is to get rid of soffits). They actually wanted to build one where I spent a fortune having a support beam removed which was acting as a soffit!

    THe kitchen in our garage has been a godsend, and our new "patio" (in front of the garage) has been as well. We spend a great deal of time out there away from the noise. I'd recommend (especially with kids) finding an area like this if you can!



    We've really gotten to know the neighbors since we opened up the new "living room". It's now a neighborhood hot spot to gather in the evenings for wine. We may need a liqour license soon heh heh



    We also have allowed the neighbors to use our dumpster for spring cleaning :) It's gone a long ways to make them feel better about plumbers who block their driveways....

  • 17 years ago

    Candj- WOW that is a big remodel. I'm sure it will be wonderful when it is done. What is your estimated finish date? Have you been living there during all stages of the project?

    igloochic- I can't wait to see the budget sheet and see how close/off my estimates have been and how many details I may have forgotten.
    The photos of your make shift living space really will help my DH understand what we are getting into. I love the idea of an outdoor space and a great way to gather with the neighbors and keep them happy.

    lkremodel- We have a little dog that is used to sleeping all day. He doesn't like the little swivel sweeper but the central vac doesn't bother him. I think we will be more aware of his behavior during this remodel thanks to this thread.

  • 17 years ago

    I've passed on commenting on this thread three times because I feel for you living through all this, but I just have to ask:

    WHY would you and your family live a step up from the homeless for many, many months in order to gain a partially-new, partially-old house? I understand if you are Californians with that weird tax law, but otherwise?

    In my area, when it's time to sell, the owner of an extensive remodel never gets his money back unless the house is "historic".

    How did you come to the decision to undertake a BIG remodeling project?

  • 17 years ago

    Because for some, a house has a sentimental value that is more meaningful than the money they have invested.Some people value memories and time spent in a home over the green.

  • 17 years ago

    I can't answer for the original poster, but I will give you my take. The living situation, when I did a much less ambitious remodel, was actually kind of fun. An adventure, kind of like camping. I remember the rubble fondly and living in close quarters with my family. Different strokes, for different folks.

    I also like remodeling, its my creative outlet. I'm always doing something. I do not expect a return on it. I would do the same thing if I moved into a brand new house. It is what I choose to do with my money.

    I can also understand why people take on big remodels. If I needed more space I would look into adding on to my existing home instead of moving. I hate to move. In my area moving is super expensive. Realtor fees, closing costs (some of the highest in the nation), moving expenses. Plus I love where my house is.

  • 17 years ago

    I can tell you WHY we are remodeling instead of building new. We don't want beautiful farm land or open space converted for yet one more house or housing development. I dislike the disposable society we have become and if I can do my part to revive an existing house and keep up the property value of the area I live in I would choose remodeling everytime. The area we live in used to have much more open space and farm land. There was a huge building surge in 80's and again late 90's we are hoping with the new green space laws our area will not change much more.

    We are in a great area, great schools and good commute to work. We can't imagine living in another area at this time in our lives but we also can't see living with dated bathrooms, dated kitchen and poor windows, ugly siding etc.. So our much needed repair list grew into a wish list for better function and design. Let's face it most houses that were built 30 or more years ago don't take into account how we live in our houses today. So we will remodel and update and live in a house we designed to fit our needs. Because we are not looking to flip our house and hope to stay in it for a long time we will get the most value from the money spent.

    When and if we sell someone will surely remodel this house yet again to fit the changing times.

  • 17 years ago

    We looked carefully as we made our decision to remodel and the budget crept up towards the purchase price. We are not adding sq ft as many doing something this extensive would be, but are just tweeking the sq ft we have, and upgrading everything from it's 1983 vintage feel.

    We live on the edge of a gorgeous little lake in a five level town house. We couldn't find any lake property for under a million dollars available, at that one property needed a couple hundred thousand put into it. So the first part of the decision was based on location and availability to replicate the location.

    We then did an "as proposed" appraisal to see if we could get close to our investment in a return on sale (if we were going to sell the day it was finished). I wanted at least a 70% return on our investment from the completed project (typical return on a high end kitchen and bath/s remodel). We easily received our return in the new value and in fact reached almost 80% of cost which is very good for a high end remodel return.

    So I wasn't making a bad investment, couldn't replicate the property elsewhere for anywhere near our costs, and didn't have to leave a neighborhood we love with wonderful neighbors, low crime, etc. So our heart and head went into the decision and I think it is a wise one.

    We've had two offers above the new appraised value since this started and both would recoup 100% of cost, so I think we're doing ok :o)

  • 17 years ago

    I am undertaking a whole house remodel. We have pretty much finished design and tweaking some last elements and getting first bids from contractors. I hope to start the remodel in September. I am undertaking this remodel because I love my neighborhood and my home. I am not making it much larger but making it more functional. I could sell my property today as land only and make twice what I paid for it. I could not afford to purchase an updated home in my area and many of them have been macmansioned. I don't want to live in a 5000sq.ft home. I only need 1900sq.ft and that is because I am keeping resale in mind. Left to me, it would be 1300sq.ft. The house is currently 1700sq.ft. Each person has to do what is best for them and I will not critize the choice to remodel or sell up. After doing all the numbers and analysis, remodeling made the most sense for me at this point in my life. All I ask it that you guys bear with me as I belly ache for the next couple of months during this process.

    Good luck!

  • 17 years ago

    OK, I understand "unique location". I guess for "emotional ties", I'd move within the area rather than live in dirt for a year. (My fond memories are of family, not rooms.) I understand wanting something other than a huge "thing" on former farmland, too!

    In my experience nobody has recouped dollars spent on extensive remodels. Two former neighbors did extensive remodels. Both lost a LOT of money when they sold. Even ten years later the remodels brought a lot less than comps that were designed to be that size in the first place. Buyers could opt for an all-newer home for the same money, and they did.

    I had quite enough of living in dirt when we remodeled a kitchen and replaced all the windows, added insulation, etc. in our first home. In retrospect, we should have moved long before we did. We could have been enjoying our present, new home for more years!

    DH and I bought an existing ranch to remodel. We wanted "nice, but not huge" and we wanted "location". I am so grateful we listened to our new next-door neighbor, who is an appraiser, and to GCs. We tore down and built new.

    People do what they need to do, but I know that we didn't grasp the whole story about remodel vs. move/build in terms of both lifestyle and prudent investment. Just another "input" about how it worked out for us.

  • 17 years ago

    Chisue- It seems to me that you did the largest type of remodel possible when you bought your ranch. I would say a tear down is a remodel at the largest scale. I am glad to see you used an existing house lot to create your dream house. Some of us can't tear down completely because we wouldn't have another place to live while building from the ground up and for others 75% of the house may be fine as is. Besides a little make shift living and camping out in the same room for several months is good for the soul. I am actually looking forward to my children experiencing this. I think it will be a great lesson in sacrificing your creature comforts for the gain of something better.

    Do you have any before and after photos. Would love to see them.

  • 17 years ago

    pinkpowertools - yeah, it is a big project. We are expecting to be done in August. We have been living in the front part of the house and it has been ok. It has been like camping out and I will admit it gets old at times, but we have enjoyed the part of seeing our ideas develop before our eyes.

    chisue - you know I don't know if I can give you a good explanation of why we did this other than we wanted to. Pure and simple, that was it. There were a lot of other circumstances that I could present, however, there are always several solutions to any one situation. We do like our neighborhood and I do understand your concern that we will loose money, and thank you for that, however, I think we will still be in this right side up when done. When finished, we will still be way under the appraised value of the house. We do have one situation that makes our decision unique. We are taking care of our 30 year old adult daughter who is severly handicaped and requres 24 hour care. Any house we could have bought we would have had to spend about half of what we are now spending to remodel for her needs, here we get that and more. Some people drive Chevy's and some people drive BMW's and both cars get you to your destination. We are going to stay here for another 10 years at least, and how much money we recoupe is of no concern to us. We are doing what we have talked about and dreamed about and we are doing it our way.

    Another thing we have built in to the remodel, is that at any time in the future, if we should so deisire, the house can easily be divided into two full size apartments and be rented out.

  • 17 years ago

    Thanks for your replies, pink and candj! I'm glad you took my question as intended, not as slamming you for your decisions. Sometimes I read the remodeling posts and think people have been brainwashed by the TV programs and slick magazines sponsored by...the remodeling industry!

    I'm such a smartie that I don't have a clue how to post photos! Good point about this being the Ultimate Remodel. Because we saved the foundation and a fireplace, that's exactly how the city treated our project. Since then they've changed the code, adding a $10K demo fee and some other expensive hoops.

    We tore down a 2000 sq ft 1950s low-pitch-roofed ranch with dubious additions (sinking foundation under one). We built a 2900 sq ft one story with walk up stairs to a full-height attic that can become another 2000 sq ft of BRs and baths (for a future owner). We spent an extra $40K for that attic due to advice that we'd never get value back for "such a small house" on an expensive acre that is zoned for 5-6000K sq ft. Our appraiser neighbor has since sold his ranch on an acre -- now a 5000 sq ft two-story. Through my open window I can hear carpenters putting up two other large homes on teardown sites nearby. The neighborhood is down to only three or four more likely teardowns now. There are other "historic" larger homes, too. These are "infill" projects, not the destruction of an entire neighborhood.

    I agree that your house is your HOME, but it is also for many people the largest investment they own. As long as you're happy with the results in the long run, that's all that matters.

    May all your materials come in on time (undamaged) and all your workmen show up regularly (and sober). May your house turn out to give you exactly what you've planned! And when it's all done, your family can go camping to recapture that "livin' close" feeling.

  • 17 years ago

    Our house is now under COMMPLETE remodel. Not by choice, but fire. We could doze it and start over much easier and quicker but then it wouldn't be "our house". It's not going to be easy to replicate all the 1860's touches that were still in the house but I'm going to do what I can. Now for the reason for my post.....
    I heard that most stucco has asbestos and really high disposal fees. If no one has mentioned that it might be work a look see to help keep you in budget without surprises.

  • 17 years ago

    bwstaton- "I heard that most stucco has asbestos and really high disposal fees."

    I think your advice was in reference to my remodel:

    We have had several bids to remove and dispose of the stucco. It has to be a separate bin in order to be dumped but no one has mentioned the possibility of not being able to take it and the fee seemed reasonable. Our house was built in 1980 and most of the upper portion is traditional stucco. Thanks for the heads up. I will definitely bring this up with the GC.

  • 17 years ago

    bwstaton, I'm sorry to hear they "why's" behind your remodel. I was a firefighter at one time in my life (volunteer) and I've seen the devistation that this kind of disaster can cause. I hope your new home is lovely, even if it never comes up to the level of your old home (which will be difficult) and that you are able to build new memories there. :) Hopefully everyone important to your memories survived the fire and will be there to share it with you!