Prioritizing home improvements...what would you do first? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 05-09-2011, 11:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We have a ton of unfinished projects and things we'd like or need to do around the house.  We are working on a budget/savings plan so we can hopefully accomplish some of  them.  My dh asked me to go through and see what I want done first.  That's not easy for me.  I want them all done right now at the same time!  LOL  Really though its hard for me to say what should go first.  How would you decide?  Would you do the easiest first?  The least expensive?  What you want the most?  Deciding what I want done the most is hard for me but I think its a new kitchen.  Our cabinets are really old and falling apart and so is the counter top.  I'm embarrased to do so but here is the list of projects.  We are really not that handy but have been trying but often run out of money or get in over our heads and give up.

 

Kitchen-new cabinets, counter top, stove/oven, dishwasher.  Take out un-needed doorway and drywall over. The fridge is a year old so it good.  The floor is fine but if we are replacing everything else it should probably be updated too.  New lights, sink, and a backsplash would be nice.  New sliding doors to backyard.

 

Dining room.  flooring... Its currently subfloor with a large rug on top.  Paint dining room.  There is just primer on the walls/ceiling now.

 

Upstairs-New flooring in upstairs bedrooms and hallway.  I'd like to get rid of all the old carpet and go with a hard surface floor which would be better for our allergies.  It would require subfloor be put down in hall. 

 

Fix plaster wall in school room/office. Paint.

 

New flooring in master bedroom.  Paint wood trim.

 

Deck on back of house.

 

Fix drywall in bathroom and trim out door.  That room is so close to done. 

 

Basement- hang drywall on walls and ceiling and paint. 

 

Fix or replace furnace.  Have proper heat runs put in basement.

 

Finish basement bathroom and utility room.  They need framed out and drywalled.  Bathroom needs sink and shower, and lighting & flooring.

 

Landscape backyard.

 

Fix fence gate. 

 

Paint downstairs entry and upstairs hall.

 

Ugh, I think I'm forgetting stuff.  Ok, that is a lot and why I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it.  I'm tempted to just print out the list, stick it to the wall and play "pin the tail on the donkey" with it.


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#2 of 18 Old 05-09-2011, 12:06 PM
 
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I would start with the furnace and anything that affects the safety of your home. (We had our furnace go out two years ago in February - not fun.) And if the deck is hazardous because it's got rotten boards, I'd put that on the early list as well.

 

We have a ton of stuff on our list, but mostly we are behind on keeping the house in decent shape so anything really cool or fun seems to have to wait. Last year, we ended up needing a new roof which was very expensive but we would've had extensive water damage had we not fixed it.

 

If you only have cosmetic stuff to do, then try to figure out what bugs you the most and start there if it's within your budget. (I like to make pros and cons lists for things or rate projects on a 1-10 scale to help me sort things out.)

 

This year, we HAVE to paint the outside of the house. Really, it needs new siding, but that is not in the budget at all, so we need the band-aid of at least painting until we can afford to re-side. We've been saying we're going to paint for 3-4 years now and something else always comes up (one year I broke my wrist and couldn't do anything). But this year, I am determined to get it done. And I am going to pick a new color so I feel like it's something I want as well. And I want to finish at least the bathrooms (we added one and redid the other). We ran out of money and FIL had to go home and he was doing all the work. Both bathrooms are completely functional but are still half ugly and need to be finished. We started them two years ago. That's what is bothering me.

 

Good luck. I hope you get some stuff going soon and can enjoy your progress.


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#3 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 05:47 AM
 
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You sound like me. We're renovation are very old home and I have a problem with getting too many projects going on at once. We did run into some issues due to the age of the house so we are now holding off on some of the more extensive renovations because realistically some things are not DIY. So we tackled all the more minor things, paint trimming, simple drywall projects.

 

Pretty soon the whole house started looking like a construction zone so we decided to focus on the rooms we spend the most time in. Even though the bathroom needs work we did the living room first. I originally had the living room further down the list, but it depressed me so much we redid it. Now I'm much happier because we spend most of are time in a nice room and any guest that come over are not likely to go into the laundry room.

 

We also did the landscaping since plants need time to grow, so we went ahead and put in all the smaller shrubs this year because each year we put that off would mean one less year of growth.

Just like the previous poster said there's always a list and you never know when the money you thought you had for renovations gets sucked up somewhere else. I had surgery this year so lots of the house work went on hold. OK I just keep going on...I would say that major issues (like furnace) should be at the top and then focus on areas that you spend the most time in or bother you the most.


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#4 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 07:14 AM
 
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#5 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 07:47 AM
 
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Being in the same boat, I'm voting for kitchen just based on me wishing mine was done.  It can be a practical place to start if you need to move appliances through other rooms since there's a good chance of dinging up floors and corners in that process.

 

One thing I've done is try to figure out what things I can do without him.  There aren't many, so it's an easy starting point.  I have patched and painted some walls, fixed the fence, filled in thresholds, prepared wood (planed, sanded, and finished them) and the landscaping is all me with the exception of moving some boulders.

 

Since it's spring, it's a good time to do the things that can't be done in other seasons.  Anything that involves having the doors open a lot.  Last year we put wood floors down just before going on vacation so we could have them sealed and cured by the time we got back.

 

Good luck!

 

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#6 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 07:55 AM
 
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Furnace would be #1. look for tax breaks for high efficiency furnaces.

 

Bathroom fixup #2, as it sounds really small.

 

Next, do either the entire basement or the entire upstairs.

 

I would do the kitchen last, as it sounds like a huge amount of money. Also, living there for a while will give you ideas about exactly how it should be.

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#7 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 09:51 AM
 
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I would make a "Project Notebook" - go through each room and take notes about all the things you would like to do. Try to figure out what you would like the rooms to look like, what colors you want to paint. I'd make a note next to everything I could do cheaply or by myself then try to figure out a budget for the additional rooms. 

 

I like to do one room at a time, I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from having a nice completed room. I'd probably just start working on whatever I could do in the one room that bothered me the most, start saving for the things I couldn't do, then when that room is done move to the next.

 

I'd do outside things this spring/summer - as much as possible. Plants take time to grow afterall! It's nice working outside in the summer anyway! Also, anything that saves you money in the long run, or is a safety issue should move to the top of the list.


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#8 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 11:43 AM
 
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I agree with the others - furnace is #1.

 

After that - paint. It's easy and relatively inexpensive, and has immediate payback.

 

After that, I would start with smallest projects first - fix plaster, fence gate, bathroom. I know I would get a lot of satisfaction out of making the list smaller in a hurry, instead of spending a lot of time and effort on a big project, and still have a lot of little things on the list.

 

Your other projects start getting expensive. Flooring can be really costly if you are thinking about hardwood; I'm personally not a fan of laminate flooring, though it is a good DIY project. The kitchen would be really expensive too - but maybe you can do it in stages. I would replace the light fixtures - I've replaced almost every light in our home, it's not hard, and light fixtures don't have to be expensive.

 

Landscaping can be spendy too, if you are looking at trees, shrubs, and perennials. I always buy bare-root trees - not only are they much cheaper than bigger trees, they seem to take root a lot faster, and in a couple of years they are as big as ones that started out a lot bigger. But keep your eyes out for people in your neighborhood that have plants you like - most gardeners are more than happy to split their flowers, if you ask.

 

If the appliances are in really bad shape, you could start there (easy, but expensive). New cabinets can go in later - that doesn't all have to be done at once. Even when you do upgrade the cabinets, you don't have to redo the flooring (unless you're changing the layout of the kitchen - that's an easy money/time saver.

 

Finishing the basement might give you a lot of payback for the effort, without a whole lot of money, but if you haven't done it before, it can be intimidating for someone who doesn't feel like they're very handy. Do you have any friends or family who have done it before? An experienced person could drywall a whole basement in a day or two - if you are a nice, it might take weeks. Taping and texturing is tedious work, and can look like crap if you don't do it right - it's probably one part of the job I might hire done.

 

What kind of money do you have put aside for home improvements? I think that might help you prioritize.


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#9 of 18 Old 05-10-2011, 06:15 PM
 
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I think the critical things move to the top of the list. But any room that just needs paint can be done anytime you have a free weekend.

When you mentioned the back porch, you didnt mention why. You also didnt mention your budgetary constraints. We just did our furnace, a week before spring arrived. While it needed doing, i kinda wish i had put it off until fall and done the back porch first, so we could use the back yard this summer (its just not safe right now). Budget-wise i'm not sure we can do both in one year, though. If budget would allow, id say do the backyard now so you can use it, but have the money set aside to do the furnace before winter arrives.

Basically, I recommend breaking your list into categories:
Things that must be done to preserve the house (roofing, siding, gutters, etc)
Things that must be done for safety (furnace, fixing stairs, etc)
Things that need doing (patching drywall,etc)
Things that you want to do - mostly the cosmetic stuff (replacing a functional kitchen, painting, hanging curtains, landscaping, etc)

And then divide each category into two:
Things you need to hire out
Things you can do yourselves

And for each item in that last category, estimate how long it will take and how much it will cost - be realistic.
Get quotes for as many of the other items as possible.

Then sit down and look at your budget for the month/quarter/year, and going forward. You should be able to start planning out when you can do which job.

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#10 of 18 Old 05-12-2011, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, everyone, for the very helpful replies.  Dh is pretty sure the funace will be a fairly minor fix and does not need replacing.  Getting that fixed by fall is on the top of the list.  I think we are leaning toward putting on a deck as our #2 because we'd really like to use the yard and grill a lot this summer and going in and out of the back door the way it is now is difficult.  We think if we have a nice deck we are more likely to stay home and enjoy our yard than go out and spend money.  Then we'll have more saved for other projects.  I should be able to get some of the painting and fixing of plaster done this summer too.  I hate to do that stuff during the winter when the house is shut up. 


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#11 of 18 Old 05-12-2011, 07:58 AM
 
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subbing as I'm in the same boat.  Luckily (?) our house is safe-ish.  The side porch is gross and we just ripped up the tile and tore off the paneling.  Of course now it will sit that way for who knows how long.  eyesroll.gif

 

The geniuses who were in the house before us took out a window out there and instead of FIXING it just stuck a board in and put paneling up over it.  yeah.  It's been leaking behind the paneling unbeknownst to us for at least 4 years (since we've been here.)  So that and the fact that they clearly shut their dog out there and he chewed the trim AND the door means that it needs a redo.  The exterior door is also flaking paint in a rather spectacular way so that's going to be sanded down and repainted.  Same with the front door, which is flaking, but apparently is not as ambitious as the side door.

 

Beyond that the cabinets and counter need redoing.  The windows over the sink need to be replaced as they are non-functional and that room could use a breeze. 

 

I have broken windows (one in a door, one in a window) on my sunporch.  The sunporch windows (not the broken one) leak.

 

Everything needs to be painted, but I did get started on that.  But as the lovely couple that lived here before opted to paint OVER wallpaper that's going to be quite a task.

 

The basement needs to be finished and the attic needs to be insulated.

 

The yard needs to be fenced (not a want-an actual need) and a driveway (yeah..we have two on a .19 acre lot.  what now?) will be ripped up along with some brick columns.

 

Our screen doors are busted and need to be replaced, but I had NO idea how much that alone is going to cost!

 

Anyway...you get the idea!  There's a lot to do and we need to figure it out pretty fast as the summer is when we'll have time to do it.  I'm grateful for the tips given and will be sure to employ them as well as stay tuned for more to come.  My biggest issue is figuring out how to make things functional, so I get paralyzed easily.  Money is so very tight that I can't afford to have to redo things so some of the bigger things get put off.  Sigh.

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#12 of 18 Old 05-12-2011, 11:25 AM
 
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Think about how doing one thing affects others. You want to paint your dining room. Does the wasted door you want to fill in go there? So if you paint the dining room then fill the doorway, you would have to redo the dining room.

I want a new kitchen. But I want hardwood on the floor. We have hardwood everywhere else on that level, and while I don't mind the wood being a different width or running a different direction, the stain has to be the same. So to do my kitchen, I need to refinish my living room and dining room. But the stairs from that level to the bedrooms are also hardwood, so they would need to be done at the same time, which leads to refinishing the hardwood on the bedroom level (all the hardwood needs refinished anyway). So to get my new kitchen, I have to redo my bedroom floor!

Hence, no new kitchen. lol.gif
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#13 of 18 Old 05-12-2011, 11:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Panserbjorne View Post

 

Everything needs to be painted, but I did get started on that.  But as the lovely couple that lived here before opted to paint OVER wallpaper that's going to be quite a task.

 

 

Oh no! This is our current project and no luck so far. We took down wallpaper in 3 rooms, but one little crappy paint job over the wallpaper and we can't get it off!


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#14 of 18 Old 05-16-2011, 04:16 AM
 
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My first priority would be to paint the room that's currently only primmer. I find primer paint does not wash down that well and anything slightly greasy (like kiddy fingerprints) can affect the final coat of paint.

 

After that  I try to think about how many rooms are affected by each job, how long rooms are going to be out of action etc.

 

For example we wanted to do our kitchen stuff over the summer when we could have simpler salad meals and BBQ outdoors. In winter we'd have been eating a lot of take away/meals out.

 

We also have a "on perfect room" theory. Try to get one room done as you would like it to be so you have a nice space to relax at the end of the day. I have a habit of starting to many projects at once and then can't sit in a room without looking round at all I haven't yet finished.

 

If rooms want painting and re flooring, think about getting the paintwork done first, then you don't have quite so many worried about splashing paint on the new floor.

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#15 of 18 Old 05-16-2011, 04:50 AM
 
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dh totally shares your one perfect room theory.  I can definitely see the appeal!

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#16 of 18 Old 05-22-2011, 10:33 PM
 
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That is a long list! I can understand the paralysis.

 

We do a lot of DIY on our house. Thinking about how things relate to one another is really critical. Aside from the particulars, it is usually a wise idea to start at the top of any room and work your way down. Preservation of the home/space (roof, outside walls, water issues, etc) and safety (potential falling hazards, proper heating if your climate requires it, electrical issues, child dangers, etc) come first, but work them into the what comes first in that area thought process. Anything that requires destroying and rebuilding the drywall should be done first, especially on the ceiling and walls. Floor work is almost always last. Paint is either last or right before floors.

 

Aside from the logic, though, comes peace and satisfaction and motivation. The perfect room theory is very, very satisfying and peaceful. The finish the easiest things first theory is very, very motivating. With a long list like yours, I'd be inclined to start with finishing the the rooms with the least amount of work and least cost and least time involved. I've read the whole thread and have gotten people's lists mixed up. LOL

 

I am a list girl for many things, but when it comes to really intense projects I find the list-making becomes a sidetracking project all on its own. In your case, I would just start doing something over Memorial Day weekend. Pick the one that will make you feel good about starting and finishing in less than three days. It always takes longer than anticipated, so keep that in mind and choose something short of your goal. Bathrooms tend to be faster to paint than other rooms because there is less stuff to move in the prep and clean stages; plus they tend to be smaller rooms.

 

Drywall is just no fun. Sorry, no way around it. We've put up quite a bit of it and I much prefer hiring out the taping and texturing parts. Blah. We do hire out certain aspects of jobs -- either due to skill level or time constraints or equipment needs. If we cannot borrow the proper tools or equipment, and the purchase price is high or the rental logistics and/or costs are unfeasible, it can be cheaper in the long run to hire out the job (or that specific part of the job). Demolition is generally low skill level work, so DIY is often more cost effective. If you plan to do demo and hire out the reconstruction, make sure to get the bids and talk to the professionals or whomever is going to do the work FIRST. DIY demos without a plan for reconstruction are always more expensive! ;)

 

Most importantly, have fun!!! You only have one life to live, make every moment count! love.gif


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#17 of 18 Old 05-22-2011, 10:46 PM
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I'd prioritize anything related to safety.  Then anything that adds comfort.

 

Then I'd focus on "quick wins".  What is fast and gives you most bang for buck?

 

Then focus on what is used / seen the most.  So basement lower priority.  Kitchen higher.

 

 

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#18 of 18 Old 05-24-2011, 07:00 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post

.......

Basically, I recommend breaking your list into categories:
Things that must be done to preserve the house (roofing, siding, gutters, etc)
Things that must be done for safety (furnace, fixing stairs, etc)
Things that need doing (patching drywall,etc)
Things that you want to do - mostly the cosmetic stuff (replacing a functional kitchen, painting, hanging curtains, landscaping, etc)

And then divide each category into two:
Things you need to hire out
Things you can do yourselves

And for each item in that last category, estimate how long it will take and how much it will cost - be realistic.
Get quotes for as many of the other items as possible.

Then sit down and look at your budget for the month/quarter/year, and going forward. You should be able to start planning out when you can do which job.

 

 

Very good advice!

 

But also a PP mentioned thinking about how one project can affect another.  Obviously the wall needs to be fixed before painting.  But, it can make sense to go through and do all the drywall/plaster repair first because of the dust created.  Then you are just cleaning up once.  Also with the amount of time needed for each layer to dry it makes sense to do all of it at once.

 

And if you want to do duct work you do that before doing any drywall repair.

 

I would paint after ripping out carpet (because ripping out the carpet is going to mark up your walls no matter how careful you are) but before putting down new flooring to minimize drips/dropcloths needed.

 

In short, after you make your list go through and make sure your timeline isn't going to result in you having to redo work because a future project might mess it up.  Consider lumping projects together to avoid doing the same set up/clean up multiple times.  For example, if you have to do a lot of drywall repair and priming it might make sense to rent a sprayer and do all the priming in the house at once from a 5 gallon paint bucket instead of buying more expensive gallons and doing the same exact set up and clean up for each room on an individual basis.

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