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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We bought a 26-yr old fixer upper last year and after painting inside and out we are moving on to landscaping and then remodeling the kitchen. Is anyone interested in discussing ideas for remodeling? We could talk about ways to cut costs, keep our houses healthy, screen contractors, or whatever.
 

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I wish you had started this thread about 2 years ago. We've been in our house for about 3.5 years now and all I can think about is moving to an apartment...Our house is old and we don't really have enough money to do anything really well and neither of us is handy enough to do the big stuff ouselves. Anyway, I wish you luck with your fixer-upper. Sorry I'm such a downer...
 

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Yes, us! We bought our 28-year-old house in May and are planning on remodeling the kitchen this winter and re-landscaping the front yard in the spring/summer. We are expanding the kitchen into the laundry room and former powder room, which is now a closet, and relocating the laundry room. DH is insistent on doing much of the work himself so I'm a little doubtful finishing it this winter is a feasible idea <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1"> . He has been working on moving the gas line for the dryer for about 3 months now--this whole time I've been hanging the wash <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/eyesroll.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="roll"> . We are wanting to put bamboo floor on the whole main level except in the kids' bedrooms. Anyone done bamboo? Eventually we will put a jetted tub in the master and tile the bathrooms (they're carpeted now <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked">: ). We are also working on replacing the light fixtures around the house--they're all very 70s. We put new carpet in the basement before we moved in (I couldn't live with the multi-color orange, gold, brown and green carpet that was there <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"> ). So, when all that's done, it will be a really nice house <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> .<br><br>
Oh, and my husband is toying with the idea of DIY concrete counters. Anyone heard of this or have experience with this? I'm leaning more toward corian. I am thinking of keeping the cabinets we have now. They still make this same style. We would just give them a fresh coat of paint and replace the hinges. We are going to purchase a new pantry cabinet--same style but in a natural wood color. And we're adding an island and a built-in computer desk. We will most likely hire a framer/drywaller to help with the new walls we'll have to build since I think that's beyond my DH's capabilities.<br><br>
I'm very interested in the best way to hire sub-contractors. We've had bad experiences in the past (sub-standard work, etc.).
 

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I once watched a tv program where somebody did DIY concrete counters, it came out wonderfully!<br><br>
My only concern is they are so heavy. We may do then someday as we plan to redo the kitchen someday when we have some extra $$
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think I have been watching entirely too many Extreme Home Makeovers but I am really getting excited about this!<br><br>
Jgale, try to remember why you bought your house in the first place. You wil have tons more space than an apartment plus a yard. A fresh coat of paint really does wonders and that is something you can do your self, one room at a time. We found that once we painted, the original doorknobs which were old and tarnished looked really bad. So we added shiny brass new doorknobs for about $10 each from Home Depot. My dh did it himself. Another quick and easy fix is to do your floors with Pergo. Actually, there are tons of brands of laminate floorings that look like real wood. You can do it your self because it basically just clicks and locks together. I would recommend getting a glueless floating system because the glue vapors are harmful and why bother with a bunch of messy glue if you don't need it. I have seen the laminate flooring on sale for a little as $1.75 per square foot. You could replace the floors in the main living areas (say, around 600sq ft. for around $1500 including the underpadding/vapor barrier and trim pieces)!! It's easy to keep clean, especially if you have pets. I do understand wanting to move to an apartment though, if you don't have pets and can find one that is conveniently located with a great pool and exercise room they are great. There is a building down the street from us that is like living in a resort.
 

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<a href="http://www.ifloor.com/cat_11/Bamboo.html" target="_blank">http://www.ifloor.com/cat_11/Bamboo.html</a> Check out this link springbabes. there are lots of places on the net you can get bamboo floors for around $3-4 per sq. ft with freee shipping. Do a yahoo search. I like the carbonized or medium honey color finishes, they will be more forgiving if you are not able to clean your floors as often as you would like to. We decided to go with a floating wood floor system that is engineered wood. We have a wood subfloor so it is expensive to put a plywood base down and then nail a real strip hardwood floor. Plus the engineered wood tolerates moisture much better and can be put in a basement or on the concrete subfloor directly (of course you put the vapor barrier/padding down first.) Concrete subfloors can absorb water up into them like sponges. The engineered woods can even be refinished if necessary. I just like the look/feel of the wood floors. Bamboo is very popular here in Hawaii though because of the tropical look. There have also been alot of discussions on the healthy home forum on the green benefits of bamboo. The glueless click together bamboo floors are supposed to be easy to do yourself. If you get a glue kind, be careful. Our neighbors used the wrong kind of glue and it mildewed, they had to take it out in less than a year. Of course our tropical climate tends towards that too.<br><br>
I haven't seen concrete counters. Here in Hawaii there are a lot of granite/stone dealers that have prefabricated granite counters starting at $175 for a 10 foot length of counter. Granite lasts forever and you can put hot dishes directly on it. Plus it's a smooth surface and you can chop veggies right on it, no cutting board needed. It's funny but it's cheaper than corian here. Corian won't tolerate heat, you have to use a trivet.<br><br>
AS far as contractors go, they are a dicey bunch. I would only go with someone if I have personally seen their work or gotten a good recommendation on from someone you know. So many people are remodeling here, almost everyone has a good/bad contractor story. Do not just pick someone out of the yellow pages. A good ad can make a bad contractor look good. Drive around and if you see someone doing some remodeling, stop and ask who they are using and if they like their work so far. Check out the contractor's license with the state licensing board. In Hawaii it's the board of consumer affairs. They will tell you if their license is current, if they have insurance and bonding, and if there are complaints against them. Get at least 3 bids on your job. IN general, the cheapest bid is usually cheaper because they are not as good as others. Of all people, I found a good painter through my housekeeper. She actually lives in a huge 10-bedroom house (nicer than ours) and the painter she recommended had the best price and did a nice job. GEt a contract in writing. I have found that they won't always put an estimate in writing but you need to get the contract in writing. Make sure it is specific - includes all prep work like washing the house, repairing any cracks in walls, etc. and includes all paint and materials to complete the job. And a biggie, should include cleanup cuz they can leave a huge mess behind. Write down how they will be paid. They usually want a deposit to get started %25-50 but the balance should not be paid until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Therefore, if they do shoddy work, they don't get paid until it is fixed or if they can't fix it, the money to pay someone else to fix it comes out of their end. Talk to people you know, I was surprised to find out that a neighbor who builds in Japan can order kitchen cabinets for me at a great price. If you don't know anyone who can make recommendations, another way is to go to open houses and talk to real estate people or go to the paint supply store and ask the guy selling paint who he would want to paint his house. I would not recommend Home depot or Lowes, they just call a contractor and add on a percentage for their markup.<br><br>
I learned the hard way:<br>
Get a definite date the job will be finished. We had to pay two weeks extra rent because our painters were behind - it added an extra $1200 to our cost to the job. If they don't finish in time there should be a penalty like $50 a day or whatever is reasonable. Of course if they are giving you a rock bottom price and are a small company they won't agree to that. In general, smaller owner-operated companies give me the best prices.<br><br>
Get a contractor you are comfortable with and can communicate with. My dh picked a guy to build our retaining wall because he was slightly cheaper and agreed to add in a sprinkler system and grass. I have a hard time communicating with him and a month later they are still here. The guy drops workeres off with poor instructions and I have to keep a constant eye on them. Since I am the one at home dealing with these guys, I am picking someone I liek next time.
 

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Yep! Our house is 50 years old and while a family room and bathroom were added and the kitchen remodeled, it still needs lots of help. We've already done the landscaping, but didn't have a whole lot of money. DH has painted most of the interior. We had the outside painted soon after we moved in 3 years ago. We did copper plumbing. We will need to do the roof in the next couple of years. We'd also like to take up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. The kitchen needs an update, but that will have to wait. And we'd love to expand our master bedroom. I'm thinking five years down the line. Our next project will be converting the guest bedroom into my office and remodeling the main bathroom. We want to paint and retile in there.<br><br>
We were very lucky with the plumbers and landscapers. We asked friends for referrals. So far the only thing we've done ourselves is painting. My brother has spent the last two years remodeling his house *by himself*. Yikes! I don't mind paying extra to have someone else do it in half the time it would take us.
 

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Count me in! We bought our house just over a year ago and have been going gang busters ever since. We just recently learned, as we've been sorting out our stupid property tax mess that our house was built in 1908 as a one story and somewhere along the line a second story was added - and not well.<br><br>
Our house had renters in it for two years before we bought it and the neighbors were more than happy to see them go and have been less than subtle about sharing that with us. The house was a complete wreck when we got it - a "pull the carpet out within minutes of closing" kind of wreck. Coincidentally our next door neighbors have three children (10, 13, & 15) who are being homeschooled by the father and they are a total NFL family - they used cloth, slings, had their last one at home, etc., etc. What fun to randomly move in next door!<br><br>
So far we have done the following either by ourselves or with dh's father:<br>
-moved and replaced all the downstairs windows and doors<br>
-eliminated two exterior doors<br>
-moved the basement stairs<br>
-rewired the whole house<br>
-replumbed the whole house<br>
-put a new subfloor in and have the engineered floor in boxes in the basement<br>
-rebuilt a corner of the foundation<br>
-took out two walls downstairs to create one big living/dining/kitchen area<br>
-put in a supporting beam to compensate for the removed walls<br>
-removed all the wood lath and plaster downstairs<br>
-insulated the downstairs walls<br>
-stripped ~five layers of wall paper (with layers of paint interspersed) off the walls upstairs<br>
-painted two of the three bedrooms so far<br>
-replaced all the upstairs windows<br>
-put in a half bath downstairs<br><br>
And we've hired out these three jobs:<br>
-had the furnace replaced and all new ductwork put in (there was only one duct upstairs - brrr!)<br>
-had the downstairs drywalled<br>
-had the attic insulated<br><br>
We collected bids and interviewed HVAC companies to do the furnace, the drywaller was the friend of a friend, and the attic was insulated by the only company who would call me back! We have been lucky and had great service and work done by all three sets of people.<br><br>
The end is finally in sight. Our twins were born early (3:30) on a Sunday morning and the drywallers arrived on Monday... It's been a bit crazy around here but we're so pleased with the decisions we've made and the results so far. We are planning to put in a new kitchen and use cabinets from Ikea. The bulk of the work left to do revolves around choosing paint colors and other finishing details. My husband is tired of this project and very motivated to get it done which is nice but also means I don't see much of him on weekends because he's locked in a room working while I sit and nurse the babes.<br><br>
Has anyone hired/consulted/worked with an interior designer? It seems so funny to even think about using one but we're about at that point - it's either that or pull our hair out trying to figure out what colors to use when the downstairs is essentially all one room. My husband is of the variety that gets so overwhelmed by all the paint chips at the store that he finally just picks something and says he likes it, regardless of whether he does or not, just to be done with the task. Not the best way to approach these decisions in my opinion.<br><br>
What condition were your houses when you bought them? Any major surprises that the inspector didn't find once you started working on it? I love talking home stuff and look forward to hearing what great ideas you guys have!<br><br>
Have a great holiday!
 

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Cindy C, I am with you. Dh and I both agree that we would rather pay someone a reasonable fee to get it done quickly than to try and do it ourselves. Our 4 yr old is much too helpful<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1"><br><br>
Gretchen, wow, you guys have gone quickly! I'll bet your house is awesome. I have tried to use a decorator with some success in the past. First, I tried a window-covering designer but her products were ridiculously $$$$ ($1300 for fabric verticle blinds for one room). I just went with off-white Home Depot vert. blinds for the rooms and had another designer out to help me choose/order fabric for the window seat and to recover the DR chairs. She was helpful and I was able to get a nice basket-weave golden/taupe for the window seat with a palm tree/elephant antique style for the DR chairs. I told her I wanted something with an island feel to it that wasn't too bright aloha. These fabrics also helped to tie together my traditional/antique furniture with our island-living home.<br><br>
The third designer I discovered via an open house but she is way to $$ for me. Her fee is $1800 just to design a kitchen then you order your cabinets through her and she says they are as expensive as Home Depot's top of the line cabinets but the quality is probbly middle of the line. I like to browse open houses and read home magazines for decorating ideas. I read somewhere that some designers don't charge for their services, they will get a commission from the supplier but I haven't found one. Anyone else have experience with a designer? I have to say, I can usually tell the difference between a home done by the homeowner and one that has used a designer, they really do a nice job. I would love to have one but with our budget, I would rather spend $1800 on cabinets or a new granite counter than on a design plan.<br><br>
Yes, we have some issues with our house the inspector didn't find and I believe the previous owners may have not disclosed to us. Some of the floors are not level (from less than 1" to less than 2" difference) and in the process of trying to get a flooring contractor to level them I am discovering we have some settling of the foundation. We are on a steep hillside and water pools against the house during heavy rains because the builder never put in proper swale drains to route the water away from the house. I am waiting for an estimate to have the drains put in to get the water away from the house. We won't really know what we are dealing with in the foundation until we take the relatively new Pergo floors installed by the previous owner up. I am wondering if we have any recourse if there is something big they didn't disclose to us. They had the house for 12-13 years and put the new floors in presumably to spruce it up to sell.<br><br>
Cindy and Gretchen and anyone else who has had their house re-plumbed, how much does it cost? Did you have a concrete sub-floor or wood?<br><br>
Thanks!
 

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Yuck on the pooling water. Our basement gets some water in it when it rains torrentially but we've discovered that if we keep our gutters super clean it helps a lot. I can't imagine there's no way the previous owners didn't know about the water problems. Not the most pleasant situation, but you may consider consulting a real estate attorney because I imagine foundation problems could be quite expensive to fix although I don't know what would happen because it would seem like you'd have to get them to admit knowing about it and who's going to do that? Especially problematic if they live across the country now. The attorney we first started working with when we were trying to buy another old house didn't charge anything for the first meeting and I must have talked to him for two hours trying to figure out how to get out of a contract after we got a horrible inspection report (we were with the inspector for five hours going through the place). Anyhoo, it may be worth looking into it.<br><br>
We have wooden subfloors and I have no idea how much our plumbing would have cost if someone else did it. We also had the advantage of having walls open or not worrying about putting holes in walls as we were going which made things a lot easier. I don't know if it's code where you live, but we put in PEX instead of copper. My husband bought all the copper and then we caught an episode of This Old House and they were talking about PEX and how it's been used in Europe for ages and it's less problematic than copper because there are no fittings to start leaking within your walls. I think he found it really easy to work with. We were replacing super corroded galvanized steel pipes. You should have seen them when we pulled them out. One inch pipes had a pencil width holes left in them... It was so so so gross, especially having seen who lived here before us.<br><br>
Thanks for the thoughts on designers. I may try calling around after the holidays to see if I can find someone I like. We'd do the work ourselves we just need ideas. I still can't believe we're talking about hiring an interior designer. I know what you mean about houses looking better when they've been done professionally. We're very casual people and need something that will withstand two toddlers in the next few years. I always wonder on programs like Trading Spaces (pick your design show) how odd it must be to have this super fancy, pulled together room in a house where nothing else has been done. I think I'd be motivated to do something with the rest of the rooms after that.
 
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