Your Fantasy Home Remodel

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

So, we’ve had our house now for about 11 years. It was brand-spanking new when we bought it. Since then, we’ve redone the floors and repainted and done a few minor things. Now that my mom has been gone for two years, and the dog is gone, and it’s down to just us and the very elderly cat, we’re thinking about redoing the basement. Currently it’s just a big storage mess. Bit by bit over the last two years DH has tossed virtually all of my mom’s stuff, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because I just couldn’t do it — too emotional.

But what are we going to do with it? I go in circles. We could make it into a living space of sorts. Add a bathroom (it’s set up for one), try to mute the noise from the furnace, etc. Part of me thinks we should be ready to either rent it out when we get old, or use it to house homeless persons/persons in transition, though DH usually smacks some sense into me when I start thinking that way. Or we could make it into a rumpus room and wait patiently for grandchildren to show up. In the meantime, if I wanted to host Bible study groups or something, any kids could be watched in the rumpus room. The whole house is really not set up for multi-family use. It’s too open. Not enough doors. Even if we tried to make the upstairs more of a self-contained living space, it’s still a problem because all the bedrooms are upstairs, including the master.

Anyway, we have a designer/architect coming over to talk to us and help us think things through. My proposed discussion question is: If someone dropped $100K on your head and said you had to use it to remodel or fix up the house, what would you do?


115 thoughts on “Your Fantasy Home Remodel

  1. My favorite topic! We’re actually in the early stages of remodeling our first floor so we’ve been thinking a lot about this. New kitchen first (no counter space in current set up), then refresh of master bath (reasonably new but don’t like the tile/finishes), screened in porch, add a few fireplaces (gas), and if we had money left over finish small room in basement for exercise/tv room.

  2. New kitchen and trim everywhere! EVERYWHERE! Wainscoting, coffered ceilings, chair rails, boxes, tray ceilings. new bathrooms while we’re at it. $100k would be gone like that.

    Rocky – I love our finished basement, but I don’t see the point for just the two of you.

  3. Milo – I love trim and wainscoting. DH has been doing new crown molding and baseboards in some of the older bedrooms in our house, it’s not terribly hard to do yourself if you like that sort of thing.

  4. Rocky — is it a walk-out basement? I remember moving to CO and being told that basements were included in the square footage and being grossed out, because basements back here tend to be either of the stone-cellar-scary-movie or ’70s-dark-paneled-rec-room variety. It was a shock to realize that the back half of a “ranch” house was basically a two-story.

    I would probably do a rec room, because of that multi-functionality thing. A comfy sitting area with fireplace and a pool/air hockey/foosball/etc. table are mandatory; if you’re inclined, it can also be a nice area for an exercise room. I would also definitely add a half-bath — who wants to run upstairs in the middle of a game? And a wet bar. My dream would be the Irish pub feel, opening to the cozy stone fireplace area, but I would at least do some cabinetry, a sink, and a mini-fridge — again, who wants to run upstairs for a snack in the middle of a game?

    My current “if you handed me $100K” upgrade is my garage, which, alas, must be funded without someone actually handing me $100K. Meeting architect this afternoon to see initial drafts of two options. The most likely approach is going to be to expand the carriage house, use the new area for the shop, and let me take over the original garage part for, you know, a garage. Not optimal, because it will be a ways from the house and only 2 cars. But it has the advantage of having a prayer of going forward (because DH, who really doesn’t give a crap about the garage, gets a new shop — sometimes I can be smart). Plus the attached version we were thinking of was rapidly spiraling north of $100K (“but it will cut off part of the deck and block our views — I know, let’s fix that by making it a flat-roof garage and putting a roof deck on top, and then we’ll hide the ugly wall by turning it into an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven”).

  5. ” it’s not terribly hard to do yourself if you like that sort of thing.”

    Maybe I’ll try. Those angled cuts with the jigsaw terrify me.

  6. We would do the kitchen, master bath and upstairs main bath.

    Question for the group: DH says we *must* do these three rooms before we list the house. (We are likely to downsize in the next 5-10 years). I say meh, do them if *we* want them done, but don’t do them for some future buyer. If buyers want a discount b/c they think these things need to be done, we can consider that. But nothing we do before we sell will be exactly what the next person wants. Thoughts? I guess we should have our realtor walk through and tell us?

  7. Since last year’s Camry level kitchen reno is not going to be torn enough out and redone to an aspirational level, that 100 k would take care of everything else on my list. Hi

    Replace all the original windows and exterior doors.
    New hvac with zones.
    Improve unfinished attic insulation.
    Cork floor in basement.
    Replace cracked patio.
    Hardwood on stairs and 2nd floor, with full room area carpets, stair runners.
    Redo first floor powder room reconfigure for easy by not obvious use by those with mobility issues.

    Only the last would be something I would recommend to RMS, if necessary.


  8. Risley – I’m inclined to agree with you. As long as you price it appropriately…

    The flip side that supports our argument is that “they” always say things like “kitchens and bathrooms are a great investment; you’ll get back X% of the cost when you sell.” But the percent is always below 100.

  9. I would burn through $100k quickly – remove popcorn ceilings from bedrooms, new trim everywhere, new kitchen cabinets (I’ve got 1950 originals), and add a master bath.

    Rocky – my MIL has a finished walkout basement with kitchen and bath. The square footage is bigger than my house. It is only ever used when we come over. It is nicely furnished, but I find it terribly cold. In the summer I’m freezing down there. And it will go months without being used, so a bit depressing. In my mind, I think it is too much space. That being said, if we ever did a total remodel of our house we would be living her basement, so it isn’t all bad.

  10. “I think you get a mitre (sp?) saw/tool for that and that makes it easier. ??”

    See? That’s my problem.

  11. Milo, get a mitre saw – works great. Back in late 70’s my husband did some crown using a hand saw – was not pretty being around him. While the crown came out nice – my husband was a bear. When he did crown with mitre saw – much nicer.

  12. Milo – DH says you need a compound mitre saw for cutting the boards generally. For angles you just need a coping saw (like $10) and cut the angles by hand which he said was better than the kreg crown pro (like $30). It took some practice and we have very uneven walls and ceilings (original 1950s part of the house) but he’s a pro now. You probably wouldn’t have the uneven walls problem in your newer house.

  13. We just finished a remodel last year, so, with another 100K I would put in a pool and hire a decorator for the house.

  14. My house is only 9 years old and really just needs a good cleaning and some fresh paint. However, I have never really liked the master bath, and it was too late to change anything when we put a contract on the place.
    1. I hate having to walk through the bathroom to get to the closet, would like to swap them or otherwise switch up the layout.
    2. I would love to have just a big, fancy shower instead of the oversized jetted tub + tinyshower stall.
    3. Instead of the long counter with an opening, I guess for a chair or stool (but just wasted space to me), between the two sinks and an expansive mirror wall above, I’d prefer separate his & her vanities flanked by lots of built-in storage.
    4. Enclosed toilet room.
    5. Professionally designed & organized closet.

  15. Milo – you call my FIL. He works for scotch and bananas.

    If I had 100K, I’d try to add to that budget and see what additions we could get. I’d love to make the house a forever home by adding about 1200 square feet to the house (bringing the total up to a whopping 2600). We could expand the kitchen, get a master bath, expand the upstairs bath, reconfigure the 2 other bedrooms upstairs (maybe get a 4th up there), and a family room. All in all, I’d probably end up with a 3-4 bedroom 3 bath home, better closet space upstairs, a larger dining room, an office (current dining room would become a library/office with potential for a bedroom if needed), a true family room, and a place to put a piano.

    In reality? I’d face-lift the kitchen (last done in the late 90s – cabinets are solid, just needs cabinet refacing, new back splash, counter tops, and lighting), finish the reno on the upstairs bathroom (expand drop-in stall shower, replace fixtures), get all new windows for the house, and probably open the wall between the living room and stairs (all so I can have a banister on which to hang stockings… and open up the stairwell, but that’s secondary to the cute pictures!). The remainder would go towards a down payment on a larger home. I predict we have 5-10 years left in our current home.

  16. My house is about 75 years old, and there’s a ton of stuff to do. On our shortlist: replace roof (at some point, you have to stop plugging leaks and just redo the d*mned thing) and replace driveway (cracked, uneven, and too narrow). Leftover funds will be used to refresh paint, replace 20 year old stove and oven in kitchen, repair some broken electrical outlets, and replace carpet in master bedroom.

  17. ok, so we have a typical house for the area. to the left of the entry is the (furnished, but largely unused) living room, which leads to the (also fully furnished and slightly more frequently used) dining room. The dining room has a common wall with the kitchen.

    What I want to do is knock out the wall between the kitchen & dining room to really expand the kitchen, then completely redo the cabinets, counters, appliances, island. The kitchen already has a bay window eating area with a big round table that seats 6 and I’d keep that.

    If we did that, we’d have to choose between keeping that room off the entry as a living room or get rid of that stuff (some of which needs replacing anyway) and turn it into a dining room.

    BUT…DW is not on board with this grand plan.

    What we have agreed on is redoing the master bath. I’m sure we would both agree to putting in a bathroom in the already fitted out part of the basement for guests. (DS1 has just this week brought up the idea of bringing his gf with him when he next visits…I can see more of that kind of thing happening over the next 5-10 yrs.)

    Front Landscaping, too. And the back deck needs some attention.

  18. “Those angled cuts with the jigsaw terrify me.”

    Rule #1: step away from the jigsaw and no one gets hurt.

    Rule #2: get your wife to do the coping for you. :-)

    If you want, you can do mitered corners. But those tend to open up and can be difficult with crown, where it’s basically an upside-down compound miter. You get a better result if you cope. Here is how you do it:

    1. Butt the first board up against both walls.

    2. Cope the end of the second board to nestle up against the first board. This is simpler than it looks, but it does require patience.

    a. Cut a 45-degree angle with your miter saw, as if you were doing a mitered corner.

    b. If you have pre-painted or stained trim, you will have a clear line of demarcation, where the stain/paint ends and the bare wood begins. Conveniently, this line is in *exactly* the shape of the trim board you are trying to match to. So your job now is to remove the bare wood precisely to the point where the stain/paint begins.

    c. To do this, I would start with a coping saw to cut off the excess, and trim down to maybe 1/4″ left of bare wood. Note: you want to back-cut it slightly at this stage — it makes fitting better, and you never notice the missing wood, because it’s hidden against the wall. So you started off by cutting a 45 one way, now you want to cut the other way just a little bit so any remaining bare wood is hidden behind the finished face.

    d. Then get a rasp, preferably one with a slight curve on one side, and rasp the remaining bits down to just where the paint/stain starts. This is where patience — and the wife — comes in handy.

    e. Test-fit a few times, adjust. Helpful note: if you totally screw it up, you can just go back and chop off the end with the miter saw and start over.

    f. Cut other end of board to butt up against the far end of the wall (note: you can also do this earlier — I just like to make sure I haven’t screwed up the cope first, per f). Helpful hint directly from our former carpenter: cut the boards 1/8″-1/4″ long — if you have a slightly tight fit, it will help keep the joints from opening up.

    g. Repeat with other boards.

    The only real trick to coping is to think about the board layout first — generally, it looks better if your primary angle of vision is along the coped board up to the butted board, because if you’re looking directly at the cope, you’re more likely to notice imperfections. So for ex, with a dining room, I would place the butted board along the far wall that is directly opposite wherever you are when you first walk into the room, so all the copes “disappear” into that one.

    Not that I have spent any time at all doing this. . . .

  19. Hmm, our house is 22 years old and we have plans for $100k. :)

    Milo, you need to use a mitre saw. Can’t you post on Facebook asking to borrow one? Likely someone or his/her father has one you could use for a few cuts. Mr WCE has one that he has used for trim, picture frame, cutting bricks for our curved sidewalk and cutting pipe to upgrade/modify/fix our house drainage and irrigation systems. Friends occasionally come to borrow his.

    Our list
    1) Redo master bath, removing disgusting light grey carpet, pink tile, replacing tarnished brass fixtures, replacing toilet with a modern low flow one that actually works well and adding a durable vanity. Heck, if we had $100k, we’d redo the shower/tub we don’t like also. We’d probably put in neutral tile.
    2) Replace tarnished fixtures/toilets in other bathrooms.
    3) Replace roof.
    4) Replace aging, slightly undersized furnace. Consider heat pump.
    5) Replace undersized air conditioner, possibly with heat pump above.
    6) Replace 22 year old light gray carpet and put tile or hardwood in the entry way/traffic path from entryway to kitchen through living room. White tile in the entryway was not a good choice, original owners..
    7) Redo the drywall in the places where it was incompetently done.
    8) Upgrade natural gas line and replace fireplace with an efficient one that actually puts out heat.
    9) Add generator for house, just because we’d have $100k and Mr WCE wants that.
    10) Replace aging large windows with at least some that open so we are not so air conditioning dependent.
    11) Replace rusting steel double door with decaying inner plastic frame with non-rusting fiberglass and have standard patio door screen for air.
    12) Remove bedroom wallpaper and redo, possibly with wainscoting.
    13) Built-in storage in the office-as-bedroom downstairs so the room is more usable.

    RMS, maybe a half bath in the basement and storage. But maybe the length of this list will make you feel better about your house.

  20. I am getting bids on phase 2 now – replacing and moving HVAC to the garage and demo the early 80’s era wet bar in the family room in order to expand laundry room and redo downstairs bathroom. With 100K I could probably redo the kid’s bath upstairs too – that is next on my list as well as the popcorn ceilings in their rooms. Last is the outdoor space, but with the drought no point doing it yet. I did the master bathroom about 4 years ago so that and the kitchen/living/dining room are done.

  21. @Ris — Do you never watch House Hunters? It is amazing to me the number of people who can’t get past what color a room is painted, or a stain in the bathtub. Sure, you’d think logically that people would rather do it themselves just the way they want it, and drop the price to account for that. But it seems like (a) you’re going to lose some buyers entirely if it’s not updated and move-in ready, and (b) the people who are most likely interested in a fixer-upper are going to seriously lowball you because of the time and hassle involved (or maybe that’s all they can afford).

    I’d get a realtor’s advice. I think when you sell you want to be just slightly nicer than your competition — so if everyone around you has a master bath from the ’90s, you’re fine if yours is from 2000, maybe not so much if it’s from 1983. OTOH, if you’re competing with a lot of new construction or updated places, yeah, you’d better throw some $$ at it if you want to sell at any kind of reasonable price. In which case you might as well do it now to get some use out of it, because you’re still not going to recover all that $$.

  22. Oh, I forgot landscaping! The front is in desperate need, and the back could use help, particularly on the side that’s not privacy fencing (put in by our neighbors).

  23. Our house is 50 years old. We did a major renovation (similar to what Rhode wants to do) 15 years ago and it is time for a facelift. The interior and exterior need painting, the wood floors need to be redone and I want to replace the tile floor in the kitchen and family room with wood. I’d also like to replace the screen porch we lost when we blew out the kitchen. And reconfigure my too large master bath into separate toilet area and a larger closet for DH. We had an oil-based faux pattern painted on the walls of the high traffic rooms on the first floor, and they have held up great. Very easy to wipe clean. At the time, the painter said we’d get tired of the pattern before it actually needs to be repainted. He’s right.

    DH finished our basement about two years ago. The most time consuming tasks were getting rid of junk we had accumulated and relocating heating pipes, water pipes, electrical wires, and AC vents in order to gain more ceiling height. The kids use the basement quite a bit, and the boys sleep down there when we have a lot of overnight guests.

  24. I agree that the remodeling process includes cleaning out quite a bit of junk. I am going to have to clear out two closets, and several cabinets and a big part of the garage to start this next project. So far I have been pretty good at not cluttering up the new kitchen – so maybe a benefit will be having a low clutter house once I am all done.

  25. OK, so if we had more like $200K (that we wanted to invest in this house), here is what I would do:

    We have a front porch that wraps around the side of the house in an L, but only goes about halfway down the side before it stops; the area where there is no porch is the dining room, with a small office behind that on the back corner of the house. I would continue the porch all the way along that side of the house, but as a screened porch, with a door opening between the two windows in the dining room. I would then tuck an attached garage in the back corner of the house, as per the “ridiculously expensive” plan above, so that the screened porch would basically butt into the garage side wall, and the garage wouldn’t look so much like a giant boil stuck on the side of the house. The garage would still extend a bit wider than the screened porch, but only a few feet — just enough for a side-entry door into the garage and a nice trash can storage area outside.

  26. We started de-cluterring before DS was born. We got through 3/4 of the basement, his closet, and the most of the closet in the 3rd bedroom. We have a few more things which will be donated or sold at a neighborhood garage sale.

    I cannot wait until the basement is finished. My mom is a hoarder and we’ve had fights over the things she thinks I want to keep. When I did my last purge, I had to hide things from her (she happened to be over) because she would have gotten all sentimental. My view is if I haven’t needed it, seen it, cared about it, etc. in the last 5 years, I can donate it safely.

  27. RMS,
    My take: sell the house.

    On our house, we have 15 years of kid time left in this house, so we are not selling. I would toss the carpet and redo the master bathroom.

  28. Milo, I would lend you my compound miter saw, but it’s probably a 400 mile drive away :)

    I got it off Craigslist for $80, and they seem to come up fairly often around here.

    We are still paying for the last renovation, which we just finished. I ought to have the driveway paved and the yard landscaped and fenced. Someday!

  29. Currently we have wall to wall carpeting upstairs where our 3 bedrooms are. DH and I are in agreement that it’s in terrible shape and needs to be replaced. However, we get hung up trying to figure out what to do. DH would like to replace it with hardwood floors but it’s too expensive (the original fir floors underneath the carpet are too far gone to be restored). Also, our 3 bedrooms are very small – so the carpet is almost completely covered up with beds and bureaus in each of the 3 rooms. I don’t know where we’d put all our furniture in order to get the work done. We both get stressed out just thinking about it – and then nothing gets done. Sigh.

  30. SSM – we replaced carpet in kids bedroom with new hardwood floors and the price was comparable to the price per square foot of the carpet we had (I think it was around $6.50 per sq. foot). I’m sure Seattle is way more expensive but our feeling was that you have to replace carpet every five years or so and with hardwoods you’re done for a while (refinishing is about $3 per square foot here).

  31. I would repaint the whole interior (current color is “sand” and I’d prefer something else), then like Milo, install trim, wainscoting and built-in storage all over the house. The bathrooms have no space for towel storage and there is no linen closet in the house. I would love a screened porch, and the backyard needs landscaping. Oh! I would install the big drop down screen and projection TV in the media room that came with the house, so I could watch Property Brothers in their 6’5″ glory. (Currently the kids dominate that room, so I’m in no hurry to spend money on it).

  32. Atlanta: Good to know. We are thinking about replacing the 14 year old carpeting in our master bedroom. We thought that carpet would be cheaper than hardwoods. We will now investigate both. However, our roof comes first!

  33. Sky mentioned Craigslist, but I’d like to put in a plug for your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many of them have tools and building materials you can purchase for a very reasonable price. You can also donate a lot of the things you remove for a renovation. And if you buy a special tool for a project but don’t think you’ll use it again or don’t have room to store it, donate it – they can either re-sell or use it for their building projects.

  34. I’d like to enlarge our kitchen, but the most logical place to bump out is right over the basement bulkhead door, making it an expensive proposition. Anyway, $100k might do it, or at least go a long way.. Another way to spend part of that $100k would be to add a bathroom as well as a dormer or two to the finished part of our third floor, which has sloping walls. This would make it a more comfortable and spacious bedroom/guestroom. We are thinking of doing the third floor renovations anyway in conjunction with adding solar panels that would be government subsidized. We keep getting solicitation calls for it. But that part of roof faces east, apparently not a good spot. But with government subsidies, I’m not sure if I’d care.

  35. Wow you folks are ambitious and have big dreams! This year, we’re re-doing our master bathroom shower, an adjacent wall and maybe the floor. The kids/guest bathroom shower should also be re-done, but that’s a goal for next year.

    At some point we’ll have to redo/seal/ do something with our wood floors, touch up/replace cabinet fronts and re-paint.

    Really lovely NYC lunch yesterday! Glad you got us together Meme.

  36. Property Brothers is filming in our area, and I gained some insight into the fakery of that show. The “dream house” for one of their episodes is in a neighborhood I know very well. The house just went on the market for $1.295 mil, a highly inflated asking price IMO. It’s 2,642 sf, nothing really extraordinary. Looking at comparables on Zillow, and knowing the area, I predict it will sell for something like $800-900k tops. But for purposes of the show, that inflated asking price of course makes the renovated house much more attractive.

  37. My college friends were on House Hunters and it was sort of fake too. The two houses that they did not choose were selected by the producers. They never considered those properties when they were actually searching. These shows are staged so it makes sense that some prices might not be 100 percent accurate.

    If I had a 100k, I would hire someone to make all of the calls, find every contractor and vendor etc. There are many things I would like to renovate, but I want someone to just takeover and do it. Like the Property Brothers!!!

  38. We have also had friends on House Hunters, and the touring/comments of the non- selected homes is very fake.
    I would redo our sun porch– the windows are so leaky we can only use it about 5 months out of the year. I’d also redo the kids bathroom–it’s straight out of the 1950s. Finally I’d add more closet space in our room–we have very tiny closets.
    But the reality is that inertia has set in and I will do none of it.

  39. “But the reality is that inertia has set in and I will do none of it.”

    +1. I wish I had more energy and talent for this type of thing. However, at the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is oversee home renovations!

  40. Thanks for all the tips–I’ll analyze them later. We’re on our way to camping.

  41. I think WCE is right, most folks are pretty tapped out after buying their first home. If the choice is between a $400k move in ready house and a 300k house that needs work your mortgage will be $500 less so it’s going to a long time before you’ll be able to do the work.

  42. A Parent, I can’t stand the idea of moving, so selling isn’t a live option. Laura, no, it’s not a walkout basement, but it’s perfectly nice and has some natural light. Both my grandmothers had “cellars” that you could have filmed a slasher movie in, so I know what you mean about scary basements. I’m curious to see what this designer gal is going to suggest.

    Milo, you’re the one who understands the value of having 2K sq.ft. per person, so I’m surprised you think redoing the basement might not be worth it.

  43. our feeling was that you have to replace carpet every five years or so

    What kind of cheap, crappy carpeting do you buy? Good quality carpet will last 20 years.

  44. ” I wish I had more energy and talent for this type of thing.”

    Me too! OTOH, I have a neighbor who regularly does renovations on her lovely house, some years just “minor” stuff like expanding her stone patio or refurbishing the entry. She’s so disciplined and organized about this.

  45. What kind of cheap, crappy carpeting do you buy? Good quality carpet will last 20 years.

    Even though you get it cleaned. After a while there are just only so many bodily fluids that one get off carpet.

  46. Having lived through a big reno on our house in the last few years, I am doing nothing. I will use the $100k to fund closing costs and moving expenses for a new house. Never again will I renovate anything big with small kids. Never. Again.

  47. @Rocky — if it’s not a walkout, I would *totally* go Full Irish Pub; those are always dark and cocoon-like anyway. And/or media room. Or froofy wine cellar with a barrel table for “tastings” and an iron grate door and rock walls, a la Napa by way of Cask of Amontillado.

    But that’s me. I dunno: what would *you* do with your dream room-of-ones-own? You strike me as someone with a strong personality, distinct fashion sense, and unique view of the world. So if you just wanted to outfit a specific space that was yours and yours alone, what would it be?

    IOW, maybe you’re struggling with ideas because you’re thinking practically instead of whimsically/imaginatively. I always prefer to start out with the crazy dream — I figure reality does a good enough job of beating me back down into something normal and reasonable, so why should that be my starting point? (I do believe my response to DH’s suggestion of a roof deck on the garage involved the phrase “fire pole”).

  48. RMS

    If finishing the basement is primarily with the goal of never filling it up again with stuff, go for it. However, I wouldn’t do a bang up soundproofed job if all of your hobbies, laundry and usual guests will be accommodated in existing space. Think 50s rec room without a wet bar, but with a basic bathroom with stand up shower.

    The Brothers show buying and selling is actually a good guide into what needs to be done to sell in a normal market but not as a fixerupper. Declutter ruthlessly (a storage pod is a good idea), remove all idiosyncrasies and personal details, repair clean polish cosmetic stuff, replace stuff that is so bad that it looks like you didn’t give a hoot about condition, such as broken appliances, pet stained carpet. Get staging advice. Where we live the houses are selling sell themselves right now, so kitchen redos for sale purposes would be a waste of money.

  49. Rhett, unless your condo won’t let you add the additional plumbing a bit more that what a friidge ice maker uses, but not much, and you can probably work with an existing grounded outlet, you can order one of those toilets tomorrow. They are modifications of regular Toto toilets, either two piece or one piece. Not particularly expensive either.

  50. Cat, I was thinking the same thing when I posted about our renovation. I’ve done it once, and I’m not sure I’d do it again. Found out I was pregnant with #3 (oops) after the process had started. There were 10 guys working in the house the day I came home from the hospital.

  51. RMS, where we are it is hard to recoup the cost of a remodel and anything below $500k is a teardown anyway. I have zero knowledge of your area, but if you want/need to recoup some of the cost, ask a realtor before you start work.

    We would lose a lot if we had to sell now, but at least we knew that before we started.

    We finished our basement a few years ago, and I would recommend (1) tile floor (resistant to moisture and the $2/sq ft lowes wood look tile was surprisingly good) and (2) drywalling ceilings if your local code allows, as it looks much more like the rest of the house.

    Houzz’ gardenweb site is a good resource.

  52. Rhett, I don’t think our Brondell bidet seat required any modification to the plumbing, just a grounded outlet. It heats the water as it goes, like a tankless water heater.

  53. How many refinishes are you getting out of a modern hardwood floor? We’ve refinished ours twice, once when we moved in and once several years ago. The old, local floors that are solid rather than veneer can be sanded and refinished forever, but we have the modern veneer. My parents have the 25+ year old high VOC polyurethane that lasts forever, but that’s no longer available and we haven’t found the low VOC finish to be as durable, though putting 5 thick coats on last time has helped.

  54. I love the new wood look tile and I think I’d prefer that to actual wood. Has anyone had that for a while and know how well it holds up? From what I’ve heard the oly issue is that it needs to be installed properly or it can crack.

  55. Our house has a list of things that should be redone. It would be simpler to do a few things, freshen the house up with a coat of paint and downsize to a new or redone home. We did things like replace the roof, replace all the windows, did HVAC work. We will be installing sprinklers and refreshing the landscaping. Redoing the interior is something I don’t want to tackle.

  56. @WCE — Think that depends on how you define “refinishing.” If you’re just wearing through the poly, then I think you can run the buffer/screen and add another layer fairly indefinitely, because you’re not actually removing any of the wood. If you’re talking about running the sander, then I think the number can vary from 0 to 2-3, depending on the kind of flooring you have (some of the veneers have 1/4-1/2″ of wood on top and are designed to be refinished up to 2-3 times; others have only a very thin layer and can’t handle even one). If you know the brand, you should be able to look up the details — or if you have spare boards, just check out the thickness of the top layer.

  57. Rhett, ours was installed 9 months ago and is fine under hard use (children’s playroom/art studio).

    Our tile guy said that you have to have a very flat subfloor, and the tiles more than 2′ long are tough to set and often warped (it is hard to fire very large tile perfectly at a low price point).

  58. I have a neighbor who regularly does renovations on her lovely house, some years just “minor” stuff like expanding her stone patio or refurbishing the entry.

    I don’t know how accurate my theory is. But, I’ve always felt that an extremely high level of maintenance and upkeep is the ultimate sign of prosperity.

  59. LfB, good question. I define “refinish” as having to sand the floors, due to wear, gouges, etc. We had to sand more wood off the first time (previous owners weren’t careful) than the second time. It sounds like our “possibly one more sanding” assessment is typical. We’d like to replace our cabinets (hinges are pulling out of particle board) and replace the stove/cooktop/microwave and so we may change our flooring layout before that third sanding.

    Thanks for the comments on wood tile- it sounded like a cool look, but we don’t have, nor will we ever have due to our soil type, perfectly, eternally flat subfloor. Great post, RMS!

  60. WCE – Awesome! At least one set of scientists can predict something (ahem, meteorologists…). Have you been affected by that warm water blob in the Eastern Pacific?

  61. RMS, I imagine your home as one where a wide range of people gather for a wide range of reasons, so the finished basement rumpus room seems like a no-brainer to me. I don’t think you should underestimate how much you would actually use it if you had it, since you seem like the type of empty nester who WOULD host a bible study group for single moms who would need to bring their kids, or who WOULD invite in strays from your library if their furnace was out and the night was cold. Plus, someday your DSS and his wife will bring kids to visit, at which time – let the wild rumpus start!!

  62. Fred: Our carpet is in good shape, but it’s an off white color. Maybe we’ll try renting a steam cleaner first, as DH suggested.

  63. @WCE — Yeah, I’d guess you’re right. FWIW, we’re probably close to the same point, even with our old “real” wood floors, because the nailing flange is typically only 1/4-1/2″ deep into the board. And the lady who owned the house before us had a crew of stonemasons in to make the house pretty for sale = awesome front walk and planter, massive waves and gouges in the hardwoods. We’re basically living with it, because I’d hate to take too much off and have to replace all the original oak, but someday we’re going to have to just cross our fingers and do it. On the plus side, at least I don’t worry too much about gouges and spills.

    And anyone who thinks particleboard is an appropriate material for a cabinet face/door should be shot. Especially in your climate — ergh.

  64. Rhode, we’ve had great weather this winter, though no snow in the Cascades. Rainfall is in the normal range, I think, due to occasional rainy days instead of constant drizzle. I’ve refrained from posting this winter about how glad I am not to live in New England.

    When I had to research global warming for my electrical power class, most of the warming globally occurred over Alaska, Canada and Siberia (the great inland northern land masses) because air holds more water vapor once the temperature breaks -40, which causes a positive feedback loop of more water vapor enabling warmer air. I haven’t read the latest global climate change models recently, but only the folks in those sparsely populated areas are going to see much temperature change. A large percentage of the “global average temperature change” was from those areas going from -40 to -30 C. I don’t know if anyone really understands why ice ages came and went in North America, but a positive feedback loop due to atmospheric water vapor seems as likely an explanation as any.

  65. RMS – agreed that a combo playroom/rec room makes sense. Our finished basement is DH’s office, but it also has a full bathroom (shower), kitchenette, and two Ikea sleeping couches, so

    With 100K in our house, I would take out the ceiling in the guest bedroom and blow insulation up there. Put a shed dormer (cheaper) on the back of the attic and put a bathroom up there. That’s probably it if we wanted it done right. HOWEVER if we had another 100K to play with, I would take off the existing walk-out bulkhead and reconfigure it so we could walk out of the living room into the backyard, instead of having to go out the side door and around. And maybe also fix up the sunroom so it would be a 4 season room.

  66. WCE – well you know that I was housebound for most of the winter, so despite cabin fever, I really didn’t experience this winter. :) I think the lack of snow in the higher elevations, potentially due to the warm water hanging off the coast of CA and AK, has contributed to the CA drought… at least that’s a theory. I’ve believed the positive feedback look for the retreat of the glaciers in North America, I think, because it’s the simplest explanation. Glad to know that you had a great winter!!

    LfB – we had original hardwoods in our house (from the 1950s and solid oak) until the Great Flood of 2014. Only 1/4 of the floor of the whole house was destroyed, but after looking closely, it became evident that the whole floor could not be saved – not enough wood left to refinish. $10k later we have red oak floors throughout the main level with 3 coats on it. Still hasn’t prevented gouging. Damn arm chair. But it’s sure pretty! And because we went down to the subfloor, the house gained about an inch of head room.

  67. “off the existing walk-out bulkhead and reconfigure it so we could walk out of the living room into the backyard, instead of having to go out the side door and around.”

    First thing we did was blow out a broken window to install a single french-style door to the back yard. Now, we just open a door and there’s the yard… rather than going out the kitchen door and through the gate… makes it easier for the dog!

  68. @Rhode — nice! Nice you got the headroom, too. We actually had to build back up when we redid the bathrooms — turns out they had like 4″ of concrete in there, and the tile was basically mortared to it, so we had to build a whole new subfloor to bring the new tile up to the level of the hall!

    It’s funny, you think I’d be glad to ditch the old floor, because I intensely dislike oak. Our house was a little weird because it had oak with a simple walnut inlay (just two strips circling each room) in the front rooms, and then what is now the kitchen/office — the “servants’ area,” hah — was beat-up fir or linoleum. So when we redid that whole back half (kitchen/office), we installed Brazilian cherry, because I just couldn’t bring myself to install new oak, and it wouldn’t have matched anyway. So really, I should just redo the front half to make it all match. But I just can’t bring myself to rip out the original stuff, so I will probably just postpone the inevitable for as long as I can.

  69. Denver – carpet was new in 2007 and completely stained by 2011 when we bought the house. Had them professionally cleaned and no luck. Then my kids vomited on them once or twice and that was the end of it for me with carpet.

  70. “I love the new wood look tile and I think I’d prefer that to actual wood. Has anyone had that for a while and know how well it holds up? From what I’ve heard the oly issue is that it needs to be installed properly or it can crack.”

    As you get older, or when you have very young kids, the hardness of tile can be a drawback. We’ve discussed recently how devastating a fall can be to older folks, and very young kids (e.g., learning to walk) also fall a lot.

    Another drawback to tile anywhere it can get wet (e.g., an entry in a wet or snowy climate) is slipperiness.

    From experience, I also suggest care if using tile on a wood subfloor. We have a balcony that was tiled. Over time, the grout shrank, and water got through the gaps left by that, and caused damage to the subfloor as well as the joists.

  71. “Last is the outdoor space, but with the drought no point doing it yet.”

    Unless you hardscape or xeriscape, in which case a drought might be a good time. I would guess that landscaping contractors might be less busy then, although those who specialize in hardscape and/or xeriscape might be busy.

    Our HOA recently added artificial turf to the list of approved materials.

  72. If we hadn’t already done it, the first thing I’d do with that kind of money is add PV (photovoltaic) panels to our roof. 30% payback in fed tax credits, 35% in state tax credits (although those decrease fed deductions), and reduction of monthly bills by ~$150 to $200. YMMV.

    We’re now considering adding more panels and AC. If/when DS gets his license and we want another car, then we’d look at a plugin electric or hybrid, and yet more panels.

  73. We’ve been in our house 15 years and still have the carpet that was here when we bought it, and it was at least a few years old at that point. We did take the carpet out of the bathrooms (who carpets bathrooms?) and put tile in. The carpet is nearing the end of its useful life at this point, but we are hoping to go another year or two before replacing it.

  74. Oh the list is long.

    1. Replace all of the first floor drywall. For some reason, previous owners textured both ceiling and walls, and it’s the worst.
    2. Kitchen face lift- backsplash, maybe new cabinets (I dislike that they’re white) possibly re-do the poorly installed Pergo
    3.New carpet everywhere. I thought the carpets were fine, then we replaced the one in DD’s room. The difference is so stark, I just want to replace it all now.
    4. Instant Hot Water heater, and whole house filtration.
    5. Both bathrooms- I dislike the finishes in both, layout probably won’t change much, but I’ll take one of those multi-jet showers. Would consider taking over DH’s closet for a larger master, and then I’d like an oversized tub.
    6. Replace carpeted staircase with hardwood.

    What I really want is to have someone else handle all of the logistics of this. I want to move out for 3 months, and come back to find it all done and cleaned up after. Our current plan of DIYing small projects continuously is starting to wear on me.

  75. Our house will be 100 years old next year. When we bought it in the late 90’s it had not been treated well – it had been divided up into sort of a boarding house, and the kitchen had never been updated except to put in a new stove and fridge. Luckily the original house was well built.

    Since we spent all of our money on the downpayment, we had to wait a year or so to start remodeling. We did the first floor (a new kitchen, powder room, turned the breakfast room into a family room), then redid the upstairs bathrooms (went from 1 to 2) and master bedroom about 4 years later. We now have new plumbing and wiring in the whole house.

    Lately I have been working on fixing up my powder room. I just put some beautiful wallpaper in there, which makes me very happy, and I have a new sink and toilet. I spent a good chunk of today looking at faucets for my sink and small rugs to fit in the room.

    We are at the point where we need to freshen up the stuff we did on the first floor – as it has been about 14 years. I feel like I am the only person in the world not to have a white kitchen, but I guess I’ll survive!

    With the 100,000 I would redo my backyard and get new furniture in my family room. I’d save the rest for the next project!

  76. Ssk, I did the white kitchen. It looks gorgeous, but it shows every crumb and fingerprint.

    In a house with three kids I should have gotten cherry….

  77. The best in the old days was wood grain – you could simulate the look of wood paneling!! Double ersatz!!

  78. Rhett, besides the obvious issues, the sub floors were rotting and needed to be replaced.

  79. Up until our recent remodel, we’d always used Contact paper to line the shelves of our kitchen cabinets. It facilitated easily wiping them clean periodically.

  80. We got our assessment today and it went up over 25%. It’s hard to argue with it based on what houses have been selling for in our neighborhood, and I think it was under-assessed previously, but I’m going to protest on general principle that it shouldn’t go up that much.

  81. Wow, 25%!

    So it’s inertia, laziness, denial, and other reasons, but I agree that tackling home renovations is a daunting task. Just regular home maintenance seems like a lot of work sometimes. Right now I have to shop for load-bearing fiberglass columns to replace the decaying wood ones in my back yard patio, and I have a mysterious roof leak that will probably require second and third visits by the roof contractor just to find a cause.

    WWTD – What would totebaggers do? I’ve been alerted that a dear relative may ask to hold her July wedding in my home. It’s a long story, but she has been unable to find another place on short notice. I’m simultaneously horrified and honored/intrigued. However much she would take over the planning and logistics, I know I would not escape a big time suck and headaches. It would involve about 80-90 guests and a back yard tent. I don’t know what to decide!

  82. Evil Twin – If she is a dear relative and you want to help her out, I’d say yes. It may help spur you on to get those new columns for your patio (I find that having company always gets me to check things off of my to do list).

    However, logistics like portapotties, lawn damage, who gets to go inside your house, etc. probably need to be part of the conversation before you make a firm commitment.

  83. Regarding the wedding, I’m guessing her finances are great? Assuming that she’s requesting your backyard because she’s trying to do things inexpensively. If she has a wedding planner, it’s possible that this could result in very little headache for you. You could also make the offer of your home conditional on the fact that she hire someone for a day of wedding coordination. I might be inclined to say yes if I had a lot of backyard maintenance to do, because I do very well when I have firm external deadlines.

  84. Evil Twin, check the soffits around the breaks (exhausts, gables, whatever) in your roof. That’s usually the first thing to degrade and is relatively easy to replace, if necessary with some instruction from the roof guy at Lowe’s/Home Depot. Ask The Google for instructions.

  85. Evil Twin, think of the worst-case scenario: you get sucked in to way more time than you thought, it turns your house upside down, a portapotty leaks all over your yard, whatever else you can think of. If you think you can live with all of that, then go for it. And if you don’t want to deal with it, then tell her no without apology.

  86. Thank you for comments! My roof problem could very well be due to flashing, and I’ll mention it to the roof guys. Here’s a renovation story that reminds me why I resist committing to more. When our roof was replaced during our renovation, the contractor installed a 20-year roof but used 10-year flashing. Okay, I’m making up the numbers because I don’t remember exactly, but he should have used copper flashing instead of aluminum. By the time we found out it was too late. And this contractor was highly recommended!

    About the wedding, I think considering the worst case scenario is a good idea. And I should add to DD’s 9:48 list the possibility of a deep family rift arising from problems. Also, problems with neighbors from the noise and congestion. I think I can buy time and consideration by telling my relative that I should check with neighbors before I could agree. Which in reality is not a bad idea. I have very good neighbors and I would not want to damage our relations.

  87. Evil Twin, I suggest you add the rain contingency to the list. HInt: a tent doesn’t keep anyone dry during a tropical storm, not that I’ve been to such a wedding or anything like that. If you aren’t comfortable having the entire event take place inside your house, think twice about agreeing to host it.

  88. @Evil Twin — also clarify what the relative would expect you to pay for — for ex., is she renting the tent, or would she expect you to provide it? OTOH, you might be able to provide some of this as your wedding gift.

    And think through the logistics: first and foremost, what is the backup option if it rains? But also: where will the band go, and will there be sufficient power in that area for them to plug in all their equipment? What about fans or portable AC if it’s super hot out? Those need power as well. What will the caterer need? They will probably need access to your kitchen to prep, and then an outdoor area to serve — can you accommodate that? Or is she planning to try to do it on the cheap and avoid a caterer, in which case what is the plan for bringing the food and clearing it away? What about dancing? Tent companies do rent wooden floors, but they are expensive, and you’d probably need a much bigger tent to accommodate both tables and dancing — again, who is paying? If she has a wedding planner, you should get the planner over to work through all of those issues and spot others you should consider.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m actually a big fan of backyard events, and my daughter’s bat mitzvah turned out great. But it wasn’t any cheaper than renting a hall, and it sure wasn’t any simpler. So if she’s trying to save money, she won’t (or you won’t) — and she’s basically outsourcing a lot of the logistics hassle to you. Which is a huge gift if you’re willing to take it on, but not something to sign up for without a clear sense of what you’re getting into.

  89. On-topic: we are moving forward with the garage! Yay!! Much to my surprise, DH did *not* choose the option that gave him the new shop (so much for my being clever) – he was concerned that if we added on to the existing carriage house, no one would use it, because it’s so far from the house. But we also couldn’t make the attached option work, because it’s massive (our lot slopes from front to back, so the deck is 4-5′ off the ground, meaning that to provide an interior stair up to the back door, the garage would need to be like 15′ high, which then just towers over everything and blocks too much light). So we’re going for a detached option that is tucked right up against our back deck, next to the existing stairs down to the side yard. Minimizes the need to mess with the existing structures, although we are going to add a porch roof over the existing back steps — that way, even though the garage is detached, it’s mostly under cover, with only a couple of feet between the garage exit and the overhang. And we’re going to put a deck on the garage roof, with stairs up from the existing deck, so it turns into a two-level deck.

    I’m not 100% happy, because it still sticks out too far to the side of the house — I call it “the boil” — and if I’m going to do something that big right there, I want it attached. But the CAD system was able to show me how we can re-landscape the area and plant some new trees to disguise that a bit, and with the roofdeck and all it almost looks like someone did it on purpose, and not just because that’s the only place it could fit. So I’m good.

  90. he was concerned that if we added on to the existing carriage house, no one would use it, because it’s so far from the house

    Uh huh…

  91. Am I the only one who recommends telling your relative no? Make up a really good excuse. Too much stress and hassle! Where is the valet going to park all those cars? Do you really want all those people using your bathroom (because who wants to use a porta potty during a wedding)?

    If it’s your own child’s wedding, perhaps it’s worth the hassle, but if it’s another relative, IMO not so much.

  92. Yeah, I’m with Houston. No one’s going to use the porta-potty. They’ll all ask to use the house bathrooms. 80 to 90 people is A LOT. Maybe you could help scope out other possible venues so you’re not just saying a blunt “no”. What part of the country are you in?

  93. Actually, I have attended some outdoor events where they have these really nice restroom trailers, sometimes even air conditioned. Way better than your standard porta-potties for more formal occasions. But I would agree that parking is probably a major issue. Is there a facility nearby (office building, church, shopping center) that might rent out its parking lot for the day? And you’d probably need a valet unless it’s really close. As for the neighbors, just invite them!

  94. Evil Twin, I agree with Houston. No one will want to use the portapotty if there is an inside house bathroom available! Also, with that many people, your backyard will be A MESS and the grass or whatever surface is under the tent will be ruined, even if it doesn’t rain.

    LfB, sounds good! I recommend getting big trees (like 8-10 ft when they put them in). They are more expensive and need a bit of care, but it is so much better to get immediate results with trees rather than waiting 5 years before they get to a reasonable size.

  95. @Evil Twin – My son was married in his in-laws side yard under a tent in June in Maine. It poured.
    Very large lot – no neighbors to consider. Parking on open adjacent land was not a problem. The house had a bathroom accessible in such a fashion that guests did not have to go through any living area. small wooden dance floor/dais for the actual ceremony – used primarily as kid play area during the reception. No band – I Pod playlist and speakers. Second small tent for food prep – served pot luck style and long tables – no use of home kitchen. About 100 people – mostly family and kids.

    I cannot imagine hosting a wedding for a niece or similar family member, especially at night with a band, etc., in a suburban neighborhood, even with large lot size. My son’s current house has the acreage and bathroom set up, but they would have to make some sort of arrangements for parking, and get HOA approval. I think a bat mitzvah or child wedding would pass, not anything else. If there is a wedding planner, she could explain all the logistics before you agree and perhaps even arrange for a parking area at the wedding hotel or nearby and a shuttle to guests to your home. Your driveway will be full with the caterer, DJ, and the place in front of your house for the limo.

  96. Evil Twin, I agree that you should proceed with caution unless you can determine that your relative is very realistic about the time/hassle/expense involved with throwing a wedding at home. If she’s thinking, oh, we just need a venue because everything else will be a breeze–run away.

  97. After reading more comments, I realize I’ll probably say no to the wedding. I assume my relative would be paying for all costs, but she probably has no clue how much hassle and time it would be for me. At the very least, it would cost me three whole days (before, during, and after the wedding day) of my precious summer. More likely, it would be more days, and then there are all the things mentioned and more. Thanks, everybody!

  98. Am I the only one who recommends telling your relative no? Make up a really good excuse.

    Just be honest and don’t make up an excuse.

  99. Evil– Since your relative’s reason for possibly asking you to host is lack of venue, you might pre-emptively explore other venue options.

    Rather than just saying no, you might also consider the potential issues of hosting, especially the ones that would lessen the experience for the bride, and cite those in declining, especially if you’ve been able to identify alternative venues that would not have those issues.

    The rain/restroom combination is something to really consider. If it rains, do you want all your guests walking through your house with muddy shoes? Or, are they well trained enough to remove their shoes before entering your house?

Comments are closed.