Friday, February 19, 2016

This Old House remodel!

This Old House!

For many of us that is a way of life. We have chosen the path less traveled and bought an old house. Or we sat around watching Flip or Flop, This Old House and Fixer Upper and are just anxious to find a diamond in the rough and make it our own. Then some do it for financial reasons. Buying the worst house a real "Fixer Upper" in a great neighborhood. Some of us do it because we love the architecture, and unique qualities that come with an older home. Whatever the reason you should think before you leap.

My best advice for anyone buying an older home. It isn't for the faint of heart or for everyone.

1. Do your homework! Before you buy the money pit and have no idea what you got yourself into know what you are buying.  Homes that are 50, 75 and 100+ years old do come with charm but they can also come with expensive problems.  Not every house is worth saving just because it has amazing plaster moldings! Sentimental and love at first sight can not be the deciding factors that make you buy a home.  GET AN INSPECTION. I don't care how much charm the home has. Get it inspected. Know what you are buying. You can't live in a home that hasn't had it's wiring kept up to code, it's plumbing is failing and the foundation is ready to crumble or it's riddled with asbestos. Have a thorough inspection even if you are buying the home AS IS.

This lets you know what you are facing and where the biggest costs are. Some items sound scary than they are. Take a breath after looking at the report and talk to specialists to determine what is involved and what the costs will be or the health concerns are.

2. Have a budget. No matter how much you love that old house you need to be realistic. Most of us don't have buckets of money lying around.  Know the AS IS appraisal value and the projected appraisal with repairs. Make sure you aren't over spending on the project. You don't want to be upside down in a home. It is the biggest investment for most Americans.  Set a budget leaving 10-15% contingencies for unexpected expenses and keep your all in purchase and remodel budget at 80% of the final appraisal value of the home. This will insure that you are upside right on your home. You will be proud of the finished product and living in a home you love without the stress of being house poor.

3. Have a plan. Know if you are moving walls, adding an addition, increasing a bathroom or kitchen.  Have a clear idea of the changes you want then sit down with a designer or architect to come up with a floor plan and full set of plans to submit to the city for permitting.  Bringing in an expert at this part of the game is important to make sure your dreams can become a reality. Some walls are load bearing, or have plumbing or gas lines running through them. These can still be addressed but may costs more. Be realistic about where to spend your money and what can or can't be done.  Maybe a wider opening versus no wall is a compromise you can live with.

3. Hire a contractor. I am a designer and avid DIY'er. But, big whole house projects take longer if you are doing them yourselves. You also will need permitting from the city and required to bring many items up to code once you break into that 100 year old plaster. So, don't get yourself on the bad side of the city or possibly with a shoddy finished product.  Hire a licensed general contractor that is fully insured.  Go over the plans, your wish lists and must haves. Get a detailed budget. Don't be afraid to have up to 3 but not more than 5 General contractors submit bids for your project. You will need a clear understanding of your budget. Compare apples to apples on the bids and don't be afraid to ask for clarification on details or areas that don't seem to be covered in the bid.  Have they addressed the biggies? Updating electrical, plumbing, gas? Did they include replacing windows, adding insulation? Will roof changes or additions be needed and are they spelled out? Make sure whatever contractor you finally choose that they have a good reputation, references, proof of insurance and that you communicate well with them. This person will be like an extended length of your family for months! You better at least like them at the start.

5. DIY - Wait, DIY? Yes, you can save big money by doing some of the work yourself.  Yes, you did just pay an architect for plans, and hire a General Contractor.  But, an easy way to keep a handle on your budget and feel extremely proud of this old house is to make it your own and what better way than to include a DIY project. Now, I am not by any means suggesting you do it all.  Pick a project. Refinish an old cabinet to have installed in the kitchen or dinning room.  Do a custom paint finish on the laundry room wall. Install a specialty tile in the new powder bath.  Build a custom coat rack to go by the back door.  You know your skills and limitations. Here is a chance for you to flex your design muscles and put a stamp on your home.  Make sure you discuss and have an understanding for the jobs you want to tackle with your contractor.  You don't want to delay his job and you don't want a conflict because he is coming in to do plumbing and has the water off on the day you started a big tile job.  Communication is key.  Many homeowners will choose to do the demo. Again get advice from your contractor before practicing your kung fu on every wall in the house. Not all walls will be coming out and some will need extra precautions. However, with some advice and clear understanding Demo can be a great way to get involved and save money on your project.

6. Create a Design File - Keep a folder or binder where you add photos of designs, colors and details that you love. You will start to see your sense of style and the feeling you want for your home.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my current file:

7. Be patient and Keep a Sense of Humor! Remodels big or small take time.  Changes to the plan of work can change a time line. Permits take time to obtain to start. Subs may run over on a previous project and can't start when expected. Surprises inside the walls, attics or basements can throw a kink into your plans or even need a professional assessment before continuing.  Even simple things like illness and the weather can cause major delays on a project. I often tell people when they get their time line from their contractor to be prepared for the worst that it takes double and the reality that 2 extra months is probable on a 8-12 week project.  Sing hallelujah if you come in right on time.  Most projects have some sort of issue that causes a delay and it does not mean you are not getting a good contractor or tradesmen.  It means life happens.   Laugh when you can. Take a deep breath and hold on to the big picture. Your project will be completed and you will love your home and it's story. Isn't that part of the charm of an old house? The stories within those walls!

With all this said, I hope you follow along with me over the next few months.  I have done it. I have bought a 1940's brick and Austin Stone Tudor home in Texas.  The home has  a lovely story. I will be the 4th owner of this house. My parents were the second! Yes, I am going "home" again. The third owners were long term family friends and an important part of bringing this dream a reality. I've bought the house I grew up in and it will be a labor of love to respect the beauty of the home but bring it up to today's lifestyle and what it will need to be home to families for another 75+ years.  I'm hanging on to my advice and my sense of humor.   *;) winking

I will chronicle the before, during and after. I will share design tips and decisions based on respecting a period home but keeping with styles and function for today. I have a few fun DIY's and tutorials planned. It should be a busy few months.  I look forward to your comments and questions.


       I've finished the inspection. I've hired our contractor. I did the design! (Benefit of being a designer and married to an architect! YAY!) And we are ready for permitting.WHEW! Lot's of work.  Fingers crossed no surprises there.  Here is a sneak peak at the new layout for our first floor. 

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