When it comes to home remodeling, there’s one thing essential to keep in mind: Budget, budget, BUDGET! (Still one thing, said three times to demonstrate importance.)

While not everyone budgets (that is, puts pencil and paper to daily expenses) everyone of us has a budget. There is a dollar number which, if you regularly exceed it, you and your household will find yourself in deficit spending – in the red, overdrawn, and paying crazy bank fees for it!

Renovations are no different that every-day spending, but they do come in big waves.  Unless you take out a home-construction loan (and yes, you can and might want to do just that), you can’t simply amortize paying your contractors – and don’t forget, financing your project also costs money (interest and fees).  Contractors expect to get paid (on time) and they have families to feed and bills to pay, just like you. So don’t even think of being “that guy” who goes into a big renovation with no plan for how you’ll pay for it. Budget!

What will it cost?  Well, that depends. If it is a simple and self-contained project, you can probably get comparable estimates pretty easily.  Something like replacing your old bathtub with a low-threshold step-in shower. You can tap into several reputable contractors and (like us!) at any home-and-garden-show and invite them to bring you their best offer.  They’ll make an appointment, look at your space, show you their product lines and you’ll know, in short order, the general range of prices and packages available and how they stack up against each other.

But if your project is more amorphous like, “Let’s remodel the kitchen!” – that will be very taste-specific. How much work do you want done?  Are you altering the current foot-print, installing an island where there was none, or removing a weight-bearing wall – each of these will escalate the cost.  If on the other hand, you just want to paint-out the cabinets, change out the counter-tops and replace all the plumbing fixtures to update the place, this is a far less costly option.  

Are you doing all or some of it yourself or will you leave the work to the contractor(s)? Remember the old contractor’s adage:

Your quoted price PLUS:

  • 10% if you want to watch
  • 20% if you want to supervise
  • 50% if you want to help

Be very clear on what YOU intend to do (and that you’re qualified to do it) and what you expect the professional to accomplish. And, remember, change orders can be very costly! So know what you want going in.

Going over budget is always a risk, but it is a more avoidable risk if you plan well, compare (apples to apples) and get honest about your expectations.  Knowing the cost going in will help you avoid the shock of a big renovation bill that pushes you way over-board. And, don’t forget the “contingency fund” which should probably be an additional 10% to 15% of the total cost.  Better to come in UNDER budget than discover too late that your addition is now worth more than any house on the block!

Old House/Fresh Ideas

You’ve bought a “fixer-upper” and you’re very excited about the changes you’re dying to make.  But wait – are you sure you’re ready to jump in? You’ve watched TV and scoured the hardware stores for tools and tips. You’ve looked at photos and picked out your favorite colors but, have you thought about the foibles already “built-in” to your house?

If your house is more than 50 years old (that’s built before 1970) consider this:

  • A world-wide copper shortage in 60s and 70s may mean that your electrical work is made of aluminum.  Not a bad choice at the time but now, decades later it may be corroded and, connecting two different metals (aluminum and today’s copper) could cause additional corrosion.
  • Your 100 AMP service panel may not have space available for all those appliance up-grades you’ll want and, it was common practice to put all the kitchen appliances on one circuit – today’s energy load requires one for each appliance and remember, in the 1970s we didn’t think a wine-fridge and a microwave were “kitchen essentials” like we do today!
  • And, when you decide to add that “bonus room” over your two-car garage, it of course will need to be heated and air-conditioned.  Don’t assume your 70s HVAC system is ready to service another 400 to 500 square feet! So, you may need to replace or augment your system, not just add duct-work.
  • You might not think so, but in some parts of the country, we were still using asbestos into the 1970s.  Add funds for potential abatement costs and, if you’re not sure, include testing in your pre-purchase inspection if you can.

These are just a few of the surprises that you might uncover on your journey to realizing your fully remodeled and updated fixer-upper.  That is not to discourage your hopes and dreams, but it is to offer a reminder to consult with the professionals before you assume, “This will be fun; this will be easy!” It may not be either if you’re not prepared.

Old houses offer charm, quaint warm spaces, mature trees, finished landscaping and also a number of challenges that you’ll want to consider and prepare for.

Want more? Detailed information available at: https://sdinspect.com/wp-content/uploads/Buying-a-house-built-in-the-1970s.pdf

What’s hiding in the walls?

I’m a child of the 1950s so, I get nostalgic about houses that were “new” in that mid-century modern time.  I happen to like big banks of multi-paneled windows, the oddly canted roof-lines, the step-down living room and the ripple-patterned patio awning (oops! It was made of asbestos!)

When I was a kid, we were renters. The thought of owning a home was not ever a part of our family’s serious thinking.  We lived in the accommodations the landlord tolerated. There was nothing stylish about our home when we moved in (I was 5 years old) or when we moved out (I was 19).  In that time, the cement wall in the basement was repaired (not replaced), the 1930s ringer-washer was replaced with a “modern” agitation washer, and the windowpane, broken by a neighbor’s stray softball got replaced (single, not double or triple-pane!).

So, I was very envious when a “new build” went up in the neighborhood.  I longed for all the amenities that I thought every house (well, every Barbie house) should have.  Ours had none of that.

But what about your 1950s house?

Be sure you fall in love with those “good bones” because there may be surprises lurking in the walls that you’ll need to replace, and those considerations will have nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with safety!

Look to the __ core systems that are the skeleton of your home:

  • Plumbing – are there lead pipes anywhere? You’ll want them replaced for obvious safety reasons. Is there corrosion, obstruction or connection difficulties (where YOUR plumbing connects up to the municipality, and everyone else’s plumbing)? What’s been updated in the community as a whole?  How much water will you use (more than the folks who first lived in the house, no doubt!) so be sure there’s adequate capacity and flow; and that applies to HOT water too.
  • Electrical – No one had hair-dryers in the 1950s.  That’s a simple way to think about what you have versus what you need.  Everything we like to surround ourselves with today require more “juice” so, be sure you’re prepared to upgrade the panel (possibly from fuses) to something that will support the way you and your family expects to live in this century.
  • Structural – Not only is this geography-specific (like termites and carpenter ants) but it is also wear-and-tear specific.  Have previous owners cut into joists to re-direct a plumbing issue? Did they support the floor sufficiently to hold that granite countertop you’re planning to put into the kitchen upgrade?  And have you traced that crack in the garage wall to its origin? Hopefully it isn’t matched to the sloped floor that’s off by five inches, where all the water is pooling.
  • Roofing – Hopefully, the roof of a house this old has already been replaced once or twice but, that too could be a problem – how many LAYERS of roof are covering your house?  And, what is the weight of all that material over the $50K truck in your garage? Is it safe? Is it secure? Does it need to be replaced or reinforced? Good things to consider.
  • Heating/Cooling —  We grew up in the world of malls where the environment is always “72 and Sunny” but in an old house, hot and cold zones are likely.  Leaks around windows, doors and any other opening are likely. Windows may be single-paned and barely efficient in a world of climate changes.  Knowing the capacity of the system you’ve got and the system you need is an essential calculation.

This is not to discourage you. It is to help you be honest about finding the house you love, the house you can afford, and the house you can turn into your dream-home.  For older homes, be sure your contractor is familiar with all the vintage issues you’re likely to discover. And, know what you’ll sacrifice to retain the look of the 50s while planning to live in the comforts of 21st century style!

Want more? Detailed information available at: https://sdinspect.com/wp-content/uploads/Buying-a-house-built_in-the-1950s.pdf