Thursday, January 6, 2011


Do you hate something about your house? You can probably change it, all by yourself - you just need to know what you're up against.

The first thing you should know is that contractors - even the absolute best - constantly run into difficulties too. We're just really good about hiding it until the homeowner is out of earshot, then it's a lot of whispered "oh shit, what are we going to do about that!!" What you're doing when you hire work out is paying for someone else to deal with problems, and paying for expert tools and knowledge. If you start a simple project that rapidly spirals into a horrible mess, it's not because you're cursed. ;)

The second thing you must consider is what your expectations are. The most obvious way to explain this is to ask yourself how long you're going to live in your current house. If you're flipping the house (ahahah, remember back in 2005, when people actually flipped houses and made money??) you'll fix things as quickly and cheaply as possible. If you're going to retire here, you want to spend the time and money to do it textbook-perfect. If you're somewhere in the middle - maybe we'll get something smaller when the kids go to college; maybe we'll get something bigger if we have kids; maybe we'll move thousands of miles in a couple of years - then you're trying to strike a balance.

Here's an example: My kitchen, as I constantly remark, is carpeted. I want to rip up the carpet and put down tile. But wait - that's a really good time to put in new cabinets. And fix the ugly drop ceiling with the heinous yellowed fluorescent fixtures. And get a nicer countertop. But doing all that takes "fix the floor" from a three or four digit project to a five-digit HELOC nightmare. How long will we live here? How badly do I hate those cabinets and that light fixture?

My personal answer - I'm not sure. Right now, I'm leaning toward leaving the functional and not unattractive countertop in place, painting the cabinets, and possibly getting new doors for them. I really hate the lights, but again, they're amazingly expensive, so they'll stay for now. Tiling the floor is on the list, but it's not at the top.

My third point that I'd like you to keep in mind: You will not get back what you spend on your kitchen and bathroom. Until you've done one, you have no idea how fast those two areas add up. If there's any chance you're going to move in, say, the next five years, resist the temptation to Better Homes and Gardens your kitchen and bathroom. Prospective buyers care much more about usability than they do about the whirlpool or the granite countertops. Now, if you're going to stay 10 or more years, knock yourself out. But don't fool yourself about the investment value of your tiled backsplash.

Next up: a look at my current Project, along with how I narrowed it down and how I'm tackling the little steps.


  1. Fug to Fab - love it. :)

    Yeah, the morning I was going to go buy lumber for the addition, I had The Talk with Mel. Do we really need this thing? Is this how we want to spend this year? Would we be happier working on all the annoying little crap around here first?

    It's definitely good to get that all sorted out before embarking!


  2. We're currently shopping for a loan to add on to our 850 sq. ft. "cottage." The debate is: We've got the barn nearly done--why would I want to move--let's do the house right! OR Can I live is this cold climate too much longer?--let's just upgrade enough to make it sale-able (there's not much market for a one-bedroom, one bath house! no matter how nice the barn).
    Good start to the new blog!

  3. I like the background info on the other "pages." One question: what's so horrible/nasty about the laminate? Just cheap/poorly installed? Or is there some inherent flaw with laminate in your opinion (I ask because we're considering it...)

  4. Ron - you are way beyond my target audience. I hope I develop into half the Renaissance Person you are! I do hope you'll comment here - other perspectives are great.

    ES - Yep, I know what you mean. I love this little slice of American dream, but do I want more acreage one day? Right now we're assuming this is a 10 year house, but it's so hard to know..

    I, personally, hate laminate. I don't like the way it feels underfoot - it's always a tiny bit springy. I don't like the seams - if it gets wet (i.e. dog puke) it can de-laminate and peel up, and there's no way to fix it except to pull the damaged planks. It's way better than carpet, but not as good as tile or engineered hardwood. Full planks of hardwood are the best, but - Wow. Effort. Money.

    I should better delineate the difference between my opinions (laminate sucks!) and generally accepted good principles (you must cut the bottoms of the door trim, or pull the trim, when you're laying new flooring). Thanks!

  5. Oh how I hate where I live but leaving it ain't gonna happen if I don't do some major work on the house/older mobile. Being stuck makes me sick and what it will take to repair makes me equally sick.

  6. I'll be watching your new blog with interest, Funder! We barely looked at the house when we bought this place ("oooooooh, 5 acres above the flood plain! let's buy it!"), but now that we've been here a while, there are definitely things that I love and things that I hate.

    Who on earth thought that CARPET IN THE BATHROOM would be a good idea????

  7. Awesome start. I still have a few projects to finish up in our new place, but have about reached my limits in knowledge and I think I may be getting into 'wants' vs. 'needs'. I 'want' to tile the shower in the 1st bathroom, but I 'need' to replace the dining room window and reset the kitchen door.

    This coming year will be devoted to getting the exterior and the rest of the property back in shape as well. This may not be a lifetime place for us, but I think we plan on hanging around long enough that it is worthwhile to go ahead and make the upgrades that will turn the whole place from a neglected property into a comfortable hobby home.

  8. I need a whole lot of help with diy! Thanks!

  9. I've got the ultimate plan - bulldoze the place I live now and build new!

  10. Even when you are unhandy? I'm a very unhandy person...VERY unhandy....