Jump to content
AngryChris

Fixing a fixer-upper

Recommended Posts

I bought my first (and current) house in January of 2009.  It was a foreclosed home that was listed on a HUD website for my region.  Back then, during the housing crisis era, a lot of foreclosed homes flooded the market.  I bought my 1400 SF house in a pretty nice neighborhood with a good school district for less than $30,000.  The catch was that it needed new drywall on EVERY wall and ceiling, new flooring everywhere, no doors, new trim, and basically everything else that you visually saw from inside the house.  For those of you who don't know, doing your own drywall work is relatively cheap, but a LOT of work.  In addition to what you can clearly see needing to be replaced, I also had a new furnace and AC put in.

In the end, I have done many tasks including things such as; drywall work, flooring, minor electrical work, minor duct work, completely renovating a laundry room with new solid exhaust duct, minor plumbing, framing a door, and many other things I have long forgotten to think of.  Learning all of these things is great, but I think I have put around $20,000 into my house as it stands, but over $6,000 of that was just the furnace and AC.  Currently, I need to renovate 3 bedrooms (out of 4), renovate one bathroom (out of two), and completely renovate the kitchen.  There is still work left, but I have almost completely renovated the living room, dining room, foyer, master bedroom, and 2nd bathroom.  In hindsight, I could have done a lot of things differently and far better, but it is what it is.

I am interested in hearing other people's renovation experiences.  I'm looking to finish a small hallway that connects the dining room to the foyer in addition to finishing some trim, putting new ceramic tile in the bathroom shower walls, and renovate 2 of the 3 bedrooms that need it.  When those are done, I will be turning my attention somewhere else (master bath, 3rd bedroom that needs renovated, or kitchen).  So far the method to my madness is to focus on the biggest bang for my buck, which is the bedrooms since it's mostly walls and flooring.  The master bath will cost me an estimated $2,500 and the kitchen probably over $10,000 including appliances.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel your pain in the drywall. My house that I bought back in 2012 was a short sale and I got it for under  $18k. 1100 sf in a neighborhood I grew up in. It was in livable condition, but I had a place I was living at, so I wasn't in a hurry to move in. I gutted the whole interior. 95% of the drywall, all the insulation, all flooring, the whole kitchen and bathroom and all the interior doors. I put in brand new insulation and added a plastic vapor barrier to the exterior walls, changed the floorplan for the bathroom and utility room to make a separate laundry room (the old laundry hookups were in the kitchen), added a half wall between the dining room and kitchen with a counter top for an eating area. I hung close to 100 sheets of drywall and installed 5 new interior doors. New tile in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and entry way. Hardwood flooring in the dining room and carpet through the rest of the house. New trim around all the doorways and windows and new floorboards throughout the house. New vanity, toilet and cabinets in the bathroom. I also built(with help) a custom walk-in shower with since really nice tile. Also had a tankless water heater installed. Kitchen got all new appliances and cabinets as well. 

I started finishing the drywall, but there was so much and it is a skill that takes time to master and I hadn't done that yet, so I hired help to finish the drywall. I did a majority of the work, but I did end up getting help for the water heater, some of the tile work, the shower and the carpet installation.

I still need a new furnace/actually, but the window unit I use cools it pretty well with the new insulation and vapor barrier in place. The furnace is still kicking, even though it's 20 years old. Now I need to address the exterior though. New roof and siding, new concrete driveway(currently gravel), new front and back patios and I need to build a large retaining wall in my back yard. It was a large hill and I dug out a large portion to make a flat area. I think I have in the ballpark of $10k in renovations so far, but I was looking for deals all along the way. Also was fortunate to have friends or neighbors that could help with some of the work for relatively cheap. 

I had the benefit of not needing to live there right away, so I took my time with the work as well. I put my offer in December 2011, took the keys in April 2012. I didn't move in until July 2013. The best part is, no house payment. Also, even after I finish everything, I'll still have less into the house than what I could sell it for. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Man.. I learned how easy it is to mess up a door.  The good thing was, for me, it was pretty easy to tell what was wrong and how to fix it, but I also learned some tricks to make the next install go a lot easier.  The more I hear or read anyone talking about drywall, the more I dread it.  I couldn't tell you how many sheets I have hung...  A wild guess though.. I have probably hung about 60 pieces with about 6-20 to go depending on what I decide to do with one of the bedrooms.  If I had advice for ANYONE who wanted to renovate their own home, it's this: invest in GOOD tools first.  Don't go cheap like when I started and try to do everything with hand tools when there's a power tool out there that does the job way better and easier.  I started cutting trim with a hand miter saw.  I quickly realized that I didn't have as steady of a hand as I once thought and I also started to realize that I am a stubborn moron.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finally finished some door projects including my first pre hung door and my first sets of bifold doors.  It is amazing how different things can look with something as simple as a new door and trim. Makes you think about refurbishing vending machines lol.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just recently got another room almost completely done.  The closet needs finished and windows need to be replaced but the rest of the room is actually in the process of being furnished.  The biggest lesson is that I need to perfect my drywall joint compound work.  I'm not bad, but I see what I did wrong.  It could be fixed if I wasn't lazy but it's the kids' room.  I'm going to begin working on my office soon and I am eager to completely demolish the master bathroom in preparation for a full renovation.  I'm not ready to see what's behind the bathroom walls...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
59 minutes ago, AngryChris said:

I just recently got another room almost completely done.  The closet needs finished and windows need to be replaced but the rest of the room is actually in the process of being furnished.  The biggest lesson is that I need to perfect my drywall joint compound work.  I'm not bad, but I see what I did wrong.  It could be fixed if I wasn't lazy but it's the kids' room.  I'm going to begin working on my office soon and I am eager to completely demolish the master bathroom in preparation for a full renovation.  I'm not ready to see what's behind the bathroom walls...

Having done more than my fair share of these projects, my only recommendation would be to hire a pro dry waller - it's truly amazing how fast they can do what would take me days to never get quite right and they don't cost that much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure a good crew can do much better than me, but it's difficult to find people that can do it better than me. My work is acceptable but nothing you would find in a high dollar home.  This has been an 8-year project so at this point, i am perfecting my skills.  It's all about trial and error.

My error was that i didn't feather the joints out correctly.  I think it's because i had my drywall knife too flat, creating a curve rather than a flat angle.  I think the thing i need to do is to either learn how to use a trowel or just thin the mud better and apply more gently and at a more perpendicular angle so my coats are not curved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In one of my most recent projects, I skim-coated over all of the walls in the office in an attempt to get the walls ready-to-paint without tearing out the old drywall and having to cut and hang all of the new drywall.  I did this primarily because the walls weren't absolutely terrible and I had been working on it for years anyway..  I had to put a bunch of screws in the ceiling to fix the sag that was prominent throughout the entire ceiling, and I had to patch a few pieces and fill in a huge gap around the perimeter of the window as it looked like someone put a slightly smaller window in and never fixed the drywall.

Moving on, everything was looking pretty good.  Considering all of the screws I put into the walls and ceiling, I probably should have just demolished it and started over completely.. but it was a learning experience to say the least.  I finally got to sanding everything and viola!  The walls seemed decently smooth and ready to prime.  The primer went on, the paint went and everything started to look pretty spiffy after about 1 week of painting overall.  That's when I tore the old carpet up to see what was lurking beneath.... old, water-damaged OSB

At first, I thought the underlayment under the carpet was particle board.. the reason for that thought was because the top layer was just crumbling with any friction.  I figured I should just replace the pieces that had valleys in them as that would affect the flooring that I put on top.  I began prying the board up and realized that EVERY PART of it was just crumbling under the force of the pry bar.  Literally, every piece would break into pieces and eventually came out in 4' x 16" pieces where the nails held tight and created a fulcrum for the OSB to crack in a straight-ish line.  I am no construction expert, but I KNOW that structurally sound OSB should NOT crack like that.. especially not 3/4" OSB.  Well... I think it was supposed to be 3/4".  It may have been 1/2".  The truth is, I have no clue how thick that OSB was ever supposed to be because it had swelled to 3/4".

After cleaning it all up, I was relieved to find what was either solid wood or plywood underneath.  Whatever it was, it was a solid 3/4" and showed no signs of lacking structural integrity.  A quick trip to home depot and I quickly put 2 sheets of 4x8 plywood (23/32") and I had to cut the remaining piece (31" x 8') to fit in the last spot.  I also replaced the underlayment that was in the door way coming into the room and butting up to one of the new pieces I had just installed.. all by using the remaining scrap piece that I had to cut.  I still have 3 more smaller pieces to replace with whatever scrap I have left which should leave me with practically nothing.. and that will mean that I will have nothing but a 6' x 7" strip all the way against the wall and about a 4' x 4' section mostly in the closet.  Part of me says not to worry about that 4' x 4' section and the thin strip against the wall, and the other part of me says I might as well replace it all lol.  I mean, I would be pretty mad at myself if I had some flooring issue all because I got lazy when I had already done 95% of the work but didn't finish the last 5%.

So that was my fun surprise... I used 1-1/4" ring-nails that were labeled for underlayment.  Those nails should be going 1/2" into the subfloor.  I hope that's deep enough but only 1/4" further and I would be through the subfloor.  I feel pretty confident that between the plywood underlayment, the styrofoam underlayment, and the flooring itself (which has a soft foam pad attached), everything should feel pretty solid for years to come.  I'm excited to actually have a floor that doesn't feel a little bouncy, but this also tells me that the "guest bedroom" is going to be absolutely terrible....  That room needs a complete renovation with all the drywall, underlayment, and outlet boxes ripped out and replaced.  It's going to be some work.  That's all I have to say for now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×