After six months of house hunting, my partner and I finally found one that fitted our wish list. It was in a desirable area; had three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a garage; and yes, it was affordable. But it needed a few home repairs.
The home, built in 2001, needed some TLC. The wood floors downstairs were shot and there was no way that carpet upstairs was going to stay. The previous owner had a terrible painter, and there were many spots on the walls that needed touching up.
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Our inspector gave us a list of things that needed repairs, including a broken window. We also wanted to change the light fixtures and raise the bathroom vanities to make them more accessible.
The quotes from a few contractors were a bit scary. One quote was for $17,677, not including the $4,525 it actually cost us to purchase the wood, tiles, and stair pieces.
We felt that we could do many of these things ourselves. How hard could it be? Little did we know, we would learn a lot in the process!
1. The Floors
The engineered hardwood on the lower floor, including the bathroom, was in bad shape due to water damage, both near the exterior doors and in the downstairs bathroom, where the toilet must have overflowed. Engineered hardwood, as we found out, cannot be refinished. And so we had to replace it.
My partner’s brother-in-law, a former contractor in a different state, offered to come out and do the floors as a house-warming gift. We were thrilled. If he could do it, we could, too. The internet gave us all the instructions we needed. We also went to a local store that offered free classes on laying wood floors and tiles.
My brother-in-law did much of the more complicated flooring, like cutting the corners, but I tiled two bathrooms and a laundry area by myself.
The floor had to come off first, as the old one was glued tightly to the foundation. Time to call in the tough guys, who spent two days prying the floors. It took seven days to finish the entire floor.
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2. The Walls
We decided not to do any of the painting ourselves. I didn’t want to be around all the fumes, which can be harmful to pregnant women. We hired a painter to paint both the interior and exterior, and he also fixed wood rot in a number of places. Our cost for painting — and a few other things we asked of him — ended up being nearly $6,000.
3. The Bathrooms
The vanities in the upstairs bathrooms were a standard 27 inches, but they felt short. We found instructions online on how to raise them without having to buy a new $500 vanity. I was skeptical at first because of the effort of taking off the heavy countertop, but they turned out great. Our painter later said they weren’t secure and he would fix them. Okay, we’re not perfect.
We finally put our tools down four weeks after moving in. Our savings account is lighter now, but we are happy with what we could do ourselves. There’s still a lot to learn. We accidentally blew a fuse when trying to install a new thermostat, so we had to call in an electrician and then an HVAC technician to attend to it.
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But we would have gotten stuck with a bill of $22,022 if the contractor had done it. Instead, we ended up saving nearly $7,000. I also learned about basic plumbing, wiring, flooring, and tiling — skills that I know will come in handy as we move forward as homeowners.
Even so, the work isn't over yet. We keep finding projects to do in and around the house.
As any DIY homeowner will tell you, sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it isn’t. By the end of our fourth week, we were all incredibly sore. My knees and back ached, and we were all covered in cuts and scratches. It was totally worth it, though, considering how much we saved and how much better we will be at it later.
I'm not sure how much the house has appreciated after all of our home repairs, but I intend to find that out at the next appraisal.