Author Topic: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?  (Read 1609 times)


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Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« on: November 25, 2012, 02:26:51 PM »
I purchased my home 10 years ago (built in 1992) and have not done any 'renos' on it besides interior painting and new Costco laminate flooring on main floor.  Most of my friends have either bought new homes, or if they had older homes have done fairly extensive renos.  As you can guess, they have mainly focused on kitchen and baths.  I must admit that in all these cases, their houses look alot better and it gets me thinking to doing so on my own house. 

I wonder though how much of this is due to peer pressure.  Things like stainless steel appliances, granite coutertops, etc didn't really exist in an average home 15 years ago (correct me if I'm wrong).  If you go into an older person's home, often they have been untouched since the 80's and they are fine with it.  This curse of constant renos seems to affect those under the age of 55.  Yea, I'd like a more modern kitchen and to update my bathrooms, but I just can't justify the large cost it would take to get there.    In addition, I think if I update my kitchen, then it will just start a trend of constant updating.  My cabinets are golden oak which was very popular when my house was built.  This matches my baseboard.  If I update my kitchen, I would probably have to redo my trim and interior doors to match.  Also I plan on living in my home until the day I die so I do not care about resale values at all.

What are others thoughts on this?  Are you undertaking renos on your place and if so why?  How much are you spending?


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2012, 02:43:19 PM »
We do reno's.  I do them to improve the energy efficiency or change the functionality of a space.  My wife does them for style and functionality.   
We did do the bathroom in this house but that was mostly because it was 50+ years old and really needed done.   Every other room has had paint done. I pull the window trim, seal the windows and then reinstall/replace trim as we paint. The basement we removed carpet and installed laminate.  Not a lot of replacing existing good with new good but different looking.

As to costs.   Lots.  I'd guess $3000 on the bathroom doing it all myself, $500/room in paint, fixtures, trim 6 rooms done so far.    We also painted the outside of the house $1000, re roofed the house, $4000, and reroofed the carport $1000.    Add in the hotwater heater $500, basement laminate $700, attic insulation $600,... I'm sure there is more.

Overall The house feels more like ours,  the power bill is almost cut in half, I know that certain things aren't likely to fail and need emergency replacement any time soon.   


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 02:58:49 PM »
Hedonic treadmill-avoid unless you are debt-free and will be there for a very long time.

Unless you are adding some sort of functionality (more square footage, adding energy efficiency through window replacement or similar like strider) I would not recommend it.

We have remarkably bad tile in our home, but its like the book "give a mouse a cookie." If you do the tile, you should do the kitchen cabinets, the sliding to french-door conversion, etc, etc, etc.

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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2012, 04:27:10 PM »
We were thinking about a renovation. (Bumping out walls, dormering the house, etc.) Instead we'll refinance to a 15 year to build equity faster and if we need more house in a few years then we'll move.


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2012, 05:53:19 PM »
If you have no intention to resell, then do what you want.

If you intend to rent or sell the property then ensure the renovations add value.


  • Bristles
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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2012, 06:58:10 PM »
Agreed - only do renos if there is a reason. Also, consider the neighborhood and overall house price range when adding upgrades - I've heard that a lot of granite-countertop-type upgrades don't even add enough value to recoup the money of the counter/etc! For example, while I would never do any crazy countertops, we recently got a new furnace (installed by friends!) and we saved so much on labor, I sprung for the new AC at the same time. The house already had AC and our neighborhood is full of the kinds of people that leave their AC on when it's 75 out. I figured it would also be nice for those very few 90-degree days we get so that we don't have to hide in the basement, but we made it through this summer without using it at all (old one leaked condensation on the basement floor)

We've been in our house for about one and a half years and most of what I've done was painting. When we moved in, everything was super 80's style- the old people that lived there are exactly as you described. They moved in in 87 and probably never did much updating, but the house was very well maintained and had awesome things like blown-in insulation and new windows. I'm so glad I've gotten most of the wallpaper borders, way-too-much-yellow, and trim-painted-the-same-as-the-walls stuff gone!! I also switched out a lot of the light fixtures to a more modern brushed-nickel or similar finish, the ones that were here were all brassy and old looking :\ If you're lucky you can find light fixtures for $20-$50 each and they're very easy to switch out.

As far as things I want to fix up in the future, most do involve the kitchen and bathrooms but they all have reasons: the kitchen is small, but then the actual kitchen part is crammed into 1/2 the room so that there's space for an "eat in" kitchen... with a dining room right next to it. I want to redo the kitchen to kill the eat-in area and make it nice and roomy. I like cooking so I would like it personally but hopefully it would add a lot of value. One bathroom has a dumb corner toilet and it sucks, so I want to get rid of that, and the main bathroom doesn't need a *whole* redo but it could use a vanity with more storage (and there's room in the bathroom for a bigger one). Also, our basement needs to be refinished, a lot of it (carpet, paneling) got destroyed in the "october storm" of 2006.

I think I should also add that I love doing these things. I get a lot of satisfaction from finishing a project and knowing that *I* did it. I dream of retiring before we're 100% ready and getting some rental properties in our hometown (a college town, lots of  renting opportunities), so this is also kind-of practice for that.


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2012, 08:30:51 AM »
Since you have no plans to sell, I generally agree with the basic sentiment not to get on the hedonistic bandwagon, and to only do renovations if there's a more functional purpose in mind. People definitely go overboard on remodeling, pouring tons of wasted money into high-end but needless upgrades. I have literally seen people in my area (friends included) spend 100k upgrading only a kitchen.

That said, I understand the desire to upgrade, and it doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive. It would be very hard for me to convince my wife to stick with 1980's or early 1990's decor. So maybe you can do things in small stages, doing the work yourself, and using very inexpensive (but not cheap quality) materials, particularly surplus/re-used/recycled.

As an example, you mentioned cabinets: cabinets can be refinished/resurfaced very inexpensively. If you sand and refinish them yourself, it could cost you only about $100 for the stain, and the results will be amazing. You can put on a dark cherry or mahogany finish, for example, that makes them look modern and brand new. I'm definitely not a fan of painting natural wood, but it's also not uncommon to paint cabinets (e.g, white or dark brown) to modernize them.

Changes in lighting and paint can also make a huge difference. I changed the 1980's "hollywood style" light bar and the outdated fixtures in the bathroom of my wife's rental house with some modern lights and fixtures for $75. Makes a huge difference at little cost.

Focus on the low cost, but big-bang-for-the-buck renovations, and I think you'll be pleased. Avoid the desire to get the big ticket items like granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, just because they're the current "in" thing. You can get great results at much lower cost. Your example of doing the new Costco flooring is a great example, keep up that approach!


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 08:33:14 AM »
We're trying to avoid the temptation to do a lot of this.  Upgrades we've made have included the following: newer energy star appliances (fridge/stove/washer), more insulation in the attic, more energy-efficient water heater, efficient fireplace insert.  For cosmetics, we've done interior painting, but that's it.  We'll repaint the exterior and should refinish the floors one of these days, but I'm trying not to do a full kitchen overhaul (countertops/cabinets) or bathroom upgrade (mostly tile) yet because I've seen how these things cascade.


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 10:50:06 PM »
Painting, lighting, Door knobs, small ticket stuff makes a huge difference.  Craigslist is great for materials. Fixing major flaws is worth while too, when I bought my house it had granite counters and nice custom oak cabinets but it had amateur white tile, mint green and yellow paint, beat up chair rails, a sun ceiling and a small pocket door to enter.  Paint, new backsplash, opening up the door and pot lights cost about 400 total and changed the feel completely. 


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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 07:35:44 AM »
We've done huge amount of work to our place purely for funtionality and efficiency purposes....the aesthetic stuff happens only when we've got the time, inclination, and spare cash to buy a can of paint.  (It hasn't happened more than twice.)  New windows, moved a window in order to install a door and reinstalled the old window into a room that didn't have one, stair railings (were never installed and needed it done for safety purposes) and other stuff.  Built an island in the kitchen with two sheets of oak-veneered plywood and varathaned to match the existing cabinetry....huge improvement in functionality for less than $100, especially as we had family volunteers to do plumbing of a bar sink and an electrical outlet into the island.  Most of the ceilings have a fresh coat of paint because we had the paint and the roller happened to be out.

We bypassed the granite, corian, and other highend countertops and stuck with laminate....25% of the cost and it looks fine to us, and I'm not worried about stuff shattering on it.

I just wanted to mention that a great place to source materials (besides Kijiji or Craigslist) are the Habitat for Humanity ReStores.....I got my patio door from there, brand-new, donated by Home Depot because it was a floor model, for $400 instead of the $1500 it retails for in the store, and because it's a non-profit organization there's no tax.  I've gotten small batches of tile for projects, along with grout and cement, and brand new high-end door handles and other fasteners which can really inflate a reno budget for usually less than 50%, and usually closer to 25%.


  • Bristles
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Re: Home renos - yes, no, who cares?
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2012, 01:30:08 PM »
In my case, I just bought a house three months ago with my wife, and we are elbows-deep in a complete 15'x15' kitchen gut and replace. This includes removal of one wall, opening a single pocket door into twin converging pocket doors, replacing rotted sections of floor, layout change, some plumbing and electrical changes, new cabinets, counters, tile, appliances, etc. It's costing us about $11k in materials not including appliances. And the labor is all us, except for the countertops. I've done this before on a smaller kitchen, and didn't really want to go this route in this depressed housing market. But after looking at 70+ houses (and offering on 5), this was the one we ended up with. It was $80k under our budget, and we are content with our decision. But it IS a lot of work and money. Perhaps some smaller upgrades to make you happy, would make more sense. You can always go full boat later.