Author Topic: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?  (Read 1908 times)

ctuser1

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My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« on: February 04, 2020, 07:31:22 AM »
My 1250 sq ft, raised ranch house needs some work.

I purchased a relatively tiny house, requiring some work, in order to keep housing cost < $300k in a HCOL location (Connecticut). So, the fact that it needs work is not a surprise to me. However, I was still surprised to find out exactly how expensive it is to keep a reasonably old house (40y old now) going!

That aside, can I request your help in prioritizing the work, and help me figure out any other efficiencies I can gain?

I am not a very handy person. This year I will do a DIY deck painting project. That is about the limit of what I can handle as DIY at present. However, if you see some of these projects that are easy-DIY and is relatively easy to fix back up even if I mess up - then please point that out.

Legend
PriorityDescription
1Need
2Can wait, but will be a need in 5 years.
3Can wait, but will be a need in 10 years.
4Want

Tasks
#TaskPriorityDetails/CommentsDIY feasible?Cost Estimate (hire)
1Convert oil to NG1Scheduled for Feb 2020.No$11,000
2Paint Deck1All materials purchased. Waiting for spring.Yes--
3Roof (asphalt)225 years old.No$8,000
4Replace dishwasher2No$1,000
5Replace refridgerator232.75". Difficult to find good deals.$3,000
6A/C Replacement3Uses freon. Will need replacement if it leaks.No$10,000
7Roof (metal)4No$20,000
8Solar4Dependent on roofing done first.No$40,000
9Flooring for office room3Laminate coming off. Needs to be re-done.????
10House remodeling.4After NG Conversion, boiler room and the chimney space opens up for re-purposing.No$35,000
11Bath update4No$20,000
12Kitchen update4No??
13Driveway2No$4,000

[Added Later]
I forgot to include the 40-ft driveway in the list of things to be done. It is cracked and uneven. the house was built in a wooded area, and the ground has settled a lot in several places from the rotted roots. The driveway needs a do-over after 40 years of this.
This is not super urgent. It affects curb appeal, but still functional and can be lived with. I will probably put it in either category 2 or 3.
Estimate is $4-5k to get it done. I *may* get it done this year if I get a good deal from the same contractor who is scheduled to re-do our street this year. Else it may wait for 5 or more years.
[/Added Later]

My Questions
1. Any comments on my need/want categorization? How would you categorize them if this was your house?
2. Any suggestions how I can get some of these done in a mustachian way? Cheaper? Better quality?
3. [Added Later] Is concrete driveway worth considering, @2X the cost?
« Last Edit: February 06, 2020, 07:16:51 AM by ctuser1 »

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2020, 09:08:50 AM »
Since you need the roof and solar, check out if the Tesla solar roof will work for you.
Of course, you need to do the numbers and see if it works out for you.

Also, kill 3 birds with one stone. The oil heat/AC can be replaced with a ground source heat pump. Since you will have solar, you will further reduce your energy costs. I really liked https://dandelionenergy.com/ since they would give me a fixed price for it. Unfortunately, they are not in NJ yet.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2020, 09:13:02 AM by CowboyAndIndian »

jc4

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2020, 11:23:05 AM »
A little feedback:

Dishwasher: DIYable, yes. 1 water connection, and maybe 1 electrical connection. Worst case buy at Home Depot for $400 and pay a handyman $100 to wire up.

Fridge: $3K is a lot. Home Depot has plenty of options as low as $1k, and nice ones up to $2.5k. That's assuming you don't go via craigslist, etc.

A/C replacement: $10K is too high assuming your ductwork is fine. I'd peg at low as $3.5k, and as high as $5k (based on US Southeast). Lower if that doesn't include a furnace too. Don't DIY. You don't have the equipement. Annecdotally, I have a 1980 freon A/C and it's running on. I plan to let it keep going.

Roof: I'd place as a mid-tier DIY for Asphault shingles. If the deck goes well, you could consider it. I DIY'd mine. I work an office job, but am very handy. You'll need help. Say 3-4 guys for 1 weekend. I did mine in 1 day, but I personally worked 16 hours, and had 8-10 friends / family put in 4-8 hours. I can give some tips when you get there.

Remodels: Obviously there's a lot you can do. Reframing / structural, eh, maybe not. Paint, trim, install vanities, tile, etc., YES! Lots of DIYable tasks.


LifeHappens

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2020, 11:28:33 AM »
Also, kill 3 birds with one stone. The oil heat/AC can be replaced with a ground source heat pump. Since you will have solar, you will further reduce your energy costs.
I agree with checking on the feasibility of this setup in your location. If it doesn't work, then converting to NG is a good start. The cosmetic stuff can all wait unless it's literally falling apart. Get your systems set up first.

Jon Bon

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2020, 07:41:14 AM »
4 - Dishwasher is stupid easy. Just watch a few videos. But yes it should be <500 even if you have it professionally done.
5 - Big box stores have huge sales every holiday, just pick one up then for around $1000
6 - I can get an AC put in for about 2500 bucks, that bid feels pretty high. I would ask around.
9 - Laminate flooring is a good starter project for a new DIY-ER. Check out LVP/LVT that stuff is bulletproof

My advice to you is find "Owner operators" Don't call the company that advertises on TV, has a nice person answering the phone and drives nice custom trucks/vans.

You want the guy who wears the Bluetooth headset all the time because he answers his own phone, drives a beat up truck and sends his own invoices. The prices difference IME between these two guys is north of 100% Go to lowes and find these guys, drive around your neighborhood and find the work trucks. Talk to the owners, even ask their prices. A good contractor should be able to tell you a general price to install a 2.5 ton AC. I also take pictures of the sides of the truck so I can remember their number and their trade.

Do you have any friends that can swing a hammer? Have them come over and get you started on a project. Offer to pay them in cash or beer. This stuff is very daunting when your new too it, but having someone walk you through the first few steps makes life much easier.

I am also not buying the cost savings on:
Metal roofs
Solar Panels
Geo-thermal etc.

I think those things (for now) are often just upsold to rich people so they can have one up on their neighbors.

Good Luck






SunnyDays

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2020, 03:11:06 PM »
Not sure if youíre deciding on asphalt or metal roof or if you need both in different places.  Metal can cause dangerous snow slides off the roof so take that into consideration.  Do you really need AC in a ranch or can you just escape to the basement on hot days?
My priorities would be roof then heating then fridge (get a pretty basic one since thereís less to go wrong) and then whatever else is important to you.

Fishindude

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2020, 04:08:51 PM »







My thoughts, the following are pretty important:
Roof (asphalt)25 years old - This would be my top priority, your roof protects the rest of the house.   Metal may be nice, but do asphalt if that's all you can afford now, you'll have approx. 20 years to worry about that.
Roof (metal) - See above
A/C Replacement  Uses freon. Will need replacement if it leaks / Convert oil to NG  - This should be pretty high priority and you may as well do this at same time.   
Replace dishwasher $1,000 / Replace refrigerator - If these items are not working well, I'd put them high on the list with refrigerator holding higher importance.
Paint Deck  All materials purchased. Waiting for spring  - Sounds like a good plan

The following items can be lived with, but would definitely provide life improvements.   I've listed them in order of what I feel would be the most important:
Flooring for office room   Laminate coming off. Needs to be re-done
Bath update $20,000
Kitchen update
House remodeling.   After NG Conversion, boiler room and the chimney space opens up for re-purposing.


This is really a "want".   It won't improve your bottom line much and is quite costly.   Most of the world lives without solar power systems.   
And I would not recommend putting this system on your roof if you have some real estate available where it could be rack mounted.  Roof mounted stuff leads to roof leaks and makes re-roofing at some point extremely difficult and more costly.
Solar,  Dependent on roofing done first


ctuser1

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2020, 07:19:17 AM »
Thanks a lot for all the suggestions so far. Please add any other comments or suggestions that you can think of. This forum has already helped me save a lot of money since the middle of last year - Thank y'all - and I hope to keep the improvement going. :-D

I forgot to include one thing in the list of to-do's - Driveway. Edited my OP to include that as well.

Cb1234567

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2020, 12:45:54 PM »
A few things Iíve learned from experience:
1. Exterior upkeep (roof, gutters, downspouts, siding, any painted wood window/door frames or sills) and plumbing fixes are top priorities. These keep water from ruining your house. Keep painted or stained things painted or stained. Keep caulking in good condition. Clean gutters and downspouts. Windows can be replaced as a whole unit or just the sashes. Windows are not cheap.

2. Look for the small time guy and a helper or father/son enterprises. Cheaper, less overhead for their business. If you schedule an estimate, and the person shows up in a shiny new Navigator or F250 with chrome and a lift kit...pass. Find the guy with a ratty old van who knows the trade. Your realtor may have a few contacts for you. Cash is king.

3. Live with the house for a while before any major remodeling. Paint color - fine. Stain a deck - fine. Kitchen/bath/room walls and plumbing - wait. Iíve found I usually reduce the scope of projects on my wish list as I learn more about how we live in the house. Sometimes the previous owner had it that way for a reason. This has saved us tons of money and grief.

4. If you talk with a vendor or contractor...or consult websites representing an industry, you can learn a lot. You also will be subjected to whatever the latest and greatest sales propaganda thatís percolating through the industry at the time. They may be offering Practical solutions -OR - they may be about to talk you into something ridiculous.

5. There always is more than one solution to a problem. Usually a feasible solution is cheap, especially if you just need a temporary fix. For example, try downspout extenders to fix a water problem before embarking on a $28,000 foundation waterproofing adventure. If someone is doom and gloom and insists this is the only way, find somebody else. Either the person isnít experienced enough to know better or theyíre too narrow minded. Sometimes you do need the expensive fix, but donít start there. And if you have to do it, find someone who knows what theyíre doing, not the guy who just went to ďjourneymanĒ school for 6 months and just started running daddyís business ;-)

Good luck!

Examples:
- my mom went to a talk about solar and attic insulation that is space technology.  ďUnder $10 per square foot to insulate her attic!Ē, she tells s sounds suspicious, so I investigate. The materials they use are not this crazy tech thatís cutting edge. Itís foil. Less than $1 per square foot on sale at Home Depot, I know because we just used similar materials for a floor underlayment.

- my father-in-law bought a new air conditioner and hvac (blower, box with air filter and humidifier) for $11,000. Itís enormous capacity. He was all over the specs and the dreaded Freon issue (it will be BANNED!!, he says - as if every home, apartment, and motor vehicle with existing Freon systems will suddenly be outlawed). He lives in Wisconsin in a little 2 bedroom house, where the A/C is on maybe 4-6 weeks of the year.

- we moved into an old farmhouse. I thought we would take out a kitchen wall to open up the space. Turns out that I liked the 3 step kitchenís efficiency and that the mess was hidden when we camp out in the living room. Never touched it! New flooring and fresh trim/paint, maybe new fixtures, can make a huge difference in your experience of a home.


BlueHouse

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2020, 12:59:04 PM »
Are you positive you want to switch from Oil to NG? 

I know it's cheaper and cleaner, but a project like that scares the bejeesus out of me because i lived in the northeast during the 90s when so many people were doing it and almost everyone I knew found oil leaks in their soil that they then had to excavate -- at a cost of tens of thousands that they hadn't budgeted for.  do you know what will happen if your soild is found to have been contaminated?  Do you know the implications in your state?


YttriumNitrate

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2020, 01:08:46 PM »
In the past few years I've replaced two AC units on houses larger than yours and replaced two refrigerators as well (the joys of having rentals). As others have pointed out, you can get a good refrigerator for $1000. See for example this one at Lowes.

The total cost of the A/C units I replaced recently cost $3,300 and $3,500. Your estimate of $10,000 seems very high.

I put a metal roof on a house back in 2010 (it still looks great). When I was getting quotes they ranged from $11,000 to $25,000, and I ended up going with one at $12k. Be sure to get quotes from several roofers since some interpret the words "metal roof" as an invitation to try and gouge you.

In terms of priority, I would focus on the roof  first. Paying more for oil or having a non-working dishwasher can be annoying, but unlike a non-working roof, it probably won't result in damage being done to your house.

ctuser1

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2020, 06:59:21 AM »
Are you positive you want to switch from Oil to NG? 

I know it's cheaper and cleaner, but a project like that scares the bejeesus out of me because i lived in the northeast during the 90s when so many people were doing it and almost everyone I knew found oil leaks in their soil that they then had to excavate -- at a cost of tens of thousands that they hadn't budgeted for.  do you know what will happen if your soild is found to have been contaminated?  Do you know the implications in your state?

Thankfully my oil tank is not underground. It is in the garage, seating on top of a metal stand that raises it about 18" from the concrete below it, making even the bottom of the tank visible. @41+ years (since 1978) the tank is close to the end of it's design life. Replacing it with a new tank (which will be necessary almost immediately if I don't move to NG) will cost me about $2k.

For me removal of oil tank is cheap - $350. It would have been wayyy more expensive if it was underground.

ctuser1

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2020, 09:03:34 AM »
In the past few years I've replaced two AC units on houses larger than yours and replaced two refrigerators as well (the joys of having rentals). As others have pointed out, you can get a good refrigerator for $1000. See for example this one at Lowes.

The total cost of the A/C units I replaced recently cost $3,300 and $3,500. Your estimate of $10,000 seems very high.

I put a metal roof on a house back in 2010 (it still looks great). When I was getting quotes they ranged from $11,000 to $25,000, and I ended up going with one at $12k. Be sure to get quotes from several roofers since some interpret the words "metal roof" as an invitation to try and gouge you.

In terms of priority, I would focus on the roof  first. Paying more for oil or having a non-working dishwasher can be annoying, but unlike a non-working roof, it probably won't result in damage being done to your house.

Is the $12k price for a standing seam metal roof?

Online research tells me that screwed-in-place metal roof tends to have screw-head-rot in a few decades. This negates the biggest advantage of metal roofs - that it will outlast your house. Of course, I'm no expert, so may be misunderstanding or exaggerating the issue.

Do you happen to have any suggestions how to find metal roof contractors? They seem to be few and far between. Is the one you used nationwide?

Indio

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2020, 09:14:06 AM »
I made the switch to NG after superstorm or hurricane Sandy hit. It was the best move. CNG is pretty cheap compared to what I was paying for oil and I never have to wait for delivery. Price fluctuations aren't as ridiculous either and the backup generator runs on NG.
Just in the process of putting a metal anonodized aluminum roof (appeals to my green side not to put asphalt on roof) on the house so no real experience with it yet. I got 2 quotes and the one from Home Advisor is Danbury was the best price so far. With respect to snow sliding off, it depends on roof pitch. I'm putting snow guards on the areas where people could potentially walk. If the house is landscaped near foundation it might rare that someone would be directly under a snow slide. Also, with the kind of mild winters in CT over the past 4 years, big snows seem to be on the decline. Metal standing seam roofs are ideal for the size of certain solar panels and they can attach without putting holes into the plywood part of the roof.

Sibley

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2020, 09:38:21 AM »
If you can paint, then you can learn a lot more. Start watching videos on youtube. Watch home improvement shows, and start paying attention to when they cut corners. Stop paying the handyman to come fix your sink and give it a try. Basic plumbing is very learnable. I don't mess with electric much, but that too is learnable. The key is taking the time to research and learn so you do it right. Flooring is generally something you can do DIY.

Also, you have a ranch house. Why do you say that roofing isn't DIY-able? Maybe not at your current level of knowledge, but with a ranch house unless your roof is incredibly steep its on the list of things you work on learning, and then it might be DIY-able. Roofing isn't difficult. What's difficult is being on the roof!

Even if you don't do DIY, having the knowledge of how it should be done is invaluable. It helps you determine when the contractor is blowing hot air vs. actually competent.

YttriumNitrate

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2020, 09:45:36 AM »
Is the $12k price for a standing seam metal roof?
Online research tells me that screwed-in-place metal roof tends to have screw-head-rot in a few decades. This negates the biggest advantage of metal roofs - that it will outlast your house. Of course, I'm no expert, so may be misunderstanding or exaggerating the issue.
Do you happen to have any suggestions how to find metal roof contractors? They seem to be few and far between. Is the one you used nationwide?

Yes, it was $12k for a standing seam roof. Here's the exact type of panel that was used.
https://www.menards.com/main/building-materials/roofing-soffits-gutters/metal-roofing/cut-to-length-premium-pro-snap-steel-panel/coppercolor1559818-75/p-1444448600838.htm

I could have used an exposed fastener roof and saved about $1,000 but as you mentioned those roofs rely on plastic washers for a good seal and my hunch is that they won't last as long. A friend of mine's parents put an exposed fastener metal roof on their house in the late 90s, and I know they ended up dealing with an expensive repair when the thing started to leak. Last year my inlaws also put a metal roof on their house with exposed fasteners, they didn't ask my opinion ahead of time, but I would have urged them to spend just a wee bit more to get a hidden fastener roof.

As for finding metal roofing contractors, just call your local roofers and ask if they have done a few metal roofs in the past. When I was getting quotes, the national chains tended to be in the $20-25k range while the local guys were half that.

BlueHouse

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2020, 07:45:37 AM »
Are you positive you want to switch from Oil to NG? 

I know it's cheaper and cleaner, but a project like that scares the bejeesus out of me because i lived in the northeast during the 90s when so many people were doing it and almost everyone I knew found oil leaks in their soil that they then had to excavate -- at a cost of tens of thousands that they hadn't budgeted for.  do you know what will happen if your soild is found to have been contaminated?  Do you know the implications in your state?

Thankfully my oil tank is not underground. It is in the garage, seating on top of a metal stand that raises it about 18" from the concrete below it, making even the bottom of the tank visible. @41+ years (since 1978) the tank is close to the end of it's design life. Replacing it with a new tank (which will be necessary almost immediately if I don't move to NG) will cost me about $2k.

For me removal of oil tank is cheap - $350. It would have been wayyy more expensive if it was underground.
oh good!   Good luck with it all ! 

ctuser1

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Re: My house needs some work - how would you prioritize differently?
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2020, 02:19:40 PM »
So, the NG conversion got done. No drama with oil tank, thankfully!

The final cost was $10.25k  after  including cost of two ecobee thermostats, and taking out the $750 CT state rebate for an efficient boiler.

$9.4k of that is financed, and will add $81 to my electricity bill every month for the next 10 years.

I also spoke with some roofing and driveway guys. Together, they should cost less than $10k if I stick to ashphalt. Iím trying to figure out exactly when/how Iíll do it.

Iím ditching the idea of a metal roof. The opportunity cost of the extra money spent is simply too high.