Renovations question


Our family is in the process of buying our first house and wanted to ask a few questions about doing renovations. This is the first time we've owned a house, so we know nothing about renovations - who to hire, how to do them, how to plan timing, etc. - so we wanted to ask a few questions on this group regarding it.
The house is in fairly good shape - it's 25 years old and has been reasonably well maintained. We don't anticipate having to do any major structural changes. What we do want to do is 1) renovate the kitchen 2) renovate two bathrooms 3) replace wallpaper with paint throughout the house and 4) refinish the hardwood floors. We'd like to do all this before we move in. This is a 2500 sq ft 3BR house in the suburbs of Boston.
A few questions that I'd love to pose to the group:
1) I know there are general contractors and contractors. What are the advantages/disadvantages of choosing one over the other, given the amount of work we need done? We don't have any experience doing home repair work, we'd like to do the work done quickly so we're not paying both rent/mortgage simultaneously, and we'd like the work to be high quality. The data points I have indicate we'd be better off with a GC, but I don't have a sense for the premium that involves.
2) When should I be doing when to expedite this? We just agreed on a price and the inspection will be early next week. The closing is planned for 11/12. Should I ask if I can get contractors in before closing to get estimates? Is that reasonable to ask from a seller? Any other recommendations for what I can do to get the work done as quickly as possible?
3) How do I go about finding a good people to do the work? I've e- mailed friends that I know that have had work done in the area and I'm hoping to get suggestions. But are there other resources I can leverage? Do any of you know good people to do work? in the Boston area
4) Do I need an architect? I may want to move the stove to where the refrigerator is (it's on the counter between the kitchen and the breakfast area, which means no backsplash) and the refrigerator over to where the oven/microwave is, but aside from that I don't anticipate making any changes. We're willing spend some money and get relatively high end materials / appliances / fixtures, etc, but don't need something super stylish / fancy.
5) Are there any websites with simple tutorials about this stuff?
Appreciate any help you guys can provide!
Thanks, PB
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*Why don't you just buy a house with everything updated already. Even if you pay more money it will be worth it compared to work, stress, aggravation and addtional cost of doing a major remodel with a deadline.

*Call as many contractors as you can find. The process of elimination begins when they don't return phone calls. You will pay more to have the work done quickly and with high quality.

*Start now. Go to the home inspection and take pictures and get measurements and draw a floor plan of the existing space. You can ask the current owner if it would be all right to bring contractors. It's up to them if they will allow it. See if you can get the paperwork started at town hall for the permits; Plumbing, electrical, building, HVAC. Get a kitchen design detail made as soon as possible. Start looking at cabinets, paint colors, countertops, appliances, bath fixtures, faucets, flooring materials, light fixtures, moldings, etc.

*People who have used contractors before are usually a good place to start. You could also check advertisments in local papers and magazines. Ask around at lumber yards and design showrooms.

*You could use an architect but unless something is going to change structurally such as moving a bearing wall you may not need one. There are contractors that do design/build. You could consider one of these.

*Don't expect to learn about major remodeling from reading a few pages on the internet. Every project is unique and comes with its own set of issues and challenges. I'm thinking that you are looking at spending $50,000-$100,000 dollars to do all of the work mentioned above not to mention a timeframe of 3-6 months.
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PB2 wrote:

I'd buy a house which does not need all that work to begin with. Or if you must buy that one in particular, have you done a house inspection? If you buy it, move in, live in the house at least a year while you learn about house construction/renovation stuff reading/collecting info. Then decide what you want to do and start. Good reno. job costs good money. I never lived in used house. I always had our house custom built from my own plan and lot(actually my wife's plan) Have done it 5 times plus one cabin. As a result we learned a lot about houses. You have to deal with upto more or less 40 trades when building a house. Architect costs a lot. The fee is percentage of total project. If s/he manages project, it costs even more. To get the ideas, visit show homes or there are lots of magazines at the library. I don't go by trendy things. Just like fashion it comes and go.
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Our family is in the process of buying our first house and wanted to ask a few questions about doing renovations. This is the first time we've owned a house, so we know nothing about renovations - who to hire, how to do them, how to plan timing, etc. - so we wanted to ask a few questions on this group regarding it.
The house is in fairly good shape - it's 25 years old and has been reasonably well maintained. We don't anticipate having to do any major structural changes. What we do want to do is 1) renovate the kitchen 2) renovate two bathrooms 3) replace wallpaper with paint throughout the house and 4) refinish the hardwood floors. We'd like to do all this before we move in. This is a 2500 sq ft 3BR house in the suburbs of Boston.
A few questions that I'd love to pose to the group:
1) I know there are general contractors and contractors. What are the advantages/disadvantages of choosing one over the other, given the amount of work we need done? We don't have any experience doing home repair work, we'd like to do the work done quickly so we're not paying both rent/mortgage simultaneously, and we'd like the work to be high quality. The data points I have indicate we'd be better off with a GC, but I don't have a sense for the premium that involves.
2) When should I be doing what to expedite this process? We just agreed on a price and the inspection will be early next week. The closing is planned for 11/12. Should I ask if I can get contractors in before closing to get estimates? Is that reasonable to ask from a seller? Any other recommendations for what I can do to get the work done as quickly as possible?
3) How do I go about finding a good people to do the work? I've e- mailed friends that I know that have had work done in the area and I'm hoping to get suggestions. But are there other resources I can leverage? Do any of you know good people to do work? in the Boston area
4) Do I need an architect? I may want to move the stove to where the refrigerator is (it's on the counter between the kitchen and the breakfast area, which means no backsplash) and the refrigerator over to where the oven/microwave is, but aside from that I don't anticipate making any changes. We're willing spend some money and get relatively high end materials / appliances / fixtures, etc, but don't need something super stylish / fancy.
5) Are there any websites with simple tutorials about this stuff?
Appreciate any help you guys can provide!
Thanks, PB
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You close on November 12 '08 and plan on having all that done by then? If you're doing the work, not a chance. If you're having someone else do it, having it done by that date is not much more likely. They are already booked out that far.
You have a lot of research to do, and some of it is trial-and-error, at least it was for me. Do you -really- need to have all of this done by the time you move in? Sure, it's easier, but you've started so close to the day you want it done that it really can't be done in such a short time.
Regardless, of all the things you want to do, have the floor done last. This way it won't matter if paint splatters on the floor or something heavy gets dragged across it. Also, if someone's doing the floor work, ask them about the differences in the finish between oil-based urethane and latex urethane. There is a difference in the finish (or so I was told), what one to use depends on what you want.
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Now, he plans to start then. Do the renovations and then move.
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PB2 wrote:

There is no reasonable expectation that your house will be finished anytime soon. Further, there's nothing that says you can't move in and live around whatever modifications are in progress.
Getting remodeling done is not like getting a haircut - there is significant lead-in time since jobs are often scheduled weeks, if not months, in advance. Then there are unforseen items. For example, your floor guy may have to slip his efforts to his next available slot (maybe six weeks later) because your wall guy hasn't finished his portion of the job. The wall guy isn't done because stripping the wallpaper revealed some electrical problems and the electrician couldn't come for almost a week, etc....
Then, too, there's Thanksgiving, Christmas, bowl games, and the general recovery from all that...
Also, there's nothing worse than getting all this done - to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars - moving in, and discovering six months later that there is some ghastly flaw in the building that was undiscovered by the inspector (i.e., orginally built over a graveyard, city has been planning condemnation for several years in order to build a pocket-park, neighbor does unspeakable things, involving screaming, after dark, every Monday morning a toxic cloud of sewer gas backs up on the whole neighborhood, etc.).
I'd just move in and attack the projects at leisure.
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Hi,
Thank you all for your useful responses. A few comments:
1) Yes, I would love to buy a house where the work is already done. If I could have spent some more money to get a house where everything is new, I would have gone ahead and done that. We weren't able to find a house that met that criteria (or the ones that we did find were too expensive). To be fair, this house is completely liveable as-is, just dated (c. 1983 when the house was constructed)
2) I appreciate the gravity of time and cost required to undertake these projects. My hope was that we could get these projects completed for $80K-$100K and that the work would be done by the end of January (leaving ~3 months for the work). Please go ahead and correct me if these numbers seem completely off.
3) Here's what we specifically plan to do: - Kitchen: New cabinets, appliances, counter-top, and floors. Not structurally changing things, except that we're moving some electric appliances around (refrigerator moves to where the dual-oven is, countertop stove replaced with a range/oven/microwave and placed where the refrigerator is). We're thinking mid-range quality. - Bathrooms: 2 bathrooms, each 8x8 - completely replacing everything and ret-iling, but not changing where things are - Walls: Lots of wallpaper around the house (which we don't like), so removal and repainting. - Hardwood floors: Sand and refinish (we'll do at the end, as recommended)
4) We stopped by Home Depot today and according to them, they have general contractors that are a) reliable and b) affordable. Any thoughts on that?
5) Size vs # of bedrooms: Yes, it's strange. The bedrooms are large, as are the family and living rooms.
6) I hear the comments about slowly doing the work. We have a 15 months daughter who has severe food allergies. Not having a kitchen for a few months would not be tolerable, hence the desire to complete the work before moving in. We could probably wait on the bathrooms, but the thinking is that some of the bathroom work could go on in parallel.
Thanks, PB
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lots of people set up a temporary kitchen in say a basement with a existing wastub as a sink, a hotplate for cooking microwave and fridge. inconvenient but livable.
home remodeling tends to uncover new unknown issues that can add months to repairs and thousands to costs.
rather than everything at once, better to do a floor or are at a time.
have a friend who bought a camper, set it up in yard and lived in it while major woir was going on.
currently all our 1950 hardwood floors need refinished, my wife has asthma, and we have dogs.
we are looking for a cheap camper for use during the floor project perhaps next spring.
do odors cause troubles in your family?
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*Impossible to nail down without estimates from contractors and prices on your appliances and choice of materials, but I would say you are in the ball park. Figure that the faster you want it done, the more it will cost because you won't be spending time shopping around for the best price.

*I hope that you have the time to stay on top of this project. Don't figure on letting a GC just handle everything. You need to be a part of the process.

*I've gotten several new customers thanks to their contractors. I went in and corrected the things that should have been addressed during the remodeling process such as correct placement of recessed lighting, connecting a new bath fan to the existing duct, running new circuits for the kitchen. In addition to paying the contractors, you will also be paying for Home Depot to do nothing except provide a referral. One thing I don't agree with, but maybe it has changed. From what I have heard, Home Depot requires almost, if not the entire full payment up front before work begins. I could be wrong about this.

*That's nice. I like big rooms.

*As I mentioned before this is doable, but you need to get on the ball NOW. Start making lists for plumbing, electrical, painting, tile, etc. A kitchen detail is extremely important and can be done by the place that you buy your cabinets from. Also be prepared for problems that may surface once the project has started. I do a lot of repair work in 1980's houses and condos. I am very grateful to one builder in particular as their contruction methods have been very good for my business as well as many plumbers.
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"John Grabowski" wrote

Actually they needed some money upfront, but most went on the 0% interest account card they issued us (0% for 6 months then a rather high rate). I don't recall how much up front, but it was not a great deal. 10% possibly.
When the tub enclosure was not correctly spec'ed and we have to have the tub replaced vice a liner put in (we were not charged for the liner, they goofed and admitted it and made zero hassle over that aspect at all), we got a bill with interest before the tub was even in. I trotted right over with a complaint. They corrected the records right away and took that interest off, and shifted me to 1 year no interest after date of actual install completion. (I think they now give a year, but at the time I contracted, it was 6 months).
I am happy with the financial arrangements and had a lower interest account ready to go to swap any remaining balance to, at need. As it is, I will pay it off before the interest kicks in.
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"PB2" wrote

Welcome!
snip, understood.

Some are reasonable to do in that time. Quite a bit you can do yourself easily and save a huge bundle. The wallpaer comes to mind. Even if you arent a very good painter and want to have that painted after, you can probably get the wallpaper off yourself. Consider if some of it is still in good shape and flat paper sort (not flocked or anything, but smooth), replaced with a newer pattern you like over it. This may be cheaper than paying to have it removed and wall repaired for painting then painted. Perhaps just a room or so, or some walls in some of the rooms.

Have the cabinets done before you move in (reading below, that might be pretty important). Delay actually getting the new appliances, but swap them and make sure the new cabinets will fit the dimensions of the new ones you plan to get later. You can delay the floor linoleum too as that's a simple one to have done later, done in one day easy.

I'd wait on this one then later you can have one done, while the other is in use etc. This one will cost more than you think. Had a tub replaced, 5,000$.

See above. I gather it's the pattern you do not like? Takes skill to put up new stuff over it so this one (if no previous experince) you'd want to contract. If planning to remove and paint, you can save really huge significant money by doing the removal yourself. Have an estimate made (or several) and ask for a price where they remove, and one where you do it then they come back and sand, prep, and paint.

Not nessecarily. If you delay painting some of the rooms, or decide to repaper them with something you like better (some look like faintly antiqued painted wall for example), this is best done before you move in while the walls can actually wait. It's a real mess trying to find where to stow all your stuff so they can get at all the floors and they will want to access them all at the same time (cheaper for you).

You'll get a big variety of replies on that. The best real advice is to have them do an estimate as well as Lowes (if you have them) and some others. The quality of their work is dependant on the quality of the local sub-contractor and some are great, while others are abysmal. They did a great job with my patio door. They did abysmal with the bathtub and I waited 6 months from contract time til finished, 4 of that with ripped out walls and a bare pipe (safety covered with a kids inflatable water wing). I dont have 2 bathrooms, just a secondary 1/2 bath with toilet and sink. Other people have had great luck with tubs and things, and not so hot with patio doors from them.

It normally only takes at most a week to just replace cabinets. Linoleoum in one day.
Here's the order _I'd_ persue based on what you said here.
1) Kitchen cabinets, with floor contracted as part of the bundle. (If not enough outlets, add this in at that time). Will have to paint after as new cabinets will leave gaps in 'whatever' was there before.
2) repaper or remove paper and paint all rooms (give yourself 2 days per room if removing paper yourself, 1 day if wife can help and still have child tended)
3) Have floors redone (Move to slot 2 if not enough time to do walls as this can be done after move in, but if the ceiling needs painting, do that before the floors if at all possible).
4) Delay til later, then one at a time, bathrooms. If you can, you can have some of the work done before but some will not be compatible (floors and bathroom at same time wont work). Cant do anything else the day the electrician is there if needed for kitchen as you'll be without power probably.
Minimalist list if you can delay, so you can adjust to not need as much of a loan:
1- Kitchen cabinets then shuffle the electrical stuff where you want it.
2- Ceiling painting if needed
3- Floor work
This would let you occupy the new home pretty fast. Proably later same month so no rent and mortgage at same time. Only the ceiling and floor actually conflict unless the kitchen access requires they traverse the flor being worked on to get in and out or bring in cabinets. In my case, it wouldnt as I have a sliding glass patio door there and would just need to tape heavy plastic to keep sawdust from the kitchen work out of the floor work area once varnishing etc.
After move in, shuffle furniture out from the walls and have those done, room by room. (cover furniture with plastic, putting delicate pieces in another room when possible). Go with a true professional painter (will cost more but no floor problems). Then, do the bathrooms one by one. Linoleum for kitchen and a different pattern for bathroom floors, all done in one day at some later point.
Umm, you do know one of you pretty much has to be there when the work is being done right? Also if you have any pets, they have to be securely kept away the whole time in a spare room or something. (Laws vary on that, might want to ask about that where you are).
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I haven't read the entire thread, but a couple of concerns come to mind. Doing baths, walls and floors prior to moving in sounds right. Mention of a toddler with severe food allergies makes me wonder about advisability of installing new cabinets right away - just wondering about adhesives and outgassing from some products. Does the doc have any advice about products to avoid? In removing wallpaper, an incredibly messy job, you are likely to stir up lots of dust from residue that probably contains wheat paste. Extra care in cleanup with that.

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For a kitchen renovation, I'd use a place that specializes in kitchens. This will be the most expensive part of the project and knowing how to lay it all out and do it right is critical. A good company with experience can come up with ideas and suggestions that could greatly affect the convenience of what you wind up with, how good it looks, how it affects the home value, etc.
Whether $80 or $100K is reasonable to do all the work depends on many factors, but the most important is what materials you use. For example, do you want GE profile appliances, or giant built-in Viking? Basic kitchen cabinets or high-end, with custom work added.
Regarding getting contractors in to give estimates before closing, it's up to the seller. Most will probably have no problem allowing you in, if they aren't living there. Most critical is asking around for recommendations for good contractors. Also, check with the local BBB and any Dept of Consumer Affairs, etc to see if they have any info on them. If you sign any contracts for renovation, make sure there is a contingency clause stating you can get out of the contract without penalty if the house does not close.
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