Home Renovations are Tricky


Home renovations are tricky.

It can be hard to find the appropriate time for a renovation to even take place. Not only will it be disruptive to your daily life, it can end up costing much more than you budgeted, if you are not careful in the planning stages. It also can be very difficult to find the balance between the materials you would like and the budget you are working with.

The best advice I can give is:

Plan a time that is most convenient in your life – if you are a teacher, the first week of school is probably a bad idea. Our solution was to put the plan in place, be there when it started, get out of town for a bit, be in touch via cell phone at all times, and return at the end of construction.

For the times right before, during, and after your renovation – Make a plan – where will you put items that need to be out of the way of construction? Do you have a space, or do you need to rent a space? Where will you sleep, eat, go potty, etc.?

Do your research on the materials you want so that you know what you are asking for and what to expect. If you know you have a bad habit of spilling spaghetti sauce – don’t go for the white Carrera marble!

Keep your expectations realistic – laminate flooring will never look like hard wood, laminate countertops will never look like granite, and subway tile look wallpaper will never look like subway tile.

Look at design pictures. Look at HGTV, look at Pinterest, look at renovation websites. Decide what you want before you begin – changing orders can get expensive.

Do what makes you happy within reason – keep in mind, you may want to sell this house one day and potential buyers may not want an expensive speckled robin blue designer apron sink. On the flip side, make yourself happy – if you just must have that 2k blue sink and it is in your budget, go for it – just prepared for what may happen down the road. Don’t expect a future buyer to want it or to pay for it. A future buyer may hate that sink, and it may even become a negotiation point costing you the sale, or money for you to change it. I’d still rather face that dilemma than live in a beige house.

Be somewhat flexible – your contractor may come up with a great solution to an unexpected problem or they may come across a great deal if you are open to a new idea. I will tell you more later about a backsplash meltdown that came out better than I could have ever planned.

Choose your contractor very wisely. Enough said.

How I learned this…

Several years ago, we found a dream house in Wheatland, CA. It was a short sale, so purchasing it was not quite as straightforward as most home purchases, but we loved it, so we waited it out. We had made a list and it had everything on the “must haves” and even a few on the “it would be nice” lists. It was several years old, but it was like new. In Wheatland – check. Back from the highway – check. Newer construction – check. Close enough to hear the train whistle, but not be bothered by the train – check. Two stories – check. Double sinks in the master – check. Soaking tub – check. Two or more full bathrooms – check. Extra bedrooms – check. Garage – check. Covered porch – check. Laundry room – check. Pool – check. Open kitchen to a living space – check. Move in ready – check. Only one bedroom and the kitchen even showed signs that anyone had ever lived in the house. It was move in ready – sorta.

But, we had to make a drastic change before we even moved in. They had put in a pool along the side of the house, which made sense because in its location, it got sun all day. What did not make sense was that it was outside the longest wall of a large 2 story house. A wall that contained only one small, narrow window. You could not see the whole pool from anywhere inside the house, and you had to walk out of the back of the house and around the corner to get to the pool. This also meant that the largest room in the house had the least light. I convinced my husband before we bought the house, that there needed to be a door by the pool, or the house made no sense. Who puts in a 40k pool that you can’t see and have to circle the house to get to? The door was in place before we moved in, I think he was afraid I’d take a hammer to the wall so I could see the pool.

Two thousand dollars later, we had a French slider leading to the pool, had a tree that was cracking the cement by the pool removed, and had the downstairs painted. My daughter convinced me, easily I might add, that the bright, bright sunny yellow in the kitchen had to go and that we should throw some paint on the stark white walls. Thanks to Pedro, a family member that is also a contractor in Lodi, this was all accomplished in one day. We started moving in the following day.



We lived in the house for five years, before we decided to do more work. I had a list of things that annoyed me on a daily basis, and we made a plan to fix those things. Some things I took care of myself, like painting out the ugly light box and turning it into a pot rack, and building a window seat. Many of my DIY projects have, or will have in the near future, blog posts with directions. The ones listed here, were bigger jobs than I had the time, energy, or knowledge to fix, so we had Pedro do it.

1. The kitty carpet. The downstairs carpet that was obviously freshly shampooed when we bought the house, was not so fresh after a few weeks of people traffic. There was a kitty stained path leading from the laundry room to the kitchen. It always looked great for a few weeks after shampooing, but who wants to shampoo their carpet once a month?

2. The great divide. Between the open living space and the kitchen was a gold carpet strip separating the 2 areas, with carpet on one side and linoleum on the other, making sitting at the table a potential amusement park ride, depending upon which chair you chose.


3. The island that ate the kitchen. For some reason, builders think that all kitchens need an island. Even if it means they put no thought into it, and just get a long bank of cabinets, throw it in the middle of the kitchen, put some cheap counter material on it, hook up some electric and call it a day. The island was 22″ wide and 52″ long and sat right in the middle of the kitchen, making it impossible to place a decent sized table in what should have been a decent sized eat-in kitchen.

4. The ugliest tile EVER. Every kitchen counter and the ridiculous wannabee island was covered in chipped cream colored 4×4″ tiles with large nasty grout lines that always looked dirty, no matter how often it was scrubbed. The tile wasn’t done well, and everything that sat on them, wobbled like it was in an earthquake. I resorted to covering them with gigantic ikea cutting boards to allow for adequate work spaces.

5. Icky sink area. The sink was a  shallow, porcelain, double sink that was chipped showing black spots in several areas. The faucet was the kind you buy on sale at any big box store for $30 that had a separate sprayer that tangled, making it more trouble than it was worth. There was also the ugly vent for the dishwasher. Cleaning nightmare.

6. Ugliest front door on the street. Cheap front door which the previous owners decided to paint crap brown.


Details of the renovation and materials we chose

Home Renovations January 2014

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