November 27, 2017 | Day 67
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Change! With every great plan comes change. When you are buying and selling real estate, you are making a change. When you decide to remodel right after purchasing a new house, there is even more change. When you start out with a plan, there will still be changes. Some that are in the plan and those that come about unexpectedly. What is great though is when you can take that change, and turn it into a better plan than what you had expected. This unexpected change can actually be better in the long run. Well, we have come across such changes, some sudden on the spot and not wanted at the time, but they can make the results better. As time goes by and as we move to finish this house by the end of the year, there have been changes. But luckily for us, our clients have been able to keep up with the changes and make quick decisions to adapt to those changes.
When you hire sub-contractors, they fall in line one behind the other for what they are working on. Sometimes if their projects don’t cross paths they can work at the same time, this makes for a crazy busy house of workers. Most times there is an order and they need to follow one after another. But if a problem arises and one contractor gets held up in the process, it backs up the rest of the line of contractors. For example, we needed to get all out electrical and plumbing completed and signed off on(inspected) before we could get the drywall and insulation in and then be ready for paint and hardwood floors. We have been running late on both and have been holding up the drywall contractors. Keeping to a schedule and on track is challenging while keeping the flow of work moving quickly and smoothly. We have heard the term “managed chaos” as the definition of a general contractor and we concur.
In preparing to put in the master bathroom shower we had the plumbers coming back for a final rough in before we would get it all signed off on and move on to drywall. So, we bought a one-unit prefabricated shower that was on order. This is a nice unit that gave the owners plenty of elbow room and looked really nice. The existing drain wouldn’t fit with this shower and was corroded so it needed to be replaced. We had a plan when the plumber came out early on Monday morning to have the cement floor jack hammered to move and replace the old drain for the new shower unit. This was done and then the shower unit was delayed. The plumber was asking for the specifications and the actual shower pan for the new shower so they could finish the rough in. After checking on the shower unit we found out it was unexpectedly delayed and we needed to make another quick change for a different, locally available shower unit that would fit in the same spot. So, in working with the plumber, we ran to Lowe’s to pick up a new shower unit, Renee ran to go rent a jackhammer for the carpenter to use and we were all back on track for the plumber by 9am. All was fixed and the shower will look better with the beautiful tile walls…which was not in the plan of the first shower surround. Here, change worked out in our favor, but sure made for a crazy Monday!
Renee arrived to the house the other day to find out rain was leaking into the basement bedroom through the French drain, which was supposed to keep the basement dry. Another quick change/fix was needed. Our carpenter jumped into action and realized that the foundation on that corner of the house was built too low and water was seeping over it. While the rain was coming down outside he tore into the outside of the house siding, got to the studs of the wall and added cement to the existing foundation to create a higher foundation level. The owner was luckily there that morning and he ran off to Lowes to buy a wheelbarrow and a trowel to mix the cement (they were not expecting to mix concrete that day). Luckily with quick thinking and fast acting, we got this repaired and now the water can’t get in. You can’t control the chaos that comes up with a remodel but you can manage it with quick thinking and creative solutions. Having reliable people around who handle pressure and think on their feet to fix the problem is key in moving a project along and getting you to the finish line. Renee is outstanding at handling these situations and our carpenter is smart, creative and cool as a cucumber.
This week we got all of the new doors and closet doors delivered and we are finishing up with the drywall and bathroom tile. It is really starting to look like a real house and not just framing. I’m looking forward to getting the hardwood floors stained, the house painted on the inside and building that new kitchen. Change is happening and will continue to happen even faster at this point as it all comes together. It just keeps getting better and better!
Thanks for reading and posting great comments, if you have more questions please comment and we’ll get back to you.
– Renee and Jessica
October 25, 2017 | Day 34
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We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There has been lots of change to the interior and a couple big changes are taking place this week with the exterior-the house is getting new gutters and we are painting. Pray for sun!
The areas of the house that needed new walls built or walls taken down have been completed. But of course, we can’t have a week without mentioning rats, what fun would that be. While taking out the drywall in the basement bathroom our carpenter thought there was a brillow pad in the wall but it was a dead rat. He also discovered a few rat’s nests in other parts of the basement wall insulation as well. It was funny when he said, “it’s always a surprise”, I bet it is, no thank you. Glad we decided to remove that section of drywall at the last minute. Yuck! I think we are past all the bad stuff (sewers, rot and rats) and can move into the fun stuff!
In the last week we built the walls for the new master bedroom, bathroom and closet. It’s so fun to take awkward/inefficient space and make it into a useful/purposeful space. It is completely different! The deck is almost done, it just needs railings and stain. The outside of the house has been prepped for new (dark colored) paint. We want to hide the imperfections and all the different textures and make it pop with creamy white trim. We had a sewer company come out today to scope the master bath toilet and shower drains because the bathroom was so bad we wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything stuck down there (a rat perhaps). We don’t want it to flood after their remodel was done. Thankfully it is all clear and clean.
Something to be aware of when you get bids, ALWAYS read the fine print, compare line items and ask questions. We had an example of this just the other day when a garage door company gave us another quote, this one we asked for less expensive doors, but it came in higher from the first bid. This shouldn’t have been the case since we asked for less expensive doors. But in reviewing the two bids we noticed line items that should of been the same dollar amount but were different, this second bid actually came in higher than the first. We are not feeling very confident with them so getting another company to give us a quote. Another slight hurdle.
Either Renee or I are on site everyday making sure that everything is going according to plan. There are times that you find a better way to do something or have that “aha moment” over a new idea and it’s exciting because you feel that you are making something really great for our clients. During this process, we ask ourselves questions constantly; how will the clients live in the space and how do we create flow and continuity throughout the house. How does the lighting look, how much lighting (always keeping budget in the back of our minds). Making choices that go with the style of the house and the lifestyle of the clients (how hard will they live in the house, kids and pets add wear), do they want open spaces or storage (always a tough question) and will they want electronics (TV’s, outlets, etc.).
A lot of people find it daunting to take on a remodel, regardless of the size. It can be overwhelming and you just don’t know where to begin. Here are some tips to help get you started if you want to tackle a remodel.
First, decide why you would like to remodel. There are several good reasons to renovate. Your home may no longer reflect your tastes or your lifestyle. Your family dynamics may have changed. Maybe you’d like to make your home more environmentally friendly. You may even be planning a move in the future and you would like to invest in your home to make it more marketable (Hint, Renee can help you with that).
Whatever the reason, identify it. If there’s more than one, that’s even better! The point is that in order for you to be happy at the end of the project, you need to first understand why you want the change. What are you trying to accomplish?
The next step is to make a list of every upgrade you would like to get out of the remodel. Divide the items on that list into 3 categories:
a. Must-have items
b. Would-like-to-have items
c. Dream items
Building this list will help you and your remodeling contractor prioritize during the project. This list will tell you which items to cut if you can’t afford everything and which items to add in, if some of your upgrades aren’t as expensive as you thought.
Once your list is complete, think about your budget, but don’t over think it. To many projects get hung up on this and never even begin their projects.
You must begin to calculate what you will be comfortable investing in your home, but remember until you meet with a contractor, you won’t be able to take into account what the whole project will cost. Plus, everything is always more expensive and there is always more work than you think. You can’t have a new kitchen without considering the electrical and the plumbing. You typically need to upgrade those items in the process.
Once you have created your list of remodeling projects and considered your budget, it’s now time to find a professional contractor, and a designer or architect, who will develop a plan to make your project a reality. Typically the designer or architect will design the project and the contractor will price it and then do the work. Rarely does a contractor design. There are Design-build contractors and they do both (This is what we are emulating on this remodel).
Don’t settle for just anyone to remodel your home. Select a contractor that is insured, experienced, and comes with good references. If this person you interview seems too good to be true, this could result in a low-quality renovation and cost you a lot in the end. Ask friends and family for referrals; even posting on social media will get you some names, just ask around.
Our clients have been so sweet and have been SO appreciative of all that we have done. They have been giving us gifts of flowers, wine and even baked our carpenter homemade cookies! Especially nice after all the yuck he has had to deal with!
The next couples weeks will bring a lot more progress. We have outside painting taking place right now and starting tomorrow the tile is being placed in the main floor bathroom. Then comes electrical, furnace work, more plumbing, new insulation and drywall. Hardwood floor refinishing will be next and then the interior painting. Kitchen cabinets will be installed, tile and trim work completed, then new flooring in the basement and new light fixtures. Soon it will really start to look great! Still lots to do. Stay tuned.
– Renee and Jessica
October 12, 2017 | Day 21
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The dust has settled on almost all of the demolition. Now it’s time to help our clients pick out electrical finishes (lighting, electrical switches, outlet covers, etc.) they want for the house. We also need to get the budgets finalized from the last of our sub-contractors so we can hire and get the jobs going and put this house back together.
The first bill from the electrician came in was really high because we had lots of extras in it. So, we had to take a closer look at the project and see what really matters and keep our plan simple. Basically, we can only move what needs to be moved and add extra lights/plugs and switches that need to be added. We knew the electrical was bad when we did the house inspection because the box blew up and the hole house went dark. We had to hire an electrician to come out to turn the power back on for the seller so that their food wouldn’t rot and they could have power. In our first bid, our bill was $25,000! This was not including any light fixtures! This can add up in a blink of an eye. Now we are back to reality.
I had a walkthrough of the house with the electrician this morning to refine the scope of work and get it to a reasonable amount. How does one walk an electrician through a house and talk electricity? Renee makes it very colorful and actually quite fun. She color-coded everything with construction paper and sharpie writings on the wall. This is one way to keep track of the outlets, ceiling fixtures, etc. and have clear communication with the electrician so that the bid comes back correctly with everything we want. The electrician can just take pictures of each room and remember what Renee needs for that room. But of course, she also writes everything down on paper for him so he has a copy to take with him (Her handwriting isn’t ageing as well as she is! It takes a special eye to understand her handwriting, the electrician only asked me three times what a word said – My life’s problems of an assistant).
Clean Crawls came today to clean out the rat/rodent infested attic and insulation, I do not know how they do their job. They get themselves totally covered up to attack the attic, and this attic has the lowest ceilings possible, they are mostly on their stomachs moving around. Yuck! You couldn’t pay me to do that job. It was an easier job getting the rats to move than the sellers! But at least they are all gone now.
Our finish carpenter, Dan has replaced the kitchen slider with the new window and was framing the dining room wall for the new slider. Amazing how you can go online and order a window and glass slider from Home Depot and have it delivered the next day. Got to love modern technology.
Dan spent the last two days, thankfully it was sunny, building the new deck that will be off of the dining room that will be accessed from the new sliders. This will be a small BBQ deck and lead down to a patio for outdoor entertaining. Due to cost and the fact that the yard is more private than the deck, it just made more sense to bring it down to the yard.
During all this building, Renee and I have been working on other bids and Renee has been keeping track of the budget (I’m not the numbers person in this relationship) and searching for lighting options for our clients. This is the fun part. Pretty soon we will get to look at paint colors, flooring samples and tile.
We finalized the kitchen plan and ordered cabinets and countertops. We also have completed the main bath plan and ordered its’ cabinet and countertop. We had extra slab so we are using it for the 1/2 bath countertop. The bathroom fixtures have already been picked out (remember we had to do that day 1 so plumbing could come in and get started). After the electrical is complete and the drywall goes back on in the kitchen and main bathroom, then we can have the cabinets and counter tops installed.
Things were crazy for a few weeks but they seem to be slowing down a bit. I’m thankful that things are complete and a bit slow right now so we can get our other work done (We listed a house this week in Laurelhurst) and get ready for the next steps here.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned.
-Renee & Jessica
September 22, 2017
Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of Renee’s Home Remodeling blog. Working as a full-time real estate broker since 1991, Renee was recently approached by a client to be the General Contractor on the major renovation of a home she helped them purchase. After a crazy first day on the job, Renee and her assistant Jessica decided that the stories unfolding before them were too good to be kept a secret and thus… a blog was born.
Along the way there will be surprises, laughter and some frustration but in the end, we are confident that there will be a happy ending; a gorgeous home for a wonderful family. We hope you will follow along and enjoy the ride along with us.
-Renee & Jessica