lifestyled . . . to new beginnings

Q:“My spouse and I just fell in love with a bungalow, but itʼs in major need of repair . . . how do I even begin the process of renovating. Honestly, I donʼt even know where to start!”

A: First, think about how you will actually use the space (i.e. the formal dining room as a storage closet for craft supplies, the living room as tv/dining room, the kitchen as central hub for entertaining . . . you know what I mean). Get honest with yourself because most houses are used differently today than when they were built. And think long term . . . are you starting a family or a work-from-home business? Or will your love for this house be just a five year fling? This way you can accommodate your current needs, potential future needs, and/or resale value considerations. We all know successful relationships are all about honest communication and accommodating each others needs, right? (Read: tailoring a space to how you will actually use it is key to streamlining efficiency, which means avoiding clutter and other ugly fights.)

Then start planning. Think about things in terms of “need to do immediately,” “would like to do as soon as possible,” and “want to do eventually.” Make lists for phases 1, 2, and 3. “Need to do immediately” items should include anything that needs to be done to make the house safe, structurally sound, and prevent more extensive repairs down the line. It should also include those basic cosmetic and/or functional items that you need to make the house livable, and anything you can afford from phase 2 that makes sense to do before move-in, or while the house is under construction, like plumbing, electrical, HVAC, refinishing the floors . . . you get the idea.

Count your money. Budget for your phases, or adjust your phases to your budget as the case may be. Know this: ALL renovations take LONGER and are more EXPENSIVE than you think they will be. ALWAYS. This is the only hard and fast rule of renovations. It is not because you, or your contractor is incompetent (though sometimes that’s a factor)―it’s because construction comes with a lot of variables. Pro or novice, it’s the nature of the beast. Knowing this ahead of time can help you minimize frustration and avoid going broke. Decide how much you can afford, cut that number in half―that’s your starting budget. Seriously. I’m not saying your construction costs will be doubled, but I am saying it will be more expensive than you expect and having that cushion is invaluable peace of mind―the kind that will save your marriage and keep your bungalow love alive.

Depending on your handiness, or nerve, you may decide to do a bunch of the work yourself; go for it. My hat’s off to you. But here is my two cents on what you should not attempt: anything that will void your insurance policy, anything that you will need recourse for if not done properly, and anything that requires a permit. In general I suggest subbing out all things structural, electrical, plumbing, and pest control (termites, etc.) Also, sub out the drywall. You could do it yourself, but it’s a dusty, nasty, clunky, tedious job, and it will take you twice as long and not look nearly as good as the pros. It’s money well spent. (Unless it’s just a wall or two worth, then be my guest.)

My last piece of advice is to keep an inspiration board updated, viewable, and routinely discussed by both of you. Tangible or virtual . . . it doesn’t matter as long as it’s all in one place. I don’t give a rat’s if one of you is more design savvy or laissez faire than the other―that’s not the point. You are creating a home together―so I believe the concepts of honest communication and accommodating each others’ needs should be built-ins.

Here’s to happily ever after!

~Amy Devers

MI To New Beginnings

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