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The Joys of Homeownership: Part 5: Renovating

Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 & Part 4

We closed on our Edwardsville house on November 2, 2020.

The first night we were able to sleep in our own beds was July 29, 2021. 9 Months.

The renovations will continue. Our basement was not even touched, besides the two holes in the ceilings made by our contractor.

One was intentional. The other one was not.

How Bad Can a 35 Year Old House Be?

When we first saw the house over a year ago, we thought there was no way we would buy it. It was obviously not well maintained, and the asking price was too high. However, after comparing the location and realizing we would still have time to renovate, we took the plunge.

The bank withheld $18K from us to make sure we would replace the deck. Unfortunately, during that process, we saw the first of the wood rot.

Being so close to a lake and not having anyone maintain the property for years led to damage on the cedar siding and behind the walls. We also found that our sill plates have rotted in our front yard because the house was not properly set up for drainage.

We knew the roof needed to be replaced. We didn’t know that you can start getting leaks when a new roof is put on. Or maybe the previous leaks were hidden by the green shag carpet in the bathroom.

Doing the Work

I watched hours and hours of This Old House and Youtube videos on fixing up your own house.

My Dad added an office in our garage, redid our basement, and added a porch outside, but I was never that involved besides blasting some cement nails in the floor.

After watching all the videos, I slowly became more confident that I could do the work myself. Everything could be done and undone if you messed up. We could pick out our own material and do it to our own level of satisfaction. My wife was excited to take ownership of design and finishing choices.

Unfortunately, you have actually to be at the location where the work is. Being apart from each other for possibly six months prevented us from getting very far. Finally, we found a contractor willing to level our levels, and we slowly gave him more and more work, including redoing the deck.

Everyone Needs A Pool

I’m not a fan of pools.

They’re literally a money pit—our pool cost over six figures. Let’s say you play in the pool four hours a day for 60 days of the year for 12 years. You would be spending over $40/hour for your pool. That’s not including all the upkeep costs and things like installing a fence or buying furniture, toys, and equipment.

The St. Louis area does get hot and humid during the summer months, and I understood why it would be nice to have one. But I also would really like a Tesla X.

My wife really wanted one for the kids, so we “compromised” and agreed to get one for our new house. Unfortunately, we soon realized that half of the United States homeowners also wanted a pool. The earliest we could get one was 2022.

Some companies wouldn’t even put us on a list as they were too booked. Finally, we found one that someone in the neighborhood was going to use. They put us on their schedule because it was easier to have their teams nearby each other. They got started in early 2021, and we could use the pool before the fourth of July. However, it is still not done as the cover has issues, and they were still working on landscaping. They were nice enough to fix the cement they cracked off our driveway, but they also turned our grass into mud.

Inside the House

I struggle to talk with people I don’t know and have a phone phobia. I tried to fix my phobia one summer in college by taking a customer service agent job at Sears.

It did not go well.

This left my wife to take on all of the project manager roles. She was a lifesaver.

She reached out to painters, roofers, siding, tilers, poolers, and general contractors. She managed everything from a distance. She was telling our contractor what needed to be done and ordering hardware and materials. This saved us significant money and allowed us to understand better how things were actually progressing.

Everything went slower than we expected. Appliances ordered in January have still not arrived or do not work properly. We didn’t have flooring down until late July, and our master bathroom was just finished in mid-August.

Would We Do It Again?

HGTV shows make everything look easy. However, you have to understand there are teams of people behind the scenes managing the workload. It is also actual work. Trying to do it with children and remotely was extremely stressful.

We could save money and do some unique finishes that we otherwise might not have been able to do. But I don’t think we’ll take on this big challenge with our kids still school-age again.

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