Grown-up decision time

Hey, remember that TV show I was on? And I won a bunch of money? And I made a comment about remodeling our kitchen? You don’t? What the hell is wrong with you?!?!

For those of you paying attention, the comment about the kitchen wasn’t just me trying to get quality, non-dork, face time on TV. Next to paying down credit cards, that was the number one option The Woman and I had decided upon for spending any significant winnings that might befall us. Actually, there was a more complicated mental list that included completely renovating the second floor, but wussing out on the Rudyard Kipling guess prevented that plan…

For now let’s just say that the kitchen is job number one… alright, the growing baby is job number one. So we’re back to calling it number two. You all still following? Great. The point is that we’ve talked to a few places about remodeling costs, and it looks like we’re ready to move forward. But there’s still some hemming and hawing and hand wringing (by me) as various numbers have begun to crawl ever upward. Sure, the cabinets are fairly reasonable, even with all of the upgrades, but the extra work to make sure the entire room is completely up to snuff has squashed any notion that we’d be able to do multiple jobs (i.e. fix up a bathroom) this year, and also has me worried about longterm effects.

When it comes down to it, our kitchen is totally functional as it stands. Now that we’ve replaced our broken oven and upgraded the refrigerator to a decently-sized unit, cooking has become less of a chore. So the debate has become whether a full remodel is excessive or a sound investment. Guarantee me that we’re still living in this house in 10 years and it’s a no-brainer. However the skyrocketing property taxes in my county suggest that is not a certainty.

But there’s no two ways about it – we either do all of the work or none of it. I made a decision not to half-ass things with the house. Ripping out old, poorly configured cabinets and replacing them with new, poorly configured cabinets is a waste of money. Tearing up an old, sagging tile floor and replacing it with a new, sagging tile floor is a waste of money. Ignoring plumbing problems when everything is going to be completely exposed for a week is just asking for it to comeback to haunt you further down the road. Couple these things with issues like questionable lighting and outlets, an undersized pantry, and a lack of a dishwasher and there’s plenty for the contractor to do.

But what would you leave off? Skipping work to save one or even two thousand dollars right now will just leave me aggravated when I realize how much it will cost to fix things later.

We may still skimp on the demo work, because apparently soffits in kitchens are some sort of magical contraption that more than doubles the cost for contractors. I’ve got a sledgehammer and a case of Yuengling that says my friends can make short work of it. Still, something tells me that my engineering degree still isn’t enough to confidently wire new electrical outlets next to a gas pipe.

This decision was a hell of a lot easier when we were just looking at cabinets and DIY installation…

7 thoughts on “Grown-up decision time”

  1. Well, my offer of assistance still stands (assuming I’m not trapped in my own circle of home remodeling hell at the time). For what it’s worth, neither of us is all that handy and we have done well with our bathroom. The only thing we absolutely will not mess with is electrical stuff.

  2. it may not be legal to do your own wiring (if you’re not certified) but every town is different. if you’re doing your own wiring and want a final inspection from the town that is. 😉 your town building codes will tell you. and if you’re planning on hiring anyone for any part of the work, you may have to apply for permits. unless you get someone to do it on the side, like we did for our old ceiling. if we were to re-do our kitchen beyond replacing cabinets, in cinnaminson, we’re supposed to get permits and have inspections. not that the previous owners did for anything, and that’s why a lot of the work is half-assed. (they didn’t know what they were doing, but thought they did.)

    soffits are a fortune because they’re an annoying pain in the ass. the one in our kitchen took them at least half a day, not including spackling…. which was another half-3/4 of a day in total.

    you also need to plan for the possibility of something being wrong that needs immediate attention. like when they dismantled our roof and exterior walls, the sewer pipe from the upstairs bathroom disintegrated. oops.

    in the realm of what else could go horribly wrong, i have lots of things. mostly having lived through the contractor-gone-bad thing.

    on the plus side, kitchens are fairly good as far as getting a return on your money.

  3. I’d echo the point you already made, about the next 5-10 years. The market should be going up somewhere in that frame, so it’ll be up to you guys to decide if you plan to stick it out in Jersey or sell the place and finally move to the Philly area 🙂
    Also, take a peek at what’s selling in your neighborhood. If you do plan on selling, you don’t have to outdo everyone, just your competition. Obviously, don’t half-ass it, but going all out doesn’t guarantee you’d get that monetary amount back if you sell.
    If you think you’re going to move – especially if you’re looking to get out of NJ’s ridiculous market – it might be better to put less into this place, and save it for renovations on your next home. That would obviously depend on the difference between the two properties, but hey.

  4. No home improvement will ever return more than about 80%, according to home improvement surveys I’ve read. You should spend accordingly. I’d suggest you wait a while to get a better price, now that people aren’t doing so much home-equity financed jobs, but that probably isn’t an option with the rugrat on the way.

    Your best bet is to work with a kithen design firm. You can explain that you’re looking to improve the function of the kitchen, but don’t want to do major redesign for cosmetic reasons. They could work with your existing cabinets and plumbing to rearrange things without having to rebuild from scratch.

    One big thing, check your subfloor around the sink from below for rot now. If you see any, this job may as well be a total remodel.

  5. @Chris – I’ll be sure to call you if demo work needs to be done.

    @dragon – Inspection shminspection! As for the soffit, that’s why I’m hoping he maybe just knocks some money off and we’ll tell them to do it. I’m afraid of uncovering some disaster and just breaking down crying…

    @Markus – Part of me really hopes that if we move into the Philly area (more likely the Princeton area) we’ll be able to afford a house that doesn’t need any real renovation. Considering what we pay in taxes, moving to South Jersey would probably really bump up what we could buy.

    @c-t – Specifically, kitchens and bathrooms are the most likely to get you to that 80%. At this point we’re only looking at putting significant money (i.e. not DIY efforts) into 2 areas – the kitchen and expanding the upstairs. We had originally looked into the idea of just refacing the cabinets, but you wouldn’t believe how much they overcharge for that. It also, unfortunately, would prevent us from adding a dishwasher. Oh, and the plumbing work doesn’t actually have to do with relocating things, just replacing any pipes that are bad.

    Thanks for the input guys. I’ll be updating with plans, soon.

  6. If you guys plan on moving SOON (Philly & Princeton both sound good so I can see my niece lots & lots!), it might not be worth it to remodel. Since there are other areas in the house that could be remodeled, a new buyer might want to have their choice of style so it’s all cohesive – The house would obviously sell for less, but you might not get your remodel money back anyway. You can always take the new appliances with you & remodel them into your new house when that happens.
    Can you tell I’m working on the new house idea?

  7. Keep in mind, the guy who bought Lisa and Matt’s house ripped out a $5000 stove because he wanted his own style. $5000 stove?!?!?! Who pays that much? Oh right, Lisa. On the other hand, who throws out that kind of stove.

    Alabama’s got lots of great property and many come with extra appliances and cars in the yard to save you the trouble of driving all the way to the store to get remodeling items.

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