The Deal Mommy

Lessons Learned from Remodeling, Week 1: On Hoarders and Kidney Sales

Welcome to my Lessons learned from remodeling journal. I thought it would be fun and instructive to share our remodeling journey week by week. I hope you can learn from what we do right- and more importantly from what we mess up!

You begin any project, be it planning a trip or gutting a kitchen, wide eyed and hopeful. After a week I’m beginning to realize how frighteningly naive our assumptions going in were. Let’s discuss, shall we?

You don’t realize you (and your spouse, and your kids) are hoarders until you have to box up your crap.

  • Deal Kid found two bags of rocks in our basement. Not stones, not gems, rocks. No idea why.
  • Guidebooks from the 90s? Not terribly helpful. Ditto for the over 200 paperback novels when we have Kindle Unlimited. And the bookshelves they are held upon- which we got for free from someone else trying to clear out their junk.
  • The kids are 13 and almost 10.  Are they gonna pull out the Play Doh anytime, well, ever? Do we need a collection of coloring and activity books? (OK, this one is partly me- I kept the grownup coloring books.)
  • What about the collection of plastic containers that come free with lunchmeat- 1/2 of which have lost their lids? Or the Elmo sippy cups? I confess I found an Elmo sippy cup lurking in my kitchen- which hasn’t fed a toddler in 8 years.

Last Saturday the charity truck picked up over 200 pounds of stuff from our lawn and I felt physically lighter and so proud- and our house didn’t look at all different. We could put out 10 more loads and it wouldn’t make a dent.

On the upside- I cleaned out the gift closet of all the 90% off toys I bought over 13 years (kids over 10 give gift cards). Turns out some of the toys I held on to by accident became collectors items. There’s the farting space suit Phineas and Ferb toy I paid maybe $2 for that went for over $20. I’ve collected over $500 from eBay- and made a huge Toys for Tots donation to boot. 

We (meaning I) will be spending much more time and money on this project than we budgeted.

Piggybacking on the hoarding topic- the mere task of packing up the house to remodel is taking a whole lot more time than I budgeted. Although to be fair I budgeted no time to packing up at all!  In the same vein we didn’t budget the $250/month for the Pod we’ll need to put our stuff in while the bulk of the work is going on in the house. We completely missed that line item. It’s one of many line items we’ll miss in the coming months, I’m sure.

In the near term I’m feeling the time sucks even more keenly than the financial ones. Even though we’re one week into having the money and “officially” remodeling, we’ve been preparing and I’ve been interviewing contractors for about three weeks. I expected at the end of week one we’d have someone actually working inside the house. 

Yeah, not so much. Of the long list of projects we have a contractor hired for exactly one, that spends about 10% of our money. That project, assuming I get the permits, takes place the first week of January. Read that again. Assuming I get the permits. I have to teach myself how to write a permit application for a new bedroom and get it approved in the next three weeks. 

Long story short: the contractor is putting in a basement window and would charge me $500 to get a $90 permit that would only cover the window. I’d still need an additional permit for the bedroom, which a 2nd contractor would charge me an additional $500 to get. $1000 vs. $90 and my time? Worth it, at least on paper. Watch my journals to come to find out how that decision turns out. 

I’ll probably also be doing some of this work myself- I taught myself how to paint and putting in laminate flooring looks fairly straightforward. It just didn’t occur to me that it would be cost effective to DIY with my lack of skills- but I’m gonna have to get up to speed and save where we can.

The contractors and the kidney

I’ve now had eight contractors in the house, with three more coming this weekend. I’ve spoken to another five, and reached out to at least another 15 who never returned my call. The only people who have merited a call are referrals from friends or companies that scored an A on Angie’s List (from which I bought the Gold subscription). So I thought I was being smart. 

Well, of all the people I’ve met so far I’ve had two (from large, well regarded companies) come to the house, take measurements, and two weeks later I’ve yet to even get an estimate. One sent me an estimate that told me what I wanted was simply impossible (without going downstairs to look at the plumbing).

One contractor, who was referred to me by two separate friends, came to the house, spent two hours and I would have hired him in a heartbeat…until he encouraged me not to file for permits. Once I insisted that we needed permits he ran out leaving a Looney Tunes shaped hole in my front door. 

…which leads me to the kidney. The firm, recommended to me by a friend, gave me the warm fuzzies the moment I walked in. The sales rep spent an hour with me in the showroom, then two hours in my house yesterday. As he left he ran into my next door neighbor who was a college friend. To be fair I don’t have the firm quote yet, but I just know. 

What’s the going rate for kidneys these days?

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 

Lessons learned from remodeling week 1: where I ponder hoarding and whether it's worth selling a kidney to hire the right contractor.


18 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Remodeling, Week 1: On Hoarders and Kidney Sales

  1. Paula

    Good luck. We just finished a complete remodel of our master bathroom and finishing minor remodeling of other bathrooms. Getting the estimates is painful but “knock on wood” it all went remarkably well other than going over budget but that was 100 percent my fault. When looking at fixtures I decided to go with more expensive ones than the ones budgeted but the contractor always reminded me this was above the amount quoted so I wasn’t blindsided.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Paula. I just have to keep reminding myself that the alternative is buying a new house- which would cost even more.

  2. AMJ

    Best of luck with your remodel. It’s never fun during the process, but always worth it in the end. I’m still suffering from PTSD from a master bath remodel from a couple of years ago that went way over schedule and budget. Our next major home improvement is flooring and I’m dreading it!

  3. MickiSue

    Oh, Dear. Dia, all I can say is that it starts feeling worth it when you see even the hint of a finished project. So far, all we have complete is the entry/second floor hallway and family room painting. But the fireplace no longer screams for attention, and the walls are pale skin friendly now; gray with slight blue/green tinge, instead of old paper off white with plenty of yellow. And the trim. Whatever you do, if painting is new for you, avoid painting trim. I’ve painted a lot, and trim just, well, to be blunt, painting trim sucks. A lot.

    And I still have a lot to do. But at least not in the two biggest expanses in the house, you know?

  4. Ben

    Have you thought about/I would love to hear about any plans you have to drive down the costs of materials (will contractors let you buy your own materials?). Specifically talking about ways to save money. We’re about to start a bathroom remodel, and luckily my father-in-law runs his own “handyman” business and is going to do a lot of the labor for us (minus any plumbing that needs to be done). There are multiple Amex Offers right now that are a good starting place to save money….Sears (10 off 50), Lowe’s (10 off 50), Newegg–>HomeDepot (25 off 200) and Staples–>Lowe’s/maybe Home Depot (20 off 100). Frequent Miler had a post the other day about Extreme Stacking the Lowe’s offer and in it he linked to a really old post (2013 I think) where he had a guest writer detail a lot of “stacking” opportunities at Lowe’s that I’m going to try to take advantage of. But, I would love to hear any ideas you have about how you might save some money (or earn massive credit card points 🙂 ) during your remodel.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Ben,
      This has been a point of contention in the hiring process- many full service firms won’t less us buy our own materials. However, many general contractors have a “fly by night” mentality that makes us uncomfortable with the major projects. If you don’t have someone you trust it’s a lot harder to go that route.

      The happy medium (at least in theory) is divvying up the projects based on level of difficulty and going more handyman on things like flooring, drywall etc. On those I can maximize the Home Depot/Lowe’s, etc. I got in on the Sam’s Club/Amex $250 off $1250 offer recently which definitely helps.

      The first tip I mentioned in the post- don’t overlook selling when you’re clearing out for charity. With the iPad app and voice recognition keyboard listing on eBay takes like 2 minutes.

  5. JohnnieD

    LOL on the toys in the basement…

    Hmm, sounds like you need the “egress” window in the basement routine. Curious as to your cost( not including permit–LOL) for the window.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      In the DC Suburbs an egress window is running us about 5K. The full service guy thought we got a decent deal.

  6. Andy

    Good Luck on the remodel. We just recently gutted our entire house and redid it. I managed to pull all the permits for the project myself as well which was an adventure. Permits can be a big part of the adventure, but pretty straightforward. I have yet to meet a permitting department that aren’t overly nice to homeowners!

    BTW, a word of advice. Budget about double to triple the amount of time that you think a project will take that you are doing DIY. That’s what it ran us and I consider myself fairly handy with DIY work. About the only project that took less time than anticipated was tiling which I’ve done countless times.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      I’m usually not a fan of the damsel in distress card, but am not afraid to pull it at the permit office.
      Thanks for the tip about DIY. I’m learning this just with the research.

  7. Nicole

    I have a sippy cup in my drawer and my kids are almost 18.

    When you have the walls down make sure to Sharpie your name and date on the lath. We even traced all our hands. Who knows when it’ll ever be discovered again.

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