Renovating: if, when, and how DIY you keep it

Becky
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Some friends of mine are going to be collapsing their garage soon; that'll be the first stage in a major renovation on the house they've lived in for ten years. They have a contractor on board, but much of it will be DIY. They also know that to complete the project, they'll probably have to temporarily move out (like when my family lived in the RV park when we renovated!). Just hearing about it, renovating one's own home seems like a giant commitment--maybe not the Oregon Trail, but perhaps more like donning a paper gown and letting the anesthesiologist give you whatever it takes to get you through surgery.

The Home & Garden section of the NY Times had an interesting profile this week of a Chelsea couple who did a gut renovation for $12,000.

Perhaps just as impressive, Mr. Robohm (who was not sharing the apartment with Ms. Doucette during the renovation) lived in the space for the year and a half it took to do the work — a cost-saving move that required him to vacuum the bed before he could go to sleep. Especially after he demolished the nonworking brick fireplace, which resulted in what he calls a waterfall of soot and ash. Getting rid of the bricks was another problem.

"Ever see "˜Papillon,' where they break out of prison?" Mr. Robohm said. "Or maybe it was "˜The Shawshank Redemption'? They cut holes in their pockets and they dribble gravel, a little bit at a time. It was kind of like that. I paid to get the bulk of it taken out, but there was a tree on the street that didn't have a flower bed. Now it has a nice brick wall where somebody put one in."

I'm always shocked to hear about single room renovation costs--the above article quotes Manhattan kitchen renovations going for about $30k. Even in other parts of the country, relatively financially solvent people can't renovate their kitchens. I know a woman in my area who has a picture of a newly remodeled kitchen on her dream board! There's a stigma--definitely in LA--that women are obsessed with their bodies and employing strange serums and tonics in the name of upkeep, but more and more I'm meeting homeowners who would much, much rather have a new kitchen. Or at least tilework.

My leasing lifestyle disqualifies me from any firsthand input, but I'd be interested to hear any renovating success stories/nightmares you have...

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September 28, 2007 - 4:03pm
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