The Friday Rant: ‘Next time I’m just moving!’

FrustratedwomanToday’s Remodeling Rant comes to us from reader Dawn Bowen. She rants:

“The worst thing about a remodel is FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE — people who are honest about their abilities, who show up when they’re supposed to, who do quality work (i.e., do it “right,” not half-assed) and who do not destroy all of your other possessions in the process! I’m nearing the end of my remodel and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not coming soon enough or without additional headaches. I may end up in a lawsuit with a flooring company.

My recommendation for anyone going through a remodel is to talk to a lot of people, gather as much information as you can, but also know that a lot of it will be conflicting. You’re going to have to evaluate the information you’ve gathered, make a decision and hope you’re happy with the outcome. I’ve spent many sleepless nights agonizing about things like whether I should have chosen a different granite than the one I did. Also recognize up front that it’s never going to cost what you budgeted. Once you start, the snowball begins to grow. Things come up that you never even thought about.

I’ve learned a lot through this whole process. Now that I see the fruits of my labor, I can admit that it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, but one very rewarding remodel experience in one lifetime is enough. Next time I’m just moving!

P.S. Thank you so much for the public forum in which to rant. I FEEL BETTER ALREADY.”


(What’s the worst thing for you about remodeling? Prices? Workers? Noise? Duration? And how do you deal with it? E-mail your rant to Rants may be edited for brevity and clarity. I post new rants often so we can all rant together.)

7 Comments on The Friday Rant: ‘Next time I’m just moving!’

  1. bar1812

    Last year I did a kitchen remodel [because there had been a leak behind the sink cabinet that wandered across the floor between the old lino and the not-so-new vinyl] The pros left me with big holes, and one lonely corner cabinet. I wasn’t planning on doing quite that much, but hey, I had a clean slate. My husband was in Iraq at the time I bought the house and nearly completed this project. [I still don’t have cabinet doors — I’m in Wisconsin and the weather isn’t always ideal for applying finishes to wood].
    This year, we did the main floor bathroom. Another water damage issue which became worse with every layer peeled away. The room was gutted to the studs by the time we removed all the mold. I have an electrician for a neighbor [really handy on weekends!] and a plumber at the ready. He was in the middle of a much larger job at the time I did the bathroom and coached over the phone when we ran into trouble. Awesome! He also turned me on to Shark Bite connectors: We were able to re-plumb the bath in under 4 hours using these connectors and PEX tubing. I think these connectors are only available at Home Depot [and online] but they were designed for use on Navy ships. You can connect, disconnect and reconnect tubing to your hearts’ content. No soldering, gluing or cutting.
    Next year, I think we’re going to add to the small dormers on our 1 1/2 story Cape to give us a master suite and another bath upstairs. I think I’m going to find somewhere for my husband to go while the majority of the work happens. I love him, but going over and over design choices for the bathroom nearly drove me crazy! I spent 7 weeks on the kitchen alone and 5 weeks on the bathroom as a couple. [the bathroom is still only 5×8] .
    I am starting to wonder, though, what exactly I’m going to do with my free time once we’ve replaced everything in the house????
    BTW: I splurged on granite in the kitchen, too. I have a teenage son and a toddler daughter — I wish more of my house could be virtually indestructible.

  2. Willie

    While the choice of finish is a personal decision, some people do obsess about then just because of the latter. When I set to remodel my townhouse I chose the best I could afford since I am not in the business of flipping houses, nor planning to sell my home of 11 years any time soon. I chose what I chose for me, not to show off or anything like that, but it does help when you have a home full of high end stuff as the result could be pleasing (if you know what you are doing). God willing, I am planning to be in this home until I could no longer negotiate the stairs or when I retire and move to some tropical island in the Caribbean to a one story home.
    The moral of the story is that if you are going to live the home for a significant period of time, like me, YES you have the right obsess about the granite, the floors and everything else under the sun. I know because I have been there done that! Here is my link to my remodel that was completed just this month.

  3. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Babbette: What an amazing list. It’s so good I copied it and turned it into a post. It was too good to leave in the comment section.
    If you feel like emailing a few images of your remodeled space to, I could include them.
    Again, Babbette, thank you for the generous sharing of your wisdom!

  4. Babbette

    Well, I’m chastened by Kathy’s gentle chiding, and so as an act of apology for my rant above, I’ll share some things I’ve learned in 20 years of home owning/fixing/remodeling.
    First. Most. Important. Think of remodeling as an engineering project. Things will go wrong. Expect them to go wrong. Be ready to be flexible. Have a backup plan and a secret stash of money.
    1. Do a radon test. They’re cheap and may save your life. 3 of the previous owners of my house died of lung cancer. The radon test showed consistently high readings. I now have a radon mitigation system (paid for through my health savings account interestingly enough–it never hurts to read the fine print)
    2. A good plumber, electrician, and handyman should be on your speed dial. Selecting these people is where friend’s recommendations pay off. I went through 3 plumbers, 2 electricians, and 2 handymen before I settled on the ones on speed dial.
    3. Trustworthiness in a contractor is worth more than low fees. I’ve had jobs I never sent out for a bid because I had a contractor I could trust. This is particularly useful in an emergency.
    4. Set your exterior locks so you have all but one on one key, then the last lock on another. This odd lock is your maintenance lock that you can give the key for to your contractor, maid, or dogsitter. If you decide you no longer trust them, you only have to change one lock.
    5. Speaking of locks, the day you move in have a locksmith rekey the house. A friend of mine moved into his house and two weeks later a strange woman knocked on his door and said “Here’s the Smith’s keys they left with me last year,” You never know where ALL the keys to your house are. This is particularly true if you are the first owner. Just replace all the locks with something better.
    6. If you have a sump pump, have a backup sump pump ready for the day the old one fails. (They ALL fail–usually on a 3 day weekend during football season when some important game is playing). Backup power is good for the sump pump too. It’s a remodel, why not plan for disaster?
    7, Cheap things to make a house really outshine other houses:
    Custom switchplate covers. You can get them on line, but Lowes has some nice ones to order.
    Replace the ceiling lights with new fixtures. (I have one room where I’m on my 3rd fixture)
    When you replace a floor remember a big chunk of cost is installation..why not go just a step up in quality? I was dithering about carpets when I realized that wood was only 300 more per room. I put it everywhere–even the kitchen where it’s worked wonderfully.
    8. I avoid polished brass like the plague, even in doorknobs.
    10 , Scream. I once had a contractor hand me a bid for a job. I’ve been remodeling for a while and had a mental estimate of the cost. When he handed me his bid I screamed. It wasn’t deliberate, it was a reflex. I turned him down. Two hours later he called me back with a bid that was only two hundred dollars over my mental estimate.
    11. Take your time. It took me five years to get my living room just right. Almond walls, yellow upholstered chippendale style furniture, small black tables at each chair for drinks, modern paintings. It’s dynamite.

  5. rusty

    I would say it’s a matter of detail such that the owner has to be there walking around a lot. And don’t talk to the worker guys, talk only to the foreman who should always be there, when you see something you don’t like.

  6. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thanks for sharing, Babbette. That’s quite an adventure and I’d love if you’d share a link where we could see photos of your accomplishments.
    Also, I’d like to suggest that we all show some respect for each other’s experiences on this blog, a little compassion, a lot of tolerance. I love hearing about people’s adventures in remodeling and I don’t want anyone who comments on this blog to feel they will be insulted for expressing their own reality. I know my biggest issue is having people around me making noise and commotion. It makes me so tired and drained and scattered. Maybe someone else loves that very thing. But I don’t want them putting me down and telling me to get over it. Everyone has their own issues. If that sounds like left-coast, touchy-feely wackiness, well, I guess this is the West Coast and I was born here and I came by it honestly. And kindness toward all on my blog is my request. Thank you!

  7. Babbette

    Granite, shmanite.
    I continue to be amazed at the level of obsessive perfectionish comsumerism in remodeling that ends up in hysteria. Get over yourselves people, it’s just ‘stuff’ not people’s lives. I’m in the fifth year of a remodel of a home in a historic district in Virginia (just getting ready to add a dormer bathroom) and the following has happened since I started:
    On Day 1 of my ownership we took down the tacky fake wood panelling and discovered holes in the drywall the size of a window.
    Had to replace an entire bathroom because previous owners did not put down water proof subflooring and the floor rotted (once you rip the floor out you might as well replace everything)
    The previous owners did ‘sport wiring’ in the basement and the entire basement had to be rewired as part of the kitchen remodel
    The previous owners installed a jacuzzi on the first floor without proper soldering of the copper joints resulting in a leak that flooded the basement below while I was on vacation (note: never try to get a plumber on Superbowl sunday)
    The previous owners put 4 (that’s right FOUR) layers of shingles on the roof
    The iron pipe between the house plumbing and the city sewer system rusted through and sprung a leak
    The oil tank fell over after a hurricane because the previous owners put it up on bricks rather than a concrete flat.
    At one point a contractor said, “I’ve seen women that had nervous breakdowns over less than you’ve gone through.” I think the difference between the hysterical ones and me is that I think of this as an engineering adventure, not an opportunity to demonstrate that I have the money to buy the latest fad in home decorating.
    By the way, I didn’t put granite in my kitchen, I put in Formica. It’s not the ugly stuff you remember from 20 years ago and it’s easier on my crystal.