By Ashley Schumacher
So you’ve seen it done on TV. Maybe some friends or neighbors have done it. But are you truly ready to tackle a fixer upper? Building a new home may not be in the cards for you and your family and that’s okay. There are plenty of awesome properties out there in need of a little TLC and a good family.
Our first home was a foreclosure so we knew we’d have a project or two in our future.
Ya know, nothing too major…
- All new interior paint (Every. Single. Wall.)
- Removal and installation of flooring throughout
- Painted the shutters
- Added blinds and curtains
- All new appliances
- New exterior lights
- New fence to keep the puppy safe
- Landscaping upgrades
- Built a backyard shed
- Dug and planted a garden and flower beds
- Built a fire pit
- All new interior doors
- Insulated and finished the garage (complete with cable and TV hookups, of course)
- Finished the basement, including custom wet bar, surround sound and exercise room
Okay, so looking back, that’s a lot of stuff. But we got it all done over 6 years. Trust me, it wasn’t a 60 minute HGTV show. Tackling a fixer-upper requires a lot of things… among them are patience, and well, more patience.
I’ll admit, I was super hesitant about even purchasing our first home. I couldn’t see the vision like my husband could. I saw a dirty foreclosure that wasn’t my dream home.
Fast forward 6 years.
With projects nearly complete at our house, I felt a sense of relief. Our home was beautiful and complete. My husband must have noticed that because one day he said, “I’m almost done with all the projects here. We may need to move.” (Insert blank stare.)
And just like that, our second home came in to our lives. Our dream has been to live on a farm and raise livestock, plant a big garden and enjoy the peace and quiet of country living.
And in the fall of 2017… we made that dream happen.
This property was definitely a fixer-upper in need of some TLC. They raised ten kids in this house. Yep, TEN KIDS. I call it “well-loved and lived in.”
Our farm will need a complete overhaul – inside and out.
We started with the upstairs of our two-story 2,000+ square foot farmhouse.
After tackling one fixer-upper and (voluntarily!) buying another… I’ve learned a few things along the way…
- Be patient. Be patient with the project. Be patient with your spouse. Be patient with contractors. Inevitably, things will take longer than you anticipate. It is nearly guaranteed. So be patient. My husband is doing the majority of the work himself (with assistance from a friend or two and myself). Not only in the last year did we take on a fixer-upper, but it is a farm (hello, livestock!). And we both switched jobs. And weather. And life. So be patient.
- Prepare a “Scope of Work.” Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t do this. But my husband did. It really helped him put alllllll the steps of our project into perspective. SO MANY STEPS. Include the specific step, who is going to complete it, how long you anticipate it take (refer back to #1), and how much it could cost. Which brings me to #3….
- Budget. In your Scope of Work, include a column for your budget. Whatever that turns out to be…. Add 25 percent. No matter how good of an estimator you are… extra costs sneak up, the faucet you LOVE and cannot live without is $50 more than you budgeted and a contractor was needed to install X, too.
- Long nights. With both of us working 40+ hours each week, after dinner is the only time we have to do projects. And while you may realize that now… these projects are different. Require more energy. And aren’t exactly leisure activities. Make sure you are mentally prepared to continue to work long after the sun has gone down to keep your project moving along.
- Loud noises. Hello, power tools! There were a few nights that I had to go to bed early which left my husband upstairs alone with his albeit loud music and even louder power tools. Around midnight I’d wander upstairs, half asleep, but wholly irritated, and say, “Alright dude, it’s midnight. That’s enough.” And wander back down before I uttered any curse words. (Let’s be honest, we all know I already did.)
- Curse words. Guaranteed to be found on your job site. 110% guaranteed. Whether something went wrong or right, you’ll utter a few that match your emotions. Supply the kids with ear plugs and move along. Shit happens.
- Proud moments. Relish them. With our first house, I would get irritated with projects sometimes. Thinking to myself, “Ugh… aren’t we done? Another $300 at Menard’s? Really?” But he had a plan. A vision. When you see that vision come to life, it literally makes you squeal with joy. (Trust me, I’ve squealed.) So stand back and take a moment to bask in your awesomeness.
Now, there are plenty of other things to consider before tackling a fixer upper or remodel project, this list is not all-inclusive. It requires a lot of heart, resilience and, well, the proper tools. Having a good partner to help you with the project and the right attitude makes the whole thing go much smoother.
My husband probably has his own opinions about what it takes… stay tuned for the follow up post to catch his side of this story.