Rehabbing a House From Start to Finish
By Steve Cook
It is easy to be intimidated by the size of a rehab project, particularly if you've never tackled one before. This chapter breaks down the steps involved in completing a renovation from start to finish and removes some of the mystery, and hopefully some of the fear, surrounding a renovation. I hope you find it a useful tool when eyeing your next fixer upper.
When starting a rehab, the very first thing that I do is walk through and evaluate the project myself. Then I set up a meeting with my contractor to get his input and finalize my strategy including how to handle certain repairs and whether or not we're going to make any changes to the basic layout of the property. Now that I work exclusively with one general contractor, my life is much easier since I only have to meet one person. He contacts everyone else and then relays the results of his conversations with them to me.
As a result of my experience, I'm becoming fairly adept at determining the best way to do the work. Therefore, my contractor usually winds up doing completing the projects in the way that I envision. However, he does offer advice and I'm always open to suggestions as to better or cheaper ways to get the job done.
Once we meet and determine the work we are going to do, my contractor and I put together a draw schedule. This is usually required by the lender and lists the order in which we intend to complete the work required. I like to shift things around to keep the cash flow coming from the lender. My contractor likes to do things in an order that makes his life easier. We usually settle on something in between.
Through experience, I have finally learned to do my entire "demo" first. I used to get into my homes and start the jobs immediately. However, this meant we were constantly working around trash, having to haul trash away, etc. Now, I just get a dumpster or two at the very beginning of a job, bring in a crew, and begin to rip everything out. We clean out all the trash and tear out the kitchen, bath(s), drop ceilings, paneling, flooring, and anything else that might get in our way of completing the job properly and efficiently.
The rest of the job typically begins on the exterior of the home. We start with the roof in order to ensure that the inside of the house stays dry, and usually, I'll have the windows and siding done at the same time. One reason I like completing the entire exterior rather quickly is that it starts to attract attention from the neighbors and people who drive by.
The next two items on my list are the plumbing and the heating and air conditioning system. In the past, I had contractors who didn't do the plumbing right away and it only led to disaster. After they hung, finished and painted all of the sheet rock in the home, they turned on the water only to find that there were pipes burst in the walls. Today, I ALWAYS make my contractor check out the plumbing first, including the sewer lines.
It is important to have a working heating system in the home upfront so that much of the interior work, particularly the finishing and painting of the sheet rock, can be done. While the plumber is working, I'll have an HVAC crew installing a new heating system which consists of a new gas furnace and central air conditioning. I haven't always replaced functional HVAC systems and even today, if the current system is fairly new, I will avoid it. Primarily, though, I always install completely new systems.
Finally, if the electrical system needs to be updated in any way, I usually do this while the HVAC system is being installed. In many instances, if I am installing central air conditioning in a home that didn't have it previously, the electrical system will need to be updated to accommodate the central air. Other than this, which isn't always necessary, I rarely have to do any electrical work in my homes.
Once the exterior and the HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems are done, I begin to address areas such as rotten wood, tearing down walls and building new ones. Of course, if I'm going to remove or build a wall containing plumbing and/or electric, then my crew has to do it before or during Step Five. I make an effort to finish the basement of every house that I renovate. It creates more living space, and for many of my buyers, my finished basement is the reason that they buy my home.
Once I have completed all of the major systems, then I begin to do my sheet rock (a.k.a. drywall). If at all possible, I prefer to just skim and patch the walls, but I frequently put a lot of new sheet rock in my homes. Hanging and finishing the sheet rock is something that takes a while, but is goes a long way toward making an old house look new.
Once all of the sheet rock is done, we get paint on the walls. First, we'll put a coat of primer or a light first coat of paint on the walls and then have the sheet rock crew fix any flaws, which won't show up until there is paint on the walls. As soon as the flaws are repaired, we'll put two more coats of paint on the walls.
Once the paint is on the walls, we get our vinyl floors in the kitchens and baths before installing all the new cabinets, commode, vanity, etc. We usually take our kitchen dimensions to Lowe's or Home Depot and have them design the kitchen for us. It makes my contractor's life easier and we always get the right size cabinets with a good fit.
Once the kitchens and baths are installed, we start to wrap everything up. Contractors usually refer to this as their "punch out" and consists of all the little details such as outlets, switchplates, and light fixtures. Many times, a homeowner will walk through and create a punch list with the contractor. Since we've worked together for so long, my contractor already knows what needs to be done and we don't need to do this.
Sometimes it seems like the punch out is the hardest part of the whole renovation since it takes so long to complete everything on the list. However, this is also the part of the job that makes your renovation a good one or an excellent one.
Since we don't want workers ruining the new carpet, this is the very last thing we install. We usually put new wall-to-wall carpeting throughout.
At this point, the home should be finished and we'll begin the clean up. Since you want your homes to stand out, it is important to get them clean and looking like a million bucks. If I'm going to do any landscaping, it is usually done here as the last thing.
Once the home is complete, I immediately begin marketing it. If the area is hot and the home is going to move quickly, then sometimes I'll start marketing before completion, but most of the time I prefer to have the entire job done before allowing people to see the home.
Once the home is under contract with a buyer, they may select to use a home inspector and their lender will order an appraisal. As a result of the inspection or appraisal, you may need to do additional repairs. Then the inspector or appraiser will reinspect the property to make sure the repairs have been done before issuing their final approval.