We have been a bit quiet lately on the JOMY website. If you follow our blog, you know that the past six months have been very busy. We sold our home, downsized to something smaller, and then hurled ourselves headfirst into months of remodeling projects. Our updates to the blog have been less frequent due to the amount of time these projects have taken. This is the first time I have done this much work on a personal residence, let alone in such a short time. We remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, installed new floors, replaced all the fixtures, appliances, drywall texture and corners, and so on. We repaired the roof, installed new gutters and downspouts, replaced every exterior window, installed two new eight-foot patio doors, and did numerous other things I have lost track of at this point.
Instead of boring everyone with all the minute details, I thought I would give you a glimpse of the work that went into the kitchen project—along with how dramatically I underestimated the time and costs required!
You can see our blank canvas started with an early 1980s kitchen, ten-year-old appliances, a four-foot fluorescent light fixture, a pass through opening to the living room, and of course the fake tile-like linoleum floors. Functionally it worked fine, but the wife said it had to go. That was part of the agreement we made to reach a decision on downsizing to a much smaller home.
Some reasons to leave our original home
We attempted to sell our 1970s style rancher for eight months and became very frustrated with the process. Although we had a lot of interest in our home, no one offered to buy it. I think we showed the home about 50 times, each showing requiring me to pack my home office and the cat to vacate the house. My “real estate Spidey sense” told me there was a problem with the house that kept anyone from buying. There just had to be! I asked nearly every real estate agent directly to identify what the issue was, so that we could resolve it if possible. The most common response was that buyers wanted more views or the third bedroom to be on the main level.
We received two offers that fizzled out rather quickly. We finally took the home off the market during the summer (the slow season for buying), to reconsider our selling strategy moving forward.
We did not want to sink money into our rancher home, since we were not completely happy with the architecture (low ceilings, dated slump block, etc.). It did not make sense to do the much-needed major kitchen remodel. We felt we would be better off moving into a smaller, newer place that we could buy deeply discounted. Then we could complete all the updates that we wanted, based on our style and preferences.
Eventually we found some buyers through a co-worker of my wife and sold the home in early January. We purchased the new home in early December and frantically began working on drywall and flooring projects to be completed before we moved in on January 3rd.
The demolition stage of the kitchen
We attempted to complete all the work needed on the home without touching the two bathrooms or kitchen. The code words for those future projects had been: “Phase Two.”
Phase Two started out slowly in late January as we looked at countertops and cabinet samples, appliances, handles, sinks, faucets, and countless other do-dads needed for today’s kitchen designs. We found out very quickly that many of the contractors and subs in Sedona have too much work and are not interested in smaller jobs. We talked with our new neighbors to find contacts who could help us complete the work we had planned.
Here are some “before” pictures with our flooring and walls completed, from the perspective of the dining area and one wall inside the kitchen prior to demo:
The demo phase felt good, since we felt like we were finally making progress and soon would be getting the project done. Had we only known that this was just the beginning… We spent months working around a construction zone in a partially, then fully demolished kitchen, attempting to make meals. It was a challenge!
The start of the “money letting” for the kitchen
There were too many decisions for my taste. What style, color, dimension, composition, manufacturer, and cabinets did we want? Nearly all the same decisions needed to be made for the appliances, countertops, backsplash, and lights. This went on, never seeming to end!
Speaking of appliances, we purchased on sale the entire set on January 15, 2016, picking a maximum delivery of 90 days later. I thought: You know what, when April 15th rolls around, I’ll just push the delivery out further if needed. On April 14, I received a call saying the appliances would be delivered the next day, no exceptions. Heck, Dianne and I were camping hours away and not even home! Certainly, you would think that we would have had the kitchen completed by then. We were not even close.
We decided on the cabinets, a quartz countertop, a sink and faucet, and a tile backsplash. We bought the backsplash at cost, left over from a tile job at a local restaurant. The money letting began. We had to pay in full for the cabinets, sinks, and faucets up front. The countertops and tile were half down and the remaining at completion. Thankfully, we had the cash and we have not taken on one penny of debt for these projects.
The “time suck” stage of the project
It takes a lot of time to coordinate materials and schedules. I work from home and the construction, deliveries, and noise from workers tended to happen precisely when I was on conference calls. I locked the cat in the office with me so he would not run outside. Of course, he showed his appreciation by meowing while I attended my calls. This went on for several months.
We tried to stay ahead of the work by getting missing parts, additional materials, and ordering fixtures to arrive when needed. In our free time after work each day, we would clean up from the day’s work and then spend a couple hours brainstorming about what was next.
In my free time, I installed all new locks, door handles, light fixtures, outlets, and switches.
I found a new revelation: We had spent so much time in the past obsessing about becoming debt free as soon as possible, and then substituted our old obsession with a new activity—remodeling.
The “when will it ever end” and “the end” stages of the project
We ran into a few problems. We had numerous electrical outlets to move, new light fixtures to install, and some challenges with the sink and dishwasher. There is an Ace Hardware store less than half a mile away that I have walked to sometimes as many as three times a day to get parts.
We still need to do more texture and paint work; however, the kitchen is fully functional now. Here is a look at the completed project:
Some lessons learned with our remodeling projects
We finished the work on the kitchen project just three weeks ago. When I say finished, I mean all but some touch up. I thought we went into the project with realistic expectations. Of course, we were wrong. Here are some revelations that I hope those who have gone before us will nod their heads YES, or simply chuckle with a knowing laugh.
Assume your budget is wrong. Create a detailed budget that you can put into a spreadsheet and then list every item in cost and labor to determine the overall cost of the project. Total the amount at the bottom. Now add a couple more cells in which to enter an amount that is double that cost! Then you may be o.k. with the budget. The good news is that if you planned for double, had the money available, and came in at less, you saved money. Our overall remodel went over by 60%.
It will take much, much, much longer than you think. Did you get the part about it taking much longer? In our case, the kitchen took three times as long as we had guessed. There were delays with materials, coordinating schedules, some travel on my part, and nearly four weeks for the countertops to get completed. Halfway through these projects, I felt like stopping. My wife continued to support and help me along the way to help turn my poor attitude around.
So there you have it, dear readers. Now you know why things have been slow for me in terms of adding content and communicating with my fellow bloggers. Of course, these are all “first-world problems,” but I thought you might be interested in seeing the progress we’ve made.