Outlook Remodel


The 2-Week Remodel is Done

17 days ago, I set out to complete a remodel in only 2 weeks. It was an aggressive timeline, but I’m thrilled to say that we’re done, and the new tenants are set to move in tomorrow. And only 3 days past my (arbitrary) deadline!

We hit plenty of speed bumps along the way — from water damage in the bathroom, to uneven cabinets and closets that were too small.

In the end, we hit every milestone, and even installed a brand new fence in only 2 days. Check out the before pics, and here is after:

Choosing Your Floors

Laminate, Hardwood, Carpet, Vinyl…there are so many flooring options out there, that it can be hard to decide what type of flooring will work best for you.

When I first decided to remodel this unit, I peeled back a corner of the carpet in each room to discover that the carpet was laid directly on top of industrial tile.

This brought its own questions and challenges. Would I need to demo both the carpet and the tile? What was beneath the tile? Would I be creating a potentially bigger issue by leaving the tile in place, and removing the carpet? And what type of flooring would work best?

This unit happens to be the lower unit of a duplex, and is also built against a hill. There was previous water damage in the unit, caused by plumbing from the upper unit. The plumbing has since been repaired — but you never know when a plumbing issue will happen. Keeping potential future water issues in mind, I decided to look into water resistant and waterproof flooring options.

Working with licensed contractors, we decided to demo the carpet, but leave the tile in place. We needed to ensure the floors were level before the flooring was installed, so we used a leveler to bring all the flooring in the unit up to the same level. Demo was the usual huge mess, so its important to ensure you’ve included debris removal in your price.

I visited a few flooring companies, and was looking for product that was (1) in stock, (2) could be installed next week — since this was a 2-week remodel, (3) water resistant or water proof, (4) was in my budget, and (5) looked good.

This is when I decided to go with vinyl wood plank floors in a “nantucket beach” color, which is a dark brown. This product is water proof, was in stock, on the low end of price, very durable (for tenant wear-and-tear), and I was surprised at how good it looked. And it still looked great after it was installed. I’ll definitely use this product again.

Measure Twice – Its No Joke

A funny thing happened today. I stopped by a job site to check on progress, and decided to take out my tape measure to double check a few things.

In case you were wondering, this is my favorite go-to tape measure. I love using laser (non-tape) measures for quick measures. They have a good degree of accuracy, speed, and ease of recording measurements without a 2nd person to hold a tape measure in place.

Back to the measurements! In the kitchen, we had a new closet installed. The entire purpose of that closet was to conceal a new stackable washer and dryer, since the only place we could fit the unit was in the kitchen, and the plumbing already existed.

If you were building a closet for a stackable washer dryer, what is the first thing you would do? Would it be to measure stackable units to figure out how big the closet needs to be? Well, that would be a good place to start. But, of course, not everyone starts the same way.

On this site visit, I measured the interior and door width, depth, and height of the closet. I was shocked to discover that the closet was built too shallow. Not even the most compact stackable units would fit in this closet and have clearance for the dryer vent at the rear of the unit.

I had a quick chat with the contractor and explained the situation. He admitted that the closet needed to be “adjusted” (after he was already done framing and had begun mudding the walls, and was about to install the door). His mistake set the schedule back a few days, but it would have been much worse if the floors had already been installed before the closet framing was fixed. A few days later, we had a fully functional closet, with a door and all!

And even better with the brand new stackable washer dryer:

What Can Go Wrong, Will.

And what can’t go wrong? Nothing. Literally everything can go sideways during a remodel. This is one of the biggest reasons that it’s important to be on-site during a remodel — whether it’s you personally, or someone you’ve hired to manage the project. And if you’ve hired someone to manage it for you, then they need to be proactively communicating project updates to you.

The more hands-off you are — the higher the chance of things going wrong….whether it’s workers making the wrong decisions without someone there to guide them, or schedule delays because workers couldn’t get an answer, so they left your job site to go work on another job.

This nearly happened several times during this job, but crises were averted because I was there. Every. Day. Since I put myself in charge of the entire project, I had no one to blame but myself if the schedule slipped, or something disastrous happened.

We ran into a few hiccups in the kitchen. The cabinet installer was installing the upper kitchen cabinets, with room for moulding to be inserted between the cabinets and the ceiling. Seems fairly straightforward, right? Wrong.

When I arrived to review the work, the installer told me that the cabinets had to be installed in an unlevel position, because the room wasn’t level. The 2” gap between the cabinets and the ceiling was supposed to have moulding. But because he continued to install the cabinets, with the gap increasing with every new cabinet, he told me this was no longer possible. Because the room wasn’t level. Excuse me?

We had a few words about the problem. He told me there was nothing he could do….after he installed all the upper cabinets incorrectly, and that he wouldn’t reinstall them. I told him that I wasn’t happy, and that he needed to fix it (and he also wouldn’t get paid if he didn’t install it correctly, with the moulding).

It’s because of situations like this, that it’s actually illegal in California for contractors to ask for (or accept) a down payment on a project for greater than 10%, or $1K (whichever is less). These laws are there to protect you. If a contractor asks you for more than this as a down payment, you can remind them about the law (they might not be aware), and offer them the 10% instead.

After going head-to-head with the contractor, I returned a few hours later to find out that he magically fixed the problem! That the ceiling “unlevelness” was no longer an issue, and that he wanted to make sure I was “happy.” He was able to adjust the cabinets so they are now level to the ceiling, and installed the moulding at the top without a problem. After completing the moulding installation, would you believe that contractor actually asked me for an unscheduled payment towards the project cost?

Of course, I said no. Our upfront agreement, in writing, was that he would be paid the sum of the project upon completion. He said ok, and he left.

One problem down, how many more to go?

Demo Day!

Who doesn’t love to destroy some things for fun?

There’s something that’s so satisfying about taking something really crappy and bringing it down to bare walls and studs.

Today we started demo on the kitchen and the full bath. Let the fun begin! And, the potential for added costs. Whenever you start removing tile and walls, you never know what you’re going to find on the other side. There’s a lot of potential for finding water damage, mold, bad plumbing, electrical situations, and other problems that you may never have anticipated.

We got lucky with the kitchen demo — nothing crazy behind all the appliances or cabinets. So after taking a few measurements, I ordered the kitchen cabinets and countertop — which will be ready for pickup tomorrow. On a quick flip like this, I have go-to products that I like to use that are in stock, look good, but won’t eat up my entire budget.

The bathroom on the other hand, turned out to be the project that kept on giving…After demoing the tile and some of the walls, we discovered that whoever put in the prior tile, had just filled in cement over missing tiles, and a portion of the subfloor was damaged.

Add a bit more $$$ into the bathroom budget — we’ll have to get the subfloor repaired before putting in the new floor tile. But the good news is that I have a buffer in my budget to help offset these unknown expenses. The bad news is that there is still plenty of time left to run into a ton more problems (and spend more $$$) before we’re done. So I need to make sure I have plenty of room in the budget for those unknowns.

We even had to demo the walls in the neighboring bedroom due to water damage. But the good news is that we got all the bad drywall out, and we’re replacing the plumbing that caused the problem to begin with.

The 2-Week Remodel.

Today I met my tenants for a final walk-through before they moved out. After living there for 6 years, this unit needs A LOT of work. It’s a 1300 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath unit in a duplex featuring an ugly washer/dryer in the kitchen, plywood cabinets, industrial tile floors, stained carpets, black accent doors (who thought that was a good idea???), and a pretty amazing pink bathtub with shower tiles that look ready to fall out.

I’ve set a goal of completing this remodel in only 2 weeks….with new flooring, a new kitchen with a closet to conceal a stackable washer/dryer, a new bathroom, and a new backyard fence. Its definitely an aggressive plan, but I love a good challenge. Here’s a look at what we’ll be starting with: