Ruminating on my friends’ home renovation

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I helped out our friends who are fixing up their home. They’ve owned it about as long as Alex and I have been dating – almost three years – and are getting around to projects they wanted to do when they moved in.

The ranch-style house in Orchards, about 1,200 square feet, was a short sale, fixer-upper when they bought it. James and Jenni moved in around a month before getting married.

Over the years, they’ve done substantial work. They removed a worn out deck and fixed up the yard. They swapped out old appliances and replaced the sink.

But, one of the larger projects they wanted to do was replace the worn out carpet with laminate flooring. With two dogs, the carpet got even more worn over time.

My friends took a week off work to tackle the flooring and give the walls a fresh coat of paint. Jenni picked out a warm shade of plank flooring called African wood, a neutral gray paint for the walls and sea blue for accent walls – really nice choices.

In the back of my head, I’ve considered painting and flooring to be easy projects. No big deal if I have to do them in the future when I eventually have my own home.

Helping out Sunday made me realize that maybe I undervalued just how much effort a “little” fixing up can take.

Jenni explained that they painted the house twice, first primer and then a coat of paint. There’s also the prep work of removing the molding and taping up the corners of every single edge in the house. Jenni used an expletive to describe what this process was like, which I won’t repeat here. Basically, it’s a lot of work.

And, when you’re already moved into a house, there’s the effort of shuffling all the furniture around. (Note to self: Do NOT accumulate a lot of heavy furniture.)

James and Alex ripped up the carpet and were chipping away at tile in the back bedroom by the time I came over Sunday afternoon. Apparently, this is no easy task, and it’s dusty and messy.
I did the easy work, peeling off painter’s tape. Still, I found myself taking a snack break in the newly-floored kitchen.

I watched James install the snap-and-lock floors, which wasn’t as easy as the advertisements make it out to be. It would be a breeze, I suppose, if every room had the perfect dimensions so there wouldn’t be any sawing needed. In reality, there’s measurements and cutting galore.

Using a table saw is totally foreign to me, and perhaps slightly frightening. I had a babysitter growing up who had sawed off part of his finger, leaving behind a weird-looking stub.

Anyway, despite it all, I could see how excited James and Jenni were to be making their home more livable (and sellable). Despite taking a week off work and getting help from family and friends, however, they weren’t finished by the time we left for dinner on Sunday.

So, they’ll be in a construction zone a while longer. It makes me wonder how tolerant I’d be to fixing up a home and living in a space that’s partially done. I wrote a story about a couple who spent an entire year in a construction zone, living in a trailer on the property, while building their dream house. An entire year. That’s close to forever, right?

I have to weigh the time and cost of doing the work with the cost of buying a home that’s move-in ready. That phrase gets bounced around a lot, and I suppose what move-in ready means depends on what’s expected out of a home.

My real estate agent likes to tell me things like ‘Oh, you can just knock down a wall.’ Or, ‘Replacing the flooring is easy.’ ‘Painting is no big deal.’

Well, my experience proved that’s not true, at least by my standards. And, for a while you have to live with the house as-is, whether that’s three days or three years. Life gets in the way of doing every little update.

How will I carve out time to pursue these projects? Is this a skill I want to learn? Do I mind my home being a construction zone for a while? Will I be proud of the end result and will it add value to my home?

These are questions I mulled over while peeling tape. And, I’ll keep them in mind as I continue to flip through house listings.

Part of the value, James pointed out, is in knowing that they improved the home with their own hands.

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