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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,226

    House Remodeling Thread (long)

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    Trek had the fabulous idea of garnering the collective experience of TEers who have remodeled or renovated or just worked on their places of residence.

    I have questions, and I know that y'all have opinions (and answers), so let's get started.

    I'm purchasing a house that needs a little work. Not a lot, but enough to make me think about things. I want to do it right to balance cost, energy efficiency, and quality. I'd like to do things as green as possible, within reasonable cost.

    The Facts:


    1. The house is a 1939 bungalow; 900 SF. I live in Richmond Virginia, which is hot in the summer and can get downright cold in the winter (we even get snow sometimes, but more often ice).

    2. Me: just me in the house. My style tends toward modern.

    The Issues

    1. HVAC: The furnace (natural gas) is 11 years old. The chimney needs a new liner, and the furnace needs some basic fixing up, like connecting to ducts and such. I'm going to fix the furnace because it's still in good shape. What's the best way to install a/c? Seems like my choices are window units (might be a temporary fix, but not permanent), central system with heat pump (then I'd have two heating systems), or a split-system ductless system. What are your experiences with this? What about a whole house fan in the attic (would have to keep the attic door open).

    2. The water heater needs replacing. Does anyone here have experience with on-demand hot water heaters (gas)? I'd put it in the basement for all hot water needs. Thoughts, suggestions, opinions?

    3. There is a fireplace, and with a bit of chimney work, it will be functional again. Eventually I might consider getting an efficient wood-burning stove for the fireplace. Does anyone know where to start to find out about the new generation of wood stoves?

    4. (the fun part) the kitchen is small and bare and just waiting for me to knock out one wall and put in a functional and really nice (within reason--not talking SubZero here) kitchen! I'm thinking about concrete countertops in the kitchen. And getting all Energy Star appliances, of course. Gas cooking. Any lessons learned that you would like to share?

    5. I also plan to put a Euro-type washer/dryer combo for clothes in the kitchen. There are full-size washer and dryer currently in the basement, but the dryer is not vented to the outside (!?) and I'd much rather not have to go outside to the basement to do laundry. Since the kitchen has to be totally redone anyways, it's a good time to put one of those in. Most clothes drying will be outside on the line in good weather. Anyone have one of these?

    6. Bathroom is in good shape, but the toilet is very old (one of those padded vinyl seats--ewwwww!) and will need to be replaced. I'm not getting a composting toilet. But I'll swing for an efficient 1.6 gpf or less, dual flush one. Any recommendations?

    General advice is welcome, too.

    Thanks so much!
    -tulip

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    225
    DH and I rented a house that had a solar water heater. It was really cool, we never ran out of hot water. As far as the kitchen, do you have an IKEA close? They have some awesome cabinets for low cost. My friend remodeled his house in the stuff and it looks great.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    The quiet side of CT
    Posts
    164
    Toto is a very good brand of toilet.

    We have an on-demand water heater and it rocks. We never run out of hot water and it doesn't heat a tank of water that just sits there.

    As far as general lessons learned when remodeling - take your budget and add 20% for unexpected stuff and take your timeline and double it!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    3,867
    If you have ductwork for your furnace, it shouldn't be too expensive to put in a central A/C. I recommend against window units--that's what we have in our upstairs bedrooms and they are really inefficient. The amount of air that must be escaping around the units is probably unbelievable.

    I have Whirlpool Duo w/d--in my downstairs bathroom. A vast improvement from the single stacked apartment style unit that came in the house. In another house the w/d was in the galley kitchen, right in line with the cabinets. In yet another house, it was in the kitchen, but in a closet wide enough for side-by-side. So, I have a little experience with this issue. I do not want to hear or see my appliances while they are operating. I want to be able to store detergent and spot remover and the accessories for my dryer instead of having them sitting way up on top of the dryer! You may not mind hearing/seeing your appliacnes, but before you decide to put your w/d in the kitchen, see if you can put it in a closet behind closed doors instead as part of your kitchen remodel.

    If you're going to replace the toilet, go ahead and plan on redoing the floor in there. If the toilet rocks, you probably have rotted floor around it. Might as well do it all at the same time.

    Fun times!

    Karen

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
    Posts
    4,403
    Whole house fans can be very, very noisy but they are incredible for cooling off your house the moment the sun drops. We opted not to do this as the only location for it would be in the hall by the bedrooms, sounds like a train.

    what we DID do was put in a thermostatically controlled attic ventilation fan. It kicks on automatically when the attic space gets above a certain temp. It sucks in on one end of the attic, blows out the other. Our house is a good 15 degrees cooler now since we put this in.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    4,556
    tulip-

    You might be happier with the front loaders, stacked. They're more efficient than the usual stacked units (not sure if that's what you're looking at or not), and you can't do 2 sheets in the regular stacked ones at once.

    On the furnace - I'd talk to an HVAC contractor. Since you already have an air handler for the furnace, you may just be able to put in an AC unit. I would not use window units - inefficient, and generally a security risk.

    Our friends who just re-did their kitchen wish they had gone with butcher block countertops. Natural oil is all that's required. They did a cork floor that's really cool. They also did an induction cook top - and love it so far.

    Consider re-insulating the attic and (if appropriate) above the basement. Have an energy audit done - you'll learn a lot!

    Congrats on the house!!

    CA
    Most days in life don't stand out, But life's about those days that will...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    303
    Hey Tulip-
    COngrats on the house! I am looking right now too, and looking at very similar types of homes. One thing to consider with putting the washer/dryer in the kitchen... that might hurt your re-sale value. Most people in the US don't like to have their laundry in their kitchen. I have been watching a lot of HGTV, and every place they go into that has the laundry in the kitchen has that marked as a big negative. Might want to see and consider putting it either in a closet in the hallway, or in one of the bathrooms.

    Have fun with the re-model and post photos when you move and and then when you do the renovations!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Mrs. KnottedYet
    Posts
    8,976
    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    what we DID do was put in a thermostatically controlled attic ventilation fan. It kicks on automatically when the attic space gets above a certain temp. It sucks in on one end of the attic, blows out the other. Our house is a good 15 degrees cooler now since we put this in.
    I wish I could go solar like this one:

    http://www.solaratticfans.com

    But alas I own a condo so I can't do what I want

    I did install a ceiling fan/light in the kitchen and dayum am I enjoying that now in this heat.
    Custom Road bike ~ Mondonico Futura Legero
    Found on the road ~ Motobecane Mixte
    N+1 new bike ~ Salsa Vaya
    Commuter ~ Soma Buena Vista Mixte

    http://madeinusareviews.blogspot.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    186
    2. The water heater needs replacing. Does anyone here have experience with on-demand hot water heaters (gas)? I'd put it in the basement for all hot water needs. Thoughts, suggestions, opinions?

    You may want to consider an electric one instead of gas. With a small house you may not have adequate flow to trigger a gas heater which means a lot of wasted water before you get hot or you don't get any at all. The electric ones have a lower threshold. I'm facing the same decision.

    3. There is a fireplace, and with a bit of chimney work, it will be functional again. Eventually I might consider getting an efficient wood-burning stove for the fireplace. Does anyone know where to start to find out about the new generation of wood stoves?

    A woodburning stove will be less attractive to buyers when/if you go to sell the house. They can be messy and stinky although not everyone has had this experience. I would consider a fireplace insert with a blower...much more efficient


    4. (the fun part) the kitchen is small and bare and just waiting for me to knock out one wall and put in a functional and really nice (within reason--not talking SubZero here) kitchen! I'm thinking about concrete countertops in the kitchen. And getting all Energy Star appliances, of course. Gas cooking. Any lessons learned that you would like to share?

    Make sure your floor joists will support the new appliances and concrete counters. Old houses were not built to carry such heavy "live loads" (an industry term for the weight of everything on the floor except the floor). This is the voice of experience. Nothing like waking up to find your new kitchen halfway into the basement because the floor joists buckled. Consider beefing up the existing joists with ones made from LVL (laminated veneered lumber). Pricey but twice the strength.


    Attic fans ROCK! Yep they're a bit noisy but it's more like white noise and the cooling they do is outstanding. My house (also a bungalow but built in 1910) has no AC and never will. I sweat a little for a few weeks in the summer but between the attic fan and the ceiling fans in each room it isn't really all that bad.

    BTW, have fun...I've been restoring my little house for the last 11 years!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Mrs. KnottedYet
    Posts
    8,976
    Pictures, we want pictures.

    Some words of advice from my remodel guru. Not my carpenter, this is my cousin who I call the "contractor to the stars"

    When I was in the planning stages, drawing, looking at architecture digest, sketching some more, ideas he said "find your sacred cows" in other words, what makes you happy? What are things you feel you can't live without.

    You may find affordable ways to achieve those goals. Or you may decide that you have to have ____ to be happy and to save money on other things. But you'll be there for a while even if you intend to sell. Think about what you want. He expressed this more eloquently, you get the drift.

    For me one of those things was that I wanted the kitchen sink centered on the window. The old one was not, the angle just seemed odd and when I washed dishes it bothered me.

    I like to be able to look out the kitchen onto green space of some sort even though right now it's only a tiny patio. Here KnottedYet is enjoying the space.

    I also wanted a pull out cutting board. Such a simple thing, but very glad I have it. What can I say, used to be a prep chef, I like to chop and dice stuff. More cutting boards more better
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    Custom Road bike ~ Mondonico Futura Legero
    Found on the road ~ Motobecane Mixte
    N+1 new bike ~ Salsa Vaya
    Commuter ~ Soma Buena Vista Mixte

    http://madeinusareviews.blogspot.com/

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Bendemonium
    Posts
    9,684
    Check with your local power company about tax rebates, etc.. You'll probably get some good info about appliances and installers.

    I dearly want on demand water heaters. Oregon had a tax deal on them last year, maybe still do but we're not in a position to replace them just yet.

    Still have one house for sale.
    Frends know gud humors when dey is hear it. ~ Da Crockydiles of ZZE.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Mrs. KnottedYet
    Posts
    8,976
    Quote Originally Posted by SadieKate View Post
    I dearly want on demand water heaters. Oregon had a tax deal on them last year, maybe still do but we're not in a position to replace them just yet.
    I'd loooove an on demand water heater. With my tiny condo it'd free up another closet. But I was told I'd have to redo almost all my plumbing. My plumbing's fine as is, I have good pressure etc but it would need to be able to handle the pressure and deliver that water faster.

    I'll leave that for the next owner. Gotta leave them something to do

    While you're in the planning stages get yourself organized. As you decide what you'll do you can be making lists of all the materials you'll need. If you see deals, a sale, items on Craigs, if you see a great deal **pounce***.

    I got my flooring at 60% off long before I was ready to install and so on ... you can save on the materials, you will not be able to save on labor unless you can do it yourself.
    Last edited by Trek420; 07-09-2008 at 09:37 PM.
    Custom Road bike ~ Mondonico Futura Legero
    Found on the road ~ Motobecane Mixte
    N+1 new bike ~ Salsa Vaya
    Commuter ~ Soma Buena Vista Mixte

    http://madeinusareviews.blogspot.com/

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    around Seattle, WA
    Posts
    3,250
    One thought on woodstoves - if it requires power to run, ie a pellet stove with a blower, it won't work in a power failure. I was snow bound at a colleague's house during a blizzard. Fortunately we were able to get back to the office for a generator once the snow stopped, so we had heat again. Was another day before the roads were cleared enough that I could go home (lived 16 miles out of town at the time). Heating my house with a wood stove lost it's charm, but that incident completely turned me off of pellet stoves. I want to be able to stay warm in during a power failure if I ever live in snow country again.

    All other work - make certain you get a licensed LOCAL contractor. Check your state licensing board to double check that the contractor actually has a license. Get references, short of that, make certain they've been in business for a long time.
    Beth

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
    Posts
    5,269
    Yippee on the house and the remodel. How fun!!!! I used to LOVE to remodel and work on our house... until I started biking. Now I just don't have the time for my house like I used to.

    We have a gas on demand water heater. I do love it! We replaced the traditional one about 5 years ago. I never thought about water pressure, but ours is on the medium side and we've not had any problems (we had my father-in-law install it because he worked for the gas company and we are cheapskates). The one issue I have with it is this: our pipes are in our attic and in the winter the water gets very cold and in the summer it gets very hot. We have to adjust the temperature gauge with summer and winter to get the temp. of the water just right. It usually takes a week or so to adjust the flame just right so the water isn't too cold in the winter and to scorching in the summer. Don't know if all houses have this issue or not- may be just our house since it's old and kind of crummy.
    Check out my running blog: www.turtlepacing.blogspot.com

    Cervelo P2C (tri bike)
    Bianchi Eros (commuter/touring road bike)

    1983 Motobecane mixte (commuter/errand bike)
    Cannondale F5 mountain bike

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay
    Posts
    5,226

    Thanks!

    Such good info here!

    I haven't closed on the house yet; that'll happen the end of July. Still a hoop or two to jump through with the bank, but I'm almost there. After that I'll post pictures.

    I'm in the thinking-about-all-my-potential-options stage right now, so this information that you all have provided is really helpful. I didn't think about the weight of the concrete countertops, for instance. And the pull-out cutting board--I am there!

    I will interview contractors and get recommendations and make sure they are local, reliable, and good. Central air will depend on if the ducts are large enough to handle the a/c. If they are too small, the friction heats the air as it goes through the ducts, and that's counterproductive. Window units would only be a stop-gap measure.

    I also will do much research on the water heaters. I've been told that the electric ones are not very reliable yet. More work to do there. I lived in an apartment with solar hot water and it rocked! But this place has huge oak trees around it, so solar won't work, but the trees help save on cooling costs.

    Luckily all the floors are original wood, recently refinished with a dark stain. I like it, so I won't change that. Even in the kitchen--nice.

    Oh, and very good info about redoing the floor in the bathroom when I replace the toilet. There's cheap linoleum in there now, and I can do better than that for sure.

    there is some insulation in the attic under the floor, and the house inspector suggested putting fiberglass batting between the rafters. I want to investigate effective insulations of other materials, too.

    The good thing is that the place is livable (with a microwave and dorm fridge) so I can move in and live there while the work is going on. I like that because I like to learn about this stuff. I gotten fairly adept at plumbing in my old house, and I'd like to learn more with this one. I might take a carpentry course at the community college. But FlyingScot, I don't want it to last 11 years!! Ugh!

    And then of course, there's the outside. As a landscape architect, I'm really excited about that (and can do it myself!)

    I will post an update when it becomes officially mine.
    Last edited by tulip; 07-10-2008 at 05:07 AM.

 

 

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