How We Renovated Our First House For Under $25,000

New Dark Wood Kitchen

We renovated our first house for under $25,000 can you believe that? Purchasing your first house is an exciting yet stressful time for anyone. Trying to decide between ‘turn-key’ or a ‘fix-er-up-er’ is often a decision people face. There are advantages to both, but for us, we knew we wanted something we could make into a home with a little good ‘ol fashion blood, sweat and tears.

This was always going to be our first home. We bought knowing we would probably be here 5-10 years until we built up enough equity to afford our forever home. Finding a home we could put some sweat equity into, but not get so deep into renovations we were knocking down walls and moving bathrooms, proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. We were looking for a nice house that needed a little TLC.  We eventually found a house and managed to snag it up for a steal of a price. The sellers were motivated to sell due to a job taking them out-of-town.

Saving as much money as possible on the purchase was important because we had a long list of things we wanted to renovate all within a modest budget of $25,000. Renovations included were

  • Kitchen: New cabinets, countertop, wall repairs, install hardwood floor.
  • Main Bathroom: Vanity/sink.
  • Half bath: Vanity/sink.
  • Exterior:  New siding, all new windows, re-pave driveway.
  • Paint throughout

A kitchen alone can set you back over 25k. We managed to do the whole kitchen for less than 10k. We went to Home Depot where they have a free kitchen design service through their stores design staff. It was a painless and quite enjoyable process. We brought in basic dimensions and a few hours later we had a brand spankin’ new kitchen designed. This process alone can set you back a few hundred bucks as most smaller retailers won’t waste their designer’s time until you’ve committed to their product and pay a deposit or at least a design fee. It took a few tweaks but we settled on a kitchen design and with their assistance were able to pick out a cabinet product that fit our budget.

New Dark Wood Kitchen

Where the renovation savings came from:

Cabinets: We bought solid wood doors but went with a cheaper cabinet box (only the homeowner knows the difference) and by adding inexpensive crown moulding, it makes them look high-end.

Cabinet hardware: I was shocked at the price of these, upwards to $20.00 each! Most large retailers sell multi-packs at a much cheaper price. We bought two 10 packs for $20.00 each at Home Depot and they look just as nice as the expensive ones.

Flooring: We wanted to extend the hardwood that was in the rest of the house into the kitchen. I called around and found the exact flooring at a local retailer on clearance. I managed to buy all the hardwood and found a guy to install it (on Kijiji) for less than $500 total.

Garbage:  Did you know you pay for garbage removal for home renovations with some professionals? Home Depot has a little fee of a few hundred dollars built into their contract for them to take all their garbage with them. We took care of it ourselves and while we were cutting and binding cardboard for what felt like a year, I’d do it again for that savings!

Plumbing: For the contractor to unhook and re-hook basic plumbing was also an additional charge, basic plumbing is quite easy. If you don’t think you can do it, look up YouTube videos or library books and try! Anything you can do saves you moola! (that’s money for those that don’t know)- Mr.CBB

Counter-top: We went with a high-end laminate counter-top  I love granite, quartz, natural stones but with the size of the renovation(s) we were doing and the age of our neighbourhood, I didn’t want to start putting money into renovations we may not recover or ‘’over renovate’’ for the area we’re in.

Reusing Items We liked the light fixtures in the kitchen and dining room so kept them. We didn’t love the ones in the entry way and hall but were able to sell them on Kijiji for almost the entire purchase price of the ones we bought to replace them. Same with appliances, we’d eventually like stainless but we’ll save for them, the ones we have are fine for now.

Demo: Did it all ourselves, huge savings.

Demo kitchen

Other than the kitchen:

Re-siding the whole house and replacing windows is an area where negotiations can happen (negotiations = savings). I called around, got general prices then had formal quotes done up from 5 different contractors. In the end, it was cheaper for us to do the windows separate from the siding, but if you’ve ever gone through a similar renovation, trying to nail down a timeline and coordinate these projects would have been difficult. With weather delays alone, these contacts rarely start on time. We wanted the same contactor to do both jobs so I chose the contractor we liked the most and was able to negotiate to get both jobs done for 10% less than it would cost to use two independent contractors.

Our driveway was done through a friend of a friend. We managed to save over $2,000 just because of a mutual friend, so ask around!

The bathrooms and painting were done by us. We bought a vanity and sink from a local hardware store on sale, put it together and installed it ourselves. Hubby got help from his grandfather (world’s most resourceful man) to take care of plumbing and my sister-in-law and I spent countless hours painting, my least favourite task but I hate paying someone for a job I can do.

Seeking out deals and managing the renovation budget was exhausting mentally, physically and on the marriage (If you can live through a home renovation and still managed to be married at the end of it, you’re rock solid!).  Renovating our first house was hard work but we’d do it all over again.

Guest Post By: Catherine is the voice behind the blog Plunged in Debt, where she chronicles her (and her husband’s) journey out of $300,000 worth of debt. When she isn’t taking care of her baby girl or blogging, she likes to spend her free time attempting one of her many DIY projects, bake or indulge in too much candy for her own good; but proud to say she’s a cavity-free dental hygienist.

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Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
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Comments

  1. Mary F Campbell says:

    When we moved in…all the light fixtures in the house needed updating including 2 huge chadeliers. We also updated the light switches and plug-ins throughout. I added some towel racks, a bathroom vanity and a few decorating items and there went $10,000! It looks much better to us but we’d need to do the flooring and carpets for a re-sale.

  2. Good for you! My hubby and I are just finishing renovations on our first home together, it has been very challenging since you never really know whats behind that wall, or under that flooring, until you remove it! LOL:)
    You made some great purchases! And I love the molding on the cabinets, aesthetic tricks like that can make a WORLD of difference in appearance as well as budget!
    Thanks for sharing:)

    • If you can live through a renovation, your marriage is rock solid ;) It can be scary with the unknowns but you have to roll with the punches as they come at you, make sure you have some contingency funds set aside for said surprises and you’ll be good to go! The cheapest quote/produce price doesn’t always mean cheapest quality!

  3. Your house looks beautiful! Going with a fixer upper for your first home is a wise financial decision. It is most likely you won’t stay in that house forever. By putting sweat equity in the house, it makes it easier to rent it or sell for a profit.

    We are currently saving for a down payment on our first home. I have been looking at homes in our area through zillow, and most homes in our price range need renovation. I’m hoping we can find a rough diamond when we purchase our house in a couple of years.

  4. Sounds like an amazing reno ! $25,000 for the whole house is pretty great!

  5. Frugal and talented. Great job!

  6. I love the new look. You accomplished a great deal for 25K. I would go with high end laminate over granite any day. We had granite in our last house and it was so cold.

  7. There is a CAT on your dining table : O,,,,,,,,,oh,, and you didn’t save $2000 on your driveway,,you spent less.
    PS I guess the cat would be better than a mouse :)
    Sarah

    • No we saved over 2k…the quotes we got for our driveway were 4k+, we have a long driveway! and yes, kitty was being bad!

      • Therefore instead of spending 4K, you spent 2 K,….. the difference between the two dollar amounts is not savings,,, I could give you a quote for 10 K,,,does that mean you save $6K. Where will the 6K be when you are done? Someone else may give you a quote for $1500,,,does that mean you are saving more??? No,,it means you are spending less then you might of.

        Now,,,,if someone GAVE you a gift of 4K to do your driveway,,,,,you got the job done for 2K,,,,,AND you took the difference and SAVED it in a bank, gic, TFSA etc,,,THEN you have saved money.

        IF you save up 4K to do your driveway,,,and get it done for 2K,,,have you saved 2K? No,,,you are spending less of your savings.

        You are not saving by spending. You may gain some equity,,quality of life,, pleasure,,,,by doing maintenance, you are are spending less in the long run etc etc. It is a myth that you can SAVE by SPENDING.

        Do you SAVE by switching to GEICO? No,, you are spending less (maybe).

        Sorry for going on and on,,,just a pet peeve of mine. I have a problem making myself understood.

    • OK fair enough. I will explain this then…I get what you’re saying and yes we saved 2k.

      Here’s what we did:

      We got quotes for all the renos that needed to be done on the house, took the most expensive quotes to the lender for approval. Once we got approval we then searched out savings in every area and pocked the difference between the jobs. So in the end we ended up with over 16k in difference that we used to pay debt off.

      Does this help? I just didn’t want to get into all these details in the post :)

  8. Wow you did great! Love your kitchen.

  9. I had no idea about A LOT of this…but especially the garbage! I wouldn’t even think to look of the charge/do it myself. Fantastic job and thanks SO much for sharing!

  10. Great post, Catherine! We’ve been dreaming of buying a fixer-uper but I’m not confident in my remodeling skills. :) That demo’d pic of your kitchen is amazing; well done on the remodel! My wife and I recently visited Ikea in Minneapolis and I fell in love with many of their designs. It’s amazing what you can do for only $10,000! Congrats on saving a boat-load and for following through on your vision. It’s probable that I may have called it quits mid-way and hired somebody to finish the work. lol.

    • Haha there were many times I wanted to throw the towel,like when the kitchen reno ended up lasting 4months! 4 months with no kitchen isn’t easy, but we saw it though and we’re happy we did. You really have to stay on top of your contacts so you don’t get lost in the shuffle of all their projects. I wish we had an IKEA here…sigh…

  11. You did amazing Catherine! Lots of good idea as I am starting to renovate my house!

  12. Wow! Good for you! We do stuff like that in our family too. We try to do renovations as much as we can on our own to save money. My dad has flipped two cottages for a good profit by doing most of the work on his own. I helped with painting, installing crown molding and refinishing the hardwoood floors. My house was bought brand new so not many renovations but I painted the whole house by myself (except my dad painted the high ceiling over the stairs). I bought a nice chandelier at a garage sale, bought my coffee table at a garage sale and refinished it, bought my sofa at a warehouse sale, many items are from freecycle. My dad built our deck and we bought all the wood when the government offered a home repair tax credit. We also bought the wood for finishing our basement then too. We slowly gather what we need for finishing the basement (a lot we get at yard sales) so that it isn’t a huge cost all at once. My dad will be doing most of the work lol :-)

    • It always helps when you know someone who can help that’s for sure. My husbands grandfather has been a hue help-there’s nothing this man can’t do, he’s like Google in man form! One of my long term dreams is to flip a property…I think I could do it pretty well when we get out finances in order.

  13. Christine Weadick says:

    Wow …you got a lot done and it looks great!!!!!! Don’t worry about the cat on the table, ours does it all the time to watch the birds outside the window….I just wipe the table down after he jumps down. We’ve had a number of handy man specials over the years, and we do most of the work ourselves. My husband figured out how to do the wiring about 3 houses back, that’s the one thing we get a permit for for sure!!! Plumbing not so much. It costs a little but we have learned from the inspectors every time!!! They see so much and have great ideas they love to share with you. Our currant house we had an electrical contractor come in to change the service to breakers from fuses, we showed him a few of the nightmares around here in the wiring dept and just shook his head saying that he was glad we were re-doing the wiring…. We did the same as you in the kitchen, getting the plain box cupboards and getting the better doors. Still need new floors here in the whole house, don’t know when we will get to that. I think if we sell the house we will move out before it goes on the market and do the floors then….so much easier than moving stuff from pillar to post……

    • Yes, living in the reno isn’t fun…we started as soon as we moved in so didn’t have much to deal with but living out of boxes wasn’t fun! Hubby is a 2-wire man…leaves the 3 wires for the professionals. Luckily all we needed to do for electrical was move one outlet which was quite easy. Hubby and I also changed the location of a baseboard heater which wasn’t too bad as we had access from the back to the wall.

  14. Wow, Catherine, that looks amazing. I don’t know what we’d do without Home Depot. It is tempting to go all out, but it looks like you made some really excellent decisions. That’s great you improved the house to the standard of the neighborhood. You’ll be glad when you sell.

    • Exactly. As much as I’d love some higher end finishes long-term it didn’t make sense for this house or the 25yr old+ neighborhood it’s in. If someone wants to buy it and replace the coutertops/lights/whatever they can but I won’t waste my money!

  15. Looks great! We did some major work on our house when we moved in, too – though the kitchen and floors so far have been left untouched. Someday, though… =)

    • You have time! We still need to replace the carpeting in the basement but they work fine now (neutral color) but they’re not in the best shape. I know we need to replace to resell so we’ll save and probably replace in a year or two…just keep having them cleaned.

  16. Michelle/Jefferson @ See Debt Run says:

    We did a kitchen remodel from HD a few years ago as well, and also had a very good experience.. It is much more affordable to use HD than a custom designer, and if done right.. You can end up with a great looking product!

  17. Your kitchen looks awesome! It looks almost like the exact layout of mine…kind’ve freaky!

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. mycanuckbuck says:

    That is pretty amazing – you should be very proud of yourself for doing so much for so little!

  19. Excellent post! Any house that I’ll be buying in the next few years will be a fixer upper, so it’s good to know it can be done so well and cheaply!

  20. Hey Mr CBB – That is a seriously impressive budget! As you say, people often blow 25k on a new kitchen or a car or something equally as less valuable… you managed a house on that! Ever thought about writing an eBook on how you did it with tips etc. Prob quite a good niche there :)

  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on kitchens halifax. Regards

  22. Do you guys live in TO? Can you share the contact of your hardwood floor installer? We have a really small area and the installers we saw charge more per st foot than the actual hardwood costs!

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