Home Renovations and Interior Design | Our Family Budget

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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