January 5, 2010

For Every Action There Is A Completely Disproportionate Reaction

Beth and I tend to have fairly extreme reactions to minor things. I'm not trying to say that we turn minor events into crises. We're exactly the opposite; we tend to handle the curve balls thrown at us in a pretty level-headed fashion. Yet when it comes to things around the house, we tend to overreact a bit.

Example 1. We bought our first house largely due to the fact that we were tired of having white apartment walls that we couldn't paint. The first thing we did in that new house - before we'd even completely moved in - was to tear down wallpaper and paint the boldest colors we could find. Yellow, purple, red and blue. The purple got a little old (we eventually repainted) and the blue was ultimately scrapped once we found out Mia was on the way.

Example 2. A couple years after buying our first house, we experienced some air conditioning and heating issues. We were told that $5000 would fix the problem. We sought a second opinion. We were told that an inch of duct tape would fix the problem. When faced with these two options, we chose the latter. And started house hunting.

Example 3. Owen's room in our new house was cold. So we had all the windows in the house ripped out and replaced.

The house we live in now is wonderful. And we've made lots of great cosmetic improvements. The previous (and original) owner did a great job with the house. Except for the kitchen floor. At first glance, the kitchen floor looks okay but the more you look at it, the more you'll grow convinced that it was installed by a retarded monkey on crystal meth. The texture of the tile is bumpy and impossible to sweep. The grout is breaking up and a small amount is sacrificed whenever the floor is vacuumed. And, worst of all, the tile itself is crooked. It is in no way level.

So we've decided to gut the kitchen.*

Yeah, you read that right. Our floor sucks ass so we're going to implode the entire kitchen, appliances and all. See, as soon as we became fixated on the floor (and it's hard not to become fixated on the cluster-fuck that is our floor), we noticed other things we don't like. Our cabinets, for instance, are cheap and very country. And while we might be cheap, we're not very country. We have no pantry, unless you count the thing erected by the former owner that blocks kitchen heating ducts and electrical outlets. We really don't like our microwave since instead of actual controls it has one great big combo button and dial (and whoever thought that was a good idea should be shot...or microwaved). And the rest of our appliances aren't so hot either.

So we're gutting the kitchen. Which is a surprising move for us. Because usually we'd just sell the house.

Have you done or been the victim of remodeling? Get it out of your system - share your horror stories. And are you jonesing for a remodel?

* Beth will be chiming in soon with but first someone has to call the contractor so I'll just save her the trouble here. Yes, I'll call today.

Posted by Chris at January 5, 2010 6:34 AM

Wait until you find out how much a kitchen remodel really is. And whatever the contractor says, double it. I'm not kidding. I then, double the time estimate. And then kill yourself. But you'll love the end result.

Posted by: jodifur at January 5, 2010 8:13 AM

Jodifur is correct. And be willing to have the kitchen in a constant state of turmoil for twice as long as you thought it would take anyway. This will mean having your stove in your dining room and doing the dishes in the bathroom sink.
In the end, you will hopefully be happy, but honest to pete, make sure that the contractor has impeccable credentials and recommendations. A bad contractor can cause divorces!

Posted by: Maribeth at January 5, 2010 8:20 AM

I too gutted an entire kitchen simply because our stove broke and we needed a new one. Let's buy a bigger stove, I said. But then we'd have to rip out the dishwasher to make room for it. No problem. We'll put the dishwasher over here....and so on.

I've had a lot of good luck with contractors, but they don't make for good stories. And then along came Hal Hooper (not his real name). In 2007, on the last night of our relationship he called, threatened to come over and kill me, (he was an ex-state trooper, so I knew he could do it) and an hour later I was giving my statement to the local cops.

My revenge: I made Hal Hooper the contractor from hell in the book I was writing at the time -- Flipping Out. Friends asked if I planned to kill him. I didn't. Because, let's face it folks, there are fates worse than death, and coming up with one was a cathartic and joyful experience.

The lawsuit was less fun, but I emerged victorious.

As for Hal Hooper (still not his real name) he's still contracting, and I recently spoke to a woman who had even worse problems with him than I did -- he built part of her swimming pool on her neighbor's property. She refused to pay, so he sued. But first, he came over to her house, dropped his pants, and shit in her driveway.

It was too late for me to change the character's name to Pooper.

For a tiny taste of my feelings about contractors, read the first 8 paragraphs of chapter 2 of Flipping Out. Here's a link:


As for your own kitchen renovations, I have 3 words. Take out menus.

Posted by: Marshall Karp at January 5, 2010 8:20 AM

When I moved into my house, I replaced every piece of carpet, every inch of linoleum and every tile. I have replaced (almost) every counter top and painted every cabinet. I have yet, though, to actually remodel something. I'd love to remodel my bathroom - not even into something lavish - just something that's a more efficient use of space! Maybe one day... Can't wait to see your remodel!!

Posted by: Emily at January 5, 2010 8:28 AM

We call it Begats. One small project begats a multitude of others.

Got to my site and serach begats you will all types of remodel stories.

By some cases of beer my friend. You will need them.

Posted by: William at January 5, 2010 8:34 AM

Best of luck, and get lots of estimates. We had a similar experience with a furnace as to your air conditioner; vendor 1 - run the furnace and you will kill your whole family, but we can save you for 3 grand. vendor 2 - yep, you're doomed, but we can save you for 2.5 grand. vendor 3 - came out, proved with a CO detector that furnace was not leaking ( and explained in grueling detail how all the seals and what not are designed to basically require the furnace to be cracked open with explosives before it would be an issue ), but recommended that this be the last winter for it, and could happily replace it in the spring for 1.5 grand. Guess who is getting the recommendation over and over.

So the moral of the story - keep digging until you find that contractor you are comfortable with, and has the glowing recommendation of many happy customers. Also, ask to speak to his mad customers. Everyone has the jobs that they messed up, but how they handle problems will tell you more than the recommendation of the happy customers.

Posted by: metawizard at January 5, 2010 8:35 AM

I've never done a remodel but I do drool at the thought! Although I think some of the earlier commenters may have scared me off a bit. Hubby and I are addicted to HGTV and the DIY channel lately, especially "Kitchen Impossible" and some bathroom show I can't remember the name of. My dream is to add a two story addition to the back of my house that would increase the size of my kitchen and master bath in one fell swoop. My husband thinks I've been smoking crack.

Posted by: Elizabeth at January 5, 2010 8:52 AM

I love my house, but by the time I am done doing everything I want/need to do to it, I will have practically rebuilt the thing from the ground up.

However, we keep stalling. Because we know it is going to suck. Because we know it will likely be twice as much as we are quoted. Because when faced with the prospect we can't help but think "maybe it's not so bad that we have a hole in our bathroom floor. The plywood board has worked fine for a year, and it gives the house charm".

Yea, we are petrified. Good luck! And I look forward to hearing your stories.

Posted by: varinia at January 5, 2010 9:06 AM

Hahaha! The floor sucks, so the whole kitchen goes. I like how you think.

Posted by: k8 at January 5, 2010 10:02 AM

You know what? I don't like your cabinets, either*. You have my blessing.

*Shut up. You've posted no less than 67 pictures of your new kitchen; I'm not peeking in your windows or anything. YET.

Posted by: Mr Lady at January 5, 2010 10:09 AM

We remodeled our kitchen 4 months after we moved in. Best decision ever, as I heart my new (well, not anymore) kitchen and as a result, cook a lot more.

But the process itself sucked. It was 4 weeks start to finish but if you tallied up actual work days it was probably like 6 days. We didn't even re-do our floor, so yours could take longer. At the time we did not have a child so for two adults, eating take out all the time was awesome. I'm not sure how I'd handle it now with a kid.

We also had a very good contractor/kitchen design/appliance purchasing experience (all in NoVA). E-mail me if you want names.

Posted by: Jenn at January 5, 2010 10:20 AM

I am jealous. I want a new kitchen. Our model of townhouse in our development is the only one designed for gremlins and elves. And let me tell you, they do not come when you want them. When our stove broke for a month, I made lots of dinners with a crock pot, microwave and frying pan. You can do it and it will be worth. Also you have family to sponge off of when necessary. Good luck and let us know if your contractor is good!

Posted by: Laura at January 5, 2010 10:26 AM

I completely get your way of thinking. We needed a new roof so we decided to tear a hole in the back of the house and expand the upstairs bathroom. I'm 5 weeks into the remodel. But along with it now means I have to repaint the mainfloor bathroom ceiling and the adjoining bedroom to that since access was needed to run new plumbing. I have a feeling by the time we're done I will be repainting everything which is fine. We've been here 10 years, its time to freshen things up. The husband now has the itch to redo the entire first floor including the kitchen. Egads. I don't know that it will ever end.

Posted by: Jody at January 5, 2010 10:27 AM

We just finished a partial remodel. Stop by either Therapy Failed or my Facebook page as I have posted pictures. We liked the floor, cabinets, and the appliances are still in good shape (so I lost that argument with my economizing better half) but we changed out the hardware, countertops, sink and paint. I LOVE IT! It did take 2x as long as we thought and definitely bumped up the budget we intended...but it was worth it!

Posted by: Krush at January 5, 2010 10:50 AM

You've probably heard this one before, but before we sold our old house, we made it look better than it ever had before. I replaced the hot water heater, and we finally painted the last room in the house to not yet be painted. There was a ton of other little stuff too like moving rocks and other landscaping shit, but you get the gist.

We've been in our new house 3.5 years now and I'm still not "over" all of the work we did on the old house so I'm not ready to commit to anything on the new one.

Posted by: Brad at January 5, 2010 10:54 AM

My ex-husband and I used to move every three years or so for his job. One day he came in with a piece of weatherstripping from the screen door and said - "house is falling apart, time to move"!

Posted by: Heather at January 5, 2010 11:20 AM

Oh, sweet Jesus, did we remodel. We remodeled our entire house while living in it with 3 kids and I was pregnant. Yeah. And we're still married! I kept a blog about it. It's a lot of reading but suffice it to say, if you ever want to vent about your remodel, you can totally email me! Our contractor was great but we really had to keep an eye on them or they would make some weird decisions.

I LOVE my new kitchen, though. We also did not have a pantry and now that we do, it's great.

Good luck!

Posted by: Brooke at January 5, 2010 11:26 AM

I once painted a bathroom purple. Big mistake. Huge. The purple looked so pretty in the Ralph Lauren paint catalog too. I guess a house in the tropics with lots of sunlight and overstuffed white furniture can carry off purple better than a tiny, dark bathroom in the country. The house I currently live in is basically held together with one giant ass piece of duct tape. We call it redneck-rigging and FYI it's leftover from the previous owner. I can't stand duct tape. Every time I see it I begin to get apoplectic. Anyways - doing the bare minimum I have to in order to make the house sellable and then I'm moving on. To a duct tape free house. That I plan to paint the colors of the rainbow. Just not purple.

Posted by: rougeneck at January 5, 2010 11:30 AM

My dad bought one of those microwaves with the big dial. It makes me want to pack the kids up and drive back to Texas every time I have to use it. I cannot comprehend why he would *choose* such a thing, unless a man was holding a gun up to his head while he shopped at Sears.

Posted by: Becky at January 5, 2010 11:40 AM

My ex-husband used to say I change the oil in a car by selling it and buying a new one.

That's not *quite* true, but I will admit, I do send to sell them when they drop out of factory warranty. Which is why I don't buy Japanese. Their warranties are too short.


Posted by: Elise at January 5, 2010 11:56 AM

And yes. As regards the remodel, double the cost estimate, double the time estimate.

My parents doubled the size of our childhood home when my mom found out she was pregnant with my little brother. It was a horrible experience. Worth it? Hmmm. Maybe.

Posted by: Elise at January 5, 2010 12:00 PM

I gutted the back half of my current house, including tearing down a wall and putting in a bathroom, and gutted the main bathroom a little over three years ago. Painted every room, refinished the hardwood floor in the kitchen, tiled the laundry room/bathroom and main bathroom, built a bookshelf into a wall, added a deck. It was an epic 6 months. I did it mostly myself with some specific help from contractors for plumbing and electric. I've done a couple things since, but the house is pretty much okey dokey now. I was just telling someone the other day that I'm starting to get the itch again, but I won't be doing anything drastic until the PhD is finished in 3.5 years and it'll likely require me to sell this one and buy another fixer upper.

I enjoy remodeling houses. It's challenging and cathartic in its own way, but my God....you have a family. If I'd done it while trying to wrangle kids and a wife, it would've led to mountains of woe.

But I'm sure you'll be fine. :)

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at January 5, 2010 12:31 PM

Remodeling is insanity, yet I have a list:

Front Yard

Now that I think of it, maybe selling the whole house isn't a bad idea...

Posted by: heels at January 5, 2010 12:37 PM

I want to remodel my grandparents' house. And I want my mom to move in so I can bring my kids here (I am visiting now.) But I think they're going to have to sell it and that makes me very, very sad. And so unsatisfied that I will not be able to fix the Scary Stairs of Death (TM).

Posted by: Heather at January 5, 2010 2:05 PM

We were going to replace our condo's kitchen floor, which turned into a complete renovation. We had no kitchen for 21 days. The fridge worked, but was stuck awkwardly in the hallway; we had to wash dishes in the bathroom. It sucked. We didn't eat out a lot because we had two kids - the oldest was almost three - and I was pregnant. We did a lot of takeout and used embarrassing amounts of disposable plates, cups, and flatware. Because washing dishes in the tub sucks even more than you think it does.

Posted by: lumpyheadsmom at January 5, 2010 2:36 PM

I could write a small novel on remodeling and contractors!

I agree that whatever cost and time you figure out should be doubled at least.

As far as contractors, just make sure they're reputable, licensed, bonded, etc. If your state has a contractor's board you may want to call them to see if any contractor you are leaning towards has any violations, etc.

My partner works for our state's board and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff they've seen homeowners put through. Stuff that probably would have been avoided if the homeowners called them first.

Also, beware of what remodeling the kitchen will lead to. When we bought our house in July we knew we were putting in new floors throughout the house and repainting everything. But then those new floors and that new paint looked awfully strange in that outdated kitchen. Refinished cabinets and new countertops later we still have to hold each other back from buying a brand new stove and dishwasher so everything in the kitchen is cohesive.

Posted by: Jennifer at January 5, 2010 2:53 PM

We plan on remodeling our house. To the tune of putting a 2nd story on it. And completly tearing down most of the walls on the first floor and relaying it out. I kind of want to buy a new house instead. But I think we'll be remodeling. I want to do it soon, but money is always the issue. =(

Posted by: Secha at January 5, 2010 3:51 PM

We bought a home built in the 20's. It's amazing, original everything - but had not been loved. The previous owner had decided to make some improvements but we are convinced they were drug, high or maybe both when they attempted to make said "improvements". We thought it would be cool & fun too renovate it. We lived in our other home while doing this. We started by undoing all the "improvements" the previous owner had made (including the crooked columns and slanted floors). We now refer to that nightmare of a house as the money pit and have not moved in, nor do we intend to (it's been 2 years) We are beyond broke and hate that house. Because of the real estate situation it is currently worth a LOT less than we paid for it and that's not even taking into account the $100,000 we have sunk into it on top of that. We tried to short sell, just to get out of this nightmare but the bank wouldn't accept.
Good luck with your kitchen. Godspeed my friend!

Posted by: LaineyDid at January 5, 2010 4:06 PM

We have bathrooms to do. Yes, bathrooms. One of them is powder blue, and the other one is olive green. We got the house 8 years ago. This year might be the year. Sigh.

Posted by: LeSombre at January 5, 2010 4:28 PM

Let's see, house # 1 was sold because the windows needed repairing and we didn't feel like doing it, we had after all knocked out walls, remodelled the kitchen, upgraded the bathrooms, added a study and recovered the floors.

We moved in to house #2 that needed no work but we didn't like the carpet. Removing the carpet logically involved knocking down a wall, replacing an entire kitchen and upgrading a bathroom. All went well until there was an internal leak that lifted the new now solid wood floors and the new kitchen had to be removed and the entire floor re-laid.

The initial renovation was OK, we didn't blow he budget by much, it was completed on time and as an added bonus were away for most of it so we didn't have to deal with the no kitchen in the house, besides it was barbeque season. The repairs were not so much fun - I was single parenting with my hubby on the other side of the planet, we were planning to relocate internationally, beginning to pack for said move, trying to wrap up work, look after 2 kids under 3 and argue with builders and insurance companies. Oh and did I mention we were essentially homeless during this time as we couldn't get in to our house when there was no floor, kitchen or bathroom. Let's just say that isn't somewhere I want to go to again however there are cracked tiles in the bathroom and we all know that equates to a complete remodel!

Posted by: del at January 5, 2010 4:33 PM

We have a friend who is an experienced contractor. He will do the work if we help -- we just pay for materials. We've seen him work; he's good and he's fast. It's a sweet deal. So we're hoping to gut the kitchen, finish the basement, and redo the master bath, one project each year.

The catch is: will housing prices go up enough to justify putting money into our new house? (We want to resell in 3-5 years.) My head tends to think not. But my heart is saying do it anyway, and my heart almost always wins out.

Posted by: Laura at January 5, 2010 5:53 PM

We moved into our house not long before you moved into yours. We've done a lot of things to the house. New carpet, painted the entire thing, ripped out a few of the previous owners "projects", re did some of the landscaping, redid the powder bath and we've just now started to take down the upper part of our back deck, which is just looking shotty.

If I had my way, I'd close off our two story family room (such a waste of space and energy) and totally redo our kitchen, but when you start to think about all of that crap and how much it would cost just so you have something that's livable, you might as well move. Which I think we'll ultimately end up doing.

Posted by: statia at January 5, 2010 6:01 PM

OMG! LOL @ a retarded monkey on crystal meth! Good luck with your remodel. Be sure to insist on a drug test for any monkeys that you let into your house.

Posted by: Dreamybee at January 5, 2010 9:28 PM

I think remodeling is great, but in this economy--be careful. Our landscaping company went bankrupt shortly after after our backyard job was finished, and there went the warranty. Check out contractors with the BBB and ask around. Hard to tell if a company is financially stable or not.

Never remodeled a kitchen. You will have to deal with a major mess and will be eating out much and/or eating off hot plates and/or crock pots. Doing dishes will be a chore.

We have done a great deal of renovation mostly on our last home and mostly, we did it ourselves. Installing hardwood and tile flooring, ripping up half walls, painting and major landscaping. Tiled a bathroom once, that was a major pain and probably our worst job. We didn't know much then and it was hard. Our contractor/handyman experience is limited. Hired 2 contractors and 1 handyman at the last home.

Recommend that you consider all your options. Is there a way to get what you want, but cheaper or easier? Can you do any of the work yourselves? Minor things make a big difference. The impact to your family is going to be huge while they are tearing up the kitchen and sending dust all over the house.

Good luck!

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at January 5, 2010 10:36 PM

"Because usually we'd just sell the house" made me laugh out loud; then I had to explain why I wasn't paying attention; then I had to bring enough Rude Cactus for the entire class ...

Posted by: Lisa at January 6, 2010 12:28 AM

We have gutted and remodeled several rooms in our current home and our previous home. We have done a kitchen, a bathroom, a den, a patio, installed hardwoods in multiple rooms, completely made over our daughter's room, and we are about to take on a new project next weekend - remodeling our guest bathroom downstairs. Wish us luck.

We love to remodel - makes the house feel more like our own home and less like a stranger's house. It is also great to work side-by-side next to my husband while tiling a huge floor, or installing shower tile, or tearing out 3 inch thick terrazo tile.....

Posted by: Jen at January 6, 2010 11:54 AM

We remodeled our kitchen about a year after we moved in...it was needed as the kitchen was definitely NOT the selling point of this house and the cabinet with my brand new dishes in it wasn't attached to the wall properly - wanna know how we found out? Yeah, the cabinet fell off the wall! Luckily we had registered with William-Sonoma for our wedding so I had a few extra gift cards hanging around so I could replace what got broke - another lucky stroke...not that much broke, considering how much was in it!)

We decided to do it ourselves - mostly. And we had very little money to do it with. We went to Ikea for the cabinets, we found a great plumber who helped us out and really all we did was gut the room, replaced the cabinets (kept the old sink, refridge and oven) and the floor. We went cheap with the floor and the counter - I would suggest not going cheap with the floor!! Or the counter, but depending on the material, it's better than the floor!

We are in the process of replacing what we can...we love our cabinets, we want to replace the floor and the counter. Thinking of going with cork or bamboo for the floor...instead of tile, but we'll see.

Good luck...whatever you decide to do, don't go cheap on the floor! ;-) Nor, go with white! You'll be wanting to clean it every 10 minutes! ;-)

Posted by: cyndy at January 6, 2010 1:27 PM

Hope you have carpentry skills ... kitchen remodels are not cheap.

That being said, we live in a two year old house with a pretty new kitchen (obviously) and I am desperate to reconfigure it and add cabinets.

Posted by: ewe_are_here at January 6, 2010 5:05 PM

Hope you have carpentry skills ... kitchen remodels are not cheap.

That being said, we live in a two year old house with a pretty new kitchen (obviously) and I am desperate to reconfigure it and add cabinets.

Posted by: ewe_are_here at January 6, 2010 5:05 PM

OMG, I'm sorry but "a retarded monkey on crystal meth"...that was too funny. The whole kitchen rant, while frustrating I know, had me cracking up by the descriptive phrases!

You can do so much with your kitchen from the flooring to painting and appliance, adding some nooks and crannies, and updating the style of the lighting (and even using some under cabinet lighting). Best of luck with it, I hope it turns out fabulous =)

Posted by: at January 8, 2010 3:42 AM

(I think I messed up posting the comment the first time so pls delete first one if it did post..reposting)

OMG, I'm sorry but "a retarded monkey on crystal meth"...that was too funny. The whole kitchen rant, while frustrating I know, had me cracking up by the descriptive phrases!

You can do so much with your kitchen from the flooring to painting and appliance, adding some nooks and crannies, and updating the style of the lighting (and even using some under cabinet lighting). Best of luck with it, I hope it turns out fabulous =)

Posted by: Kitchen Renovations Toronto at January 8, 2010 3:45 AM

I had to laugh. I too hate my kitchen floor it is one big sheet of vinyl. The worst part is the fact it is white and textured. Most of the time it looks gray. I decided I wanted to replace the floor, but can't until I replace the sliding door. So I decided to replace the front door and all the windows and with new windows the house will look shabby so new siding is a must. I have bulges in my counter tops and I was goons to just replace those but now I am just for gutting the whole thing. My late husband is probably looking down on me laughing because I can never just do something part way.

Posted by: sarah s at January 10, 2010 6:58 PM