Frustrations with DIY Renovations

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Ethan Sincox posted 01-31-2007 05:57 PM 935 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife and I are house shopping. We’re trying to find a new old house (an old house that is new to us) that still has its original character and charm, but has some of the basic upgrades (central air, for example) completed.

Occasionally we actually do run across an early 20th Century home (Prairie style or Arts and Crafts style or Victorian) that isn’t dilapidated and hasn’t lost its charm. But as we walk through these houses, all I can think to myself is how poorly some of the renovations were done and all the work I’d have ahead of me, tearing out and redoing bathrooms and floors and woodwork, if we were to buy it. What’s more, since they think they’ve “renovated” the hose, they feel justified in jacking the price up another $40,000 or more.

I don’t mind renovating a house. And as different as I feel carpentry and woodworking are, I believe I have skills for good carpentry work. What’s more, I have the intelligence to call in a pro when I DON’T have the proper skills for a job. But I absolutely refuse to pay top dollar for shoddy work – and to find a $180,000 house on the market for $245,000 because of some crappy cover-ups the current owner is trying to pass off as renovations is all too common anymore.

The funny thing is, we actually watch most of those shows on DIY and HGTV, too. But we watch them to help give us ideas on what to look for in crappy DIY renovations! Not like we really need to, mind you… it’s easy enough to spot a sloppy tile job or unprofessionally-hung cabinets. It’s a good thing there isn’t some process by which we can view a house and then write out our thoughts and comments for the homeowners. At that point, my gentleness is usually gone and I’m much more likely to make critical, acidic statements than offer “constructive criticism”.

Later this week, we’ll go visit two more houses – one that is on the market and just a bit out of our “high” price range and one that we drove by last night and already have some skepticism about. The first one is worth checking out simply because they have built a 6-car garage space in the back alleyway, and I could easily turn that into some good workshop space with very little effort. They initially put it on the market way over-priced, so it has slowly been going down and at some point we suspect it will be back at its true value, which is in our price range. The second one is worth checking out because the price is much more in our range and it still has possibilities for renovations and

But honestly, we’ve started to lose our giddy anticipation at looking through a new perspective house. Maybe that’s a good thing, though; it gives us the chance to be pleasantly surprised and it also makes sure our judgment isn’t clouded by silly things like “Updated Granite Kitchen Counters!” (which turned out to be granite tile on an island with the rest of the kitchen counters being a poorly-matched laminate). We don’t want granite counters, anyway – possibly because every home improvement show and “check out this house!” show tries to put them in.

(Do you think HGTV gets paid a bit of money under the table from granite countertop companies? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit…)

While I enjoy the ability to go to such places and buy new lighting or hardware or even solid wood cabinets from big box places, more often than not I’ve found myself cursing their existence.

-- Ethan,

8 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4341 days

#1 posted 01-31-2007 06:27 PM

Unfortunatly lots of the shody work is done by “pros”. Good luck Ethan remodling is a labor of love. My favorite sale bit was a house i put some prefab cabinet in, ” custom designed kitchen”. The saleman said lets put the cabinets here thats custom design! What bull! Good luck hope you find the jewel.

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4188 days

#2 posted 01-31-2007 06:43 PM

Since I was fortunate enough to buy a new house, I did not have to face that problem. However, I understand what you mean. I have seen some things even in new houses that make me go “huh?”.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4200 days

#3 posted 01-31-2007 06:50 PM

Unfortunately, Bill, that goes on way too much in my area, which is why we’re avoiding the new house thing.

-- Ethan,

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4326 days

#4 posted 01-31-2007 08:41 PM

When we bought our house many years ago in 1953. My wife had to stand in line at the newspaper office to get the latest house listings. Then it was like a land rush to view the house. Usually the first one there got the house, unless it was a real piece of junk. We finally found one, but you’ll never believe that we paid $4500 for it. Of course at the time we were in the bucks, with my wages at $1.50 / Hr.
The house didn’t have a basement, & just a half bath, but it was a palace compared to the 25 foot trailer we lived in. After all those years, we did a lot of remodeling to our palace, but we didn’t have the help of those DIY shows either.

I wish you good fortune at finding your future home Ethan.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4353 days

#5 posted 02-01-2007 01:17 AM

With all the problems our old house came with, primarily the years of neglect of poor craftsmanship, I’m sure it will outlive the McMansions that are popping up around. I wouldn’t buy a new house, unless I was the one building it.

I’m sure you’ll do a great job restoring something to its former glory. You will find the right house for you… in a way your actually benefiting from seeing lots of what you don’t want, helps to steer you toward what right… too bad its such a frustrating and dissilusioning process.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#6 posted 02-01-2007 03:05 AM


When we bought our house at Delaware. We told our realitor that the house was overpriced. He told the listing agent and the sellers dropped the price $50,000. We then offered them $20,000 less than that and we had a signed contract in 3 hrs. If you like the house don’t be afraid to low-ball them. They might blink and then accept it.

They might also say no, And then they will still have a house for sale. Their choice.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4232 days

#7 posted 02-01-2007 01:50 PM

Hi Ethan;
—-don’t know if you have thought of this or not, but have you considered; buying-fixing-selling all in a fast order, also called ‘fliping’. A way to make profit and still find out what your range for tolerance or lack of range is in the long term. Great way to make money, plus learn how much you want to do or not do for ‘that permanent house’.

Another point to consider is that while you are in ‘the process’ of fliping the house, the house also becomes a workshop, so you get two at the same time for the price of one and that learning curve is unbeatable.

How much time you want to put into this is also something to be considered and relates to the how much work the house needs to have done to it. Real estate folks and bank brokers understand ‘filping’ so ask them for help. Understand please, that we are talking more about cosmetics to be done on the house and not so much repair to structure. This is actually the house that just never sticks out, and is always passed by in favor of the next one on the list. However, when you have ‘fliped’ this house around, it will become an eye opener on the seller’s market.

Course another thing to consider is that these kind of working quarters can make or break a marriage, but then again, you sure will learn a lot!


-- --frank, NH,

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4200 days

#8 posted 02-01-2007 08:59 PM


I’ve watched several shows where they flip houses and try to turn a profit. I don’t know, man… seems like an awful lot of stress to me! I prefer a much more stress-free life, myself.

-- Ethan,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics