Budget & Big Renovations at our HFHS House

Wall paperJust wanted to give you all an update on what progress is currently being made on our project house. In case you missed our last post on this, ABM has purchased a small house we'll be renovating and updating (and sharing all that content on the blog) and then donating to HFHS. We're excited to have new spaces to share with you all, and we're excited to give back to our community in the process. 

Now one thing about buying a house in this kind of condition is… well… there's a LOT of work to do. Not only do we want to make the house look pretty (a.k.a. the fun part!), but we also want to increase the value of the property and, above all, make sure the structure is a safe place to live.

Many of you were curious about how much this house cost. Well, I'm gonna tell you. But first, I should warn many of you that the housing market here in Springfield, MO is pretty awesome, in my opinion. Housing costs in our hometown are pretty low as far as the national average goes.

The project house is 884 sq ft (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom) and was purchased at $37,500. The house was built in 1921. We had the house inspected before we purchased so we could be aware of any major concerns (I think it's ALWAYS worth it to get an inspection, and in some states/counties it is required by law). Although even with a good inspection, sometimes old houses have surprises in store.

Our first step after purchasing the house was to figure out every big renovation that we wanted to do. We made of list of "needs done" and "would be nice to get done" before pursuing a quote. We have a local contractor we work with when we have updates that are too big for us to DIY. As you know, here at ABM we LOVE to do it ourselves. But sometimes we don't have the knowledge, skill set, or proper supplies to do everything ourselves. We are learning more and more all the time, but for us not everything could be safely DIY-ed. Sometimes you just need a professional. 

So, before I show you the quotes, let's talk overall budget. This house is in a neighborhood where no matter what updates we make it would be difficult to resell the house for $60K or more. There just aren't very many houses in the neighborhood that could be sold for more than this. So, even though we won't be flipping the house (we're donating), it wouldn't make sense for us to invest more than this amount. And with the size of the house (square footage, number of bedrooms, lot size, etc.) it would probably be wise if we kept the entire investment to $55K or less (for anything that could not be removed from the house), as anything above this just wouldn't be realistic for the market value.

We have lots of DIY projects planned for the house already. So this let me know that we could only afford to spend $10K on any of the big renovations we wanted done by our contractor. If we kept that work to around $10K, then we'd still have some wiggle room for all the things we want to do for you guys on the blog. We talked him through our entire list, both the needs and the nice-to-haves, and waited to hear back on the quote…

Over budget!As you can see (or click to enlarge the image if you need), the initial quote came back at $14,453.44. And that didn't include any paint, tile, hardware, etc.

Bummer. That was already almost $5K over our budget even without the additional supply costs. 

Now, like I said, we had included all of our nice-to-have items as well. So these were the first things we considered. Some things we scaled back included the following: we decided to paint the entire house ourselves; we skipped scraping the ceilings, even though we prefer the smooth look to the existing popcorn ceilings; and we decided we could learn to tile the laundry room floor ourselves. We had planned to tile one wall in the kitchen for aesthetic purposes (it's also easy to clean), but we needed to cut that as well. 

The good news is that we didn't need to cut any of the needs on our list. We went back to our contractor and explained the changes we needed and the work we were willing to do ourselves, and we got a new quote…

Better estimateWe were able to get the quote down to $8,949.78. This still didn't include the cost of paint, some tile (we're still adding tile to the bathroom), and a few other items. But this still meant we'd be just below $10K. Perfect!

With the quote worked out, it was time for work to start! Here are some images of the progress that has been made so far.

Wood floors!The carpets have been removed and the house already smells SO much better. We'll have to finish fixing up these old wood floorsโ€”but with a little work they're going to look beautiful, we can already tell!

Whoa the bathroomThe bathroom needed a lot of work. It's going to be much more functional and fresh feeling when we're all done.

One update we ultimately decided to include that was sort of a bummer is we are removing the only window in the room. The window was built low and in the shower space. It already showed signs of pretty serious water damage, and our contractor recommended that we remove it, as it would probably continue to be a problem even if we repaired the current damage. Just not an ideal place for a window. We love natural light, so this was a bummer to learn about, but ultimately we don't want an ongoing water damage issue in the bathroom, so it seemed to be the best and most affordable option. If you'd like to know more about this, let us know in the comments and we can blog more about it in upcoming update posts.

Living room and diningKitchen progressSpace for a dishwasher!!!Lots of changes happening in the kitchen already. We plan to update the counters ourselves, but I did want to point out one thing to you all. See that space in the above picture? You know, that dishwasher-sized space?

That's new.

Laundry room surpriseI feel like any house near 100 years old is bound to have at least a few surprises in store. Sometimes good (like those soon-to-be-beautiful wood floors) and sometimes bad. This was our bad news that didn't show up in the house inspection. 

Even though we decided to tile the laundry room floor ourselves, we still needed the subflooring updated, as it was super uneven, and we were concerned about what that meant about the structure. Our contractor and his team got to work on that room, updating the subfloor and the back door (it was in serious need of repair!), and they found that the floor was extremely rotted. Like, one of the men working in the room at one point stepped on an area of the floor, and his foot went through the floor! (He's okayโ€”it was just scary.) This meant the rotted wood needed to get removed, the foundation needed to be updated (this was an add-on to the original house, and the foundation was not properly done, which caused the moisture and eventual rotting wood), and then the new subflooring needed to be put in. So this is going to add cost to the overall project. Bummerโ€”but necessary.

Kitchen floorBut then we got some good news. We had planned to tile the kitchen floor, as the linoleum in there was already peeling up in places. Our contractor removed the linoleum and found wood floors in great condition (similar to the living room). He suggested we skip tiling the kitchen floor to save costs, since we had that surprise rotting in the laundry room that we had to repair. I thought this was a great suggestion! I like tile in a kitchen, as sometimes spills happen, and it's easier to clean up with tile, but it's not necessary.

We'll still have some work to do on the wood floors in the kitchen, but no big deal as we already have that to do in the dining room and living room already.

Blurry selfieBathroom-mirror-in-the-bedroom-blurry-selfieโ€”why not? And yes, I'm a total dweeb! But you've gotta have some fun with all this! So, that's a little more information about our overall budget goals with this project, as well as some peeks at where we are currently with the big updates. Of course, this doesn't cover EVERYTHING, so if you have any questions, let us know in the comments, and hopefully we'll have an answer or can address it in a later post. And I have a feeling we arent' out of the woods yet with the big renovations. Old houses tend to be full of surprises so we'll keep you updated on this fun and beautiful part of the process. ๐Ÿ™‚

We're SO excited you are all on board with the project house with us. It's exciting! xo. Emma and the ABM team.

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions or sometimes not edited at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Awesome! I’m so excited to follow along and see what you do with this space ๐Ÿ™‚ This has to be one of my favourite projects you guys have done.

  • I would LOVE to know about the bathroom-window solution. I need tips for an eerily similar situation.

  • I need to move out there! A house in that condition and for that size would be at steal at $215k where I live!!! I can’t see what you guys do with this house!

  • This is so amazing! What a fun way to give back. My husband recently helped out with a Habitat for Humanity House here and it’s such a great organization. I’d love to do something like this one day. Also, those floors are going to be on point! Can’t wait to see more…

  • Sounds like you are making great progress. Too bad be don’t live closer, I would come tile for you. Sending encouragement and support!

  • Okay I almost spit out my coffee when I saw how cheap that house is! So crazy. I love how open and honest you guys are being about the nitty gritty details, it really helps as a future home owner to see this stuff. I’m seriously pumped to see you guys design a house from such a start to finish!!

  • Love the house for charity idea and I can’t wait to follow along on your renovation adventure! Just a quick thought–maybe you could share with us a basic floor plan for this house? It would be really helpful when you’re sharing picture heavy updates like the one above.

  • That’s upsetting about the bathroom window, but I’m selfishly really excited to see how you guys make the room bright and airy without a window because my bathroom doesn’t have one either, and I’m willing to bet a lot of other renters are in the same bathroom-windowless boat. So excited to see your progress!

  • Wow I can’t believe what you are able to buy a house for in MO! In Los Angeles, that wouldn’t even get you a crappy condo ๐Ÿ™ either way, totally excited to see what you guys have in store. I’m sure the renovations will be amazing! Can’t wait to see more ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liz
    http://www.tastylittledish.com

  • First of all, how incredible of you all to donate this house! I am so excited to follow along, and am loving this budgeting post. I know when my husband and I finally get to buy our home, we want to do a lot of DIY, so it is helpful to watch and learn how you are doing things but also financially how you are doing them. You are seriously an amazing bunch. Eager to follow along!

  • You are an amazing bunch! I am so excited you are donating a HOUSE! Whoever gets to move in to this house is going to be so blessed with the detail you all put into it. I am loving this budgeting post as well. I know down the road when we buy a house my husband and I want to DIY, and it is helpful to not only see your DIY process but also the budgeting aspect. Amazing, you are amazing.

  • Just want to say that the reason I keep coming back to ABM is your openness and business aptitude. I love hearing about the nitty gritty and getting to see the actual numbers for renovation quotes! You women are an inspiration. Can’t wait to see the finished house.

  • It’s so fun to see updates on this house! And I would LOVE to have wood floors in my kitchen, so I think that’s a great option and I’m glad you found it when you needed it.

  • $37,000! Are you kidding? A house like that that in California would cost at least 10 times as much. I need to move to Springfield MO stat. Can’t wait to see all the updates. Cheers!

  • Will you blog about how you plan to revive the wood floors? I have wood floors under carpet in a house I purchased but I’m afraid to pull the carpet because I’m not sure how to bring the wood to life or if it’s solid underneath. I can’t wait to see your progress!

  • Can I just say I think it is quite something that your company is doing this. I am a social worker by profession and know how important it is to do good in the world. I think I used be really hard on you all because there never seemed as though there was a sense that you appreciated your good fortune or that you gave back to those in need. I take back all those thoughts. Good on you all. You are doing a wonderful thing and I hope that you continue to. Also..totally just bought your happy mail. Well done ladies.

  • This is such a cool project. I’m enjoying seeing the progress — and seeing the actual money involved. That’s helpful to see how much something like this would cost.

  • Have you considered installing spa blocks in the shower window space? We had a house in MN that had a window in the shower… super bad idea. Instead of walling it over, we used spa blocks and saved all of the natural light that the room so desperately needed, and still had privacy in the shower.

  • Weird question, but we just bought a major fixer upper and are going to close in a few weeks (yay!) and both the bathrooms need a complete, major overhaul – like to the point of gutting them and moving walls. Would you recommend hiring a contractor or just a specific bathroom remodeling company? There is a lot we would like to do ourselves to the house, but since we plan to be in this house for awhile I’d like the bathrooms and the plumbing installed correctly and don’t think it’s quite the time to take on a project that big ourselves. If you hire a contractor does he take care of all the details like finding bathroom people or do you? I like the idea of always having “a guy” to call for certain projects, like taking a wall down or something, but is hiring a contractor the right thing to do in this situation? I have so much to learn! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I am loving every second of this journey of yours. Please keep the updates and lengthy details coming ๐Ÿ™‚ I cannot wait to see the transformations!

  • Could you guys not make a little slimline window right across the top of the wall? I live in the UK and some people we know have a really short, but wide window running the length of their kitchen above the shelving over their sink and cooker. Means they can have best of both worlds and you guys should have that too!

  • Can’t wait to see the progress you guys make on this house! Also, I’ve rented two different apartments that have had windows IN the shower. I don’t know why this is a thing people decide to do, but they were definitely gross to clean and even though the glass was frosted, it was always a bit uncomfortable showering too. Probably a good idea that you removed it!

    Have a great weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sarah

  • This post is really informative for future home owners like me.. its nice to know how it all goes, and how we negotiate with ourselves and with others..and how to deal with the surprises.. and only 35K? Whoa! We don’t have bathroom window in our (rented) apartment, and it sucks,..but u gotta do what you gotta do right?

    xo
    Hems
    agoldentulip.blogspot.com

  • I am so excited to see what you do with this house!!! I was waiting eagerly for the day when ya’ll would take this plunge, and you have! Congrats;) I’ll be living my home-renovation dreams with you vicariously! We still have 10 years of exciting military moves before we “settle” down, so I’ll be taking notes on what you do till then!

  • I was thinking that if it’s a single-story house (or at least on the top floor), they could put in a sola-tube or skylight. The sola-tubes are pretty cheap (>$200) and add tons of natural light in rooms without windows.

    We’re planning to put in a couple in our upstairs bathrooms – one in the dead center of the house with no windows, and another above our shower in the bathroom with the window that doesn’t allow light into the whole room.

  • It’s pretty insane right? I’m sure there are even less expensive housing markets in the country but Springfield, MO has got to be on the low side. When I lived in Los Angeles I didn’t even think about buying a house in my twenties as it just would not have been an option for my budget, but when I moved back to Springfield MO just a careful year of saving and I could afford a small house. It’s crazy the difference location can make!

    -Emma

  • You are so sweet-and we would totally take you up on that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Actually if you have some tiling tips or resources you’d like to share please send them our way!

    -Emma

  • At my house, both my bathrooms are windowless. I LOVE natural light but it’s totally possible to have a great bathroom without one so it seemed an ok way to go. If it had been a bedroom we probably would have fought a lot more. I’ve only ever had one bedroom without a window and it felt like a cave at times. (Although I’m sure some people prefer this, and that’s fine too.)

    -Emma

  • Thank you MaryRose, that’s very kind of you to say. One of my sister in laws is a social worker and my goodness does she go through a lot! My hat is off to you and all the good work you do in the world.

    -Emma

  • I like working with a contractor because, just as you suggest, it’s great to “a guy” you call about just about anything you want done. Our contractor does hire lots of other professionals to work on various things like tiling, windows, roofing, etc. His specialty is wood based projects but he has all sorts of other people he works with. In a way, a contract may work more like a project manager in that they will hire others and facilitate things so you won’t have to.

    That being said, sometimes it is cheaper to do that part of it yourself. For as large as your project sounds I would probably go the contractor route myself.

    And remember-quotes are almost always free. It never hurts to get things quoted twice too if you want to compare prices.

    Good luck in your new home! -Emma

  • I love how open you are about this whole thing. This is seriously such and amazing thing to do! I can’t wait to follow along with your progress and hopefully there will be no more surprises (bad ones anyway) for you ;).

    Tamara
    http://www.trulytamara.com

  • Oi vey. I should not have read that purchase price. The absolute lowest you’ll ever spend on a house in my city is $150 000. Even that house with all its needed updates would run closer to $200 000. But I’m Canadian, and our housing is always more expensive. I can’t even watch House Hunters because it makes me too sad.

    Having said that, I’m super excited to see how you guys make this one beautiful.

  • Also wondering if you could add a frosted window up high above the shower in the bathroom for natural light.

  • Here on the west coast of Canada you can’t get anything lower than $200K unless you wanted to be in a trailer park, and most homes are average 400-500K. And cute old houses like that? No matter the condition, they are always huge money. You guys are lucky!!

  • Here on the west coast of Canada you can’t get anything under 200K unless you want to live in a trailer park–and most houses run an average of 400-500K. It’s crazy! Cute old houses are always huge money too, no matter the condition. You guys are lucky!

  • In two different bathrooms with similar window situations, we installed vinyl windows with obscured glass and then tiled around them. Works beautifully–the vinyl window still lets in lots of light but if it’s closed when you’re showering, nothing is revealed. Good luck!

  • You could also install glass bricks (is this how they’re called?). As you’ll have to fill in the space left by the window anyway, why not make a line with them? They’re not very expensive either and allow great privacy (just google “glass brick wall bathroom”, it should give you some ideas). Plus showering with natural light is the BEST!
    And yes, if possible definitely go for solatubes! Over-enthusiastic moment: why not put in the rooms if they are dark? Especially the children’s room, as they’ll be spending a lot of time there, playing, doing homework etc.

  • I live in SGF and would love to volunteer my time on a weekend working on the house. I don’t have any construction skills but I’d love to help in any way, even if it’s just taking trash out. Let me know if that’s a possibility.

  • So excited to see the progress on this next journey! I’m wondering -would you accept reader donations to help with one of those “nice to have” projects?

  • I live in a two-story cape, and last year I updated my 1950’s bathroom that had same window-above-the-tub scenario. We removed the window in order to install a shower surround and installed a sola-tube “skylight” and the natural light is amazing. Far superior than any light that filtered in previously. And it’s very inconspicuous.

  • My boyfriend and I live in West Los Angeles, and we paid $785,000 for our 990 sq foot 2 bedroom/one bathroom house. That price was “discounted” for the $$ we had to spend on foundation repairs, roof repairs and work in the bathroom post-closing, which totaled about $20,000. Luckily the rest of the house is fairly updated – smooth ceilings, A/C, hardwood floors, some new windows, & acceptable kitchen because other than paint and few light fixtures we can’t afford to make any other changes.

    When I saw that you paid $37,500 for a similarly sized house I almost keeled over. I am in shock, and considering a move to the Midwest!

  • Wild differences between locations! DC is so high! My son bought a house at a lower than asking that was still a price that makes my head swim. I am so glad our old house did not need as much work as yours! Sadly, I think we will have to replace the flooring in the main bathroom. t I made a bad choice. Looking forward to seeing more of your hidden jewel.

  • I live in Western Australia and these days it would be hard to find a house for less than 350K and realistically more like 500K and a lifetime mortgage – amazing. Its so nice that you are donating the house and sharing the actual nitty gritty for us to follow along. Fantastic. thanks.

  • I love that you all are going about this and only DIYing what you feel you can feasibly learn right now with your current skills and tool sets. I’ve seen some GORGEOUS old homes in my grandparent’s historic neighborhood ruined because people tried to DIY too many things that they didn’t know how to do and it’s super sad.

  • OMG ! I can’t believe how much afforable houses are in other states. We bought a house just like that in NJ at the top of the market back in 2007 for 320 K. We renovated the entire house and we are pretty happy with it, love my neighborhood but it was so much money. We’ll be paying for it for ever!
    Good luck ladies!
    Gaby

  • This may have been one of my favorites posts on ABM, I even gave the lowdown to my husband over dinner (who gave approximately zero cares.) It is wonderful that you are being so forthcoming on all of the dollar and cents details, I find it fascinating! Plus you throw in generosity and with a bit of design on top and it is the full package. Great job guys!

  • I absolutely love that you guys are donating this house. It’s SO awesome! I can’t wait to see more updates! It’s a bummer that the floor was rotten and you had to remove the window in the bathroom. ๐Ÿ™ Hopefully it will all work out anyway! I know you guys are going to make this house wonderful!
    xo
    Kristina
    http://www.eccentricowl.com

  • I’m curious about the popcorn ceilings. I didn’t realize this until an engineer friend told me recently, but I guess they are made of asbestos?! I guess they don’t even recommend removing them anymore, just covering them with new drywall. Scary since i have memories from my childhood of hanging out in our house while my parents scraped our popcorn ceilings!

  • We have two solar tubes in our house, and my parents’ house has four. They’re not incredibly beautiful, but they’re unobtrusive, and they provide LOADS of additional light. (I live in Olympia, WA, so the more light the better.) Plus, if you live in an area that loses power often, it’s great to have a natural light source in the bathroom, so people aren’t accidentally lighting themselves on fire when they’re trying to brush their teeth or whatever.

    And speaking of dangerous stuff, has the popcorn ceiling been tested for asbestos? (Sorry. I’m totally a fun-killer.)

  • I miss my old windowless bathroom for doing makeup- now I have such bright sunlight streaming in from one side that I inevitably feel like that Two-Face guy from Batman. No amount of lighting seems to balance it out.

  • I really appreciate you guys posting a financial part to this story. It feels very honest and open of you. I, too, would love to see a floor plan! Look forward to watching this progress.

  • if there is only attic above the bathroom, we just put solar tube sky lights in our kitchen and they are amazing!We LOVE the light they bring in! We did one in our super dark hallway too.AMAZING! They are only 10 inches across like a recessed light and in fact look like a recessed light. We went with Velux who has a 10 year no leak warranty. That might be a good option for that bathroom for some natural light since there is no longer a window.

  • We removed popcorn ceilings ourselves and it turned out to be really easy to do. We watched Youtube videos and then just went for it. Good luck. Love this new project!

  • I loved reading this post and I am so excited to read more about this project! My husband and I used to live in Springfield and went to college there. It’s a nice place to live! Reading your blog always makes me think of those days ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This project of yours makes my heart so happy. Thank you for giving back, and sharing resources and ideas with us along the way. I just bought a bungalow that is about the same size, and I am excited to see what you do!

  • We’re currently relocating from the Bay Area because there are no longer houses on the market (in good neighborhoods) for under a million! That’s crazy sauce.

  • Wow! That would be around ยฃ23,000 here in the UK. For something that sort of size and date of house over here, depending on where in the country you lived, it would probably cost around 10-15 times that amount. Think we need to move there!!

  • This is such a wonderful thing you guys are doing! When I was growing up, my Mom moved us around Washington renovating Victorian houses and I know how much work goes into these old places. Growing up in a construction site was tough but the outcome was always glorious. This place is going to be magical! Thanks for being such philanthropic entrepreneurs!

  • It is entirely likely that the new homeowner may never have lived in an actual house, let alone owned one. So glad that you kept the wood floor and made space for a dishwasher. It is little things that make you feel rich when you are anything but.

  • Wow it is incredible that you’re spending your own money and all your time to donate a house, makes me love your blog even more than I already do! I wish I was as handy as you guys are! I get a lot of tips from your blog though, so thank you!

  • Hello
    Love this blog!
    Off renovation topic- I’m drawn to those black booties, who made them please?
    Best,
    E

  • Yeah, I was wondering about possible asbestos too…
    PS. probably the reason for the window in the shower is because that used to be a tub only. People in the 20’s didn’t have showers. Someone must have converted it at some time.

  • For the bathroom you could consider a small round “skylight” that install like a tube through the attic and let in natural light. I’ve read they are cheap, easy and not prone to leaking.

  • Hurray, dishwasher! Wood floors throughout are ver exciting. I will be curious to watch and learn from your tiling process. That seems like a great DIY skill for a homeowner to have in her bag of tricks.

  • Awesome project! Keep up the good work. We had a similar problem with our bathroom window and had the rotting wood frame window replaced with a plastic framed one. It was a bit expensive but so worth it.

  • I would love to hear more about the shower room situation. That’s an incredible price for a house, even one falling apart! It’s an amazing thing you’re doing ๐Ÿ™‚ Looking forward to following the progress ๐Ÿ™‚

  • In just a little while I’ll be moving to my new house, which is a third of the size and three times as expensive as yours, haha. The house prizes are so much higher in the Netherlands. And we thought our house to be quite cheap ๐Ÿ˜› good luck with your project girls!

  • This is fantastic! Would love to see a floor plan to make it easier to follow along with your renovation and projects. Renovations are my favourite blog material to read about and it’s awesome that this house will be donated. Good luck with it guys!

  • I’m not looking to buy a house any time in the near future, but it’s still great to see this process in full, with the budget and everything! HGTV can only do so much ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • you should scrape the popcorn ceilings yourself! (unless, of course they test positive for asbestos.)

  • $37k for a home blows my mind. I live in a small town in CA and my husband and I pay almost that much I one year for our rent. Absurd! We are moving to MO lol.

  • This is such an inspiring and thing you guys are doing! I love it, and I can’t wait to read more about it soon. Keep it up guys! <3

    Liefs,
    Yara

  • The old rose wallpaper is so pretty, love to see the vintage designs. It doesn’t look in great shape but if it were me I’d try to save some scraps, maybe frame a piece as a memento. Or it would be cool to take good photos and turn it into a digital design!

  • I am interested how to selected who to get an estimate from. I am always intimidated by the process and worried that I will get ripped off! Did you have a few different contractors give you estimates or did you just chose this one? I would love to hear more on that process!

  • I have been really excited about the prospect of finally investing in a house in Auckland, New Zealand. I have nearly DIED reading your article. I could buy 15 houses in Springfield for the price of one here! Sighโ€ฆ. Our housing market is insane.

    So pleased to read you are doing such an amazing deed. I know this house will change someone’s life.

    All the best!

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