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  • Lauren Wood

Before & After: Home Renovation

A complete rundown of our home renovation, which was completed in under four months and cost less than $50,000!

I always say our house “just needed a little bit of lipstick.” When we moved in, we knew we’d have to make some major changes to make it our own. But that really only required some paint (okay, A LOT of paint), replacing the counters in the kitchen, glazing some tile and redoing the floors downstairs. No knocking down walls, replacing tiles, or any major demo work other than taking out the existing floors. We outsourced most of the major work but also did a lot ourselves.

We closed on our home in late July and got the keys in early August. The first thing we did is to hire flooring contractors to come in and demo the existing flooring in the downstairs. The floors were a combination of white tile, travertine tile and hardwood mixed throughout. The company we purchased flooring though outsourced the demo work and demo’d the floors first, then installed the new flooring. We chose a grey-brown waterproof laminate wood floor that’s super durable because of the dogs. It’s essentially scratch resistant… and cheap (bonus!) but still looks great.

We also had to rip out the hideous hunter green carpet on the stairs and in the landing, and installed a new gray carpet. This was done through the same company who we used for the wood flooring. All in, the cost for the demo work, the wood floors and the carpet was about $16,000.

After the floors were replaced, we hired painting contractors to paint most of the downstairs (formal living room, formal dining room, family room and kitchen), as well as the stair banister and all the built-ins.

Our main goal in the renovation was to “get rid of” the look of red oak anywhere it was in the house. And there was A LOT of it. So that meant sanding and painting it—professionally of course since it can go poorly if not done correctly—instead of replacing it, as this was how we kept the reno cost pretty low. We learned about the importance of property treating and paint wood the hard way after our first painting contractor didn’t do it correctly, and the paint would scratch off with a fingernail. After watching them paint without sanding the wood first, we knew they didn’t know what they were doing. Thankfully we found a new contractor eventually who did it right.

We had the walls painted a couple different shades of light gray and then painted the kitchen cabinets, built-ins and stairway banister a bright white.

After the painting was done, we replaced the kitchen countertops (which was an old, white tile that had been there since they built the home in the 90s) with a white Carrera marble. It was easily the most expensive part of our renovation, but 100% worth it. After having the cabinets painted, I ordered drawer pulls from Amazon and had them professionally installed. And that’s pretty much all we did—a pretty drastic kitchen remodel (which would typically cost upwards of $70k) for about $20k. We’ll eventually need to replace the appliances to update them a bit, but they work, so for now we’re keeping them.

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The “good” painters charged about $7,000 to paint the kitchen cabinets, the built-ins in the family room and the stairway banister. We paid about $2,000 to the first company to paint the walls.

Then we hired a tile glazer to glaze the green marble fireplace in the formal living room (which cost about $150), the shower in the downstairs guest bathroom (another $150), the travertine fireplace and surrounding tile in the family room ($300) and both the shower and the countertops in the upstairs guest bathroom ($750).

That’s the extent of what we had professionally done. Now here’s what we did ourselves:

Both companies who we hired to paint gave us INSANELY expensive quotes to paint the wood around the fireplace in the formal living room and an upstairs cabinet in our landing. The quote was $5,000 to paint both, so I decided to paint them myself. I sanded them thoroughly (probably more than I needed to, but just to be safe), cleaned them well, primed them with several coats of an oil based primer, and finally added two coats of bright white in a super durable, high quality paint. It was definitely a process, but worth saving five grand. Since most of the cost that was quoted was for the labor, this cost me only about $150 for the paint and sanding materials.

Here is a video of the process it took to sand and paint the mantle in the formal living room:

Here is a video showing the cabinet refinishing and painting:

Then I remodeled the entirety of the half bath downstairs. I painted the walls and ceiling gray (I wouldn’t have painted the ceiling, but for the fact that the existing tan paint went all the way onto the ceiling as well), painted the baseboard trim white, added some gray palm print wallpaper (the “old school” paper and glue kind!) and then had Byron help me install a new light fixture and faucet. All-in, this probably cost around $600.

I also had to prime and paint the decorative tile around the fireplace in the family room because the tile glazer said he couldn’t glaze it. This was free, since I already had the primer and the paint for the formal living room mantle and the cabinet upstairs in the landing.

We swapped out all the light fixtures in the kitchen, formal living room, formal dining room and entryway. Byron actually had to install the giant orb chandelier that we bought for the entryway because our handyman refused to do it. This fixture was the most expensive—we purchased it during a Memorial Day sale for $1200 when it would normally cost about $3,000. Then I shopped Wayfair and Overstock for the orb lighting we purchased for the formal dining room and casual dining room. These were approximately $600 total, including installation.

We didn’t do much to the downstairs bathroom actually—and it might be a project for later—but for now, with some tile glazing and some paint it looks much better. The shower is a new bright white and I added some shelves to the wall above the toilet. I also swapped out the towel bars, toilet paper holder, and towel ring to match the faucet, as they were mismatched metals before. With the glazing included, this room cost a few hundred dollars.

The baby room upstairs and guest bathroom next door are where I did the most work. When we moved in, we knew we wanted children but weren’t yet pregnant. So I turned one of the bedrooms upstairs into a guest bedroom. This room apparently used to be a children’s room, and had light blue paint on one wall and a burgundy window mural on the other. The FIRST thing I did after we moved in was to cover up the mural with wallpaper and paint the light blue wall white. I added a peel n’ stick blue palm print wallpaper over the mural to make an accent wall, then used the room as a combo guest room and workout room (since I put my Peloton in there).

When we found out we were pregnant about A MONTH later, I was bound and determined to keep the wallpaper I had JUST put up. So whether it was going to be a boy or a girl, I had decided to go with a tropical theme to work with the existing wallpaper. A little girl’s room was going to be a little bit trickier since the print is blue, but we were going to make it work. Thankfully, our babe ended up being a boy.

So a couple months later I swapped out the shelves for white ones and then replaced the ceiling fan for a white one. That’s about all we did to change this room (other than to add furnishings), so the cost for this was about $250 (wallpaper included).

Here is a before and after video showing some of the things I did to transform our "window room" from a guest room into a baby nursery:

Next door, in what is now going to be Tristan’s bathroom, I remodeled it almost entirely on my own. The only thing I didn’t do is the tile glazing (since it’s a very toxic, arduous process). I sanded and then painted the vanity cabinet a navy blue color, added a frame to the existing mirror to make it look a little nicer, swapped out the towel bars, toilet paper holder and towel ring, and added some shelves that I painted to match the vanity. The biggest change was adding the deep sea themed wallpaper (which I did all on my own!) and painting the floor. Painting the floor was a pretty laborious process, but totally worth it since I didn’t have to rip out the existing tile floors!

I mostly followed the directions of Driven by Decor’s tutorial. I cleaned the floor really well with a heavy duty tile and grout cleaner, then did a light sanding with a power sander tool like this one. Then I added two coats of heavy duty floor primer, waiting 48 hours in between coats. Then I added two additional coats of floor and porch paint. The key to this working well is patience and actually waiting until the floor is completely dry (which makes it a time-consuming process too, but worth it).

The cost for this bathroom renovation consisted of mostly paint and wallpaper, so it wasn’t much. The tile glazing (mentioned above) cost the most, at $750. The cost for wallpaper and paint was another $200. Towel bars, mirror frame and smaller items were another $200. So about $1,150 total.

I wanted to include costs to show how you can do what looks like a major renovation for not as much money as most contractors will quote you. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we spent about $50k total for these renovations, and our house appraised for almost $300k more 6 months after purchasing it. Sure, some of this had to do with the market, but a lot of it was because of the renovations we did. 600% ROI? I’ll take it.

Here is a video showing the final product:

Here are the links to all the products mentioned and home furnishings shown in the photos:







FAUX SHEEPSKIN RUG (to line wicker giraffe basket):




Before and after photos of our 90s home remodel, explaining exactly what we did, and also including product links for furnishings shown.
Before & After: 90s Home Remodel

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