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A Home Remodel: From Worn Out, Drab And Cold To Fresh And Cozy

Updated on May 19, 2023
Ramkitten2000 profile image

I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.

Our Home Renovation On A Budget

It was a small house in Flagstaff, Arizona -- just under 1300 square feet -- and not a fancy house by any means. And it needed a lot of work.

This was our first home, a single-level ranch built in 1967. At one time, it had been a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home with a single-car garage. The first owners converted that garage into two additional, small bedrooms.

The second owners, from whom we purchased the house, raised their four kids there, and every bit of those 52 total childhood and teenage years were evident when we moved in. Carpet stains galore. Doors and walls painted black and bright blue, covered with holes and stickers. Glow-in-the-dark stars on bedroom ceilings. The place was in definite need of updating, refreshing and renovating. So we cleaned and moved in, then pushed up our sleeves and took out the elbow grease, some tools and extra cash, and began our home makeover, top to bottom.

Here, I'll show you some "befores" and some "afters" and explain what we did and what we spent. Perhaps our home renovation might spark some ideas for your own.

Before: The Exterior And Front Of The House

We knew we had our "home work" cut out for us....

The driveway, walkway and front step were crumbling. The thin, metal mailbox pole was bent and falling over. The grass on the raised "lawn" was patchy, not to mention that it would need frequent watering and trimming. And the house paint was peeling.

Don't get me wrong, though; we were happy to be able to buy the house. But we were anxious to make it our own.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Before: The Interior

People's tastes can be very different, indeed....

Oh, let me count the ways I didn't like what I saw:

Walls and doors were scratched and full of holes, with some yucky paint colors and wallpaper. The carpet was sort of blue if you looked between stains, and there was no direct heat to the third and fourth bedrooms (once the garage). The master bedroom closet doors were mirrored and flimsy.

This was one of the converted bedrooms. Yuck.

Home remodel
Home remodel

This was the other converted bedroom. Blehk.

Home remodel
Home remodel

The laundry area was a mess--exposed venting, holes in the drywall. Ick. And the light switch to the master--that is, the only--bathroom was on the outside of t

Home remodel
Home remodel

The kitchen appliances--other than the fairly new refrigerator--were old, dirty and ugly. As were the cabinets, counter tops and some of the light fixtures. Ugh

Home remodel
Home remodel

The utility closet in the back of the house had been somebody's half-arsed project. Ew.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Well, I guess I'll stop there. (But there was more.)

Before: The Back Yard And Shed

Just an open space and a blah outbuilding....

It was a great study in weeds. Oh, and old balloons. I think there had been umpteen water balloon fights back there. And the concrete patio was cracked and pitted. And there were no plants, except for the lilac bushes along the back fence. The large shed--a rather nice out-building constructed on a slab that once served as a small basketball court--was unfinished inside and in need of paint on the outside. Basically, the backyard was nuttin' nice to look at.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Ho hum....

Home remodel
Home remodel

Our House Before: On The Positive Side

The things our fixer-upper had going for it from the start...

  • The house was structurally sound.
  • The roof was only about five years old.
  • We liked the parquet wood flooring throughout the kitchen and dining area, the livingroom, hallway and master bath. Kind of retro but in good shape. And the scratches we easily fixed with stain.
  • There were nice exposed beams in the livingroom and bedrooms.
  • The existing plumbing was good, with no leaks.
  • The furnace was fairly new.
  • We liked the brickwork in the kitchen/dining area and the wrap-around counter top.
  • We liked the wood wainscoting in the dining area and livingroom.
  • There were new, double-paned windows throughout (because the seller owned a window and glass company).

After: The Exterior And Front Of the House - And what we did to it....

Home remodel
Home remodel

First thing we did was thickly mulch the grassy area around the large poplar trees (far left) as well as the raised bed against the house. The mulch was free; the city of Flagstaff piles it up in a vacant downtown lot and people can help themselves. And, believe me, there's always more than enough to go around.

We then planted vinca (aka periwinkle), which, over time, spreads and creates an evergreen ground cover with small, purple flowers. It grows wild in this area, and a friend offered that we take some pieces from her front "yard" to transplant into ours. In the two and a half years we lived in the house, those transplants filled in well. That change eliminated the need for watering or weedwhacking.

We also added some juniper bushes and other drought-resistant native plants. Around the poplar trees, we made circles of lichen rock and planted hardy catnip.

Next, we bought a wooden mailbox post from Home Depot, stained it and replaced the ugly, bent metal pole and the dented mailbox as well. Amazing how much a nice mailbox can change the look of a place.

The two big exterior jobs we hired out. We got lots of recommendations and then had our driveway and walkway redone with brick pavers. The front step was unnecessary and removed completely, not to mention that the pavers raised the level of the walkway, so they went right up beneath the door.

We also contracted with a much-liked house painter, who scraped, sandblasted and repainted the whole place. We changed the base color to a sage green, while the shutters and trim were repainted the original forest green.

At my request, Steve built window boxes out of scrap wood, which he stained the same cherry red as the mailbox post. They turned out looking like store-bought flower boxes, which I'd priced at about $40 apiece. Ours were essentially free (other than the stain).

After: The Interior

And What We Did To It

Sorry some of these photos are a bit grainy and dark. I had a crummy camera at the time. But here you'll get an idea of what the changes looked like.....

This first photo is the small dining area. We removed the wallpaper from below the wainscoting and used two tones of terracotta-colored paint. We've also changed out the old light fixture above the dining table with a hanging lantern that was actually intended for exterior lighting.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Next is the living room area. Again, a bit difficult to see here, but we used the same two tones of terracotta. The darker color is on the side walls, the lighter color on the far wall and beneath the wainscoting that continues from the dining area (off to your right, out of view).

Home remodel
Home remodel

We almost completely redid the kitchen. Again, we used the terracotta colors on the walls, which really warmed things up. We replaced all the cabinets and the counter tops, doing all the labor ourselves. We also replaced the sink and the stove with stainless steal appliances and added an overhead microwave and a dishwasher. We tiled the backsplash. And though you can't see it in the photo, we even painted the interior of the pantry closet on the far left (out of view) with leftover earthy green from the office (photo below) and guest bedroom.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Below is the bedroom we turned into an office/den. We replaced the stained blue carpet in all four bedrooms with a warm, neutral brown, which, if you looked closely, was mixed with a number of other colors.

We painted the walls in the third bedroom and adjoining office two tones of "earthy" green from the same color card and painted the trim, beams and built-in bookcases white.

There was a "trap door" (out of view) to the crawl space which was made out of cheap fiberboard and formerly painted bright blue. Steve built a very barn-like replacement door, stained cherry red.

Also, the double-door closet in this room was walled off (can't even tell it was there), while the interior wall of the closet was opened up to create a walk-in closet in the next room--the guest bedroom.

Home remodel
Home remodel

The master bathroom we painted a sage green, and the counter top and sink were replaced. We also added a white tile backsplash. Steve re-routed the main light switch, putting it inside the bathroom instead of out in the hall.

Out of view is a laundry alcove (far right), which was once quite messy looking, with exposed venting and hoses. That was all re-routed, re-drywalled and painted the same sage green as the rest of the bathroom. Steve made some new wood shelving, stained cherry, for above the washer/dryer, which we lined with wicker baskets for storage. It looked so nice, we removed the curtain rod that once hid the alcove.

Home remodel
Home remodel

This next area was completely re-done. The ugly utility closet became a second bathroom. Steve tore out the flimsy partition and built a regular wall, then added a door. He did all of the plumbing and interior electrical work also, which really saved us some money.

To your right, out of view, we added a second doorway to the guest bedroom, for easy access to the bathroom. To the left, also out of view, is the door to the backyard, with a window that lets in the light. The area was tiled and painted, and we used leftover travertine tile from my in-laws' house to make a one-row backsplash around the new bathroom vanity. The mirror we made ourselves, from a gilded frame and a separate, full-length mirror we got at a thrift store for a total of $5. Steve cut the glass to fit the frame.

Home remodel
Home remodel

This is the guest bedroom, which now had a walk-in closet made from the two back-to-back, shallow closets. We replaced the doors, painted the room and the built-in bookshelves, and added a heating duct (out of view). Before, as part of what used to be a garage years before we bought the house, there was no direct heat to this room.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Other changes included:

All new, six-panel pine doors throughout the house with new (but old, neat-looking) doorknobs I found at a second-hand building supply store

Burgundy walls in the master bedroom with thick white trim like the rest of the rooms

Homemade built-in shelving, also white, in the bedroom, which further offset the burgundy walls

After: The Back Yard And Studio

And What We Did To It

The shed, the landscaping, the back porch (out of view except for one post) was all redone. The shed was insulated, drywalled and painted, turning it into an art studio. Steve made two more flower boxes like those on the front of the house.

The weeds have been replaced with gravel, underlined with heavy plastic. We created organically-shaped borders with leftover pavers from the new driveway and various lengths of rot-resistant locust, then thickly mulched the beds and planted native species.

We added a privacy fence next to the studio to hide not only a new electrical box but a free hot tub. We made a walkway out of stepping stones that were left next to the house by the previous owners.

Home remodel
Home remodel

Other changes included:

A resurfaced, repainted concrete, covered patio

A new electrical box for the main house, because the old one was outdated

A flower bed along the back of the house

A compost area on the side of the house, made with free cinderblocks a neighbor was getting rid of

What Our Home Renovation Cost

A lot but not as much as we'd budgeted for....

Our total budget for all home renovations was $20,000. That is a very significant amount of money to us, but there were lots of things we wanted to do. Given the good purchase price we'd gotten on the home--a FSBO--we had the extra money available and tried to stretch it as far as we could.

As much as possible, we looked for bargains. We often shopped at a local second-hand building supply store, where we could also bring leftover materials, or even materials removed from the house, for trade credit or cash. (The following figures don't take in account what we "earned" by doing that.) Many of the unfinished, pine doors we got from that same supplier, and they were half the cost of what they were at Home Depot.

We also scrounged for free materials now and then, including the mulch, some of the tile, hardware and even tools. It's amazing what some folks just want to get rid of.

These figures are rounded to the nearest $100 or $10:

  • House painting (contracted): $2500

  • Driveway/walkway pavers (contracted): $4000

  • Exterior electrical work (contracted): $800

  • Carpet with installation (contracted): $2300

  • Kitchen cabinets and counter tops: $2000

  • Bathroom cabinets and counter tops: $1000

  • Kitchen sink, faucet and appliances: $1000

  • Bathroom sinks and faucets: $200

  • Second bathroom toilet: $100

  • Light fixtures for new bathroom and back door area: $150

  • Interior paint and supplies: $250

  • Tile and materials for kitchen/bathroom backsplashes: $50

  • Tile and materials for new bathroom and back door floor area: $80

  • Gravel for backyard: $400 (delivered)

  • Black landscape plastic: $100

  • Dining room lantern: $40

  • Wood stain for window boxes, mailbox post and interior doors: $30

  • (6) 6-panel pine doors and doorknobs: $300

  • (3) sets of double closet doors and knobs: $300

  • Drywall, drywall compound, corner bead (house and studio): $400

  • Insulation (studio): $100

  • Trim and baseboard: $80

  • Mailbox and post: $40

  • Plants: $200

  • Cement resurfacer and paint: $80

  • Privacy fence by studio: $80

  • Misc. electrical, plumbing, hardware, etc: $500

Total Budgeted: $20,000

Total Spent: $17,080

Surplus: $2,920

Given all of the updating and upgrading we did, we made out quite well when we re-sold the house two and a half years later.

Despite the advice from our realtor to repaint our colorful walls back to a neutral, off-white, we kept things as is, and the first person who looked at the house fell in love with the colors and ended up buying it.

And we got our renovation investment back several times over, while the buyer felt she got a fair price, too. Which is a good thing, because we run into her now and then!


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