How We Went $3,000 Over On Our Home Remodel (and Why It’s Okay)

We Went $3,000 Over On Home Remodel - picture of man measuring kitchen cabinets

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If you read last week’s post on the hidden costs and perils of buying new wood floors or have been following us on Twitter, you already know that Greg and I took on a pretty major home remodeling project earlier this year. We signed the contract in January, but they didn’t finish everything up until just last week. In total, we had three walls removed from our downstairs area, two metal support beams put in, a built-in desk taken out and replaced with larger pantry, and new hardwood floors throughout.

The price tag – a cool $20,000, but that includes money I set aside for new furniture, curtains, and decorations as well.

Here’s the most important thing: We paid for our entire project with cash. No HELOCS, or new credit card bills or anything of the sort. I did charge most of our expenses to rewards cards to earn points, but I paid it all off with cash right away. While $20,000 is a lot of money to spend, the entire expense was intricately planned for – except, of course, for the “extra” expenses we encountered along the way.

And in some ways, we got extremely lucky. Here are a few of our wins:

We got a crazy deal on flooring.

our home remodel
Our new nail down flooring from Lowe’s. It took two people four days to install it all!

When I went to order the inexpensive floors we decided on at Lowe’s, I found out that they had been discontinued within the last week. This was after I had paid $25 to bring home the flooring sample for the entire week before! The Lowe’s manager felt bad and said he would match the price on a more expensive floor if we found something we liked. And in the end, I paid around $3.29 per square foot for a floor that normally ran $4.59/sq. ft. As a result, we upgraded from engineered wood to nail-down hardwood, and got something that is considerably nicer and much sturdier.

We reused all our wood work instead of buying and staining new.

Since we had pretty nice woodwork to begin with, I requested that our contractor reuse as much of it as possible. That meant we didn’t have to buy a door for our new pantry, and that we didn’t have to pay for a bunch of new stained trim. This was a huge win and you can’t tell even tell some of our materials were reused.

We did our own demo and painting.

our home remodel
Doing our own demo was a nightmare, but we saved several thousand dollars by tearing stuff up and doing the cleanup ourselves.

I’m not super savvy with home remodeling, but I am an excellent painter. And of course we can do demo – who isn’t able to tear stuff up? Anyway, we saved a lot of money by tearing up all of our old floors ourselves and by painting our entire downstairs (including every ceiling) by hand. A contractor would have charged $3,000 – $4,000 for interior painting easily, and Lowe’s wanted to charge an additional $2 per square foot to rip up the old stuff. Nope!

If you want to see how our kitchen floor looked before, read this post: My Frugal Kitchen Remodel

Our Home Remodel: Where Things Went Wrong

Sadly, the rest of our home remodeling project didn’t go quite that smoothly. Not only did certain components of the project cost more than we planned, but we ran into some serious snafus and surprise costs as well. And – brace yourself – those extra costs added up to nearly $3,000! Here’s what happened:

Some of our siding was letting water in.

our home remodel
This is the new siding we had put on. To save money, we painted it to match the rest of the house ourselves.

Although we have a brick home, we do have some wooden siding around a bay window in the front of our house. When we ripped up the flooring in that area, we found that water was leaking in!

After our contractor investigated, he determined that all of the wood on the front of our home near our bay window needed to be replaced. That meant paying someone to remove the old wood, add waterproofing, re-frame and add new wood to the section, then add new siding to match the rest of the house. Fortunately, I still had the Sherwin Williams paint code so I could match the color and repaint it myself.

We had a broken back door and more rotting wood.

When we ripped up all the floors at the back of the house, we noticed that the back door was letting in water as well. What the hell! Upon further investigation, we found that our old back door frame had cracked, and that the wood beneath it had become saturated somehow. As a result, our contractor had to take out and replace the rotting wood and replace our back door and framework. That meant we had to pay for the labor and a new back door in one fell swoop.

Some things cost more than we realized.

When I came up with a budget for our home remodel, I glossed over certain items like new floor vents (our old ones couldn’t be reused), blinds and curtains, and incidentals. And for some reason, I forgot to budget for new shelving for our new pantry, which my husband had to cut to size.

None of these costs were over-the-top, but they did add up. In the end, custom blinds for my strange-sized windows were nearly $200, and the floor vents were $15 each. We also replaced old and dingy vents in the walls and light socket covers. All of those expenses added up!

We had to have our interior doors professionally cut.

When the installers put in our new floors, they informed us that they would have to cut our interior doors to make room for the transition pieces for the new floor. This was apparently in our flooring contract, but I failed to realize it until it was too late.

This was just another $150, mind you, but I wasn’t happy about the surprise expense! Fortunately, they were able to complete the cuts and have all of the work done on time. And in the end, cutting the doors was a necessary expense since the transitions simply wouldn’t work otherwise.

We went over budget, and it’s okay.

In the end, we spent nearly $3,000 more on our home remodel than we planned. However, we also got extremely lucky in the process. Water leaks are no joke, and replacing the rotten wood on both sides of our home was inevitable. In the end, I am so glad we got this taken care of before our new wooden floors went in…instead of after.

Can you imagine putting in new floors then finding out that water was leaking into your home? The entire experience was extremely stressful, but I am so glad it worked out the way it did.

The other reason I’m fine with the overage is that we had the money stashed away. This is one of the huge benefits of carrying an adequate emergency fund. Just because you think surprise expenses won’t pop up doesn’t mean they wont. But if you plan ahead and have cash ready for those times, you don’t have to lose sleep, or worse, go into debt.

See Also: Why I’m Glad I Have an Emergency Fund

Being a homeowner isn’t always cheap. And after remodeling various homes we have lived in, I have learned that there is almost always something to fix, repair, or replace when you start a new project.

I’m glad our home remodeling project is finally done and all of those costs are behind us. Now we can just sit back and enjoy our newly upgraded “forever home.” Here are some pictures of the final result!

This is the “before” picture of how our house looked when you walked in the front door:

our home remodel before photo

Here is the “after” picture from the same angle:

our home remodel

Here are some more pictures of the finished product!

our home remodel

Our home remodel

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  1. Looks amazing! Unexpected cost, but things that need to be fix and corrected. The joys of owning a home. 🙂 We just had to replace our 20+ year old fence that was falling apart. We shopped around and got the best deal and I saved a few hundred dollars by taking the old fence down and hauling it away myself.

    1. Yep! It’s definitely part of owning a home. You can’t let water leak into your house!

  2. Aaahh..the joys of home ownership 🙂 . The place looks awesome from the pictures. There’s nothing like doing some of the work yourself, like the painting. It really does knock thousands off the price. Now, you have a place you can enjoy for lots more years, and l have yet to see anyone come in on budget for remodeling.. there’s always a hidden surprise. Enjoy your fab home! 🙂

    1. Painting is so expensive here! They wanted $1,100 just to paint the ceilings in our downstairs area! It took us less than a day to get those ceilings done, plus around $100 in ceiling paint. $1,000 for six hours work?

  3. I always believe it’s “double the money and double the time” when it comes to remodeling! haha Congratulations on all this work – it has to feel amazing!! It looks gorgeous!

    1. Ha! I know! Our joke is:

      Johnson’s Construction: We’ll do it 5 times for the price of one.

  4. Your home looks beautiful! It sounds like your remodel went over budget because you got into some maintenance and repair that went beyond the remodel. But that’s the type of expense that it makes sense to take of, rather than waiting for it to get worse. Last winter we discovered that an exterior wall of our home had rotted out next to our deck. It was a huge project and we spent a lot at Lowe’s, but we saved at least $6000 by DIYing.

  5. Your hardwood floors make me so excited for our flooring project! One thing I’m really concerned about is trim. We won’t be reusing any of ours and I’m really concerned about the labor involved. It seems like meticulous work and I could see a contractor giving a really high quote for the work.

    1. Wood trim is expensive!

      We actually chose laminate quarter round for this very reason. The hardwood quarter round that matched our floors was $36 per piece, while the laminate we chose was around $6 per piece. So we got the really nice floors but cheap laminate quarter round. You can’t tell the difference!

  6. Kara @ Money Saving Maven says:

    It’s BEAUTIFUL, Holly! Reusing wood is a great tip!!!

  7. Sweet floors! I feel like it’s not a real reno unless you encounter an unpleasant surprise – at least that’s what I glean from HGTV 😉

  8. The floor looks beautiful Holly! That’s one thing I wish I could so with my apartment. Actually I can because my next door neighbor did it, but I’m not spending money on a rental!

  9. The finished product looks awesome! I’m glad you were prepared for the unexpected costs. This gives me such great advice for when we own a home one day.

  10. It looks awesome and only $3K over is pretty amazing. We’ve been underbudget on every one of our projects, but the number of projects we want to take on has grown by about six since we bought our house. I’m hoping to stop after the bathrooms are done, but that probably won’t happen… we need to become renters again I think.

  11. I love your floors! And I agree, spending extra money is not fun, but it’s easier when you know it’s all on necessary repairs that will benefit you in the long run. I am new to your blog but am looking forward to reading more posts!

  12. It looks terrific. I’d love to make our home more open, and we’ve talked for a while about doing it. But my thought that we are in our forever home is not quite shared by the hubby, so he’s a little more reluctant to make the major changes that would involve.

  13. Looks gorgeous! And yes, it’s always better to learn about leaking ANYTHING before huge damage is done — or while you were replacing the damaged stuff anyway.

    Like you said, all that matters is that you had the cash on hand to cover things. And that the money was well spent, by the look of things.

  14. I feel like home remodels always go over. Either way, looks great!

  15. Looks great guys! We also saved a ton when we renovated by doing demo and annoying stuff like our own reno garbage…when we did our kitchen they tried to make us sign the contract and in the fine print were small charges like $800 for garbage removal (from the new cabinets etc). Mindblowing.

  16. Your remodel is absolutely stunning!!! Totally worth the price tag and have to go over budget for. Your home is your sanctuary, and especially since you both work from home, it’s nice to really enjoy the space you’re in 🙂

  17. Very nice! A home reno is definitely something we want to tackle in the future because we don’t want to move. I need a home office space since I work from home and I can only share space with the baby for so long. Paying in cash is admirable and definitely on my goal list!

  18. Congrats on being able to upgrade flooring. We are going through a discount warehouse nearby (cheaper than our hometown Lowe’s) as we build our house from scratch & will either do engineered or hardwood depending on the total cost. We are doing the work by ourselves & have gone a little over budget as well.

    We have found some deals on Craigslist & taken advantage of some coupon deals as well at Lowe’s that have shaved some moolah off the total cost. For future projects you might be able to e-mail Lowe’s customer care and briefly detail your large project. They mailed us a “$100 off $1,000” Project Starter coupon. It expires in one month so you can’t sit long before redeeming it.

  19. Couldn’t agree with you more that being a homeowner is not cheap. There is always going to be another project around the corner but it’s a great feeling when you complete them!


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