home renovation on a budget: staggered schedule edition
December 28, 2020 11:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm the one who will inherit the (40-year-old semi-detached house common in southeast asia) family home. Currently i am living there, keeping my mother company but with the existing interior layout. Our plan is I'm turning the floor I'm on to become my own studio apartment. I don't have a lot of money, but I have enough to start on a couple of big things, with future spending being planned for. Along with the fact I will need to remain there during the renovation, what would be your advice on the phases i should take?

1. (The big one requiring contractors) Take out a couple of walls to expand my bedroom and another adjoining bedroom to form the studio. One bathroom will be made larger, and the other one turned into the kitchen(ette) space. All this includes redesigned window spaces, wall repainting, and even reflooring.

2. New cabinets and storage - not much of the existing system will stay, however i do need to think about packing them all away. Understandably I'd like to have access to my regular stuff as much as possible, but the bigger point is removing and adding new cabinets/storage.

3. Furniture & other shelving - I'm pretty sure this is one of the last things but assemblies that will include drilling into walls I'll have to call small contractors for it.

4. Solar panels & rainwater collection system.

I'm pretty sure #1 is the first thing I should throw money into, but even within that, what would you reckon to be the first order of business? My ideal living arrangement during the necessary wall rebuilding phase is definitely staying put but I want to get as much of the big stuff done so i can move in and work around future additions. For example, i can put off putting shelving/cabinets first, and i move in once the painting and reflooring is done, and i replace the existing furniture slowly.

It's looking like a case of jenga logistics, so any tips you guys can offer would be much appreciated.
posted by cendawanita to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest that you will be better off hiring a contractor for the whole job, from beginning to end. They will work with you to set up the order of operations, phases of development, and a single budget for the entire project. You will be able to pay in installments as the phases are completed.

This roadmap will keep you sane, and you will see progress along a much more even time line. They will be focused on keeping to the schedule, in order to receive regular payments.

It doesn't hurt to talk to more than one contractor - pick the one that actually listens when you tell them what you want, and will not make you crazy in the meantime. Also, whatever schedule they give you, add six weeks for weather delays/product shortages/bureaucracy.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:25 AM on December 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Unless you're doubly sure that the load-bearing walls will remain untouched in the process, #1 is more likely than not to require submission of building plans by a qualified person (certified architect or professional engineer) to the building authorities. Do look up your local planning and development rules on this. Getting all the paperwork done can be really expensive and time-consuming, so best that your budget and plans account for it from the outset.
posted by hellopanda at 2:48 AM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

We don't know what the regulations are in your country, we don't know what materials the house is built with.

Before you start thinking about the order of renovations you really should consult with reputable local architects and builders.

The kitchen and bathroom will probably take a lot longer to build than turning two bedrooms into one big room so you might consider doing those first.
posted by mareli at 4:42 AM on December 29, 2020

Best answer: I don't have a lot of money, but I have enough to start on a couple of big things, with future spending being planned for.

Renovations, especially those which open walls or touch plumbing and electric/gas (not sure of your kitchen plans) are almost always waaaay more expensive than you think (example: my parents went to change a tub, learned the floor joists were rotted, which lead to opening the floor more, which lead to a new roof, new insulation, and new electrical!). So I would look to to the most functional change first if your budget covers that + 20% - the bathroom/kitchen move is the one I would guess would bring the most surprises, as long as the walls you’re moving aren’t load-bearing.

If it doesn’t, I would actually hang tight and save more money if you can handle your current arrangement.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:50 AM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

The place to start is speaking with a contractor, engineer, or architect to develop building plans that are structurally safe. If you want to remove a wall that is holding up the roof or a second story, you'll need to do something such as insert posts and a strong beam over that area.
posted by slidell at 5:40 AM on December 29, 2020

Response by poster: Just to quickly comment that yes, absolutely am aware the regulations and materials available in my country is of course different. Naturally as well once I know where to start I will be consulting the appropriate people such as contractors, designers, and architects when I have a better idea of my plans. I'm really asking to help me prioritise on which services to spend my money on considering i don't have the full budget yet, but enough for a couple of big things. For example, thank you so much for comments alerting me on the importance of kitchens and bathrooms' building considerations, as well as the possible need for legal approval in building design. That's definitely something i hadn't flagged internally in my planning.
posted by cendawanita at 6:40 AM on December 29, 2020

Best answer: what would you reckon to be the first order of business?

I've visited houses here in rural bits of Hong Kong and across other bits of the region that sound a bit like yours. A few initial thoughts I had about how to start before actually getting started included some environmental factors not mentioned above:

- decluttering the whole of the house as the absolute first step, going through a Kondo-style process and removing everything but the essentials that make you happy from the space, to rationalise how much storage space you actually need; this may be hard if your parent has a different vision around this

- thinking about light, humidity and moisture, especially thinking about whether you want to design elements of your space to be utterly sealed off from the outside or more patio-like/semi-enclosed; is there an opportunity to turn one of the windows into a patio or balcony, if that's something you'd want?

- considering the natural angle of the sun where you are and how local conditions will affect the solar-power situation, perhaps by chatting with a solar-power consultant (is this a thing?); would you be happy if the best place to put the panels was in your back garden or in front of the house instead of on the roof?

- planning how different you want the unrenovated and renovated parts of the house to look: will it seem like a completely different space, or will you want some elements of one or the other to be reflected in the opposite space...colours, materials, textures, structural elements?

- mapping out how interdependent the unrenovated and renovated parts of the house will be: do you need to plan a place to keep a vacuum cleaner or an ironing board or a washing machine in your space, for example, or will you use the family one that lives wherever it lives now?

Also, if you'll allow a slight diversion, while I've seen plenty of similar-sounding renovations here that turn out great (I love this example), I've also noticed a few errors in friends' more DIY-style remodels I hope you're able to avoid. Problems like these are hard to fix once they're built into the house, but aren't always apparent on plans:

- staircases that are too narrow, have no handrail or are uneven
- enclosed balconies/terraces that become heat traps and are expensive to cool
- patio/rooftop tile work that doesn't drain correctly, pushing water toward the structure
- windows with too few openable panes, no usable sills, or that are too low/high in the wall
- kitchen cabinets are unusable because they are too narrow, high or awkward to reach
- walls too thick for wifi to penetrate or without enough outlets
- poor sound insulation because everything is hard surfaces: concrete, tiles and glass
- no built-in closets for things too large to put into a cabinet, like extra chairs for guests
- bathrooms with tiny windows, no exhaust fan or ventilation, or no storage

I hope your project is successful!
posted by mdonley at 7:03 AM on December 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think your order of operations would be something like this:

1. Have a structural engineer confirm that the walls can move, or, if they are structural, what measures would be needed in order to move them. This is the step that will tell you whether or not your plans are possible, and if so what kind of costs you are looking at.

2. Have a chat/walkthrough with a good contractor/tradesperson (someone who does renovation work, not just new construction) to get their practical input on what is possible and what is not. They bring different experience than engineers and architects and this input can be invaluable.

3. Figure out what (if anything) will be needed on the permit/approval/inspection front. Among other things, this will tell you who you will need to hire (e.g., will the planning agency require plans stamped by a licensed architect and/or engineer?) or if you can just fly under the radar.

4. Draw up plans -- depending on step 3 this might be just you making some sketches or it might require an architect. This will confirm that you ideas will work, at least on paper. This is the time to pay a lot of attention to light, sightlines, flow of movement, and so on.

5. Start the actual project. I'd guess that the first part will be moving the walls and installing/modifying drainage and electrical systems for the bathroom and kitchen, but that's just a guess -- the first step might actually be structural upgrades, followed by the other work, for example. Easy cosmetic stuff would be last.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 AM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

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