Renovation on a Budget

Originally published in Enchanted Homes Magazine.

When you decide to renovate your house, it is advisable to make a list of the tasks that you can do on your own, and another for the more complicated projects that are best to leave up to the professionals—wiring and plumbing work, adding another room or changing the layout of an existing one. In some cases, electrical or building permits are required. To find out if you need one, visit the official website for the Taos County planning department

“There are some details that can be added to make a house unique,” said Lafe Harrower, contractor and builder, owner of Lucus Construction. “Among them are tile work, smooth or textured plaster, vigas, beams, timber frame ceilings, and custom fireplaces.”

While you may need an expert to add tile to the walls or install a new fireplace, there are still many improvements that can be done with little money and plenty of enthusiasm. For example, when my husband and I decided to renovate our kitchen, we sanded and painted all the kitchen cabinets. They had a natural finish; we chose peach shades to give the kitchen a warm feel. Because the kitchen and the living room walls were all white, this turned out to be a nice touch that brightened up the place. We also added some color to the bathroom (which was also white) by painting the exterior of the bathtub, one wall and the shower stall.

There were smoke stains above the opening of the fireplace. To cover them up, we gave it a coat of the same peach color that we had used in the kitchen cabinets. It really changed the mood of he entire living room. Now it is a Taoseño room, for sure!

Lafe Harrower’s list of simple DIY upgrades:

1. Check the roof of the house for leaks.

2. Make sure that the window’s glazing has good seal.

3. Check that all weather-strips are in place and working well.

4. Check all exterior wood for weathering. It’s easy to refinish exterior wood by sanding and reapplying a UV resistant sealer and stain. This should be done twice annually.

5. Take care of interior doors and if they are damaged, get new ones. Most interior doors are standard size and can be replaced easily.

6. Replace handles in door knobs, faucets and drawer pulls.

7. Replace kitchen sinks, vanity sinks, and toilets.

8. Repair interior plaster cracks, then paint. A fresh coat of paint will do wonders for any room.

9. Clean the carpets or, if your budget permits it, buy new ones.

10. Reface kitchen cabinets.

If you are going to undertake a remodeling project on your own, find out how much time you will need to put into it. Then decide if you actually have it, or want to devote it to renovation tasks. “You need to make sure that you have the necessary skills and tools to complete the project,” said Craig Simmons, president of Eco Builders, an environmentally conscious company. “Correcting a poorly made DIY work may cost more in the end that hiring the pros to do it in the first place.”

Simmons also shared some useful tips about renovations:

To add more sunlight, especially on the south side of the house, choose a window that has the top as high as a regular doorway and convert it into a door. You can use an insulated glass door. There are very nice used ones at the Habitat for Humanities ReStore.

If your boiler or your hot-water heater are old and need to be replaced, you can buy one dual system unit. They are very efficient and will save a lot of money in your heating bill and in your domestic hot water bill. They pay for themselves in a short amount of time, just in fuel savings.

Take the doors off the upper kitchen cabinets to create open shelves. That will give a more spacious look to the kitchen.

Finally, don’t underestimate the appeal of a nice looking yard. Plant shrubs and flowers. Decorate it with outdoors furniture, candles and birdfeeders to make it look inviting. This will extend the living area of your house and can become a private sanctuary as well.

Lafe Harrower, Lucus Construction
PO Box 361
El Prado, NM 87529
Craig Simmons, Eco Builders
P.O. Box2133
El Prado,NM87529