One thing that seems to surprise most first-time fixers of fixer-uppers is the matter of time. No matter how many times they’re warned, by however many people, their houses always seem to take most of them a whole lot longer than they expect, especially if they’re doing the majority (or the entirety, for that matter) of the remodeling and repairs themselves and trying to avoid debt.
Unless they’re heading into the project with vast financial resources, which doesn’t seem to be the case for most (excluding the people “flipping” houses, that is), they’ll probably end up having to spread out the buying, watching for deals. Our family, for example, has taken to buying all the necessary materials at sales and off clearance tables, before starting a specific part of the home renovation. Cost effective? Definitely! Time consuming? Just as much!
As an example, we’re in the middle of collecting materials for the kids’/guest bathroom. The only thing left to acquire is the floor (probably will be tile, which we may just make, ourselves). The final purchase we made of the rest of the materials was a brand new Jacuzzi tub that we got for $50 at one of the home improvement megastores, just because it was a two-year-old model that had been stranded on the top of a shelving system and forgotten. The store had to get rid of it, one way or another, and we were more than willing to help them out (all above-board and legal, I assure you!). With that, we got the next-to-last piece of our project puzzle. So now, almost two years after we started the parts-collection process, when we have the time to set aside, we’re all set to gut and rebuild the bathroom. In this case, our collection includes a hand-me-down pedestal (free, “gently used”—being replaced with a better size), an at-price toilet (through work), a clear-it-out Jacuzzi, sample wallpaper (free), and mistinted alternately-tinted paint (top-of-the-line, name-brand—$5/gallon) that we can have tweaked to hit the color we want.
The only catch to this method is that you may not get exactly what you had originally envisioned, so if you’re in a rush or have inflexible preconceived ideas, you probably don’t want to go this route. For me, it’s not so much an issue, since I have a hard time visualizing remodels and redecorations, anyway. My spouse is much better at this, so I end up doing a whole lot less of the planning, and it’s very easy for my “free spirit” to go along with the flow, as not-exactly-what-was planned shows up at 80% off, and we decide to adjust the “plan” to work with this, rather than that.
Free spirit that I am, and something of a tightwad that gets quite a buzz from a good deal, I love working with this system, although the extra time involved can take a little of the sparkle out of it. Once a room is done, though, the wait seems to make it even better a conclusion…along the lines of “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” I suppose.
For some, a contractor with easy access to a wide range of materials is the way to go, but for others of us, the thrill of doing it all ourselves makes up for the inconvenience.