We recently completed our first home remodeling project — screening in the front porch that runs along the front of our house. Here is what we did right during our home remodeling project and a major mistake we wish we would have avoided when remodeling our home.
Why We Screened in Our Front Porch
Three years ago we moved from our cookie cutter house in suburbia to a house on 4.5 acres. We couldn’t keep the same size house and have the acreage so we downsized our house so we could have the privacy and quiet a house on acreage affords. I wrote about the five reasons we bought a home with acreage and the benefits of downsizing.
After settling into our smaller house over the last three years, we realized we still had some wasted space. Although the house is efficiently designed (no hallways) and we use all of the space (no extra bedroom or formal dining room left unused most of the year) inside the house, we weren’t using the front porch that runs across the front of the house — almost 400 square feet — because we have two frisky labs. Our dogs, much as we love them, ruled the porch. The first week of February, I decided to reclaim the front porch to create a peaceful dog free zone by screening in the front porch.
While most of the country is dealing with snow and blizzards, we are enjoying very fine sunny days with high temperatures in the 60s. The butterflies are out and the flowers are starting to bloom – perfect weather for sitting on the front porch of our house, which is nestled among the trees on 4.5 acres.
Home Remodeling Project – What We Did Right
We did a lot of things right with our first home remodeling project.
We hired the right contractor. As strange as it may seem, our sleepy little Texas town is home to a very talented contractor who happens to be transgender. The word of mouth on her is excellent. Everyone knows who she is and no one has a bad word to say about her or her work. She’s a jewel. And I admit it gave me more than a little pleasure to watch my girlfriend (at 6 ft. 5 in.) tower over my husband (at 6 ft. 1 in.).
Our contractor bought the supplies with our credit card and we got the points, which saved us 1% on the cost of the supplies.
Home Remodeling Project – Mistakes We Made
We didn’t sign a contract up front. I know better. I really do. But with such good word of mouth about our contractor we didn’t bother with a contract. Big mistake because we had nothing to fall back on when the inevitable cost overruns happened. We expected some cost overruns, but the job ended up costing us a lot more than we had budgeted.
We were counting on the job coming in just under $4,000. The remodeling costs ran $1,100 over our handshake deal. We were expecting $600 in materials costs and $3,200 in labor costs. Actual materials ran $1,300 — she badly underestimated the cost of materials. Actual labor ran $3,800 when she brought in a couple of extra guys to help one day and the job went a few hours over the four day total she estimated. Total cost overruns were $700 for supplies and $400 on labor for a total actual project cost of $5,100. Ouch! We just let her run with it and didn’t keep track of the expenses.
We would have closely monitored expenses had our contractor been a stranger to us before the job, but we knew her. In reviewing the receipts for the materials we think we might have saved $200 if we had gone with her to the store or if we had insisted she go to a bigger store for some of the materials instead of buying at our local, smaller, and more expensive store. Instead of a guesstimate, we should have insisted on a real materials take-off before the home remodeling project started.
As for the labor, we don’t think the extra two guys she put on the job the one day were worth it — she still ran over by a half day even with their help.
What We Gained from our Home Remodeling Project
With the front porch screened in, we’ve added almost 400 square feet of living space to the front of the house. We furnished it for just over $1,500 with a 6-piece set from Sam’s that has a full size sofa, two chairs with matching ottomans, and a granite topped coffee table. We updated our existing furniture by adding cushions from Garden Ridge.
Our newly screened in front porch now serves as:
- an extra sleeping space – the kids will love sleeping outside
- an extra work space – my husband and I can take our laptops and work outside
- elbow room – my husband or I can take a laptop and work outside while the other works inside – we both work from home.
- an entertainment area – we frequently have friends over to dinner – now we can enjoy pre-dinner conversation outside.
- a meeting place – when I have friends or my writing group over during work hours we can meet outside and not worry that our conversation is bothering my husband working inside.
- a chill zone – sitting on the front porch and watching the wildlife is a restful and meditative experience.
- a romantic zone – a candlelit dinner on the front porch is bliss.
Even though our home remodeling project went over-budget we don’t have buyer’s remorse because our contractor’s work is top quality and the materials she used are also high quality. However, if we ever do another home remodeling project we will make sure we:
- Get a signed contract up front
- Have an accurate materials take-off and make sure materials come from the least expensive vendors.
- Monitor the hours worked
We got what we paid for and we will be pleased with the high quality of her work for years. Once we got over the sticker shock, we decided we are very happy with the work. Of course we tease her now about the materials costs and when I go to lunch with her next week the teasing will continue – all in good fun. Plus, she makes an extraordinarily good sourdough bread and she brought us two loaves while she was on the job.