Projects With Budget

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Fixer-Upper

by Brandon Turner |


So should you invest in a fixer-upper? Despite a few cons, I would say yes, you should definitely consider it because of the overwhelming pros. However, before you jump into your next project, ask yourself these five questions about the deal.

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Fixer-Upper

1. How bad is it?

There are many levels of severity when dealing with fixer-uppers. Some properties need just a few thousand dollars worth of paint, while others need a complete overhaul. As common sense would suggest, the less work a property needs, the less risk you’ll have that something will go wrong during the rehab.

At the same time, however, the less work a property needs, the more competition you’ll face. This is why I generally look for properties that appear to need a lot of work to the general public but that actually just need minor fixes. For example, homes that have a bad smell because of pets or cigarettes are a prime candidate for me, because smells are easy to rectify. An ugly exterior paint job or a bad roof are also fairly easy (if costly) to remedy, but they scare away more potential homeowners. So, before you buy a fixer-upper, I encourage you really look at the property and have an accurate estimate of what it’s going to take to fix it up. Don’t go into a fixer-upper blind.


2. Is it worth it?

Let me ask you a question: Is it better to buy a house for $120,000 that needs $30,000 worth of repairs, or a house that is $150,000 that is 100% finished? With all other factors being equal, the finished house clearly has the advantage. However, many investors fail to comprehend this logic and instead think “fixer-upper” automatically means “great deal.” It doesn’t!

Often, the cost of rehabbing a project will negate any discount you might get. On the other hand, if you could get that same property for $90,000 and put $30,000 into it to make it worth $150,000, now we’re talking!

3. Do I have the time?

Whether you plan to do the work yourself or not, fixer-uppers take time! You have to be present at the property often to make sure the work is being finished correctly, or maybe you’ll end up having to do the work yourself. I have a friend who bought a fixer-upper triplex with plans to live in one unit and rent the other two out, but it took him three years to fix up the two other units and get them rented! While this friend may still have a great investment on his hands, he lost close to $40,000 in potential rent over those three years because he didn’t have time to handle a fixer-upper.

4. Do I have the skills?

Most people who are looking to get started with fixer-upper rental properties plan to do the work themselves. I actually encourage this, as long as the work is on a small scale. Being able to do your own rehab can save you a ton of money and can help you get a good feel for how long projects take so you can better manage the hiring out of those projects in the future. However, if this is your plan, do you really have the skills to take on the project? If not, see the next question in this list.

5. Do I have the drive?

Or more importantly, do you have the mental skills and motivation needed to learn how to accomplish those projects? My first home was a fixer-upper, and I had never swung a hammer in my life! However, I picked up a book on home improvement and began learning on the job. I also called in a lot of favors from other people I knew and had them teach me how to do things. By the end of the project, I could install carpet, tile a bathroom, lay laminate wood flooring, solder copper pipes, and fix a leaky roof—not because I had the skill, but because I had the desire and motivation to learn.

By answering these five questions for every project you are about to take on, you can better decide whether it is the right path for you. Fixer-uppers can be a great way to supercharge your wealth creation, but they also present increased risk. Just be sure to do your due diligence on any fixer-upper you plan to buy and accurately account for the hurdles you might face. Then take action, and get a little dirty!



DIY Crate Tutorial to Set Pumpkins in



Fall is finally here…  Well, I think it is.  I’m not sure where fall went, though.  It’s suppose to be in the eighties today, but break out the skinny jeans and boots anyway!!!  I have finally finished decorating my front porch on a low budget. There are many ways to decorate for fall for cheap or even free – DIY Crate Tutorial!


This fall, I added some rustic character to my porch by building crates to set my pumpkins in.   I used some pallet boards I had on hand in order to build mine, so I didn’t end up spending any money on them.  Crates are simple to build.  When using pallet boards, the boards are not always straight, so if you are really picky about that I suggest you buy some nice straight boards.  This did aggravate me at first.  However, I didn’t want to spend any money so I got over it fast.

To build your crate these are the supplies you will need:

  • Pallet boards
  • 1×1 boards
  • Wood glue
  • Brad nails or screws
  • Nail gun or drill

First thing, cut all your boards. If you want the crate bigger or smaller, adjust your cuts accordingly. These are the cuts I did:

  • (9) pallet boards @ 21.5”
  • (4) pallet boards @ 12.5″
  • (4) 1×1 boards @ 11.5″

You will notice that my side pieces are thicker than the other boards.  The pallet I used had smaller and larger boards. I used only the wider boards for the sides.  If all of your boards are the same, you will need to cut 6 pallet boards at 12.5″.  After you have finished cutting the boards, stain or paint them.  I did put one together without staining it first and thought it was harder to get into all the nooks and crannies.


After the paint dries, place the 12.5″ board on the 1×1, lining the edges (shown below) one board at a time.  After you have it lined the edges up, nail together using about 3 or 4 nails.  If you don’t have a nail gun, you can screw everything together.  Just make sure to pre-drill your holes.  When I cut my 1×1, I cut it shorter than the height I wanted the crate to be. I wanted my board to hang over a little.  After you place your first board, put the second one on, leaving a little space in between the boards.  Nail it to the 1×1.  Do the other side the same.




Next, take the sides and line them up on the ends.  Take two of your 21.5” boards and place them on the top.  Line up your edges and nail them down.  Do the top and bottom boards first, then your middle.  This way, it will be square.  When placing your middle board, just make sure you have equal distance between the boards.  I just eyeballed mine.


Turn it over to the other side and do the same thing.



When you get to the bottom, line your outside boards up with your side boards.  Nail together both the sides. Next, add your middle board, spacing it evenly between your other two boards.



Now you are FINISHED!!


These could also be used for storage.  I was thinking about hanging some on the wall of my craft room to put fabric in them.  There are endless ideas for using crates.



All summer I have been looking at my deck, knowing that a change was needed. I’ve been planning a deck refresh for months and after a very rainy July I’ve finally completed my project. Here’s how to stain a deck (and the lazy but effective way to strip and prep it too).


Before we bought our home, it was used as a rental property. It’s safe to say that nothing was maintained before we moved in and the deck was no different. The deck needed a good cleaning before we did anything, so we decided to use our pressure washer to get rid of years of grime (we have this Ryobi 2700 psi Pressure Washer).


Why yes, that’s me – unbrushed hair, in PJs and running a pressure washing. Isn’t that how people do DIYs?

A note about pressure washing: be careful. You need to get pretty close to make a difference in the wood, but don’t get too close or your will take some of the wood clean off. I did that in a few spots, so start far and move to where you’re at a safe distance. Our deck was chipped and a lot of the wood was showing already, so I knew I was at a good distance when I saw the wood changing color. This step also helped with stripped as a lot of the loose paint came clean off.



I really didn’t want to sand the deck. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and time was of the essence. I was reading a lot of reviews online about the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripperand they were mixed. I decided to go to the Home Depot and speak to someone myself about it.

The lady I spoke with, used the product herself and said it worked great. She said to follow the instructions exclusively as the complaints she has had came from people who didn’t read the bottle and did their own thing.


I used a foam paint roller to spread the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripper on, the process was pretty quick. There is no diluting the product and make sure to shake the container. We didn’t at first and it came out in a thin liquid, when it should be a thick and goopy consistency.


It’s important to follow the instructions for application, it tells you the optimal time for application. We did ours in the morning when the heat was low and there was less direct sunlight.

We let the wood stripper sit for 45 minutes on the bottom deck and about 30 minutes on the top deck, any area that started to dry (due to direct sunlight) we used the garden hose on the mist setting. When it was ready, we took a deck brush and scrubbed hard. Who am I kidding with “we”, my husband did that part.


Remember this is basically an acid so don’t use your brand new running shoes, my husband wore rubber boots and clothes he didn’t care about. If you’re wearing rubber boots – the deck is slippery, so watch your footing.

Spray off the stripper and you’ll see the paint start to come off! We first did it with a garden hose but switched over to the pressure washer after. It made it so much easier.


The wood stripper got almost all of the previous paint off. There were a few spots where I still had some paint left over, and I should have sanded it off but I didn’t. I don’t recommend doing that as if you’re staining – this will not cover it up. I would say I got 95% of all the previous red paint off the deck. Keep that in mind.



The lady at Home Depot couldn’t stress this step enough. You need to use the Behr Premium All In One Wood Cleaner after the deck stripper. It takes all the remaining stripper off the deck, so the stain or paint will adhere better.


I’m the kind of person who starts a project and just wants it done. I hate it when it takes multiple days, but I also knew that I would be choked if the stain didn’t work due to me rushing and skipping steps. I used the wood cleaner a few hours after the stripper was used. I diluted the wood cleaner in a 1:1 ratio of water and went to work. I used the pressure washer to rinse it off, then let it dry and rinsed it off again. Rinse it until all the foam is gone. Let the wood dry for 24 hours.


FINALLY! We’re at the step where your hard work shows. This step went surprisingly fast and the immediate results made my Millennial brain happy.


I decided on the BEHR PREMIUM® Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing All-In-One Wood Stain & Sealer, tinted in Redwood Naturaltone ST-122. I chose semi-transparent because I wanted to show the natural grain of the wood but still give it a nice color. It’s made out of a 100% acrylic formula, which seals out the elements and sun’s harmful UV rays for up to 6 years on high traffic areas like decks, and up to 8 yrs. on fences & siding. I like how it saves me a step on sealing, it has a sealer built in.


The application was really easy. I used a deck pad and brushed it on, it took me 20 minutes to do my whole deck and 10-15 minutes for the trickier areas like the seating bench and stairs. For those trickier areas, I used this deck staining detail kit. It says to use two thin coats, but in some areas, I used a thicker application by accident. You can’t tell I did that, it evened out nicely. I used a whole can on my first application.

I was planning on putting on my second coat the next day but noticed the deck still felt a little tack so I waited. Then it rained a few days later. So I had to put off the second coat for a few weeks.

The second coat was easy and brought a beautiful finish to the deck. It looks so much better now and I love the results.



What a difference it made! The wood is old, but the Behr Premium® products brought the life back to it. I love the way it looks. I was intimated with this project at first, but my best advice is to dive in and just do it.


10 Easy Yet Beautiful DIY Garden Trellis Projects


If you have grown some climbing plants and now they are in a need of a trellis then you can easily make one by yourself too. We have collected some DIY and easy versions of garden trellises that you are not only going to admire but would want to try as well. So, take a look at the ideas below:

1. Make a Ladder Like Trellis with Twigs and Rope


Image via: gardenista

2. Get Thrifty and Recycle Old Garden Tools Like These Shovel, Rake and Spade


Image via: sadie seasongoods

3. Re-imagine an Old Wagon Wheel into a Trellis


Image via: life aspire , pinterest

4. For Trying Something New Build an Obelisk Trellis from Wood for Just 10 Bucks


Image via: momma d and da boyz

5. Another Budget-Friendly Option Could be a Pallet Trellis


Image via: Sues Country Corner , the garden glove

6. Make a Beauteous Lattice Trellis with Bamboo


Image via: the owner builder network

7. You Can Make a Wonderful Trellis with Old Bike Wheels


Image via: suited to the seasons

8. Upcycle Springs of an Old Mattress into a Trellis


Image via: bonney lassie

9. Make a Hinged Trellis with a Wood Frame and Chicken Wire


Image via: the home steady

10. Make a Stylish Chevron Trellis from Wood


Image via: remodelaholic


Addison’s Wonderland blogger Brittany Hayes gives home tour — See Inside!

How To Remodel Your Home Within Your Budget

The budget conversation — it’s sometimes awkward, often slightly uncomfortable and usually comes with a bit of anxiety. Because of the nature of construction, things often cost more than what homeowners think. There are endless debates on why that is, but the result is that we designers often have conversations with clients that end with an awkward silence. The silence usually means that certain aspects of their project might be out of their reach. And truth be told, we really don’t like being the messenger in these conversations. We want our clients to be satisfied with the process and get what they really want.

But the flip side of that conversation is that budget constraints can make a project better. Just hear me out… What we find is that financial considerations make our team and clients focus on what’s really important. That pressure helps edit down the myriad choices and allows a more coherent story to emerge. And it all comes back to sticking to that budget. Here’s how.

Establish Your Budget Early

We have been in situations where clients have not told us their budget until we have completed some of the initial phases of work. This, no surprise, can slow down the process. It’s like going to a personal trainer but not telling them how much weight you can lift, and so you spend time trying a few exercises to figure out what the proper weights are.


Close-up of a mid adult man looking at a mid adult woman writing with a pen

There are situations where homeowners generally don’t know what a new custom home or addition will cost, but a key part of the process is considering how much you would be comfortable spending on the project. Obviously spending $50,000 will produce a dramatically different result than if you spent $500,000. And what you spend will be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including neighborhood, type of project and level of finishes.

Without knowing a budget range, we could get through the first few meetings with clients and then give them a rough ballpark figure, which is sometimes double or triple what they thought it would be.

Don’t try to second-guess your design team by holding your cards close to your chest. Help us work with you to get the most value for your hard-earned dollars. Most designers don’t look for opportunities to waste money just for the sake of it. Sure we all want a great project at the end of the process, but we also want to make sure our clients are happy. So establishing your budget early in the process will be helpful to your team, as it will give them one of the key ingredients that will go into making a design you can live with.

Ensure Your Budget Is Realistic

It’s easy to look at TV shows and get the wrong idea about what things cost. In most cases those budgets are not realistic for a bunch of reasons, most of which revolve around how suppliers and trades price their services to be included on the show. There is an old project management saying that goes, “Price, speed, quality — pick any two.”

It’s not totally untrue, and it underscores that there are no easy trade-offs in a construction project. It would be problematic for me to suggest pricing in this article, as it varies substantially based on a number of factors, including location, number of trades in the area, level of finish, complexity of construction etc.


Piggy bank, architecture drawing and equipment/ home remodel saving concept

The budget number that most clients care about is the “all-in” number. That includes everything they will write a check for including moving expenses, fees and construction. (More about that later.)

Pricing tip: Pricing can change substantially in certain areas over as little as a few years, so be sure that the projects were completed recently for the best idea of pricing. After you create your budget, subtract 20 percent. Construction being what it is, there are always situations that arise that will increase the cost, and those are hard to foresee at the beginning of construction. It’s a very complicated process involving many people and a lot of communication, so there usually are things that happen that will eat into that 20 percent contingency. The contingency should not be used for upgrades to counters or splashy fixtures.

After you create your budget, subtract 20 percent. Construction being what it is, there are always situations that arise that will increase the cost, and those are hard to foresee at the beginning of construction. It’s a very complicated process involving many people and a lot of communication, so there usually are things that happen that will eat into that 20 percent contingency. The contingency should not be used for upgrades to counters or splashy fixtures.

On a recent project, our clients had to spend thousands of dollars to get their utilities hooked up again, as the electrical feed from the street was torn up by mistake. On top of that, since the utility’s own drawings said that the feed still existed, there was a three-month delay on top of the re-connection order so that the utility could update its drawings. Even though this these will never be seen, they were absolutely critical and had to be completed before construction could be completed.

Keeping a 20 percent contingency allows our clients to end up spending what they thought they would spend initially, and they can sleep at night.

Understand What You’re Paying For

Hard costs, fees, furniture — what is in the contract? Your design team will also help you understand what is in those budget numbers. Hard costs include the costs of the construction materials and fixtures required to actually build the structure. Soft costs generally include fees for permits, consultants and designers.

Home renovation and decoration concept

It’s important to establish what your team is referring to in conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page about budget numbers. For example, construction is often expressed in dollars per square foot to give a rough guide during planning. Generally this does not include appliances or soft costs. So it’s important to know that if your contractor says your new house can be built for $750,000, there are soft costs likely not covered in that estimate. Work with your design team to understand the costs and how they relate to a schedule, and how there are items you might not have thought about, to get an overall sense of what is required.

What if You Run Out of Money?

We have had this conversation with clients on more than one occasion, and truly it’s not easy for either the clients or us. It’s frustrating to hear how something that you’ve been planning for is out of your reach.

There may be opportunities to reduce costs by changing the scope of the project. For example, instead of fully constructing a basement bathroom in a new house, you might just rough in the plumbing so it could be finished at a later date. Or it could be possible to reduce the cost of fixtures and finishes such as flooring or faucets.

During a recent conversation with clients, we recommended that they wait before starting the project so they could gather more resources before proceeding. In the discussion we realized that it wouldn’t be possible to “de-scope” or redesign the project to fit their needs, so the best course of action was to delay. Was this difficult for all involved? Absolutely, but we felt strongly that starting a project that didn’t address their needs wouldn’t serve their overall best interests.

Whenever you are dealing with money, there is the potential for some uncomfortable conversations. But if you understand what you are dealing with early in the process, those conversations will be less stressful than if you’re standing in the middle of a half-completed project in the middle of winter wondering where all your hard-earned money has gone.