Split Level House Remodel 2021: The Before Pictures

Ten years ago, we bought a split-level house, built in 1958. We are the second owners of the house. For many years, the first owners lovingly cared for the home and expanded it twice, but then stopped all renovations and updates after the mid-80s. After that, the neighbors tell us that the original owners spent most of their time in their vacation homes.

Now, a midcentury split level was never my dream house. We needed to move pronto and this was one available, so we bought it after one mad afternoon of housing shopping.

We have had no regrets. It’s a solid home. The separate levels worked surprisingly well with everyone home all the time during the pandemic. Over the years, it’s needed many updates, like changing up the wall-to-wall pink carpet, dated wallpaper, and the brown kitchen. This year, we tackled the exterior to the house.

In the past ten years, we’ve done minor work outside. We pulled out some overgrown azaleas directly in front of the house. We had to do a lot of work trimming back and removing trees. Tree-work is frighteningly expensive. I hate it. We also had to do a little engineering in a corner of the yard, where a run-off stream would occasionally flood the yard. Another expensive, boring job.

For the past two years, we have been saving and planning to completely rehab the exterior to the house. The paint was flaking off. There were holes in the house. Bees and woodpeckers were treating our house as a breakfast buffet. The soffits were rotting. There was a mysterious hole in one of the gutters that was backing water through our kitchen ceiling.

There were esthetic issues, too. I didn’t like the tiny windows in the boys’ rooms, which are above the garage. I wanted to update the 50’s bay window to one with better insulation and that could open up more easily. With all the time being spent in our office, I wanted to put casement windows in there, too.

I wanted a new front door and back door to let more light into the home.

Finding the right contractor was a full year of work. There are a lot of ripoff artists out there. I got quotes from six guys. Once we found the guy with good taste and a fair price, we had all the front shrubs removed. And then we waited and waited for the contractor to arrive.

13 thoughts on “Split Level House Remodel 2021: The Before Pictures

  1. We’re in the middle of large renovations to our 1961 house we’ve lived in for 20 years. Upstairs bathroom gutted and redone, basement made watertight finally, de-moused, egress window added, among many exterior and interior fixes and painting. Should be done by Thanksgiving. never has a weekday gone by without one or more subcontractor or carpenter present. We’re very fortunate–contractor lives a block away. Good luck!

    Like

    1. Bathrooms still need to be done. One bathroom is midcentury pink. But that’s next year, I think.

      This exterior job is done. It took a couple of months, not the promised two weeks, because there were a lot of issues getting basic items like windows and doors. I’m so happy that they’re all gone. It was so stressful.

      The after pictures will be here tomorrow.

      Hope your work is finished up quickly.

      Like

      1. We got pleasantly surprised. We needed new siding so I called a guy who had done work for us in the past about four weeks ago. We dithered on committing until three weeks ago, and they did the job in four days last week. (We have a pretty small house and only replaced the worst 2/3rds of the house.)

        Like

      2. Laura wrote, “This exterior job is done. It took a couple of months, not the promised two weeks, because there were a lot of issues getting basic items like windows and doors. I’m so happy that they’re all gone. It was so stressful.”

        My sister has had our great-grandma’s house for a while, and when they got around to doing something with the siding, they discovered that the area under all the old siding (and into the attic) was a sort of vast mouse condominium. It took a long time to do the siding, because they had to do it themselves–it’s really hard to get help to come to you out in the country.

        (The mice get really assertive out in the country, even when you’ve got a cat, which they do.)

        Like

  2. Finding a contractor is hellish. Luckily up the street from us someone bought a house that had to be gutted. She said she hired and fired a number of contractors and is happy to give us names. I’m got fingers crossed we will have some luck with her list. But I’m bracing for some agony.

    Like

  3. Looking forward to the afters and boy hearing the work you’ve done makes me tired.

    How much would someone have to pay you to do the work you’ve done for yourself — I mean, if someone said name your price? There’s literally no sum I can imagine for me, because I would fail. I mean it would probably be a better bet for me to learn to do heart surgery.

    I keep thinking there should be a high end business in there, but the people I know with the skills seem to invest in rental properties instead (especially short term, now, I think, maybe because of our fairly strict rental protections?).

    Like

    1. bj said, “There’s literally no sum I can imagine for me, because I would fail.”

      Yeah, I grew up in a house that was under construction. It was really cool at the time (I was 9 at the beginning and enjoyed hauling off materials and tools for my own personal projects). However, as an adult, I have the following concerns:

      –My parents’ house took forever–they were still working on it for 4-5 years after we moved in.
      –I don’t have the skills.
      –My husband has some skills, but isn’t perfectionist about the house–I’d be annoyed by his “close enough for government work” approach.
      –The slowness of DIY would drive me nuts.
      –I don’t wanna.

      Like

      1. BFF and I are both somewhat frustrated would-be remodelers who just don’t have a budget for anything beyond maintenance. She and I once had something like the following conversations:

        BFF: What if you had a million dollars for renovation?
        Me: If I had a million dollars for renovation, I’d bulldoze my house.

        Like

    2. Oh, I’m not even talking about DYI — I couldn’t do the hiring of other people to do the work, either. When we first looked for houses, I kept thinking, “we could repaint; replace that fake wood paneling.” Spouse didn’t like houses unless they were already done. I’ve realized that he was right and I was wrong, that even having to paint the walls would take forever in our life (and when we bought a house, we both had jobs & little ones).

      The people who bought our first house completely renovated and I recently found photos of the renovation on zillow and it was amazing what they did with the house and that we would never have been able to do. The same is true for the house we currently live in (a one story with a basement transformed entirely), which doesn’t need renovation, just refreshing.

      Like

      1. bj said, “Oh, I’m not even talking about DYI — I couldn’t do the hiring of other people to do the work, either.”

        I haven’t done any really big projects, but it’s true that even fairly small repair jobs are surprisingly complex and disruptive. Our one big DIY job (dealing with a burst water filter that flooded half of our downstairs) was genuinely harrowing and it took my husband about a month to pull out the baseboards, roll up the carpet, dehumidify the drywall, put the baseboards back and do some paint touch-ups. We had several mini-fridge size dehumidifiers running loudly night and day at a rather spectacular weekly rental rate.

        “The people who bought our first house completely renovated and I recently found photos of the renovation on zillow and it was amazing what they did with the house and that we would never have been able to do.”

        I have the problem that while I like this or that detail that I see in the magazines, I don’t have any sense of scale or how to bring together the big picture.

        I do think that the HGTV Magazine folk need to tone it down, because my eyeballs are vibrating from their use of color and the amount of random stuff they put in rooms.

        Like

  4. Tree work is very dangerous. I can think of at least 2 deaths of tree-trimmers reported in the local press in the last ~10 years.

    It’s kind of like suitcases. Much more expensive than you expect.

    Like

    1. And sheets, which are always way more expensive than I’d expect. And I’m a grown up.

      Trees look shorter and smaller than they are, I think, which is part of the reason it seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is.

      Like

      1. bj said, “And sheets, which are always way more expensive than I’d expect. And I’m a grown up.”

        Yeah. Ditto underpants and socks.

        “Trees look shorter and smaller than they are, I think, which is part of the reason it seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is.”

        Yep.

        It feels like barely a year goes by without us having to take out a junky little tree. (The initial homeowner here planted WAY too many trees.)

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s