Step 1: Fix Your Home.

If it were up to me, Step 1 of a home renovation would be picking the kitchen island slab. If nothing else happened for months after that, I could sleep easy knowing there’s a beautiful marble/granite/quartzite slab sitting in some warehouse, tagged for me. I envision people walking past the slab and inquiring about it, only to see a ‘SOLD’ sticker stuck to the side. Suckers. That’s my slab.

But Step 1 isn’t buying the kitchen island slab. Step 1 is far more… boring. Painful, even. Daunting. Money consuming. And disappointing.

Step 1 is:

Pick Your Slab?

Color coordinate your books for your new built-in bookshelf?

Show your 3D renderings to your friends?

No, no, and no.

Step 1 is: FIX YOUR HOME.

Particularly true for older homes, you have to fix the fundamental problems before you start inappropriately caressing slabs and researching super toilets that not only shoot water at your ass, but dry it, too. I’m not talking about touching up trim or scrubbing out crayon marks on the walls. Honestly, have at it, kid. I plan on tearing out that wall anyway. But problems that will potentially undo all your blood, sweat, and slab groping need to be addressed first and foremost. I call it the big four: Roof, Plumbing, Electric, and Heat.

For nearly a decade I worked in underwriting for personal lines insurance. I’ve underwritten everything from blatant home insurance fraud where people were buying foreclosed homes just to burn them down and collect insurance money, to an original build Frank Lloyd Wright home which would be impossible to rebuild and replace if, say, some fraud pyros happened to stumble upon it. Overtime, it made me super weary of safety. When a friend purchased a new home, instead of bringing a candle as a housewarming gift, I found myself explaining the risk associated with unattended candles.

I can acknowledge this makes me a nightmare for anyone in the real estate industry, and I will join you all in united eye roll when I say I was looking forward to seeing the home inspection report. So what did I find? Nothing I didn’t expect. I am, after all, a 6-degree removed real estate professional (the eye rolls, ALL THE EYE ROLLS!)

I knew when buying this home the roof was an original slate roof. Slate roofs are awesome. They are basically fire resistant, mold resistant, water and freezing resistant, and bird shit resistant (one of these is a lie), and have an average lifespan of 100 years! However, and a big however, the roof was well over the average life expectancy, clocking in at the ripe old age of 114 years old, and even with its nips and tucks over the last couple years, she was looking every bit of 114.

In good conscience, I couldn’t continue to patch the roof at the risk of a new leak popping up after dumping money into renovating the inside. A roof on its last leg is like a game of whack-a-mole: you might whack that mole on the top right, but it’s only a matter of time before another one pops up. And to think, a water leak over my brand new kitchen island slab, the horror!

So after purchasing the home in September 2020, we decided to replace the roof a month later. We considered replacing it with a new slate roof, but there were a couple things we had to face. First off, slate roofs are not the norm, which means, if it did ever need a patch job, not every roofing company can work on slate roofs. Second, and biggest factor, is slate roofs are expensive. Like… real expensive. I researched online and found a shingle roof is typically $200 per square foot to a slate roof of $1,500 per square foot. That’s, like, over 7X’s the cost of a shingle roof!

Do I want to renovate this house, or do I want a slate roof that is going to outlive me?

I want to renovate this house, of course! So we said goodbye to our crumbling slate roof and said hello to a very acceptable 50-year shingle roof. We’ll see who outlives who.

Thankfully, electrical is in good shape, as well as the heating, and the plumbing will suffice until we start construction. Other than that, we’ve just had to deal with small things, which is more of a time suck and less of a money drainer.

With a new roof over our heads and a big chunk of savings out the door, we find ourselves already beginning the reprioritization of our wish list. My powers of persuasion cannot convince my husband the cost of the roof replacement shouldn’t come from the renovation budget. His rebuttal: “What budget will it come from then, Sarah?” You got me there.

At this point, I think my bougie slab is still on the table. And we can probably still swing a super toilet for the master bathroom, but my son is gonna have to learn to whip his ass like a normal toddler: by calling for his mother.

We are now ready for Step 2:

Send out invite to future housewarming party?

Become fixated on French ranges outside the budget?

Decide on a home style I’ve never heard of before, like Art Deco Victorian?

No, no and hell no.

Step 2 is: Choose a team you trust.

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