I have renovated several (I love old farmhouses~!)
I can do the tiling, laying fake wood floors (not for me, but for flips), staining wood floors, painting, landscaping and gardening. If I am in a pinch, I also do trim and molding.
I do not attempt: plumbing, electric, most carpentry and drywall.
The problem with old farmhouses is that there are no square and plumb walls floors and built-ins. It is harder to re-do a farm house when doing a major renovation than it is to build a new house. This is why, even though I do a lot of woodworking and make tack boxes and wall groming boxes, etc, I realize that any of the "guts" of the house require a pro who can deal with all of the 95* angles and uneven floors.
As far as costs go, a rule of thumb is (on a house I am flipping) to spend 75% of the increase in the home's value. This means that I search Craigs List for lighting fixtures and bathroom fixtures. I get my flooring at discount flooring places and I have gotten neat old cabinets for the kitchen from CL. I will also do things like open shelving on the kitchen walls (MUCH cheaper than cabinets). I also use granite tiles, rather than slab granite countertops. They are 1/10th the cost for 90% of the bang for your buck (nb: I use teeny tiny grout lines so, you have to get right next to the counters to see that they are not made in one piece.)
For my own house, I tried to only spend the total amount of the appreciation in value. This enables me to buy things like a granite farmhouse kitchen sink, wide plank (13" - 24") pine flooring, a wonderful antique dresser as my bathroom vanity and a really nice whirlpool tub.
Ideally, I never want to be "under water" on a house. But sometimes the luxury items for my house come under the "I deserve it" category.
The biggest bad surprise is how much work there inevitably is to be done on the skeleton of the house. Money spent for things you will never see (sagging floor beams, hidden water stains, water lines made of galvanized steel, not PVC, bad foundation, you name it, an old house will have it. When I started out, I had to spend 1/2 my money on these hidden, never to be appreciated items. Now I get a top inspector to tell me most of the hidden surprises, so I know if I can afford to do everything I want. But he only inspects what can be seen, and often old farmhouses have very small, tight crawl spaces, so things like old duct work will not be caught.
The good big surprise is how cheap it is to redo a farmhouse and still be true to its inherent style. i.e. 1 x 4 boards, butt joined in the corners for window trim, open shelving in the kitchen, no (or very plain) crown molding. An old farmhouse is not a fancy house, and fancy things cost money. So it is not only cheaper, but more correct to go with simpler, plainer materials.
Last edited by Lord Helpus; Apr. 4, 2013 at 01:59 PM.
Mine was built in 1895, but I have been VERY fortunate that it needed little in the way of true "renovation." The kitchen, that had been added in the 20's, needed the most work -- I did mine on a very small budget. Someday I hope to have a new bathroom, but the tiny one that was also stuck on the side of the house in the 20's is functional, so we've left it for now.
Mine is not for a re-sale, and had to be done with cash on hand, so many of the improvements I would have wanted to make, I have had to leave 'til later. It is my g-g-grandparents first home, out of the log cabin that was previously on the property, so I have to be careful with what I do with it.
I have seen one of the houses Lord Helpus has done and it is GORGEOUS. So, listen to her! She knows her stuff!
Good luck! I think it is so rewarding and I wish more folks would take chances on old farmhouses . . .
The last farm house I renovated was a wonderful project, but it took YEARS to complete and by the time I was done, I couldn't wait to sell it and get a more modern house, LOL.
When we were marketing the house, I put together a small brochure that showed some of its history, which we'd learned from a woman who stopped by out of the blue one day to ask us if she could take some pictures of the house. Turns out she was the grandchild of the original owners, and had spent summers there as a little girl. She later sent us some of her family photos of the house along with explanations of the various people and activities there. It was really interesting to see how the house had changed over the years.
The biggest challenge that I recall was creating enough storage for the house to be functional. There just weren't any closets when we started, and the rooms were moderately sized to begin with, so not easy to add closet space to. Oh, and there was only one full bath, which ended up being the main reason we sold the house. I need one full bath for *myself* never mind the rest of the family!!
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
We haven't renovated our house but we've had to replace things and work on things. My advice would be assume everything the previous owners have told you is a lie unless you can see it with your own eyes and whatever the contractor quotes you should immediately be doubled in your mind, because something will come along somewhere that will cost more then you hoped it would.
We're pretty much done with our 1890s Iowa farmhouse. After moving in in 2001, we did all of the "surface" work-- stripped and refinished literally every inch of every floor, wall, and ceiling. We did lots of plaster and window repair, replaced all the stair treads & ballusters, and MrHH did quite a bit of electrical to get more outlets and switches where we needed them.
Meanwhile we saved and saved and saved $ and in 2009 we decided to tackle a list of really big stuff-- new septic, new metal roof, all new hvac to the upstairs rooms, build an addition to bump out the kitchen and create a laundry room, tear off the back porch and make a mudroom, tear off and rebuild the front porch, tear off the worn out clapboard siding, tyvek wrap the house and re-side with cement board. New elec panel and ran a cpl new circuits upstairs. Finally we put in 2 new bathrooms upstairs (there was only 1 bath downstairs, and it was awful).
Obviously with a job this big, we had a general contractor. To save costs we did all the demo, cleanup, and painting, stuff like that.. All told that was about a 150k job and I'd estimate we saved 8-10% off the total with the work we did.
Then we saved up for a couple more years after that, and did The Kitchen remodel last year (and replaced that godawful 1st floor bathroom). Same thing-- we stripped the work area down to bare studs and joists (tearing out plaster is such a messy, dustry chore. Ugh). And the daily cleanup, etc. Basically we did the grunt work so his much more expensive labor force could show up and start actual work right away (rather than prep).
We had a few change orders but I think in general they were elective / something we wanted to add/adjust rather than unforeseen problems. We did T&M billing. Our contractor is very comfortable with old houses so his estimates were good. And he was very good about dealing with the house's eccentricities. Like someone else said, nothing's square, plumb, or straight. Inevitably there will be surprises (I can't really remember any specifically at the moment) but he'd just find solutions. I think that appreciation for the intangible value of these old homes, and creative/flexible approach when the unexpected happens, are CRITICAL if you want a good experience. We got quotes from other contractors who do a lot of new-builds and renovations on newer homes, and almost every one suggested just pushing the house in a hole and building new. I bet they would have been horrible to work with on our old house.
We love everything about this house, could not be happier with the work that's been done. Yes, it's still drafty and expensive to heat. We don't mind the fact that it actually has ROOMS with DOORS (I'm pretty <meh> about this whole open concept thing in home layouts.)
Try to break down crushing defeats into smaller, more manageable failures. It’s also helpful every now and then to stop, take stock of your situation, and really beat yourself up about it.The Onion
Mine isn't a farmhouse per se...it was at one point I'm sure, but now it's a very old home on the main street of a small village.
We came from brand spanking new to built in 1895 so we knew we'd have projects. I must say looking at a house and seeing the projects sure is different than living it lol!
First project was completely renovating the addition/den, which meant taking it down to studs, exposing the brick wall, replacing the hardwood floor to match the original floor found in the main house, putting in a fireplace for a heat source, taking wood planks off the vaulted ceiling, making the beams into collar ties (they were meant to be structural, but somehow weren't!), painting, and then re-decorating. We did all of it except the flooring (probably could have, but time factored in...contractor did it quicker than we likely would have) and installation of the gas fireplace and stone surround for it.
We've also re-painted almost every room in the house so far and really cleaned up the yard.
We'd like to re-do the bathroom upstairs to get it more updated than it is and eventually maybe a kitchen reno too (hate my fridge beside my stove!). We'll see. There is a floor joist in the bsmt we need to re-support as well as some siding issues outside we need to address...oh and replace the deck that failed the house inspection...paint the front porch...the list goes on and on! We did get one break though last week. Got a quote on some siding and had them look in the attic where we thought we had vermiculite insulation, but he said we didn't! It'd been cleaned out already and the house inspector must have found the last handful in there. Just saved upwards of 10k there lol!
We've learned that old houses are never straight whether it be floors or walls, that there are always things to take care of and that you can guarantee you'll find something behind walls that increases your budget (in our case mostly b/c someone in the past thought they were more handy than they actually were)!
But, wouldn't change my original floors, detailed ceilings, thick trim and acre yard for anything newly built now...I'm hooked on old!
I have pictures I can post if anyone is interested!