Sequence in which to perform repairs and upgrades

CAHomeJuly 19, 2014

We are first time home buyers, and have just entered into a contract to purchase a home. This is a somewhat old home, and needs a new roof in a couple of years. We would also like to insulate the house better in order to reduce energy costs. Moreover, the windows are currently single pane and we want to replace them with double pane windows. We would also be interested in adding solar panels and, if feasible, a solar water heater.

Besides the above, we would also like to refresh the kitchen. We are unsure if we need a full remodel or simply updating the counters, cabinets, and appliances will suffice.

I have a few questions:

- Is it advisable to first move into the house and then perform the repairs or should we try to fix as many things as possible before we move in? (We are currently renting, and we have around 2 more months before the lease expires)

- In what sequence should the repairs/upgrades be carried out, assuming that sufficient funds are available?

Thanks in advance for your inputs.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I strongly advise you to pick up the July issue of Journal of Light Construction. Nate Adams wrote "Why 'Energy Saving' Tips Suck. According to him, payback for new windows is 100-300 years. Not a typo.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You need to replace you roof before you add solar panels.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you live in a climate zone where the temp. swings are mild, the greatest benefit of increasing the number of panes of glass in windows, is sound transmission and aesthetics.

Have you asked a roofer, "If I have a solar array on the roof, what is the process to reroof?" Then grab your wallet.

The extent to which you pursue the interior projects is up to you.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

Storm windows are a much better buy than new windows. Then look at the insuation level in the attic and DIY the project. Heat rises, and that's the best place to insulate for the most comfort and payback. Air sealing is more important than insulation, both for the window/wall plane as well as the floor ceiling planes.

You're easily looking at 120K worth of projects here, so hopefully the comment about not worrying about budgets is correct.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

as to the window replacement-
We recently replaced the eating area window out of necessity (previous Andersen Narroline wood, now Sunrise vinyl window, double hung), I am thrilled with the ease of operation. Previously it was a full body press to open the window and now it is a one to two finger open for both the top and bottom panes. Since the replacement we have had that new window open most days whereas it was opened maybe 5 times in the previous 20 years. We are enjoying all the backyard bird songs and other little noises from the local critters. I am now going to replace my kitchen window as well just for ease of use. So that is one very good reason to replace the windows that you might want to open a lot.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We bought a house built in 1965---still has the original windows with newer storms.

If we had the money, I would install newer windows just for the convenience---raising/lowering and cleaning. The combination of original and storm do well for insulating properties, but are a pain to operate.

Do the work on the kitchen before you move in.

Roof/etc. can be done any time with minimal disruption to you.

As far as insulating---a previous owner of our house installed insulated siding---plastic molded like cedar shakes and steel lap.

All we had to do is add insulation in the attic.

The result is I cannot hear it rain inside the house and our electric/gas bill to heat/cool this 1800 sq, ft. house is less than what we paid to heat/cool a 14' by 78' mobile home.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"- Is it advisable to first move into the house and then perform the repairs or should we try to fix as many things as possible before we move in? (We are currently renting, and we have around 2 more months before the lease expires)"

I would suggest that replacing the roof has very little impact as far as disturbing your lifestyle. Do it before OR after moving in. Same for solar electric or hot water.

Attic insulation blow-in to an accessible attic has the potential to be messy, but with professional installers that should not be an issue either.

I guess if I were you I'd look at doing any kitchen mods before moving in - if hiring the work out, that clearly requires workers in your home for extended periods. The down side is that you will not have experience with the existing layout as far as formulating your needs and requirements for the new or upgraded kitchen.

This post was edited by saltidawg on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 19:52

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 2:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fori is not pleased

I would wait on the kitchen, especially since you don't know how much work it needs. You usually end up with a better kitchen after being in a place for a while so you have an idea of how the layout and traffic flow in the house works. If you have kids, though it might be better to do it ahead of time--living with a kitchen under construction can be rough on an adult feeding kids. (The kids seem to enjoy the process though.)

If it turns out to only need a simple refresh, that's really something you can live with.

I agree that re-roofing is noisy and annoying and won't impact you much, so do it when it's needed.

You don't seem to have anything on your list that MUST be done before moving in, but I'm sure you'll find something after you do... :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 2:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you very much to everybody for their excellent replies. To give a bit more context, the house is in the (south) Bay Area. It does not get very cold in the winter but the summers do get somewhat warm. Also, we have an active 3.5 year old.

To summarize (and to check that my understanding is correct), the general consensus seems to be

- Do the roof after moving in. The solar, of course, needs to be installed after the roof is in place.

- Replacing the windows for energy efficiency is not a good investment (that is something very surprising to me). However, it improves operational efficiency to have newer windows.

- Blow in insulation in the attic is something we should put on priority to increase energy efficiency. Is this something we can do DIY or is it best left to the professionals? If professionals, can someone suggest a good contractor in the south bay.

- The opinions on the kitchen remodel seems to reflect my dilemma. On one hand, if we remodel before we move then we can minimize the disruption to our daily lives. However, only when you live in a house for a while you realize the quirks and traffic patterns which are important considerations for a remodel.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fori is not pleased

OK, so maybe you won't save money by replacing windows, but you WILL be more comfortable. That's worth something too.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How big is the home? If it is a 1000sq ft house, doing a kitchen remodel will be very disruptive. If it is a 4000 sq ft home, usually you find other space in which to do your living while the kitchen is being remodeled. Either way, it would be my preference to do the kitchen AFTER I lived in it a while ,unless it was grossly inadequate.

Also, are you a family? Do you eat out often? Never?

As for roof/solar. We just installed solar on ours. And, one of the first questions of the solar companies was "how old is your roof". They want at least 15 yrs left on a roof for solar installation.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 7:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would say ... while you are still renting, you will want to pull out your exterior drywall and install the insulation and then re-apply drywall first ... then your carpeting if you planned to do so ...

Pulling the drywall will probably also affect your kitchen, so remodeling that next (as the cabinets are away from the wall for insulation to be added) seems logical.

Bathroom, of course, would be another priority on the list, if also adding insulation to bathroom walls.

After that, moving in would be a decent idea, as all the mess in the house should be relatively cleaned up and over with. Start next on the roof to replace/repair and re-build whatever is needed up there to ensure no leaks and decent heat retention. Don't forget to add appropriate ventilation up there to allow excess heat to escape in the hot summers ...

After the roof is repaired is the time to add your solar panels and solar powered water heater. If you have the solar panels already, however, making a temporary solar panel rack and running the power from there into the house would be feasible.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


The home is approximately 1700 sq ft. The kitchen is not grossly inadequate but some of the appliances are pretty old and it does not have enough counter space. Also the range is electric, and I would love to have a gas cooktop.

We are a family of three (couple with 3.5 yr old daughter) and we cook virtually every meal at home. We eat out very occasionally.

I have several copper and cast iron cookware. I also have a reasonable collection of kitchen appliances (kitchen aid, champion juicer, food processor, wet grinder, rice cooker, bread maker etc etc). One annoying thing in our current rental kitchen is that there is not enough counter space for these items and I have to store them and retrieve them every time I use them. Ideally I would like to have an appliance garage or a corner of the counter (with many plug points) dedicated to these appliances


We are not planning on adding carpet. The house has hardwood floors and we are perfectly happy with it.

Do we have to tear down the drywall to install insulation? I had the impression that insulation in the attic is blown in and some people install crawlspace insulation. I did not realize that one has to tear down the drywall to install insulation. If that is the case, should I use this opportunity to make layout changes?


    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First, you need to determine, if you have any attic insulation, and then what the product is. From there you have several option to proceed.

I believe that the comment about removing the drywall to place insulation, was referring to the walls and instead of the removal there are options for that as well.

You'll find that upgrading the electrical in the kitchen will, in all probability, require cabinet removal.

The ease of changing the cooking appliance to natural
gas will depend upon weather you are on a raised foundation or possible a 2nd story.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh yes, I forgot to mention ... yes, you definitely could make changes to your floorplan if you tear out the drywall, but another way to do it would be to cut out circles in the upper reaches of the drywall between the joists and use a shop vac or similar system IN REVERSE to blow insulation into the spaces in the wall to give you insulation. Options include rice hulls (silicate based, so insects leave it alone), shredded newspaper or hay, and various foam insulation ...

As for the hardwood floor ... awesome! :) One of the places everybody should really splurge is the flooring. That's the hardest thing to change over time if you're not satisfied with it. The second-hardest is insulation in your walls and the hardpoints for your electrical and water. Once they're in place, it's more than a little difficult to make adjustments.

As for upgrading the electrical ... I'll just say this ... If you can replace all your wiring with 12 gauge rather than 14 gauge, you'll end up saving money in the long run. 12 gauge can handle 20 amps of current, and will cost you roughly 15 - 20% more for installation than 14 gauge, which can only handle 15 amps of current.

Also, with the 12 gauge wires, the wire resistance is lower, meaning that it runs cooler and more actual power gets to your receptacles. The power savings yearly could amount to 2 - 3% ... you'll be getting your extra investment back over 8 - 10 years, and then saving money from that point on.

The crux of the matter is, that as the 14 gauge handles near its max capacity, it heats up ... even in your walls. As it heats up, it builds up more resistance, which makes it heat up even more ... Now, most of the time, you'll only be using 5 - 10 amps, which is well within the safety limits... But if you're using more than one device or appliance on that circuit, you can overload it and make it heat up too much.

What typically happens is ... the copper gets hot enough that it melts through it's insulation and shorts out when the bare copper wires touch, which trips your breaker and kills the entire circuit.

Unfortunately, what sometimes happens is ... the copper doesn't quite meet, but sparks fly across the air gap, causing a fire inside your walls.

12 gauge can handle up to 20 amps, and if you still have it attached to a 15 amp breaker ... well, you'll NEVER get that kind of situation. :)

Some people say you just can't put a price on peace of mind ... liars...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

Beware of breathlessly emotional kooky advice on the internet. Lotta chaff to wheat ratio there.

In your very temperate locaion, the delta between desired interior and exterior temperatures is quite small, making the payback timeline for all of those ''green'' improvements longer than your lifespan. You have to be thinking of the additional comfort as being purchased as an expense, not as improvements that will pay you back. If you want to do all of those things from that aspect, that's your decision. But, they will not save you enough money to pay for themselves. That includes most solar. You'd really have to reduce your own addiction to the juice drastically to be able to make an appreciable dent in your monthly utility expenses by generating your own. The payback on solar is petty long term as well. Usually by the time the panels are toast, you might have paid for their installation. You do solar as a belief statement, not a money saving option.

For the kitchen, take some pictures, do an overhead layout, and post that in the Kitchen Forum along with a general sketch of how the kitchen fits into the house as a whole. You'll get some very quick advice about how it could be reconfigured to work harder. But, you can't do miracles if the space is simply too small for your needs. Redoing it could involve stealing space from adjacent rooms, and that ups the expense. Just a general like for like kitchen redo averages 55K nationally. Throwing in some structural work in a locaton that is notorious for paperwork difficulty and seismic retrofitting requirements can make the numbers skyrocket. Just be prepared with a healthy contingency fund is all I'm saying.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cost vs. Value

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

CAHome, we bought a house built in the 1940's in the Bay Area. It had those old metal single pane casements, the kind that don't seal. The prior owners even suggested we might want to replace the windows as it was cold and drafty in the winter. We replaced with double pane at a relative low cost and it made a Huge difference. House is less than 1500 sq ft, one story, took them a day. Totally worth it.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with Hollysprings - if you post photos and a floor plan of the existing kitchen on the Kitchens forum, we can help you assess pros and cons, and whether the kitchen is reasonably functional as is, or needs major work.

One thing to keep in mind - you have 2 months to work with. Really good contractors tend to have work lined up that far in advance - meaning that the guy you find who is sitting around waiting for you call probably isn't going to be the most competent or reliable. For that reason alone I would be tempted to hold off.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all your inputs. We had another closer look at the home yesterday and decided that we will hold off on all repairs/fixes and remodels until after we have moved in. We plan to tent the house and do the termite treatment. The rest we plan to move it and work on them one by one. Two things which influenced our decision. First, we don't have much experience with contractors and the good ones seem to be booked out for a while. Second, as many of you pointed out we will know what to fix only after we move in.

I will definitely post a kitchen floor plan in the kitchens forum so that we can get some feedback.

This forum is a great resource and I am learning a lot. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

we have a 15 year old home that had cheap vinyl windows with broken seals. we replaced 19 windows with a high quality vinyl (sunrise) at $11k. will we get that money back at resale? no but it was well worth it for noise reduction, ease of use, warmth in winter and view. a home isn't truly an investment vehicle unless you are a flipper. do improvements that make the home more livable to your family. if you get your $$ back when you sell, fantastic but that can't be a motivating factor. imo any house is a money pit but i wouldn't enjoy living in an apartment my whole life so i deal with it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And their vehicle may not make the trip, so they would charge airfare and motel.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As to window replacement:
If your current windows are sticking or need repainting, there are companies that will do that. Caulk will help seal drafts.
I think far too many homeowners are hornswoggled into replacing good working older windows at huge expense, energy savings compared to the cost of the new windows are minimal especially if you can use a few dollars of caulk in the original windows.
Use due diligence to research if you decide you just have to have new windows, I did and found that the windows of some companies seemed to have a lot of complaints, some seemed to be prone to developing problems after a couple of years.
It may be a good choice for you to do replacements, each house is different. I went back and forth on it and ultimately decided to keep the windows I had.
Take your time and do your research before you jump in.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 6:24AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Home Remodeling, who to hire, what are the steps
I will be closing on a new house that requires some...
Renovate (which plan?) or sell
We are trying to make a decision about renovating our...
I need help with making a decision to paint golden oak wood or restain
I have a 28 year old view home with dark bronze aluminum...
Dog Grooming/Bathing Station, show me your pictures, please
I really need to include a bathing/grooming area in...
Moving window vertically
Hello - we are purchasing a house and trying to think...
Sponsored Products
Carlisle Round Outdoor Ottoman with Cushion in Gray Finish, Patio Furniture
Torpedo Crema Marfil Marble Mosaic Tiles
$15.95 | TileBar
Integrity Bedding 5-inch Orthopedic Twin-size Memory Foam Sofa Sleeper Mattress
Prairie Collection Rug 9' x 12' - AMBER
$4,779.00 | Horchow
Knitterling Pendant by Ingo Maurer
$360.00 | Lumens
Football 86-inch to 120-inch Curtain Rod
$29.95 | Bellacor
Artifex Britannium Cup Pull
Signature Hardware
Carpyen | Gabriela LED Table Lamp
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™