(Closed) Fixer upper homes- your experiences as a couple

posted 5 years ago in Home
Post # 3
2227 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: January 2012

Our home WASN’T a fixer upper but Darling Husband decided to renovate the basement himself about a month before we conceived in april… We gutted it, built up new studs (there were none before), reinsulated, wired, & put up new walls…

My tip: don’t be pregnant! I tried my best to help but I was just so tired. Slipped down the stairs cause they were so dusty (luckilly was only 2 mos along so it was just emotional pain!)… by the time we were done sanding I was just so TIRED of it!!!

I had some serious meltdowns by july as I was entering the 2nd TRI; The rest of the house was overloaded with furniture that belonged in the basement. I felt like that basement & every snag we hit was in direct conflict with my baby… So lots of feelings… Don’t renovate while pregnant!

Once we finished & set up the nursery (which up until that point was the hoarding room), I felt instantly better.


Post # 4
3277 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

Ours was a fixer upper (bought it in June) and it was so much fun! We had a blast together, never fought once or stressed about it. Sometimes I’ll bring up some more things we could do but he says we will when we have the money and leave it at that. I pretty much just picked all the paint colors, flooring, etc and him and my dad put it in! The funniest time was when I was painting the entryway and he was laying on the new floor (no furniture yet) eating ice cream and watching The Ugly Truth when his friends stopped by and made fun of him for me doing all the work lol that’s def not how it really was though

Post # 5
238 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Ours was a fixer-upper. Mainly because it had been sitting in my in-law’s paddock, untouched, and unfinished, for 15 years. It required quite a lot of construction, and much fixing. 


My only advice is make a deadline to have it finished by, then add six months. (or in our case… 12… My father in law is determined to have it done his way. Which is fine, because he is paying the “upgrades.” The edging we picked out? $5/m, the edging he picked out $15/m…)


Despite the stress, bickering, time taken to complete things… It has definately been worth it. We are loving our home, and it is great to watch it taking shape. TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS. We have none from when we were painting, and regret it. It made such a huge difference.

Post # 6
1234 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

Our home is 125 years old and definitely was and still is a work in progress!

We purchased our farm home December of 2011 when we were still dating. Before we even moved in we refinished three rooms hardwood floors, updated the kitchen (refinished cabinets, tiled the floor, painted walls, new countertops, new fixtures etc.) and fixed cracks and repainted all of the walls. It was a great experience for us and I think it made us stronger. We learned to work together and there was a lot of compromise! I gained a new found respect for now Darling Husband.

I would say the most stressful part of doing the initial renovations was that we were living at his parents’ house until our house was livable. Trust me, living in a construction zone SUCKS! You never stop sneezing because of all of the dust!

We are currently doing a complete remodel and expansion of our ONLY bathroom and it is turning out beautifully! I’ll have to post pictures when we are done!

Post # 7
9682 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

@gingerkitten:  I’ve completely gutted homes (we are flippers and own income properties) and we always had a fun experience together. I have never fought over something as silly as a paint colour. Just go into it thinking you will have fun and you will!

Post # 8
9142 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

@gingerkitten:  Have you ever watched The Money Pit?  It’s kind of like that but less funny.  Some projects were quick and easy.  others took way longer than expected.  We finally hired a handy man to help my now ex husband finish things up and I’m pretty sure my ex husband started sleeping with the handyman because nothing ever got done and the guy was at my house all of the time!

Only tackle one or two projects at a time or better yet, one room at a time.  Do the stuff that makes the house liveable first; for exmple, if a bathroom is trashed but there is another perfectly fine bathroom in the house, you might want to work on remodeling the kitchen first because there is only one and having it out of commission is a pain.

Post # 9
888 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

We are fixing our house right now, and the only “fights” we have had have been about how much I want us to do X,Y,Z and my husband wanting to take the day off.  lol.  They are never a big deal, and we end up compromising (as we should).  We do a lot of the work ourselves. 

My husband and I have pretty similar taste, and he likes the way I design/decorate things, so he lets me do most of the decisions regarding design. We do not plan to move (I am only licensed to practice in Florida, and I do not want to take another bar exam, and both our families live here), so we are not worried about overimproving for our neighborhood either, since this will most likely be our forever home. 

Post # 10
9201 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA

@gingerkitten:  Do you both really ENJOY working on home renovation projects?  If not, I’d back away now.  It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice it’s often frustrating and just such a time suck.

We bought a house ~1.5 years ago that was mostly in good shape, but it definitely needed a few things.  (Repainting the interior, putting down floor trim in most of the house, redoing the kitchen floor.)  I’m really not very handy at all, so I’m not much help, and my husband has barely done anything on it.  He’s super busy with a full time job as an RN, a second degree program, and a popular band, so when he has free time, he doesn’t want to work on the house.

So it’s kind of frustrating.  I really want to fix our house up nicely since we’ll probably only live in it for another couple years.  He doesn’t care enough to work on it instead of the other things he’d rather do.  I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to just pay someone else, except I’m pretty frugal and we’re really trying to save money right now.

It hasn’t been horrible for our relationship, and we love owning a home – but you should definitely go into it with realistic expectations of how much you’ll prioritize home renos vs. all the other demands on your time.  We had plans to do SO much and obviously it hasn’t happened….

Post # 11
2533 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

We’re both architects, so in the beginning we could be a little stubborn with personal preferences (because that’s how we were taught to be in college! It wore off after a while haha). But once we realized that each of us had certain strengths, it was much less effort to say, “Yeah, you lay out that wall and I’ll lay out this tile.”
We don’t fight over it – it’s just work! Fighting makes it go on for longer, better to get it done and out of our hair.

Besides, when we get crabby during a project, that means we usually need to eat.  🙂

We haven’t purchased a house yet, but when we’re ready I plan on going to a bunch of open houses with Fiance with no intention of buying. We’re going to make “pros and cons” lists and see the patterns of things we like – to help us understand what the other person likes, prefers, doesn’t like, needs, etc.
Fiance has no personal experience house hunting, though he is a realtor; I have more experience than I would like house hunting. So we are on both sides of the coin and need to work a bit to reach commonground. It’s just the way we roll, I guess.

It might be good to do the same with, say, kitchens. Both of you might think about going to IKEA, Home Depot, Lowes, kitchen specialty stores, showrooms, etc. to look at cabinet finishes, sinks, layouts, hardware, etc. until you’re sick of it… make a “pros and cons” list, snap photos, whatever!
Once you get tired of looking (and also gain a huge variety of options) you start to see it more as a practical comprimise (this option would work best for the way we live and our budget, even though it’s not my dream kitchen) than a tactical win-or-lose argument (my way or the highway)

We’ve done so many projects together that at this point we don’t even really need that step, we just get down to “what works best for us right now”.

Good luck – I am sure everything will be fine!

Post # 12
1333 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

@gingerkitten:  My Fiance and I completed a complete basement renovation, with him doing 90% of the work.  I will tell you, it was really tough on ‘us’ and tested our patience time and time again. 

The downsides were as follows:  One, we both work FT, so the work put into the basement was evenings and weekends.  Two, what we thought would take a few months, took an entire year.  We would plan for one thing, and encounter another, and it would set us back for months.  Three, the things he was not comfortable doing on his own, he called in family/friends that were more skilled.  Some weeks it felt like our house always had someone coming and going, so my ‘down’ time turned into feeding the help, running errands that were needed, etc.  Finally, my Fiance is a perfectionist, so we would disagree on things he felt we needed to do to obtain perfection, where I thought it would never be detected by anyone elses eyes.  I was not trying to ‘cut corners’, but rather remind him that for re-sell purposes, perfection on SOME things was not warranted.

The upside to this project were as follows:  One, we learned a lot about one another.  He realized I had a much shorter fuse when things did not go my way, and I realized he is far more a perfectionist than I ever knew 🙂  We still want to marry one another, so those nuiances were not tragic!  Two, it was a basement project – an area of the house that when not worked on, or when a complete and utter mess would be missed when we shut the door to it.  (Although the dust throughout the house was crazy!).  Three, we have an incredibly awesome basement, and saved thousands of dollars doing it on our own, of which will increase the value to our home and if/when we have children there, will create an additional living space (living room, dining room, bar room, bathroom, etc!)  Four, there is a huge sense of pride to say ‘we did it!’.

However, when we look at the good with the bad, we now realize that our next home will not be a fixer upper.  We will commit to a few basic repairs here or there, but that ship has sailed for us for major renovations.

Good luck!!

Post # 13
2685 posts
Sugar bee

The house Fiance and I own is only 12 years old but could be considered a project house because it started out very cookie cutter and has contractor-grade everything.  There were about 2 weeks between when we closed and when we had to move out of our apartment, so we decided to scrape down all of the popcorn ceilings while the house was empty.  We had to do a lot of coordination – often we would each take turns scraping and setting up tarps for the next room.  I really think it made us stronger as a couple because it made us realize how well we communicate and work together.  We also learned what our limits were, like when we hired a contractor to finish mudding the vaulted ceilings in our master bedroom.  We’re getting ready to install almost 400ft of fencing in our backyard, so I’m sure we’re going to learn more.

My advice is to always plan for the worst case scenario (both in terms of time and budget).  On a good renovation, you’re going to run into setbacks and make trips to Lowe’s about 3 times per day.  Complaining about the work helps nobody and only brings other people down, so only use constructive criticism.  And if there are differences in taste, try to understand where the other is coming from and find a middle ground.  You will likely have different visions of what you want in the house, so it’s better to expand your thinking to what you can live with in the house if there is disagreement about styles.  But in the end, it’s very fulfilling to do a renovation and the results are totally worth it to me.

Post # 14
366 posts
Helper bee

When my boyfriend (now FI) and I decided to move in together we each had a townhouse. Mine was 5 years new, his was 25 years old and he’d lived in it with 4 other boys for the past 8 years throwing university parties. It was gross.

We decided to move in to his house because of location, but we both knew there’d be some renos to bring it up to “girl standards” (the carpet really should have been burnt as toxic waste. lol). We patched/sanded/painted all the walls, ceilings, trims and doors, replaced all the carpet, refinished the hardwood, put cork flooring in the kitchen/dining area, changed lighting fixtures and redocorated. All cosmetic stuff really.

Here are my top tips for survival:

Set the budget first. This helps set expectations and, for newbies, can be a reality check on how much renos (ie labour) really costs.

Communicate: When my Fiance thought I was getting carried away with fancy finishes and lighting, I’d explain to him how I’d shopped around to get things in our budget. Once he knew I was watching the bottom line, he’d get excited about the “shiny” things we could actually afford.

Communicate: If you get tired, sore, cranky (and you will) tell your partner. You might have to keep working to get stuff done, but at least if you get snippy, he’ll know why. If you need to take a break, take a break.

Know when to DIY and when it’s worth paying someone else. Our house has LOTS of stairs and tall walls (it’s a 7 story townhouse. Yes. SEVEN.) We knew we couldn’t paint it ourselves. But my Fiance thought he could do the patching/sanding himself. Well he could, but it was faster to have the painters do it. Yes, they charge for labour, but they are so good at it, it takes them 1/3 of the time it takes you. It was worth it.

Quotes, quotes, quotes! At least three quotes for every job. And tell each contractor you’re getting multiple quotes. It lets them know you’re serious and doing your homework. It also prompts them to give you a good price, or even offer to match/beat any better quote.

Go with pros. Pay the little bit extra to get a reputable contractor; one with a BBB rating or other independent reviews.

Check the work and be picky. No one will notice that little speck of paint on the cieling or one crooked backsplash tile – except you. Every day. Forever. Have things fixed/redone until you’re satisfied with the job. You paid them to do it right.

Our best money saver: Carpet removal and disposal – requires no skill and saves you hundreds. Just rip it up, cut it in strips, roll it, and put it at the curb for regular garbage pickup!

Post # 15
10367 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

We don’t have personal experience with this, but our best friends do. They bought a 100-year -old fixer upper in Toronto a few years ago. The actual repairs haven’t been fight starters, but the financial setbacks of all the unforseen crap that happens when you start repairs on an older home that snowball quickly have certainly put a ton of financial stress on their marriage. They definitely wish they had waited to buy until they had saved enough for a home that was in better condition. They would have paid about the same amount, but saved all the work and stress!

Post # 16
412 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

@gingerkitten:  Our house was a total fixer upper… and a really fun project to do thogether! It has been fun tackling it as a team. We really didn’t fight/ argue. The key was breaking everything into smaller projects – it has taken us about a year and a half to complete the whole house. It was helpful that we have really similar tastes and like to discuss/ plan in general, though. I think it might not work for all personality types. 

…and if you can live with a torn out kitchen with nothing but a ghetto laundry room sink in the room for 2 months… you can probably live through anything 😉

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