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The $65,000 Whole-House Overhaul: An Eco-Minded Florida Cottage Transformed, Budget Secrets Included

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The $65,000 Whole-House Overhaul: An Eco-Minded Florida Cottage Transformed, Budget Secrets Included

June 1, 2018

A few weeks ago we got a rare email: before and after photographs of a complete gut renovation—with entire budget spreadsheets included, down to the cost of the baseboards.

“In 2017, my husband and I completed the restoration of our 1935-built Florida cottage,” the email began. “It was in condemnable-condition when we purchased it.” But the couple, designer Mary Maslow and her husband, Tim, secured an FHA 203K loan—giving them a tight budget of $65,000 to overhaul everything, from the electrical, plumbing, and roof to the interiors (a nearly impossible feat, as anyone who’s undergone a renovation knows). “We diligently restored and repurposed as much as possible, including the original doors, windows, cast-iron bathtubs, hardware, and some trim/millwork and lighting. For new items, we sourced the most sustainable options as possible,” Maslow says. And, they did much of the work—from painting the kitchen cabinets and bedframes to sewing the curtains—themselves.

I quickly sent an email back to Maslow. What could she tell us, in hindsight, about the nitty-gritty of the finances? What was the biggest money pit she ran into? Or places they were surprised to come in under budget? (Spoiler alert: They did impressively well.)

Here are her answers, down to the nails.

  • The house: Built in 1935 in Winter Park, Florida; “a 2/1, 750-square-foot home with a detached, 1.5-car garage featuring a full, 1/1, 500-square-foot apartment above, and a studio space attached,” Maslow says.
  • Bought for: $199,000
  • The renovation budget: $65,000
  • The state before work began: “It required a full gut renovation with all systems needing to be completely replaced (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, etc.), which is where most of our budget went.”
  • The plan: “To restore it to optimal functionality and efficiency with the lightest impact and the healthiest interiors. So, LED lighting, energy-saving appliances, well-insulated, no VOC’s,  etc.”—all on a tight budget.
  • House purchased: 2014
  • Work complete: 2017

“After” photography by Zach Stovall.

Exterior

the finished cottage, three years later. &#8\2\20;we were looking at a diff 9
Above: The finished cottage, three years later. “We were looking at a different house across the street and I happened to turn around and notice it poking out of the overgrowth,” Maslow says of finding the house in 2014. “I said to my husband, ‘Now that would be a fun restoration.’ It went on the market two weeks later. In an area known for tearing small, dilapidated houses down and building new, we were ecstatic to have the opportunity to save it from the landfill.”
the house when they found it, with a sagging porch and a roof in need of repair 10
Above: The house when they found it, with a sagging porch and a roof in need of repair. The couple set about restoring the exterior, taking down the tall Camphor trees in the front yard that were blocking light, stripping the original doors and windows themselves, installing new crushed-shell hardscaping, and painting the tired exterior on Behr’s Lunar Surface with Ultra Pure White trim (they added a drop of black tint “to hide dust and dirt,” Maslow says). But, she says, she was surprised how much money they could save on landscaping. “It is easily the biggest bang for your buck,” she says. “It’s also so simple to DIY.”

The interiors also needed all-new electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. “Most of our budget went in behind the walls, underground, and in the attic,” Maslow says. It was their biggest unexpected expense: “Unfortunately our electrician decided he could not rewire without having to gut all of the walls,” Maslow says. “We came in one day and all of the original plaster ceilings and walls were completely ripped off. We had to hire our demo crew again to clean up the remaining fragments, and update our drywall plans to include rebuilding and finishing the entire house instead of the patchwork we had originally budgeted for.”

In the end, the couple budgeted $5,000 for electrical work but came in $27.31 over budget; but they were able to save a little money on HVAC costs, coming in $45 under their $4,300 budget.

Kitchen and Dining

the finished kitchen. 11
Above: The finished kitchen.

As cost-saving measures in the all-new kitchen, the couple had custom cabinetry built on a dime. “To save money and watch our carbon footprint, I designed the cabinetry and had it all built by a local (retired) woodworker. The wood used to build them was all grown and milled in Ohio where he spends his summers. The color is a custom color that I whipped up at our local Benjamin Moore store,” Maslow adds; she painted the unfinished cabinets herself when they arrived. They also opted for Ikea butcher-block countertops (“This was before they redid their kitchen line, so it was the old standard butcher block. I think the Hammarp would be the closest match,” Maslow says) and stained it with Rubio Monocoat’s Oil Plus 2C Finish in mahogany. “You cannot beat the price for a natural, solid worktop. Make sure you seal or oil them with something (nontoxic!) that can handle water. And if something should happen—water damage, a burn, scrape, etc.—don’t fret! You can always sand and re-oil,” she says.

The 800 Series 24-Inch Bar Handle Dishwasher800 Series Self-Cleaning Slide-In Electric Convection Range, and 500 Series Bottom-Freezer Counter-Depth Refrigerator are all made by Bosch, but “purchased at Sears on Black Friday to save money,” Maslow says. Her tip: “Appliances are almost always discounted or on sale during holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc.), especially at big-box retailers.” The rag rug is the Dash & Albert Rugby Stripe Platinum Indoor/Outdoor Rug.

on one wall the couple opted for floor to ceiling subway tile (it&#8\2\17;s 12
Above: On one wall the couple opted for floor-to-ceiling subway tile (it’s Daltile Bright White 3 in. x 6 in. Ceramic Wall Tile). The sink is the Randolph Morris 24 x 18 Fireclay Apron Farmhouse Sink, paired with a Glacier Bay Single-Handle Pull-Down Sprayer Kitchen Faucet in chrome. “For the price, this faucet can’t be beat. We installed it without the mounting plate,” Maslow says.

ikea meets high end: the range hood is ikea&#8\2\17;s luftig exhaust hood. 13
Above: Ikea meets high-end: the range hood is Ikea’s Luftig Exhaust Hood.
Kitchen:

  • Budget: $9,000
  • Actual: $8,689.64
  • Difference: $310.36 under budget
the dining area was done on an under \$50 budget: &#8\2\20;by the time we w 14
Above: The dining area was done on an under-$50 budget: “By the time we were ready to furnish, our funds were a bit depleted,” Maslow says, an avid thrifter. “Both of the kitchen chairs are items I’ve found for five or ten dollars at thrift shops: one while in college, the other at our local Habitat Restore. I found this table on Craigslist for twenty dollars. It was stained and sealed, so I sanded it and painted it white.”
the dark and dated kitchen, before. 15
Above: The dark and dated kitchen, before.

Living

the living room, with crate & barrel&#8\2\17;s willow sofa (&#8\2\2 16
Above: The living room, with Crate & Barrel’s Willow Sofa (“made from sustainably harvested wood and built in North Carolina,” Maslow says), with its standard “Kingston, Snow” slipcover. The black caned chair in the corner is from Goodwill; “I sanded it, painted it black, and recovered the seat with material from an old Pottery Barn pillow covering,” Maslow says.

For the bones of the interiors, the couple was also budget-minded, installing eight-inch-wide tongue-and-groove white pine—just $1 per square foot, and finished with Bona’s commercial-grade matte finish for durability and hardness—as flooring, and making every effort to restore the original doors and windows themselves.

One place the couple is glad they splurged? “The Level 5 finish on our drywall,” Maslow says. “It’s the most expensive option as crews like to just spray texture all over the place to cover their mistakes and move fast, but the smooth Level 5 finish is so clean and simple. It covers such a large surface and reflects natural light beautifully. You just can’t go without noticing it. So worth it.”

Framing, Walls, and Trim:

  • Budget: $5,500
  • Actual: $5,404.92
  • Difference: $95.08 under budget

Doors and Windows:

  • Budget: $10,000
  • Actual: $10,982
  • Difference: $982 over budget

Flooring:

  • Budget: $4,000
  • Actual: $3,788.46
  • Difference: $211.54 under budget
condemned and cluttered, before. 17
Above: Condemned and cluttered, before.

Bedrooms

the bright master bedroom. 18
Above: The bright master bedroom.

Maslow took the same approach to outfitting the bedrooms as she did with the kitchen: “I custom-designed the beds and hired the same local woodworker to build them,” she says, then painted them herself. (This one is in Benjamin Moore’s Black Beauty.) Maslow also opted for inexpensive roller shades from Home Depot to replace the existing plastic blinds, and she and her mother sewed the curtains themselves.

For consistency and simplicity throughout the house, the couple painted the walls and ceilings in Benjamin Moore’s White Opulence and the trim and doors in Benjamin Moore’s London Fog, and came in under budget:

Paint:

  • Budget: $250
  • Actual: $222
  • Difference: $28 under budget
as for the bedding, it&#8\2\17;s &#8\2\20;a mix of organic items from w 19
Above: As for the bedding, it’s “a mix of organic items from West Elm, Crate & Barrel, and ABC Carpet & Home,” Maslow says.
 the dresser at the foot of the bed is the tarva from ikea, painted (again, by 20
Above: The dresser at the foot of the bed is the Tarva from Ikea, painted (again, by Maslow) in Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.
an inexpensive detail that looks custom: a shaker peg rail from peg & rail 21
Above: An inexpensive detail that looks custom: a Shaker peg rail from Peg & Rail USA (Maslow opted for the Unfinished Narrow Shaker Peg Racks), painted in Benjamin Moore’s London Fog to match the trim.
in the guest bedroom, the simple bed frame is painted in benjamin moore’s w 22
Above: In the guest bedroom, the simple bed frame is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Woodlawn Blue.
the bedroom as the maslows found it. 23
Above: The bedroom as the Maslows found it.

Bathroom

in the bathroom, maslow scrapped dated tile and dark teal paint for merola hex  24
Above: In the bathroom, Maslow scrapped dated tile and dark teal paint for Merola Hex Matte White Porcelain Mosaic Tile on the floors and Daltile Bright White 3 in. x 6 in. Ceramic Wall Tile on the walls (the same as in the kitchen).

The faucet and sink are both from big-box stores: the Glacier Bay 31 in. Cultured Marble Vanity Top is from Home Depot, and the Pfister Sonterra Centerset Bathroom Faucet in polished chrome was sourced from Lowes. The cabinets are custom-made by the same craftsman who built the kitchen cabinets and beds, and the curtain is Restoration Hardware’s Vintage Washed Belgian Linen Shower Curtain in Dune. All told, the Maslows came in under budget on this room:

Bathrooms:

  • Budget: $3,500
  • Actual: $3,478.92
  • Difference: $21.08 under budget
a few personal touches: a metal soap dish that maslow found at a local soap sho 25
Above: A few personal touches: a metal soap dish that Maslow found at a local soap shop, and an original 1919 map of downtown Orlando, Florida. “I found it, along with the larger map of downtown Melbourne, Florida, hanging in the dining nook at a local antique store for $20,” Maslow says. “I had them both custom-framed and matted at Michael’s.”
the bath before. 26
Above: The bath before.

In-Law Apartment

the house also came with a small apartment above the garage, now outfitted simp 27
Above: The house also came with a small apartment above the garage, now outfitted simply, with the same hexagonal tile used in the main-house bathroom and cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy. Plus, more butcher block (see Remodeling 101: Butcher Block Countertops).
the upstairs kitchen before. 28
Above: The upstairs kitchen before.

Backyard Studio

lastly, maslow treated the backyard studio as an office space, painting the flo 29
Above: Lastly, Maslow treated the backyard studio as an office space, painting the floor in Behr Porch Paint in Slate Gray. (For more on this economical solution, see New England Practical: The Case for Painted Wood Floors in the Summer Cottage.)
the studio before. 30
Above: The studio before.

The Final Numbers:

  • Budget: $65,950
  • Actual: $64,983.04
  • Difference: $966.96 under budget

And, we spotted that the house recently sold for $400,000—$2o1,000 more than the Maslows bought it for back in 2014. See the listing here.

More overhauls on a budget:

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