Here we are kids – back at it with Part 3 of the 10 Critical Steps for Rehabbing Houses Success! If you’re new to the site, and you want to check out Part 1 and/or Part 2, or if you just want a refresher, click the links, or the pretty graphics to the left. If you’ve been following along, you’ll have committed to your DNA – the very strict set of steps that must be followed when rehabbing a house. I call this “The Rehab Roadmap.” If you find that your contractors are not following these steps in the order I’m presenting them, chances are – it’s time for you to find a new contractor! Seriously. There should be NO REASON, why a contractor would not follow this order – other than, they have no idea what they are doing, or they are looking for more money.
Suppose your deadbeat contractor owes his ex-wife child-support, but he blew that money on scratch-offs and Budweisers. Trying to avoid more jail time, he decides to start laying the hardwoods just after completing the drywall, but before the paint. He tells you he’s doing it because his hardwood guy is super-busy, and now is the only time the hardwood guy can fit your job in. That’s pure CRAP! You know, because you’ve read all the parts of this killer blog series, that the hardwoods should be installed at the very end of the rehab – AFTER – all the contractors, with their dirty “hard shoes,” have left the job – WAY AFTER the painter has left!
C’mon my rehabber friend – YOU KNOW this is a MONEY GRAB from your contractor. He knows that the line item cost for the hardwood is $3500.00, of which he’ll take $300. And that’s just enough to pay his, “Baby Mama.”
THAT is why you should immediately FIRE a contractor who doesn’t follow, “The Rehab Roadmap.” It’s a sign of something bigger.
THE REHAB ROADMAP FOR REHABBING HOUSES – PART 3
This is the stage where the house will go from something that looks like a meager skeleton to something that looks like a grand home. You’re essentially at the ½-way mark of the project. But beware…if you don’t carefully manage your contractors during this second half of the project, getting to the finish line will take three times as long as it took to get to the ½-way mark!
Remember – anyone can tear-up a house. It’s the “putting it back together” part that requires skill and quality workmanship. This is the stage of the rehab where the devil is truly in the details. Managing the process thus far has been fairly easy, and the changes at each step are fairly significant – and easily recognizable. Meaning, it’s easy to see and to get excited about demo. It’s easy to see and to get excited about framing, and rough-in mechanicals. Those are all big items that you can instantly recognize. It’s not always easy to recognize the changes in your rehab from this point on – and so, this is why you must learn to be a highly detailed Project Manager. Let this Rehab Roadmap be your guide!
Following your insulation inspection (yes, you will need an inspection for that as well!), you’re ready to, “close the place up,” as we say in the business. You are ready for drywall.
You’ve followed my advice and met with the drywall contractor during the framing stage. During that meeting you requested a full list of materials and separate labor quote. And, like a good little rehabber, you’ve shopped that list for materials and delivery pricing at all of your favorite building supply stores.
Keep this in mind: In drywall – BIGGER is better.
When possible…buy 12’ sheets of drywall. Drywall crews are paid by “the sheet.” In Maryland, I generally pay “8 and 8″. That’s how you say it by the way; “8 and 8”.That’s rehabber lingo for $8 dollars per sheet for hanging the drywall, and $8 per sheet for finishing the drywall. Here’s the part that will save you money…you can buy 8’x4′ sheets or 12’x4′ sheets of drywall – but no matter the size, you’re still paying “8 and 8”! So buy 12’ sheets, when possible!
All supply houses will deliver your sheetrock and materials for a small fee. Optimally, you’ll want the drywall lifted via a mechanical boom truck into your house. If that’s not possible, just know you’ll have to hire a crew to carry all of the materials into the house. Building supply stores will not carry the materials into the house. At best, they’ll drop ship the product onto the sidewalk or driveway, only. At worst – they’ll drop it right in the street. Want to piss-off some neighbors fast? Take up a parking space or two with your drywall delivery! That will get an almost instant call to the city inspector!
Alternately, at your first meeting (during the framing stage), ask your contractor how much he’d charge to have his guys carry in the materials? Or – I have found that my demo crew, or trash hauling crew will do this type of work for me. And that brings me to a good point. You should always have a good “catch all” utility guy on your speed dial. There are plenty of guys out there. You can find them on Craigslist. The reliable ones are worth their weight in gold.
Drywall is a 4-Step Process, broken down between 2 crews; the hanging crew and the finishing crew. It’s rare to find a crew that specializes in both steps, but very common to find hangers who will refer you to finishers – and vice versa. Both contractors should be present at the initial meeting during the framing stage. Let the finishing guy know that he’s going to be the inspector of the hanging guy’s work. Meaning, the hanging guy doesn’t get paid until the finisher says, “Yes…this guy did a good job, now I can do my job.” And because you’ve paid for all the materials, you should not pay these guys a dime for their labor until each is 100% complete.
Hanging drywall is labor intensive, but it’s not rocket science. Finishing drywall however, is truly an art. The best guys are artists – and there seems to be fewer and fewer really good finishers. Finishing drywall is a 3-step process (see the table above).
After the hanging crew is done – and they’ve cleaned the house of all their trash, it’s time for the finishing crew to do their thing. First, the worker will, “tape and block” the drywall. This is the first coat of mud where the drywall joints, corners and all screws are covered. This is a fairly thick coat.
The 2nd step is the skim coat. Wider and thinner than the tape coat…this is where the artistry really comes in. When done properly, each joint and every screw will be beautifully tapered so when covered with paint – they are completely unrecognizable. This coat is much thinner than the blocking coat.
A good skimmer will be left with VERY little to do in step 3, which is sanding. If he’s done a good job, he won’t have to add any more mud at this point, and he’ll spend very little time lightly sanding his previous work.
Rehabbing Houses Quick Tip: Make sure the furnace is OFF during the sanding stage! Sanding drywall creates an insane amount of dust, and if the furnace is on, that dust will be sucked into the HVAC return vents then through your furnace. Much of it will be caught first by the air filter, that is IF your HVAC guy installed an air filter! Inevitably, some dust will make it through the filter. I just recently built a home, and just after moving in, I checked the air-filter knowing that most builders will never think of this tip. Take a look at the 30 second video below to see just how filthy an air filter gets if the furnace is left on during the sanding stage. Seriously – this is really bad for you and bad for your furnace.
Based on all you’ve learned thus far – who do you think would be the best contractor to inspect the work of the drywall finisher? Again, always ask yourself – whose work “goes over” “this guy’s” work? (Save your comments, I know that’s horrible sentence structure!) In this case, if you guessed the painter, I’m sending you a virtual high-5 – right now! Do not fully pay your finishing crew until the painter inspects the drywall finisher’s work and gives you the green light.
Also – when writing the contract with the finishing crew, be sure to set aside a small amount for touch-up. Here’s why…
Many painters will tell you that they can’t make a judgement on the drywall finish until they’ve seen a coat of primer on the finished walls. Primer is like a white hot spotlight on a badly finished wall. When you find the imperfections, you simply circle each with a light pencil – then call the finish crew to make the repairs. Again, if you don’t hold back at least 10% of the total contract, it will be far more difficult to get the finish crew to return for, “point-up”.
Opinions vary on the placement of this step in the process, with some contractors preferring to paint before installing trim. We’ve always done it this way, so just stick with me.
At this stage, your finish carpenter will install interior doors, base molding, crown molding, and window casements. A good finish carpenter and his helper can install all the trim in an average size house in 1 to 2 days max. As with all other steps in, The Rehab Roadmap, you can save money on this step if you first obtain a list of all materials from the trim carpenter.
Labor quotes for trim carpenters will vary wildly. Having them bid labor only gives you tremendous leverage.
This would also be a good time to set up the delivery of your cabinets and vanities.
Do me a favor right now. Promise me that you’ll take the following advice…and that you WILL NOT stray. Seriously – I need you to commit this to your DNA:
MAKE FLAT PAINT YOUR FRIEND!
For the ceilings and walls in every room, please…for the love of all creatures great and small….use flat paint! I don’t care what you like, or what you’ve heard. This is not a matter of your taste. It’s a matter of good taste. Use flat only for walls and ceilings – and yes, even in the baths and kitchen.
PREP BEFORE YOU PAINT!
Painting is easy. Any monkey can do painting. Heck, you and I can paint. Remember though, before the first brush or roller hits the walls, the painter must prep – and THIS is where most painters fail dismally. People are lazy, and painters (being the lowest on the ladder in terms of skill) are usually the laziest. Most will not take the time to wipe and vacuum every surface before they paint. Most will not take the time to painstaking putty every nail mark, and neatly caulk every crack. Most will just, “get to paintin’!”
And that’s where the train rolls off the tracks.
After the drywall finish crews sands, there is a TON of dust still on the walls, and on the base molding. I’ve seen painters paint right over that dust. In fact, my wife and I just built a house (don’t ask me why I didn’t build it myself), and our horrible builder Ryan Legacy Homes did the worst paint-job I have ever seen (and I’ve rehabbed over 150 houses). First, the walls and ceilings were painted one single color. Ryan Legacy Builders would not allow us to choose our own color because they knew we’d want a color on the walls – and NO COLOR (or white) to on the ceilings.
Ryan Legacy Builders is trying to get the cheapest paint job from their painter – probably no more than $1 to $1.25 per square foot. Here’s what a $1 / square foot paint job looks like: First, the painters come in and spray everything with “the color” ( in our case, “the color” is a 1980’s pinky, tan.) They literally come in with a sprayer, cover all the windows and doors, and spray everything with primer (or color in my case). Next, the painter sprays a second coat of color.
Have you noticed that I have made NO mention of prep?
These $1 / sq foot “Scabs” (the painters) did NO prep-work at all. In fact, when I asked the head painter at my house, “Do you guys believe in wiping down walls or trim before you paint?”
He grunted, “We do what we’re paid to do. I was told to sand after the first coat.”
So what this sub-human basically said was, our builder wanted the cheapest possible paint job – which meant NO PREP prior to spraying!
Wanna see what NO PREP before spraying looks like, and why you’d be PISSED-OFF if you were the owner or rehabber? Take a look at the video, and you tell me if you’d be happy with a paint job that looks like this… (remember – if this was one of my rehabs, or a Dominion Property, we would have prepped the walls first).
People who don’t like flat paint often say they don’t like it because if a mark, or a scuff, or anything gets on the wall, they can’t clean flat paint. They say, when they wipe the scuff, their wiping only makes things worse. That’s pure crap – and is mostly a result of the painter not prepping. By the way, you can easily clean any wall with a Mr. Clean Eraser directly followed by a lightly-dampened lint-free cloth. As the Father of two young (8 and 10) kids, I can personally say this works like a champ!
Let’s say you’re in your new rehab, and the place is 100% complete. Then, your carpet guy comes in, and in the process of installing the new carpet, he scrapes and scuffs a few walls in the stairway. No problem. You bust out the extra leftover paint and a brush – and you fix it right-up. After a few hours you notice that the color doesn’t seem to match. You’re puzzled because the touch-up paint came from the exact same bucket that is on the walls. This same scenario has happened to me several times. In fact – I’ve repainted entire floors because of it.
When paint is installed over dirty, dusty walls, you don’t get “true” color. Then, if you wipe it – you’ll see a lot paint color on your rag. Then, when you go to touch-up, you’ve got a real mess! THIS is why you prep, prep, prep!
Regarding trim…trim gets semi-gloss white paint. That means, base molding, crown, chair molding, window sills, and interior doors. Paint them all with a semi-gloss finish.
Always use ceiling white for your ceilings, or you can simply use primer white for the ceilings to save some money.
Remember – neutral colors sell, but you don’t have to be boring. Pick-up a design magazine, or log some time with www.Houzz.com for tips on color and overall design. Houzz is one of my very favorite websites. Finally, a good painter will spend a full day prepping the house for paint. I cannot over-stress the importance of prepping. Areas requiring light sanding should be marked ahead of time.
Most painting contractors buy their paint from Duron, Sherwinn-Williams, or Benjamin Moore. Most look down thier noses at Home Depot or Lowes for paint. They’ll tell you that the extra money you pay for the paint from the paint stores rather than the big-box stores, pays for itself because a Benjamin Moore paint is far higher in quality and will therefore go on faster and cover better. Yeah, well guess what…it’s not their money!
Benjamin Moore makes great paints – and so does Sherwinn-Williams. But, I’ve used Glidden in all my rehabs, and I’ve never had a complaint from my contractor. Further, because I buy all my materials, including paint from Home Depot, and because I signed up for Home Depot’s Pro-Xtra Account, I now am a Gold level customer. That means, I get 30% off all paint! That’s INSANE! The average-Joe will pay for a 1 gallon bucket of paint what I pay for a 5 gallon bucket! Seriously, I pay about $33 bucks for a ‘five (that’s paint lingo for a 5 gallon bucket of paint). The average price of a 5 at Sherwinn-Williams is over $110 dollars…and is even costlier at Benjamin Moore!
Introduce yourself to the Manager at your local Home Depot Pro Desk. They are generally super-helpful!
What’s next? Well my Eager Beavers, I’ll answer that question for you in the next and final installment – but you can rest assured it’s gonna start with the NUMBER 9 – and it’s gonna be H’awesome!
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