the (true) cost of things

you know what costs a lot of money? a gut renovation. you know where a gut renovation costs a SHITLOAD of money? in new york city, that’s where.

when i started this process, i had this idea that we would set a number in our brains of how much things could cost, and that would sort of be that. we’d find ways to magically save money, i’d stumble upon an amazing farmhouse sink (exhibit a, below) at the chelsea flea market, and things would just sort of fall into place.


let me tell you, as far as i can tell, that is NOT how this thing’s going to go. in fact, despite what you (or at least, i) might think about being able to save money, there are no two ways around it: this shit is majorly f-ing expensive. like, are we dealing in monopoly money expensive.

i have received estimates from two different contractors, and not only were their bid documents WILDLY different, but so too were the estimates themselves. as in, there was a nearly 30k difference between the two (that alone should give you an idea of how crazily expensive this will be).

maybe it’s the avid HGTV watcher in me, but you know, when they do this sort of thing on TV, and something goes wrong, the contractor always seems to find a way to make up for it elsewhere in the budget. this sort of thing happens all the time, right? you look at the electrical panel and you say, hmm, that’s from 1932. that will need to be replaced. but you think, well, whatever, i’ll just buy a cheaper countertop. and on tv, that’s exactly what happens. the property brothers tear open a wall, and they realize that all the wiring is knob and tube and could basically set the house on fire if it’s not replaced. so they replace it all, and they tell the homeowners that it’s going to cost them 12,000 to do so. and that they have to give up the amazing gas fireplace installation that they were SO counting on, because, you know, they live in middle of nowhere canada (where most HGTV shows are filmed) and it’s COLD UP THERE.

eHs0SIddXxs.market_maxresthe homeowners are usually all, “noooo! we had our HEARTS set on that fireplace!” and the property brothers say, well, sometimes we have to make tough decisions, and then the show cuts to commercial. in real life, the homeowners would not get a fireplace. in fact, they’d prob have to give up their new tub too. but on tv, what happens is that, unbeknownst to the homeowners (but obviously broadcast to the viewers), the PB’s decide that they really want to make the homeowner’s fireplace dreams come true, and they secretly install a super fancy one so that when they film the big reveal the couple is all, “OMG YOU GUYS!” and then usually they cry.

my point in all this is that i kind of thought that when my contractors told me that all my electrical had to be redone and that it was going to cost a lot of money and i might not be able to knock down the wall between the entryway and the kitchen to make a breakfast bar, i didn’t really believe them. because in my head, i thought that maybe the property brothers were going to pop in and be all, “you know what sarah, we know that you realllllly want that breakfast bar, and we’re going to find a way to make it happen within your budget.”


they ARE cute though, aren’t they?

sadly, tv is not real life. and the property brothers, cute as they may be, aren’t coming to save me, or my renovation, anytime soon.

in real life, you actually DO have to make the tough decisions. in my case, i have to make choices such as:

  • custom/semi-custom cabinetry (much more expensive, but also, way better and maybe a better investment) vs. ikea cabinetry (cheaper, but crappy quality)
  • recessed lighting ($$$) vs. some sort of weird under-cabinet + flush mount light situation ($-$$)
  • crown molding ($$) vs. no molding and therefore, less charm ($)
  • breakfast bar ($$$ but oh so amazing and OMG, open layout!) vs. no breakfast bar/keeping the galley kitchen ($ but ugh, galley kitchens)
  • new closets ($$$) vs. not enough closets ($)

all of these are, in my mind, tough choices. the hardest being the breakfast bar, which i really, really want, but which is also likely the greatest money saver should i choose not to do it.

the contractors have both been talking to me about “investment potential” and how it’s “better to do it now than later.” both of these sentiments are true and relevant. they are also expensive.

real talk (even when my heart doesn’t want to hear it): i do have a budget. that budget has a little wiggle room, because as unrealistic and green as i am in this process, i know that nothing ever costs what they say it will cost. but a budget exists. and i have to stick to it. and that hurts. i mean, WHO DOESN’T WANT A BREAKFAST BAR?

it would be helpful if i was just the tiniest bit handy, or could build literally ANYTHING on my own. which reminds me that in 7th grade, i was actually REALLY good at woodworking class, and that i made an entirely wooden car that still “drove” really fast, and a multi-sided photo box for my parents that they probably have buried in a box in my basement.

unfortunately, i am not just not handy, i’m also basically the world’s greatest idiot when it comes to ikea assembly, which means that even if i go for ikea cabinetry to try and cut costs, lord knows i’ll be paying people to put them together and install them.

the bottom line here is this: renovating things is expensive. renovating things in new york city is REALLY expensive. like, the kind of expensive where it hurts your soul and every dollar feels like someone shot a dagger straight into your heart. and even if i don’t want to admit it, 50% of my budget is going to go towards things i can’t see. like plumbing, and electrical, and subfloors. ouch.

the bright side? i’ll know that behind my freshly painted walls are some realllly fabulous, safe electrical wires that are prepared to handle all the gorgeous light fixtures i plan to install…

…that is, if i can find any in my budget.


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