How I Do It

As I stated in my post on May 13th, I've never thought too much about how I go about renovating the properties I buy...except maybe when someone asks.  The run-down places I've taken on have been condemned, abandoned, or forgotten.  Maybe that's why people feel inclined to ask, "How do you do what you do?"

Occasionally these visitors have shared their dream of buying a project home of their own.  They have clear enthusiasm on their faces and excitement in their voices.  They're curious, but it's more personal than that.  These people want to know how they can do what I do.

Below are the steps I take.  It's not the only way, it's just how I do it.

Pig's Ear Insurance 
Big insurance companies might not be interested in covering an extreme property renovation project, but independent agents with have a Vacant Dwelling Policy if you need one.

Step 1 - Pictures, Pictures, Pictures! 
Take pictures before you pull your first weed or pick up a single piece of trash.

Step 3 - Batten Down the Hatches
Make the property secure.

Step 4 - Pull Out the Valuables 
Divide what's been left behind by previous owners into two categories; useables and sellables.

Step 5 - Clean the House Out 
Get rid of things inside the house that have no use or value.

Step 6 - Sketch Out the Floor Plan 
Create an accurate, scaled drawing of the existing layout on graph paper.

Step 7 - Permits 
Obtain any necessary, official authorization from local authorities to fix-up the home.

Step 8 - Redraw Your Floor Plan 
Create a modified sketch on graph paper that shows how you want the house to look when your finished.

Step 9 - Know Your Limitations
Give yourself an honest evaluation.  Come to terms with what you know and what you can do yourself. 
     You Can Do It 

Step 10 - The Demolition Phase (Serious Fun) 
Get the house ready for your changes by demoing walls.  Get debris and damaged material out of the house.
     Demolition Footnotes  (May 9, 2012)

Step 11 - Make Adjustments to Your Floor Plan 
After the demolition phase you may need to make some changes to the drawing you came up with in Step 8. 

Step 12 - Line Up Your Temporary Services 
In the early stages of the project you may need temporary power, water, and maybe even a port-a-let. 

Step 13 - The Foundation, Structural Work, and Roof 
Although their order may vary, the first three things are always the same. 
     More About the Roof 

Step 14 - Windows and Exterior Doors 
Getting the doors and windows set on the exterior walls puts the renovation in a position to be worked from the inside and outside simultaneously.

Step 15 - Non-Structural Framing 
Button up the framing; Interior openings, deadwood, knee walls, and blocking. 

Step 16 -  The Exterior Fa├žade 
Brick, Siding, Stucco, Soffit, Fascia, Trim, and Handrail. 

Step 17 - Bring in the Reincarnation of Einstein 
Plumbing Rough-In 

Step 18 - Exterior Caulking and Painting 
Painting the outside can make a big difference, but don't underestimate the value of caulk to make the work look like it was done by a pro.

Step 19 - Pulling Wire:  Electrical Rough-In 
On the interior, I prefer to sandwich the electrical R/I in between the plumber and HVAC.

Step 20 - Some Like it Hot, Some Like it Cold 
Heating and Air Conditioning Rough-In

Step 21 - Soil Treatment and Pest Control
After rough-in is complete we bring in the pest control specialists before we cover the crawl space with a vapor barrier.

Step 22 - Insulation
On our projects we use a lot of Batt insulation, some blown, and a small amount of spray foam.  And along with them we install the baffle vents.

Step 23 - Drywall/Sheetrock/Wallboard 

Step 24 - Blown Insulation 
Blowing insulation in the attic (above the ceiling) can be completed after the drywall has been hung.

Step 25 - Flooring 
Wood floors, vinyl, laminate, tile...everything except carpet.

Step 26 - Cabinets 
Custom, salvaged, built-ins, or units the DIYer can assemble and install themselves, they all must be installed after the flooring and before tops and interior trim. 

Step 27 - Countertops 
The kitchen and baths will take a big leap toward looking complete when you add the tops to the base cabinets and vanities.

Step 28 - Interior Doors (December 8, 2012)
Pre-hungs, closets, and pocket doors.

Step 29 - Interior Trim
Base, door trim, window sills and skirts, stair railings w/ pickets, wainscoting, crown moulding, chair railing, etc.
Step 30 - Interior Caulking & Painting 
Pace yourself on the caulking work and keep it simple on the painting.

Step 31 - Plumbing and Electrical Trim-Out
The house is big enough for your plumber and electrician to wrap up their scopes at the same time.

Step 32 - HVAC Start-Up
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning follows Plumbing and Elec. Trim-Out

Step 33 - Door Hdw., Mirrors, Bath Accessories, Shelving, & Cab. Knobs  
Making the house feel like a home.

Step 34- Sanding and Wood Floor Finishing  

Allow a long weekend for this if you can. 

Step 35 - Carpet
I've learned to leave this scope to the pros. 

Coming Soon

Step 36 - Appliances 
Don't forget to protect those wood floors. 

Step 37 - Landscaping 
When the trades are done, making the outside complete is like placing a bow on a wrapped gift.
Your house may not be a Pig's Ear, but my advice will go a long way in helping you resurrect any property you buy into the home you imagine it can be.

As a side note, keep in mind that everything after Step 12 is as applicable to new construction as it is to an extremely run-down home.


  1. Great tips. Thanks for blogging. We're Renovating the home we live in and your tips have been a great resource. When we're over our head (and know it), we call in Professionals. haha
    Lots more to do

    1. Thank you, Jackie. Keep at it and keep taking those before/after pics. :) Trent

  2. Are you available to come and help with our major renovation up here in NJ? Oh, how I wish I had your knowledge.

    1. Thanks Andrew.
      Don't hesitate to e-mail w/ questions, pics, &/or more details about how I can help.