Contemplating a Renovation

Contemplating a Renovation

Michelle Chin
Sep 19, 2011

A few days ago the tenant who lived in the studio over my garage moved out. When I first bought my home, that apartment was in shambles, and I had less than a month to get it ready for someone to move-in to make my new mortgage payment easier to swallow. You can imagine that, in such a whirlwind, many mistakes and shortcuts were made.

Thankfully, my college-bound cousin will be the apartment's next occupant. Before she arrives, I have six weeks to fix a lot of things, but my conundrum is: what's necessary and what's wasteful and indulgent?

My first inclination was to clean, paint and add a light over the vanity and be done with it. But not having spent time in that unit for almost two years made me forget about a lot of the questionable details that I had tried to fix, but either did it poorly or had to ignore it. Since then, I've remodeled another apartment and understand much of what I missed the first time around. I also realized that I wouldn't want to live there in its current condition, so how could I allow anyone else to?

First, I'll be replacing irreparably damaged carpet with a long-lasting and durable wood laminate and replacing the exterior doors that aren't actually exterior doors at all (thank you, shifty sellers). I spent a lot of time and money trying to seal air from leaking around those doors, but the fact is...I don't think they were trimmed for this particular apartment. They were likely reused from elsewhere and have huge, energy-wasting gaps at the tops and bottoms that are pointless to try and fill. It's rather sad that it took me so long to realize that they're actually interior doors, but now I definitely have to switch them out.

But there are other things, like wanting to replace the chipped sink and vanity. It came as one assembled piece from Home Depot and there doesn't seem to be any way to DIY such a large repair for the composite surface. I feel wasteful (though I will donate it a local thrift store), but I can't rent an apartment with an obviously damaged sink. And why was it so easy to break? That will teach me to always (not sometimes) look for the best value instead of the cheapest item. I know this already, but I totally lapsed with this purchase.

Some issues with the subfloor have presented themselves, so tearing up the aforementioned carpet, as well as the two year old bathroom tile, will allow me to see what's going on under there and replace the plywood, if necessary. A total bummer, but I can't ignore it.

My somewhat indulgent and aesthetically-driven changes will be replacing all the mismatched baseboards and door trim, while adding matching window trim. I'll also be adding proper lighting over the new vanity. The quality of light from the existing exhaust fan fixture is akin to that of a service station restroom (because I originally picked the wrong bulb. Needless to say, I'll be fixing that, too). I'm also contemplating finding light fixtures that use CFLs or LEDs instead of the electricity-hogging halogens that are currently in the living space. I also may switch-out the toilet for a dual flush model I have stored in the garage. Though I feel lame disposing of a conventional commode that isn't yet broken. I still have to ponder that for a bit. And painting, I have no choice about. The Los Angeles Housing Department requires landlords to paint between occupancies, so at least I can practice my new-found confidence in painting with something other than white to make the space feel more warm and inviting.

So am I grossly over-thinking every little detail, or is this the same process that most of you go through when it's time for a change?

(Image: Flickr Member Jeremy Bronson licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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