Congratulations, you just bought a home! Unfortunately you, the realtor and the home inspector have noticed a few issues with the home that should be addressed. Or perhaps your family has some home improvement projects that you’d like to start right away. If this describes your situation, you’re not alone. In fact 53% of homeowners renovate within three months of moving into their homes and spend about $4,550 on various projects. Regardless of which types of projects you need to take on, there are many projects that are far easier to complete when the home is empty. Here are some important home improvement projects that are best to do before you move into your new home.
1. Remove the “popcorn” ceiling
Average cost: $1.50 – $3.00 a square foot
The heavily-textured ceiling treatment, usually found in homes built from the 1950s to the 1980’s, was either sprayed on or painted on. Otherwise known as “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” ceiling, this texture may contain asbestos (white asbestos fibers were added to this texture up until the 1980’s). If your home was built before the 1980’s is highly recommended to consult a professional before attempting to remove it. A professional contractor or painter will test a sample of the ceiling first before work begins. If the texture comes back positive for this toxic material, you may need to pay a premium for disposal. Removal of asbestos should only be done by a licensed professional due to the toxicity. Removing “popcorn” ceiling is relatively easy: it can be scraped off with a putty knife after spraying the texture with water to soften the material. Although this process is technically easy, it’s terribly messy and is best done while no furniture or humans are occupying the space. To protect the flooring, carpeting and woodwork, plastic sheeting will be hung throughout the space. Once the texture has been scraped off the ceiling should get a coating of mud and then sanded, primed and painted. Depending upon the extent of removal, touch up and painting, this project should take a few days to one week to complete.
2. Remove asbestos
Costs can vary widely and will depend upon the extent of removal.
Asbestos is a word that brings fright to many homeowners. Asbestos, which is derived from a mineral fiber found in rocks and soil, is still being used in some environments today. Because asbestos is an excellent insulator, very strong and can withstand high degrees of heat, it is used in a wide variety of applications such as roofing, ceiling tiles and coatings. Up until 1978 asbestos was commonly used on ceilings to create a heavily-textured coating – this acted as a sound absorber and did a great job hiding imperfections in the ceiling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos may be found in the following places:
- Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
- Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
- Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Automobile clutches and brakes
The risk of exposure to asbestos only occurs when the material is dislodged or removed. In other words, remodeling projects that involve demolition should be tested by a professional asbestos consultant first.
3. Remove heated oil tanks
Average cost: $1,500 – $2,500 disposal and removal fee plus any additional permitting fees. Expect to pay more if the tank has leaked into surrounding soil.
Heated oil tanks (HOT) can be found in older homes, many of which were buried underground. Heated oil was common in homes built prior to 1965. Before buying a home, it is always recommended to hire a professional to inspect the tank and the soil. In fact, a qualified realtor would advice against purchasing a home without first performing a soil test. During the home buying and inspection process it may have been determined that your home has an old oil tank on the property. If you are unsure, most oil tanks will have a venting system or a receptacle for receiving oil deliveries. Removal is recommended and in some instances may be a requirement during the sale of a home. Old oil tanks can leak and removal requires the skills of a professional. According to Environmental Works LLC “Soil samples are most often requested by a purchaser of a property when an underground oil tank is present and has not been decommissioned and certified…Soil samples are taken in an effort to determine whether a tank has released heating oil to the surrounding soil. Soil sampling procedures are defined by Department of Environmental Quality regulations, which dictate the sample location, collection method, handling, and laboratory analysis.”
4. Replace major appliances
Costs will vary depending upon appliances serviced.
Major appliances like heating and cooling systems, washers and dryers or kitchen appliances can be replaced once you move in. However some of these appliances may require additional work like ducting, ventilation or plumbing. If you have concerns about particular appliances have a professional out to the home for an assessment prior to moving in. This professional can discuss what work needs to be done and can advise how disruptive these improvements may be.
Average cost: professional painters may charge by the square foot, by the hour, or by the room depending upon the scope of the project.
Most homeowners have done enough painting projects to know that it’s far easier to paint a room with no furnishings in it. If you plan on painting many of the rooms in your new home, or plan on any special painting projects, it would be best to accomplish this task prior to moving in. Choose a low VOC paint if possible to avoid long-term off-gassing. Even with a low-VOC paint you’ll want to make sure your home has been well ventilated before sleeping in the home.
6. Refinish flooring or install carpeting
Average cost: $3.50 – $4.50 a square foot to professionally refinish hardwood floors
Refinishing floors, tearing up and replacing old flooring, or installing carpeting can be done after you move in but it’s much easier to perform this task before furniture is moved into place. Doing all the rooms at once may be more expensive in material cost but is more efficient for the professionals working on the home – in other words, hiring a crew one time is less expensive than hiring a crew several different times. With an empty home you can also have your flooring contractors replace the baseboard trim or fix any other damaged sub-flooring areas.
7. Structural work or foundation repair
Consult a professional for a price quote
Your home inspector should be thorough enough to assess the overall structural situation of the home. Very often the foundation and structure may be fine but the inspector can make suggestions or recommendations for the prospective buyer. If you have any questions or concerns after sale, be sure to consult a structural engineer who can make professional recommendations for the home.
8. Major room remodel
Average kitchen remodeling cost: $54,000
If you’ve ever lived through a major room remodel, especially a heavily-used room like a kitchen, you know that it can be a major inconvenience. Microwaving meals in a bedroom while your kitchen is being renovated gets old very fast. If you plan on moving into a home and are already thinking of retrofitting a room or space, consider trying to get this done prior to move-in. Some homeowners bring their architect or remodeling contractor with them to look at homes prior to purchase, just to discuss what can and can’t be done to the prospective home. Be sure to discuss with your contractor if your remodel project will require a construction permit.
Average baby-proofing of a two-story home: $1,000 – $2,500
Trying to move into a new home, organize, set up furniture, decorate and clean is very overwhelming. It’s especially overwhelming if you are attempting to do this with a curious toddler or baby under foot. Before moving into your new home, consider baby-proofing the home first. This is usually a DIY project that involves making cabinets child-proof, ensuring windows have locks, setting up baby gates, moving toxic products out of reach, and protecting sharp edges. You can also find a professional childproofing expert on Porch.
10. Fence for pets or children
Average cost: approximately $450 – $600 per 25 linear feet
If you’ve just bought a home that doesn’t have proper fencing for your pets or children it may be a good idea to get this installed prior to moving your family in. Some neighborhoods and cities have particular codes that require filing a permit prior to building a fence. If a fence is a requirement on day one of living in your home, be sure to contact a fencing contractor to discuss your options prior to your move.
11. Smoke and alarm systems
Average cost: $20 – $40 for a new smoke alarm
Installing properly functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other alarm systems may be seen as an after-the-move item however, it’s extra-important to ensure these are installed before you and your family spend the night in your home. Why? Your first night in your new home may not be “normal” – you may not know your way around the home, you may not be as vigilant about turning off appliances…the chaos that sometimes follows a move may be a dangerous time for your family. Be sure you also purchase fire extinguishers to have on hand right from day one.
12. Set up your utilities
This may sound like a no-brainer but before you move you’ll want to make sure your utilities are set up and functioning properly. For many homeowners it’s simply a matter of calling your local service providers and letting them into the home. But if you’ve purchased an older home you may want to have a professional installer add extra data or cabling to your home.
13. Cleaning the home inside and out
Average cleaning cost for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home: $175 per visit
The previous homeowners may have had their home professionally cleaned but you and your family may still want to make sure that the kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are thoroughly cleaned before moving in your food and belongings. You’ll want to clean all surfaces including inside cabinetry and above appliances. Cleaning the refrigerators will be important for removing food particles and germs. And don’t forget to clean behind the appliances to remove lint, dust and dirt. Before you move furniture in, it’s a great time to wash the inside and outside of your windows and have your carpets cleaned.
14. Change the locks
Average hourly rate for a locksmith: $50
This may be an obvious point but before you and your family move into a new home be sure to have a locksmith change the locks on all doors. You don’t know who may have had copies of keys in the past. This might also be a good time to think about adding high-quality deadbolts.
15. Ensure the mailbox is secure
Average cost: $100 – $250
You may have forwarded your mail but have you checked the security of your mailbox? It’s easier than ever to purchase and install a secure, lockable mailbox for your home. This is especially important if you have a transitional time during your move and expect your mail to be delivered days before you will be in your new home.
Top image credit: Rottmann Collier Architects