3 key benefits to gutting a house

Customize your remodel while saving money

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

Q: I have a home at the beach that was built in 1960, so it has no insulation and the frame is not attached to the foundation. Plus it has lath and plaster walls that have either had water problems or something else on the walls that cause it not to look nice. I plan to remodel before moving in.

Should I consider stripping all the walls and ceiling of the lath and plaster to see the condition of the stucco paper, attach the house frame to the foundation and insulate it? The expense in the winter here for heat is not much, but then again the house is not that big either, maybe 1,100 square feet. This might afford me to update electrical, inspect framing for any damage, and add gas lines, etc., where needed. What do you think? –Bob D.

A: In my experience, whenever you have the opportunity to completely or substantially “gut” the interior of a home during a remodel, it’s always greatly to your advantage. You can spot and repair water and insect damage, correct any structural deficiencies, and update areas that may have been built to code at the time of the original construction, but that don’t meet today’s codes.

Relocating walls, doors, windows and other structural components of the home is much easier. Getting the exact layout of electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems is greatly simplified, as is the layout of things many people don’t think about, such as sound systems and computer cabling.

You also have the opportunity not only to insulate effectively, but also to completely seal tiny air leaks around plumbing and electrical penetrations in the walls for the greatest possible energy efficiency.

After all the rough work is done, your finish work will be better as well. You don’t have all that patching to worry about, as well as plaster cracking to deal with. Instead, you can start with fresh drywall throughout, with a uniform texture.

The third big advantage is that it’s simply easier. The demolition mess is over and done with quickly at the start of the job, rather than repeating itself in smaller dust-making chunks over and over again. And if you’re hiring contractors to do the remodeling work, it should be less expensive all the way around because they’re working with wide open framing.

Q: I am planning to add on to my existing deck, but a couple of the boards were warped from neglect. Can I replace the boards and continue the deck further out? I recently had to remove three trees that were damaged, and I decided to use them as a border and want to add them to the deck as plant holders. What do I need to treat the trees with to keep the natural beauty and prevent termites? I have woods as part of my property and want to incorporate the look with my deck. –Jacqueline P.

A: You should be able to add onto the existing deck, depending on its current construction and the condition of the structural framing. I would suggest that you have a contractor come out to remove the warped deck boards; examine the underlying deck framing for damage, dry rot and other structural issues; and then come up with a design for extending it.

As far as adding the old trees to the existing deck as planters, a lot of that depends on why they were damaged and why you decided to take them out. There are a number of things that can happen to trees that can be passed along to the wood on your deck if the two are allowed to be in contact with one another for any length of time.

For that decision, you really need to consult with a certified arborist or other expert who can tell you what damaged the trees, and specifically what chemicals — if any — can be used for treating the wood to preserve it.

Q: I have a single-level, 1,700-square-foot house on a level lot. It was last painted around 1995 before we purchased the home in October 1995. My husband and I plan to paint the exterior soon and I was wondering if you have ballpark estimates for exterior paint jobs.

Also, the rain gutters need to be replaced. Is it better to replace before painting or after painting? –Jane D.

A: I can’t really help you out much with painting prices, because so much depends on how much prep work needs to be done, how much trim there is to paint, how much moving and masking is involved, and other issues that will affect the price.

Your best bet is to have at least two reputable, licensed painting contractors inspect the house and give you an estimate. The estimates need to be in writing, and need to include all the details of the work being proposed, including any preparation and repair work that they’ll be doing. Ask for and verify their contractor’s license number, bond and insurance, and ask for some local references of people they’ve done work for.

As far as the gutters are concerned, it depends on whether you plan to paint them. Many gutters are available in a wide variety of factory-applied colors, and if you like one of those colors then the gutters should be applied after the painting is complete.

If you want the gutters painted to match the house, then opt for a white gutter and have it installed prior to the painting, then the contractor can paint them along with the house. In either case, let the contractors know what your intentions are with the gutters so they can estimate the work accordingly.

On the subject of gutters, I’m a big fan of seamless gutters. Each piece is custom-fabricated right on site, and you end up with a cleaner, finished look and a lot less joints to worry about. As with the painters, get estimates and references from two licensed gutter contractors.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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