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FIRE: What fixer upper renovations ACTUALLY COST

DIY vs Professional Costs - Broken Down

So the house is a bit cheaper than our other options but it's going to require some work.

I know, you've had the same thoughts and the same conversations.

Despite a complete lack of experience, most FIRE members are of the impression that they could pull off some HGTV level home repairs in order to save the $40,000 or $50,000 additional cost of buying the new(er) home down the block.

Love the spirit, but just like everything else, let's crunch the numbers.

As a baseline, I'm going to assume that a renovated version of the house you are looking at would cost about $50,000 more.

These renovations include those grey floors every flipped home has in 2020, the white/grey granite countertops in the kitchen, newer appliances in the kitchen, white walls, updated bathrooms, and a medium size (but far from "dream") outdoor patio. As a bonus, I'll say it has a finished basement/garage (depending on where you live).

Let's break that down a bit further and look at the DIY vs. paid labor costs.


Per The Spruce:

- DIY = $12,058

- Professional = $22,122

To note, this is for a mid-range kitchen remodel (high-end can run up to $131,000).

The bulk of the cost stems from the cabinets (refacing) - roughly $9,000 of the $12,000 DIY cost.

An alternative to refacing the cabinets would be simply to paint over the current doors/drawers to give your kitchen a fresh look. The estimated cost of this is only $1,200 to $7,000 - which would be a massive reduction in your overall cost (putting your revised DIY expense at as low as $4,200).


Per The Spruce again: - DIY = $11,000

- Professional = $40,000

This one hurts more than the kitchen differential.

The biggest areas you likely cannot outsource are plumbing and electric work. If you can avoid shifting the sources around, you may be able to dodge this expensive bullet.

The rest is doable (it appears) at a fairly low cost. One of the keys here will be to used prefabricated shower stalls and finding deals on new/used sinks & toilets.

Here's a great resource DIY article.

The article breaks down the DIY costs for a smaller bathroom to as low as $1,725.

Floors & Paint

Per Home Advisor (on a 1,500 sqft home) new flooring,

- DIY = $1,500

- Professional = $4,500

That is the low-end of the market (vinyl) but the quality is still there in 2021.

The Spruce also notes that "of all of the do-it-yourself covering, vinyl plank flooring is one of the simplest to install".

Per Remodeling Calculator (on same sqft home) a full interior painting,

- DIY = $1,700

- Professional = $3,500

The primary driver of the cost is, not surprisingly, the labor costs involved.

This again appears to be a highly recommend & simple way to save money on your home renovations.

Finished basement

Per The Spruce,

- DIY = $7,000

- Professional = $32,000

Another wide discrepancy.

This only gets wider if plumbing and electric are involved (again, not something you should likely DIY).

The biggest unexpected cost component that could arise would be the desire to add a bathroom. This obviously would involve the aforementioned plumbing + the DIY costs of a bathroom (noted above).

"Real estate professionals confirm that of all major home improvements, none is more efficient at adding actual value to your property than to convert unfinished space into finished comfortable living space. - The Spruce

Home Advisor provides a great breakdown of the various finishing costs here.

Back deck/patio

Per Home Advisor (320 sqft),

- DIY = $5,000

- Professional = $9,000

Building a back deck may also increase your property tax and insurance premiums.

If you're willing to go smaller (100 sqft), the price can be as low as $700.

The biggest cost component is obviously the wood required to build the deck. All savings between DIY vs professional stem from labor costs.

Homeguide gives an excellent breakdown of various add-ons and associated costs.

Total costs of Professional vs DIY vs Buying the already renovated home

Already renovated = +$50,000

Professional = +$113,622

DIY = $36,558

DIY & Professional assume 1 bathroom upgrade, 12x12 deck, only basic materials used throughout the home (non-premium).

In conclusion, you CAN save money by going the DIY route but you need to be cognizant that the price differential between home options may actually be a fair representation of value.

Plus, DIY complete renovations may take 6 months to 1 year to complete (and something may go wrong which means you have to hire a professional anyway).

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