My Reno disaster and success

Whether you’re a seasoned renovator or newbie, reno disaster doesn’t discriminate, as Carolyn Weston discovered. As an active investor and sought-after property investment coach at Positive Real Estate in Tasmania, Carolyn knows a thing or two about renovation, yet she’s not immune to reno disasters. With a few clever decisions and quick thinking, Carolyn not only turned the disaster around but made a handsome $55,000 profit in the process

I love renovating, and bathrooms seem to be the obvious rooms to upgrade, as most need sprucing up at some time or other.

Bradman Avenue was neat but had awfully outdated colours and cracked tiles, among other things. A tenant had done some damage to tiles and left it rather dirty, so I got in there thinking I was doing a good job by splashing bleach in the old cast-iron bath, leaving it overnight with the intention of just cleaning it all the next day.

What I came back to was a bath that looked like it came straight from The Exorcist! The enamel paint was obviously porous and the bleach had gone through. The cast iron was all rusty. All the rust was running down the bath in brown and yellow streaks when I returned.

So I quickly grabbed a cloth and water and started scrubbing, but nothing came off! It was permanently stained with rust and bleach. It looked hideous.

Not to be deterred, I Googled businesses that recoated baths, but they all wanted me to bring the bath to them and had waiting periods of three and four weeks.

So there I was, with no tenant and my money walking out the door every day the property was untenanted, so I had to move fast. I researched how much it would cost for a new bath – pretty cheap – and then one thing just led to another.

In the meantime, I had to jump on a plane back to Tassie for work for a few days and left the filthy bathroom for my son. I told him to just pull out the bath and we would put a new one in. After receiving a couple of photos from him by phone, I made the decision and gave him the instruction to rip the whole lot out.

I came back to a semi-cleared room and it took us about one week to have it all put back. I have done a bathroom reno before, but I’ve always employed workmen to do most of it. This time, I did not have the cash flow to allow this, so had to do it on a budget and in a short timeframe to get tenants back into it in a reasonable time.

My budget was $4,000 and I had some bonus money put aside if it went a little over.

I am extremely happy with how the bathroom looks now; it is such a satisfying feeling when you can see the difference you have made, not to mention the value added to the property. 

A lovely client of mine assisted for a couple of days with the clearing and initial framework, and my son came in when I was stuck. I learnt how to lay floor and wall tiles, and all the things in the background that the TV show The Block doesn’t show you.

I kept thinking, it looks easy on The Block and they do it in a week. I would have liked a bigger budget, but I guess you spend what you have, so I am pretty proud of what was achieved with that budget. It did cost me more than I had initially anticipated.

Lessons learned
If I was to do it again, there are some very big lessons I learnt:

  • Get a plumber first! - I laid all the tiles, put the bath in and so on, and then discovered the tap fittings I had chosen were not going to fit the pieces that were sticking out of the wall.
  • Know the order of work to be done - Tiles had to be ripped out and the concrete behind them was all chipped away.

The old copper piping and strange shower/batch-tap arrangement in the wall had to be removed and then put back so the tap fittings would work.
It was a costly exercise and this may seem like common sense to some, but if you are not a tiler or a plumber, then you don’t realise the order in which you should do these things.

I feel silly saying it now, but at the time it seemed that the cement sheet, waterproofing and tiles should come first before I chose the taps, which was wrong. I also discovered that taps need to be ordered, and this takes weeks!

Stick to the basics
No plumbing store in the surrounding area had taps in stock; you had to order them. So I ended up selecting them from Bunnings after the plumber politely told me to get the old-fashioned washer taps, not the new fancy ones that were not going to fit in the wall.

Happy ending to a disastrous start
Even though lots of little things popped up to be annoying (like the toilet being too close to the wall with the thicker new tiles), I am still planning the next reno/improvement.

I have done a few renovations; I even had another bathroom from hell where we found completely rotten floor joists and walls behind what we ripped out. 

I might add, I actually had pneumonia during the reno and was in and out of hospital and sleeping on old cushions on the floor in the middle of the whole thing. I just didn’t have the cash flow at that time to pay tradesmen and get them all there at short notice as well, so it just had to be done!

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