The house…it’s been alluded to on here numerous times. If you know us, you’ve likely at least heard about it. If you us well, you’ve likely been several times during/after the project.
From March 2017 when we started looking into the possibility of buying the house to March 2019 when we moved in, it consumed most of our free time. I had to organize the financing, plans, permits, acted as contractor, and physically did a ton of the work too. Alyce had to double up on everything at home since I was always busy; she also helped do some work too when available.
In this post, I’ll try to go over purchasing the house and making plans, the things we did, before/after, and thoughts after living in it for nearly two years.
Buying the house
We liked our old house, but we knew we would prefer a little more space. I also had always wanted to design and build a house. Additionally, we did not want to leave our neighborhood. The last two items did not line up with each other as lot prices (really tear-downs) were high and going higher.
With that in mind, we started to expand our search to houses that would need renovation. I don’t know we had in mind the full scope of renovations we’d eventually do, but we were looking for potential.
There was a house or two we looked at, but saw people working on the house at the end of the block for the first time in a while as I was walking James. This was notable for several reasons…
This particular house was vacant since Katrina (12 years). This was very odd, as the lot alone was worth a whole lot as it was an oversized corner lot and faced the lakefront and the Canal boulevard neutral ground. The house had the potential for good curb appeal. And while not a major factor, it did have some history to it in that New Orleans musician Al Hirt lived in it for a long time.
I always knew this was a house we’d be interested in. I mentioned it to Alyce, and we walked by it together. A door was open, so she ran in to peak around.
It was in bad shape. This was actually good because it meant we may be able to get it for a price that would work for us. Had they done too much work, we wouldn’t be able to buy and renovate the it.
I cranked up the internet and located the owners. I emailed them, and we were talking pretty quickly. They were going to be selling. I talked up the fact that I grew up in the neighborhood, we currently lived there, and we would not tear the house down.
I think they liked that and agreed to show us the house. I took a bunch of pictures and sketched the floorplan. I then drew it in Autocad and thought about how we could modify it to get a layout we’d like. I wasn’t going to go through all this just to have something we’d think was ok.
A couple more calls, and we worked out a deal. It turned out that we eventually would hear from many other people that they – or someone they knew – tried to buy the house at some point. I don’t know why they went with us…maybe the stuff above. I think we paid a fair price, but they could have likely got more in the open market.
We had the house inspected, and there were several issues. Though, we would not know the full extent until we tore the walls open. We were pretty sure we’d have to do some plumbing work, and it had termites at some point. With this and all the other things, they gave us some extra money off.
Now, I had to get financing in order. This was extra challenging given the scope of the project, and the fact that I wanted to self-contract. We finally ended up settling with Iberia and a very helpful banker there. I had to work up all kinds of estimates, plans, etc., but they eventually agreed to let me self-contract.
With all that, we closed at the end of June 2017. Then we needed permits.
I did the application and maybe undersold the scale of renovations. To be honest, I didn’t know myself at that point.
Renovation Scale and Plans
We got the permit and started with demo at some point in August. Tearing out the walls revealed the full scope of the renovations. The termite damage was more extensive than we had imagined. The plumbing situation was worse than we thought. We burned through the contingency before blinking an eye.
I also nailed down the plans now that we knew the full scope of work. We’d move a couple extra walls and raise the ceilings. I had it mostly drawn up, and my dad had his architect friend take a look. He drew it up as well and had some good thoughts. Combined, we had a come up with a really good path forward.
I’d also have to update the permit, as there was no way I could get by with the original permit scope.
It was at this point that we had a better idea of the what the renovation would entail, including:
- Rebuilding/modifying about 1/3 of the actual roof structure and house structure. The interior also required massive framing modifications and repairs. We added a dormer, converted interior space to patio and garage.
- Slab leveling work
- 100% new plumbing (above slab and below slab drainage)
- 100% new electrical
- 95% new mechanical (we were able to reuse some of the upstairs ducting)
- 100% new sheetrock
- 100% new flooring
- 100% new cabinets and countertops
- 100% new windows
- 100% new interior and exterior doors (excluding a couple we wanted to restore and reuse)
- 100% new baseboards/molding (except in one room)
- Mostly new insulation
- Completely redoing the pool and backyard
Everything was lined up, and we got the renovations kicked up in full mid-September 2017.
The major modifications to the house were relocating the kitchen, converting all flat roof to pitched roofs, raising the ceilings in several rooms, adding a dormer, and converting excess living area to patio and garage.
Living Room and Kitchen
[Disclaimer: this section will be a lot of pictures…and I mean a lot. I have some more general thoughts at the end.]
We love to cook. I had many ideas for the kitchen. I also wanted it to be open to the living area. I figured this would be where we spent the vast majority of our time, and that has been the case. During the renovations, this area was completely open for a couple months. It had so many changes, it would be difficult to recount.
Master Bedroom and Bathroom
We did not make substantial changes in this area, but we did redo just about all the framing…wall and ceiling. The master bath was completely re-laid out – it did not even have a shower before. Fortunately, we were able to keep the ridiculous, massive, in slab, marble tub.
Bar and Wine Cellar
This area was used as a living room of sorts before. It was long/odd shaped for practical use and not really needed as a living room. We decided to relocate the bar here and add a wine cellar (currently still closet…but someday a cellar).
Formerly the kitchen and breakfast room, we added a large laundry room, a pantry off the kitchen, and a desk area/utility hall. A “utility hall” may not sound like much, but it has actually worked out great. It allows us to keep things easily accessible, but not cluttering up the kitchen. Alyce also has made good use of her desk area.
The foyer had the least changes. We cleaned and kept the chandelier. The walls were plaster, so we did not need to replace them. Though actually on second thought, we did add the dormer here, which makes a massive difference in the room.
The dining room did not change much – other than gutting and replacing everything. We did move a door in it to accommodate the new laundry room and hall.
The “Blue Room” as we’re calling it only had the drywall pulled out that was necessary. We could access most of the wall from behind, and this allowed us to keep the elaborate millwork.
The hall bath downstairs was a small area, but big transformation.
Upstairs only really had layout changes in the bathroom to account for the new roof. The two bedrooms were redone, but the layouts were not changed.
The house had potential, but it needed some help on the outside. From the front, we removed a magnolia tree that was in poor shape, painted everything, installed new French doors, and added lighting. We also added landscaping after moving in.
The sides had a ton of overgrown mess and trees removed. We also poured concrete on the sides.
Excess living area in the back of the house was converted to a large patio and a garage. The pool, deck, and subsurface drainage were completely redone as well.
As previously mentioned, the plumbing under the slab and to the city connection was redone.
Last, but not least, the garage was converted back into a garage.
What we did
First, we had to come up with the design. I eventually got some help, but had most things worked out by that point. There was also some engineering required for beams to be added or repaired. I did whatever was required there.
I served as the contractor. Having done it, I can say a good contractor will absolutely earn their money. As the contractor, I had to locate and vet all the potential subcontractors, then get prices, then negotiate with the selected subs as necessary. Then the hard part started.
As the GC, you have to do a whole lot of babysitting and putting out fires. Someone was always not showing up. One sub would complain about another sub. There was always an urgent need for materials that I had to run and get. Good subs can help with this, and we were fortunate to have mostly good subcontractors. I’d credit that to searching out lots of recommendations beforehand and meeting with a ton.
Also along those lines, I did much of the purchasing of materials. A bigger name flooring sub will show up with everything and do it all. You will also pay significantly for that convenience. We found a good installer. I did the calcs on material needed myself, bought the flooring material from California to save money, helped unload it off the truck, researched/bought the thinset, leveling system, and grout locally…and probably 10 other things I can’t recall at the moment for the flooring. Framing lumber/supplies, drywall, roofing material, doors, windows, molding, water heaters, all plumbing/electrical fixtures, etc. We handled all the purchasing and got someone to install it (or did it ourselves).
Pricing, supplier availability, delivery, storage, logistics all took more time and effort than you’d think with that kind of stuff.
As a GC, you also need to be able to identify problems ahead of time and correct them while they’re easy to fix.
We also obviously picked out all the fixtures, finishes, colors, appliances, design related stuff, etc. This really went pretty smoothly. Alyce and I were mostly on the same page. I’d narrow the world of options down to things we’d like and could fit in the budget, then we’d decide together.
In terms of things we physically did…I’ll start with the fact that I was generally “the grunt” on the project. Little things that needed to be done, annoying work that didn’t fall under someone else, cleaning, etc. We did it all. The mornings spent shop-vaccing out water from the house when it was open with and there was a hard rain is a time I am glad I should not have to return to.
Starting off, I did a decent bit of demo work. Pulling out drywall with old insulation raining down on you, cutting out ductwork from the crawlspaces, busting out tile, mold killing, pulling out old wiring were just some of the things we did. One takeaway with demo work is how much time is spent clearing/cleaning material compared to the actual demo.
Framing…I did way more framing than I would have ever guessed at the beginning of the project. As the rebuilding of the roof started to drag on, I hopped in and did a lot of the interior framing to keep things moving. It started with our bedroom and doing the walls and traying the ceiling. After that, I built all of the walls going in the areas that were needed inside – other than the walls built to support the roof. This allowed me to be sure they were dimensions exactly how I wanted. Then I started repairing termite damage. Finally, I went around the house and did anything I could think of to strengthen the framing – I probably drove 1500 structural bolts and added 100 redundant supports.
Low voltage…we literally ran a mile of wiring all over the house…and Alyce was there to help with just about all of it. 30 speakers and 32 ethernet drops all over the house added up. I also terminated all those and installed all the speakers, cameras, access points, jacks, etc.
Electrical…I located all the fixtures, installed boxes for most them, located/designed/installed all the recessed cans, and fished some of the more time consuming wiring where needed to help keep things moving. For finishing, I installed all the fixtures/trims, installed all the light switches (many of which are smart), and installed many of the outlets. I learned a ton about electrical work and feel pretty comfortable with most of it now. I also had a very good electrician which helped a lot as well.
Mechanical…Our hvac contractor is a family friend, so I tried to help out with some things with some guidance. I installed a lot of the vent boxes/framing, did the framing modifications as needed for the returns/equipment, and helped install some of the ductwork. Don’t feel quite as comfortable handling these things on my own, so I’m sure I’ll still be calling for help plenty of times going forward. Same thing with plumbing…don’t really like it, and don’t care to know it. I can do some general work, but I won’t be taking on any major plumbing projects…also shouldn’t have any anytime soon.
Painting…We did a lot of the painting. Alyce and I primed and painted all of the walls and ceilings. I bought a sprayer, which helped – but it still was an effort. We also painted the exterior doors and some of the interior doors. If you’ve never done it, painting bare doors takes a ton of coats and sanding – it also requires good/quick technique. We caulked/painted some of the trim (blue room, master bath), and we also painted all of the shelving (closets, pantry, etc.). We also painted all of the outside patio area.
Etc….I installed a bunch of shelving before moving in – nothing too crazy. Helped as a laborer on some of the concrete work. Did the sprayfoam myself for the wine cellar. Installed doorknobs and door hardware. Redid the bar. Did a deep clean prior to moving in…including a massive effort to remove “grout haze” from the tile. Still have a thing or two left to do, but nothing too urgent.
Thoughts after living here
Having a kitchen designed ground up was a big motivator for taking on a project like this. And I have to say, it has met all of our expectations.
I wanted a big work island with a sink. We did that, and it has been great. Food prep is much more efficient. Having a second full size sink has also been great. We’ve each gravitated toward the one we use more and never have to fight over space. With two sinks, we installed two dishwashers – one full size and one 18”. We use the full size the vast majority of the time, but there are occasions when having the second one helps.
We spent the extra money to get quartzite countertops (throughout the house). Quartzite has that marble look and is also the most durable countertop. I could never get on board with quartz (the man-made countertop). Marble is beautiful but does not belong in a kitchen. A nice granite would have been my second choice behind quartzite, but it just doesn’t have the same look.
I’ve wanted a Bluestar range for about a decade and finally made it happen. We went with a 48” with all burners. I have no regrets with that size/configuration. I’m sure a griddle is fine, but you can buy one to put on top that is just as effective without giving up space on the range. I don’t feel like I missed the grill. I have a grill, and the broiler gets extremely hot. I generally prefer pan sears anyway. With 8 burners, we have space for both of us to cook at the same time if needed without any crowding. The two ovens have been fine. The big one is massive, and it’s nice to have two options for when needed.
The hood is just as important as the range – if not moreso. What good is a super high powered range if it is unusable because your house becomes a disaster and filled with smoke every time its used. The hood/blower is also surprisingly expensive. Still, spring for it and get one 6” wider than your range. For us, that was a 54” Bluestar hood with a 1200 cfm blower that exhausts directly outside. On full blast, I could light a campfire on the stove and you could not smell smoke in the next room.
To round out the appliances, we went with a Bosch microwave drawer and speed oven/microwave combo unit. The microwave drawer is really nice compared to having to bend over and reach in. Part of me still looks at it and thinks it is one more thing to break, but it is worth it. We have not used the speed oven feature much but have made use of the second microwave feature. It also serves as a standard oven should we need a third oven. Overall, we like it, but it would be one of the first things to go if we did not have the space.
On the cabinets, we went almost exclusively with drawers in the lower cabinets. We had really liked the drawers in our Baton Rouge house and again find them better than doors in our new house. We also put in a stack of drawers on either side of the range for spices, utensils, etc. We thought – and have subsequently found – that this is more effective and versatile than a specialized vertical cabinet…not to mention cheaper. On design, we wanted a different color island for some contrast, and it really worked out well. One last thought is to put soft close on everything.
Other features…I love the instant hot. Its great for coffee and tea. It also is very useful for cleaning just about anything. Potfiller – we put one in and have used it occasionally. It is convenient when we do, and we’re glad we have it…but I do not know that I would undertake a major plumbing project to install one.
The pantry is right off the kitchen, and we love having a pantry again. Going from having a pantry in Baton Rouge to not having one at our last house was tough. A pantry makes life in the kitchen easier.
Same thing for the utility hall, desk, butler pantry, and laundry right by the kitchen. The laundry room, mainly because we have a full size fridge and a full size freezer in there and shelving for seldom used or large items.
We keep the vacuum sealer, meat slicer (yes…meat slicer), and all the electronics/random paperwork/chargers/etc. here. I also have all of our cookbook within easy reach.
The bar/seating island serves as our everyday area. We use it all the time. It’s also where we hang most of the time with company. It work great to set out appetizers and is an intermediary area between the kitchen and TV. We’re really happy with this.
The living room doesn’t really have any special features. It’s a living room. The one unique thing we did do is the recessed entertainment center and bookcases. It came out very well and saved us almost a foot and a half in the living room.
Main thing on the bathrooms is that we love our shower. I always wanted a hotel type shower with an absurd amount of shower heads, etc. Welp, we got it now. Based on the layout of the bathroom, we had to make the call to either go with a overly large shower or small shower. We went with the large shower and are happy with it.
I’m also glad we were able to keep the ridiculous marble tub. It’s not practical – at all. And James is the only one to have used it so far, but it’s a cool and unique feature of the house. I don’t know if you could even get such a thing installed today, and I don’t want to know what it would costs if so.
One other interesting thing in the bathroom is that I designed/installed a mirror tv…but not the $5000 kind. Alyce saw one at the Park Hyatt New York, and said she wanted one in our new house. So I had to make it happen. I built a wall with an alcove. Installed the tv there, and put a 2-way mirror over it. Really, that probably over-simplifies it. It’s neat, but we have not used it too much.
A lot of people would look at my lighting and say I was going to have too much light. I was fairly confident that would not be the case. Plus, everything would be on dimmers. Our current house was generally underlit – and frustrating. So bring on the light!
Well, we do not have too much light – even with everything on full blast. To be sure, there is plenty light but definitely not an obnoxious amount.
Bottom line – put in more light than you think you’ll need.
I am also a huge fan of our accent lighting. It provides great indirect lighting when you don’t want to have the main lights on. Plus it really highlights whatever you have on the walls. I have ours set to come on everyday. I’m very pleased with the wall lighting. Similarly, the under cabinet lighting provides a nice accent light while also serving as a focused task light.
I also went above and beyond on flood lights around the house and lighting in the garage (that light is kind of obnoxious…but it’s a garage and work area).
In terms of bulbs, we used dimmable LEDs for just about everything. My ideal color temperature was 3000-3500K. Lower than that is a little too orange for my taste. I’d go higher if anything. In fact we did for the accent lighting, and it worked out great. It really makes the color pop. All other things equal (including CRI), I’d always choose the led with the higher light output (lumen rating).
Electronic and Smart House Features
We included several “smart home” features in the renovation. Though most of them are really just house features possible without internet that can now be controlled/accessed by internet or local wifi.
As mentioned, we did all the low voltage wiring. I have everything run to a wiring and electronics closet. For the network itself, I installed a Unifi router and switch with 6 wifi access points. We also pulled the Cat6 for 16 POE cameras and roughly another 10 Cat6 wall terminations/plugs.
The network has worked flawlessly. It’s way overkill, but we have strong wifi from one corner of the property to the other. There are also a ton of devices connected to the wifi, and that has never caused an issue.
The camera system has been nice. I have it surrounding the house and on every exterior door…which was more of an effort than it may seem since we have twelve (12!) exterior doors. It’s not fun or life changing or anything like that, but is great for peace of mind. I would absolutely install again if the need presented itself.
The other substantial bit of wiring we did was the whole house audio system. It has 12 zones (of 2 speakers each), and we have made use of every single zone – some of them all the time. It is “smart” in that I can control the source, zones, volume etc. from my phone. I think I put it on much more often because of how easy it is.
I used HTD for the controller and amplifier. It is a diy solution and is the most reasonable way (cost-wise) to do a system like this.
One question I’ve gotten in relation to this is why not just use Sonos or something like that? Cost, for starters. Sonos is expensive. Looks is another reason…All my speakers blend in to the ceiling and are barely noticeable. And wired connections are always more reliable than wireless connections. Finally, the fact that you have to get power to every sonos speaker always seems to be forgotten. That would have been more work than just getting the speaker wire to them.
Bottom line, I love having whole house audio, and the HTD Lync system has been flawless to this point.
I installed an Abode alarm. It’s a wireless/battery solution. It has been installed for over two years and just about sensors are still on the initial battery. It’s worked fine, and I can see the alarm history on my phone. Would recommend it overall.
Most of the switches in the house are smart switches. I looked into many options and settle on Lutron Ra2 Select system. There were several reasons I went with these – system reliability and the fact that they are the exact same as the nice Lutron non-smart switches were big factors. They’ve worked great and having smart switches is nice.
Many of our outdoor lights are not on smart switches, but are instead smart bulbs. LIFX color change bulbs to be exact. These have been great for exactly this scenario, decorative outdoor lights on a schedule. I don’t know that they would be as appropriate for regular indoor lights. They allow us to “decorate” or celebrate whatever holiday or season is upon us. We like them and have gotten many compliments from others who have enjoyed them.
We went with ecobee thermostats. I’ve programmed them and have barely fooled with them since. You can pull a ton of data from them (and sensors as well). It’s easier to set up programs, etc. on a computer than on a thermostat, so they’re definitely good for that. I like them, but they may not be that different than a highly customizable regular thermostat. Either way, I’d definitely go with ecobees again.
The door locks are all electronic smart locks (Yale). They are another favorite of the new house. That’s one last thing to have to carry in your pocket and no more digging keys out every time you come and go. It’s a minor thing, but it has had a big effect.
The garage door is also connected by to the internet. In Baton Rouge, I used to always wonder if I closed the garage door. No more worrying with a smart garage door. That…and I just about don’t leave the house anymore. Still, there is no reason not to get a smart garage door opener if you’re buying a new one.
We went with a Nest smart doorbell. Everything I read seemed to indicate that it’s superior to a ring doorbell. It’s maybe not quite as impactful given that I have the camera system, but I like it as well and have used it to communicate with someone at the door a couple times.
Finally, we recently purchased a new robot vacuum. Not really a built-in smart house item, but I’m including it anyway. We got one about 6 years ago, and it was nice but had many limitations. It became pretty much unusable with James. The new model is wayyyy smarter. It maps the house (surprisingly accurately) and covers it in an orderly fashion rather than just being random. It also has sensors and can avoid most things, including walls. We’ve been thoroughly impressed with the robot vacuum so far (an ecovac deebot).
Looking ahead, I still have a couple smart items on my list. #1 would be adding smart shades in some windows. They’re not cheap and lower on the priority list, but I would like to do them eventually (probably Lutron). I also want to integrate the systems on a unified backend (Homeseer). I already have the software, it’s just been a low priority item as I’ve been pleased with most things without it.
How have we used all the smart features? Mostly schedules and phones. I didn’t want voice integration for several reasons. One reason is that a young child and voice commands don’t always go well together. That would be the case with James for sure.
Even more importantly, I don’t feel like voice commands would add any convenience (not at least until I get a unified backend setup – and even then, I’m not sure). I always have my cell and can be in the appropriate app in a second. It’s way easier to control from there than trying to remember what would be over 40 names for the light switches/zones alone.
And even more important than that…I don’t want to have to tell my smart house what to do. I want it to do it automatically. That’s why I try to put as much as possible on schedules. This mostly applies to the lights, and I have many of them on schedules. They’re on when I want them on and off when I want them off – automatically. With led lights, the power draw and effect on lifespan is negligible if lights are when you’re out the room. Same thing with the thermostats – I never touch them because I’m happy with the programs I have setup. The cameras are automatic; the alarm can be tied to your location via phone.
I spent untold amounts of brainpower thinking about the flooring for this house, and I did so for several reasons. First, flooring is expensive. Good flooring is very expensive. Whatever we went with, we needed a lot given the size of the house. It is also a pain to change. Certain flooring can be damaged easily. Finally, flooring has a major effect on the look of your house.
From the beginning, I liked the idea of porcelain tile for its toughness and durability. But, quality tile is expensive. Also, it would have to look good. At some point, I had saw a wood look tile installation that did not look good (it was cheap and poorly installed) – so I ruled it out early on despite its appeal.
From there, I considered wood (nice looking but has a lot of durability issues), terrazzo (out the box expensive), marble (high maintenance), travertine (also high maintenance), concrete (expensive as a topping to an existing floor), and anything else you can think of.
I eventually saw a friend’s house that had a nice wood look tile installed properly, and it looked great. After doing some research and ordering multiple samples, we settled on wood look tile for the bulk of the house. I had to order it from a wholesale in California to make it cost feasible, but it worked out fine. In fact, it came from the same warehouse in Baton Rouge it would have came from had I bought it locally.
I also spent a good bit of time researching marble look porcelain and found a great option. Literally everyone that sees it thinks it is marble.
Having lived with them for a little while, they are virtually bullet proof. Dog, son, water, rocks, furniture, you name it – does not affect it at all. About the only thing you can do is chip it, and that takes quite the effort. Even then, you can replace an individual tile.
We love our floors. If you go with a tile, you can’t cheap out. But it is worth the cost for the durability.
Like the pantry, we had a garage in Baton Rouge and had to give it up when we moved back to New Orleans. A garage is one of those things you may not appropriately appreciate until you no longer have one. We have loved having a garage back – even if it is smaller than I would have built from scratch.
The extra patio space helps the backyard feel much more appropriately laid out. It was all pool before. We have made good use out of it.
Ok. Didn’t really change much here other than the lighting and speakers – and add a door from the kitchen. Nonetheless, it was a major selling point of the house, and it has lived up to expectations. It is something absurd like 800 to 900 covered square feet and is wide enough to use in all but the worst weather. We sit out on the porch whenever the weather allows (i.e., not obnoxiously hot or cold), and I do not see that changing anytime soon.
I wasn’t sure what we’d think about having a “bar” room in the house. I wasn’t really sure what to do with the room, and we had a cool, old bar – although it needed complete restoration. Worst case scenario, we pull it out and just make it a wet bar with seating area down the line.
But we’ve really enjoyed it. Everyone that comes over gets a kick out of it, and it provides a good area for hanging out at parties. Once we finish the wine cellar, the area will be complete and very functional.
I mainly added this section to cover the tankless water heaters. You’d have to pry them away from me. No more rushing to finish showers in the winter, or worrying about if James had just used up all the hot water in a bath, or following Alyce in the shower, or whatever. I could sleep in the shower and not run out of hot water. Ours are gas and they are also very efficient.
Two things: first, they do need to be sized appropriately. It is all about flow rates and temperature differential. You may have noticed I have referred to our more than one heater…We have three. I wanted there to be no question that we’d have sufficient capacity. Also, adding a third allowed us to shorten the piping runs.
Second, I’ve seen some complaints that they do not get the water as hot as a standard water heater. This is not true. Ours heat the water to 140 degrees, which should be hot enough for any non-sadistic human. The trick is a lot of them are capped at 120 degrees out the box, which is hot – but you can max out on it. To get to 140, you have to change the settings. Very easy, but you have to know to do it.
A whole house water softener is another item we installed. It was really not too expensive, and it works. New Orleans has ridiculously hard water. This helps appliances, as well as being preferred by most people.
I like having hepa filters before the blower on our A/C equipment. This is yet another thing I added on our house in Baton Rouge that we missed when moving back to New Orleans.
And while not really a house utility per se, a pool robot is a must if you have a pool and do not plan on paying someone to maintain it. I got an electric nautilus dolphin robot about 6 months after we moved in, and it is worth every penny.
This project was a monster. And while we’re unquestionably happy to have done it, I don’t think I’d have another in me. Good news is that there should be no reason to have to do this again. We have no plans on moving. I know nothing is certain, but we will probably be here for a while.
It was tough at times. There is a period where you’re spending money, and the value of the house is decreasing (early on in demo). The light at the end of the tunnel is far away at that point.
Two things also helped make it possible: (1) the fact that our current house was literally down the street and (2) the fact that I worked from home. This way I could run down the street for a couple minutes as needed to sign for something, answer a question, meet a sub for a quote, etc.
The house was bigger than we ideally wanted, but too much space is not really a problem. The location, layout, exterior are exactly what we wanted. I know every inch of the house (and have pictures of it) and can fix (or at least try to) many things.
It caused us to miss on normal travel plans for a couple years, I missed many things going on, and spent nearly all of my spare time researching things or working on the house. But we’ll hopefully be able to enjoy it with friends and family for many years…and even built up a good bit of sweat equity.
That said, it’s nice to have things back to normal. At least in regard to housing…