Home Renovation: Problem-Solving

It’s been awhile since I’ve stepped in with details on my home’s renovation status – why? We hit plenty of hiccups in the process, which we expected would happen. Once we demo’d and removed the majority of the existing sheet rock, we noticed some flaws in our original architectural plans, and we stumbled into some costly issues that we hadn’t anticipated.

Fede and I decided not to hire a general contractor, forcing ourselves and Claire to increase our scope of work substantially. While this is a risky choice to some, I value the overall design far too much to compromise 25% of the details in order to pay a GC to manage the process. It’s been exhausting, stressful, and much more work than I ever would’ve imagined, but it’s been running smoothly, all things considered. The thought of not having our plaster shower, weathered tiles, or rose gold fixtures was too much for me to give up — those are critical elements that I feel set the entire aesthetic of the home. Plus, I’m learning about plumbing, electrical, and HVAC ductwork, which is certainly useful knowledge to have.

a hallway with wooden ceilings

a window being renovated

What are some of the issues we ran into? Well, there’s a laundry list of them, so I’ll provide the shortened list for you.

Claire and I weren’t sure how we would fit a washer + dryer into the tiny coat closet we had originally envisioned for our laundry unit. Without expanding the walls, which would’ve meant cutting into our kitchen space, it wasn’t doable. We opted to use an all-in-one washer + dryer that will fit in the existing kitchen closet, and to have a pantry built-in the remaining portion. With storage space being a hot commodity at our house, this enabled our coat closet to continue to hold our vacuum and our winter coats that we never wear here in Austin.

Next, we found out that we have to add an additional electrical sub-panel and trench a line throughout our entire backyard to the side of our home, all to meet City of Austin codes. Yep, it’s definitely as expensive as it sounds.

Soon after problem-solving the electrical, our HVAC unit literally went up in smoke. Our ductwork wasn’t to code either, so we had to shell out a pretty penny for an entirely new A/C unit and ducts. While we weren’t excited about the hefty bill, air conditioning is non-negotiable in the Texas heat, and we’re glad it happened while the walls were still ripped open.

We also needed to call in a structural engineer to figure out how we could knock out a supporting wall in our bathroom, in order to keep our vaulted ceilings as exposed as possible without the entire roof collapsing in on us. You know, small stuff. The master bathroom has seen the most work of anywhere in our home, with the plumbers cutting into the concrete slab to move all of the lines, because we reconfigured the entire layout for the space, as seen below.

the renovation process inside a house

cables and wires sticking out from walls and ceiling

Framing moved quickly without any huge issues. I’m especially loving the transformation of our fireplace… it’s definitely going to be a statement piece now, as opposed to the eye sore it used to be. Aaron of Ramsdell Rustic has been leading the majority of our projects: demo, framework, sheet rock, trim, and carpentry. He’s a talented friend of ours that’s worked alongside me for 1.5 years now on Birch & Brass projects, so he knows my personal style very well and he can turn my Pinterest dreams into reality!

the fireplace in the living room being renovated

renovating the bedrooms

wooden walls and ceiling

We’re finalizing nearly every last detail these past few weeks: hardwoods, countertops, hardware, appliances, door hinges, doors, paint, lighting fixtures, tiles, and kitchen cabinets. My large appliances have started arriving already, and I can’t wait to show you my new glorious stove. It’s truly a work of art that I had been scoping out for over a year before pulling the trigger. I’m not the one who cooks in our household, but I may reconsider that now… You’ll see why!

adding new white doors

Our pool begins excavation this morning! We designed a small, simple pool that’s meant for relaxation as opposed to swimming laps. There will be a huge sun deck for laying out and catching some rays while still in-pool! Having grown up near the ocean and with a pool in our backyard, I’ve always loved being in and around water. Having a pre-existing pool or space for one in our yard was a non-negotiable factor in our house hunt, so this is a very exciting day for us!

the old back yard being renovated

the yard in front of the house

I’ll be back next time with the good stuff – the stuff you’re probably waiting to hear about – DESIGN DETAILS!


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