Extreme home makeover, Part V: $55,000 later, we're finally done

This is the last of a five-part series about how the writer and her husband, Charlie, tackled a major overhaul of their home and the pitfalls they faced along the way. To read the first installment click here.

The workers are gone, the dumpster was picked up, and we are touching up the stain and paint. Now that things are finished, we are so glad that we put in the quality finishes and the extra touches we wanted. The total cost was around $55,000 -- twice as much as we had originally planned.

The investment is definitely worth it. Now we have new plumbing throughout the house, updated electrical, refinished floors, and a state-of-the-art kitchen -- all upgrades that are bound to boost the value of our home if we ever decide to sell.

When I walk in the bathroom in the morning, it is bright and cheery. I can see Lake Michigan from one of the three windows and the tile work is beautiful. The bubble massage bathtub is a big hit with the whole family and I love the body sprays in the shower. We replaced the two hot water heaters (one for each floor) with one 80 gallon tank. We never run out of water for bathing even when we are doing laundry or running the dishwasher.

Tom's Take: I wished you had asked me about the water heaters first. While replacing two water heaters with a single one might seem to make sense, you will be wasting lots of cold water waiting for the hot water to run between the water heater and the farthest bath. You'd have been better off keeping the two water heater locations, but switching both to tankless water heaters located nearer to each bath. They cost a bit more to install, but are very small and highly efficient.

We also worked out the issues with the electrical inspector. The custom touches we built into the new bathroom are what make it really special. We have beautiful lighting over the massage bathtub and can step out of the shower or tub to warm, dry towels. I put the electric towel rack on a timer so it switches on each morning and turns off after everyone is done bathing for the day.

Tom's Take: Good idea adding the timer to the towel heater. That was clearly a luxury item as it will be very expensive to run. Here's another good way to cut costs, think about adding an occupancy sensor to the light and fan controls. This handy gadget will bring on the lights and/or fan when you enter and then turn them off when you leave.

The rest of the house looks great, too. The wood floors that have been under carpeting for 25 years turned out beautifully. The workers pointed out the "Birds Eye" maple that was used in older homes. Now considered a rare wood, it is sprinkled both upstairs and down throughout the house. The kitchen looks like new. I'm not sure why we didn't get a refrigerator with a freezer at the bottom years ago. It is so much nicer not to have to bend down so much to access our groceries.

We are settling into our "new" house and are glad we didn't move. This is a lot of space and luxury for not a lot of money.

Tom's Take: Congratulations on a job well done!

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro.

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He delivers home improvement tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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