Rough Renovation Estimation Advice

We are considering picking up a little lake-front home, but it needs a LOT of work… likely why it is actually a reasonable price. But the problem is that we have very little idea the cost of renovating a home. We are going to have a contractor (one recommended by a friend) that specializes in flipping houses come take a look, but I thought I would ask the general community for some rough estimates on the work we intend to do. The house is 800 sqft. upstairs, 2 bedroom, 1 bath. It has a 400 sqft semi-finished, exposed on the water side basement.

This is all assuming that the house passes inspection and doesn’t reveal foundation or other structural issues. From the outside in here are the things that we will need done just to move in…

  1. Currently there is a raised, level driveway, and a walkway that is very steep to the house. We want to take out the cinder block wall that is holding up the driveway and extend the driveway at a slope towards the house, put a 90° bend on it and bring it in flat next to the house.

  2. Kitchen needs a complete remodel - cabinets, appliances, the works - medium-to-high end appliances.

  3. Bathroom needs complete remodel - Bathtub taken out and replaced by shower stall, new toilet and vanity, and probably a little storage closet where part of the bathtub used to be. (I estimate that the bathroom is about 7’ x 6’).

  4. We would want to finish the basement and make it usable space, likely my office/game room and probably storage as well. This will involve drywall, flooring, building an enclosure for the water-heater, ensuring electrical is adequate, installing lighting and ideally building in storage/shelves into the internal wall. Also, replacing the two dingy windows with larger ones, and/or installing additional windows to bring in more light. The ceiling in the basement is 6’.

The rest is desirable but not necessary to move in.

  1. Depending on the inspection, the deck is probably ok, but I think we would like to replace it

  2. We are seriously considering replacing the roof and raising it up. Right now the inside ceiling height is I think just 7’. Jan can touch the ceiling. We would want to vault it or lift on on the water side of the house.

  3. We would like to replace the whole front of the house (onto the deck) with full-glass doors so we can open up the whole front on nice days, basically making the deck our dining room.

Sorry I don’t have more photos. All of these except the basement one are from the real estate listing. I took the basement photo on Saturday.

Anyway, I know that any estimates that anyone gives are to be taken with a grain of salt… but I want to know roughly so that if the contractor says its going to cost $30k to replace the deck I can tell if they are scamming me.

So, how about it? Any rough estimate advice to renovate this little lake monster?


I’d bet $80K before you get to your nice to have list. Driveway, kitchen, bath and basement build-out are all expensive puppies.


Almost everything can be fixed or modified with the right amount of money. The stuff to worry about depends on any state or local restrictions, covenants, homeowner association rules, watershed regulations. Ya know the things that will stop you from doing what you want. Is it on a septic system? Can that be replaced if needed?


It is on septic currently and can be put on sewer. We would want to do that, but I don’t think that would be feasible from a budget standpoint at this time with all of the other work. I can live with septic for a while. I can’t live with that kitchen though.

As for the other comments, the only aspect of what we are looking to do that I would expect to be restricted would possibly be the driveway extension… but you are right, and we will certainly look into it. I would expect that a contractor would be knowledgeable about such things hopefully.

The money is the real issue. I know it can all be done with money, I am just looking for roughly how much so that I don’t get shafted, and or scared off of the home if we really can afford it.

From personal experience with owning property with a lake, check and double check with EPA and DEP on existing septic and future sewer/water plans. I got burned pretty good when it came to septic and fresh water restrictions when dealing with a body of water that can be accessed by the public . Heck I owned the lake but because my overflow went into the public stream I was held liable for any water contamination.


Also check to see if the existing structure is in the flood plain and what insurance is or is not available and how much…


Each of those items is ballpark $10K. Conceivably less, probably more. Quite possibly much more. Plus doing construction next to a body of water. Plus whatever interesting things you find when you start opening it up. Oh, and if the ceiling in the basement is 6’, you will not be able to turn it into legally habitable space, mostly likely.

It sounds as if the place could be made livable for quite a bit less, but if you really want all those things (and can afford it) you probably might as well check for a good foundation, demolish the structure and build/prefab what you want.


Is this a second home/weekend place or your new permanent residence. It sounds like your new permanent residence, but if it is not some of your remodel priorities may not be as important as you think. My parents bought a cabin on a lake when I was fourteen and I have some experience there. If it is your new permanent residence, than yeah, everything you said in your OP.

How long do you plan on owning the property? What you do for a house you’re going to flip versus one you’re going to own for decades is different.

I don’t know the laws in WA but in some states a transfer of ownership means bringing some things up to code. In other states you’re grandfathered. Just something to ask about.

Kitchen and bath remodel prices are very dependent on the quality of fixtures. To me one of the advantages of small kitchens and baths is that since there is less, you can spend more per square foot. Your contractor is basically figuring out the number of hours of labor and then adding on materials. So you pay the same in labor for $10/sq ft tile as $3/sq ft tile (though maybe a little more grouting labor if you pick out really tiny tiles.)

One way to verify prices is to obtain multiple quotes. There will be a range, but you’ll probably see a sweet spot and that is most likely your fair price. I have a friend who does contracting and he is obsessive about maintaining a good rating on Internet review sites (he’s usually booked a year out and is two time zones away from you.) I’d check your contractor out by googling him/her.

My final piece of advice is no matter how much homework you do, no matter how ironclad your agreement with the contractor and no matter how highly your contractor is recommended it will most likely be an unpleasant experience. I’m not saying don’t do it, because the other side is normally awesome, but the journey is not without its sufferings.


This will be our permanent residence, but not necessarily a forever home. We could live there for 2 years or 10, but even if we live there for 1, the renovations need to happen…

Thank you everyone for the advice. I hadn’t really considered the implications of living on a lake transferring into building restrictions and such, and that is really, really important, so if nothing else, I’m glad I asked for just that.

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One thing I forgot, find out if there is a lake owners association. Unlike a homeowners association which is mandatory, a lake owners association is just a group of people who live on or near the lake. If there is one they will know about any potential things coming down the pike like in 5 years all the septics will have to go. And the members will have recommendations on the best septic guy or similar, plus gossip. One thing about septic, is it a tank that has to be pumped when full or does it have a drain field? In WI if you have a drain field you still have to pump it every three years. It’s about a hundred dollars to pump my parent’s tank, but it’s good to know. They could be full of other good advice.

It needs a remodel, no doubt, but your decisions will be different.
– Style. Selling in a year or two means neutral with fixtures and appliances that will have a wide appeal. Long term ownership means you should personalize more since you have to live in it for a long time. Most of your capital gain after ten years is appreciation; after one year it is look of the remodel. You may regret a mosaic of the death star in the shower if you sell in a year, but it won’t matter in twenty because whatever you did the new owners will rip it out.
– Quality of Materials. Shiny and bright for a year or shiny and bright for decades.
– Construction techniques. This one may not come into play, it depends on what you do and what the contractor finds when they remove the sheet rock. But sometimes there is the cheap way and the long term way.


Yes… the force is strong with this idea!


I would regret a mosaic of the death star after 5 minutes :wink:


This is not the mosaic you’re looking for.


That family room area looks to me like an opportunity to use an island as separation between the kitchen, and open it up.


We would definitely tear down the separation and shift the stove and fridge to a wall. Maybe put in an island as well, but maybe not.

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I have seen remodels where they took out a half wall and put a large island in its place. Enough room for stools, and lots of storage inside.
Really opened the area, and connected the rooms. Having seen the before and after, if I were in the position to do it I wouldn’t hesitate.


This is precisely what we plan to do with our kitchen remodel next year. I can’t wait to say goodbye to my 1970’s kitchen, and exchange it for something more contemporary and more inviting!


The change is amazing. Neighbor did it and incorporated the sink, dishwasher and trash compactor. Rectangular about 4 feet wide by 10 feet long, with the narrow end into the kitchen. Cabinets underneath. Greatly increased the storage space in the kitchen!
Such a huge improvement in the floorplan it is stunning.


Yeah. We didn’t exactly have a half wall, rather cabinets in the middle of the space, free standing and free-hanging. Came up a couple weeks before we moved in and made those go away. Made a huge difference.

(There was also a father-in-law apartment with a separate kitchen, so doing the main kitchen renovation was much, much less unpleasant.)


Just a quick update… our offer was accepted! We are buying a house on a lake! This should be fun!