Reality Meets Reality TV

There is no bigger fan of home improvement reality TV than myself. I am a self diagnosed HGTV addict and Mike Holmes is my personal Superman. That being said, the one thing that is by necessity missing from all of the home improvement TV shows are the endless delays and ballooning budgets. If there is one thing that I have learned over my many renovations it is that planning is crucial and nothing goes to plan.

My most recent case in point. I had to replace the hot water heater in my house. No problem, I got this! So, after determining that the 23 year old hot water heater was not really worth fixing. Simple trip to Menards and I would be back in hot water in an hour or two.

I had not paid much attention to the hot water heater. It had been working and well, out of sight out of mind. I began looking the water heater over and it looked pretty good. No leaks but no hot water. The flue however was rotten. It was rotted up to the joint with the furnace. It was rotted up through the wall and all the way up to the roof. This turned out to be a rather large problem.

Replacing the flue with the correct double wall pipe would cost over $750 plus the cost of the water heater. So, I explored the possibility of converting over to a direct vent water heater. Schedule 30 PVC is a lot less than double wall stainless.

Direct vent hot water heaters are more expensive but not enough to cover the cost of replacing the flue. So, direct vent is the way I was going.  That required significant basement work but not too bad.

Next problem was that the direct vent hot water heater wanted 3/4 inch water lines to and from the new hot water heater. I had 1/2 plumbing throughout the house. My 3/4 inch supply line went to 1/2 inch as soon as it entered the house.

This was going to require significant re-plumbing to address. I wanted to replace the plumbing shortly after I moved in but never seemed to find the time to. It looks like that time was now. PEX to the rescue!

I re-plumbed about 95% of the house with PEX and upgraded to 3/4 inch lines for everything but the branch lines. After the plumbing and vents came the electrical. The direct vent unit needed an outlet which was nowhere close to the hot water heater.

So, after all was said and done I spent about $1,500 and 4 weeks without hot water. The moral of the story is that remodel projects cost more and take longer than you expect. When you are trying to flip houses those realities can be the difference between making money and taking a loss.

Which leads to the most important lesson in flipping houses. You determine ALL of your profit on the buy side. If you can't buy the property right you shouldn't buy it at all. Which is where an independent real estate professional can save you.