I’ve been aggressively contributing to my passive income portfolio in the last year. It’s become more than a hobby. I love doing it, and I love reading other people’s stories. Every time I get inspired, I make another contribution and increase my dividend payments a little more.
…And Then I Found a Crack in My Shower Floor
My plastic shower floor was feeling a little soft lately, and I finally noticed a small crack about an inch long. There was more weakness around the drain that would eventually turn into a full-blown crack as well. I did a little research and a visit to Home Depot (one of my dividend payers), but every source of information told me there’s not much that can be done about a crack in a plastic shower floor. If it was fiberglass, it would be repairable, but that is not what I had.
I immediately got the sinking feeling that all homeowners get when they get a big surprise bill. I expected it to be a roof or a furnace, but it came in the form of a need for a shower tear-out and rebuild.
I honestly believed my bathroom was the weak point of my house. At the purchase, I didn’t notice the cheap laminated floor, or the crooked vanity, or the unfinished dry wall between the mirror and the wall corner. I didn’t notice how small the shower actually was, or how cheaply done it was.
After a lot of back and forth, I decided to pull the trigger and take this opportunity to do a full bathroom remodel.
Denver is growing quickly. I recently called three companies to get a tree trimmed. Only one responded, and they had a 4-month backlog before they could get to me. I was prepared for a similar experience with bathroom contractors. It didn’t help that my shower cracked between Christmas and New Years, when everyone was off for the holidays.
I had no idea where to start. I found some tile stores and visited them in person. I didn’t get much help – I don’t think the store workers were used to dealing with someone this early in the process.
Next, I made a list of contractors. I found them on Google, but also reached out to some realtors I know, and they referred me to a few. I called about 10 contractors. Three responded. Two agreed to come give me a quote. Based on some internet searches, I saw bathroom remodel prices ranging around $6,000-$10,000. I knew mine would be higher because I’d want to change some plumbing. The toilet needed to be moved to create more space for the shower. Luckily, I have a crawlspace with all my plumbing open, so moving plumbing was not as bad as it could have been.
The first quote came in at $9,500, plus I would have to buy the tile, vanity, and a few other odds and ends (another $2,000). This was in range with my expectations. The second quote was $25,000. I thought I told them my price range right off the bat, so this surprised me. Their quote wasn’t itemized, so I couldn’t see where there was room to cut costs. They did drop their quote to $20,000 under the condition that I would handle demolition, painting, and purchase of materials. I agreed to go with the first company, and they had time available immediately.
DIY Versus Hiring a Contractor
I wanted to keep costs low, but this project was beyond my scope of abilities. I didn’t want to mess something up worse than it already was, and I also didn’t want a poor-quality finished product. Doing this myself could take months, and I wanted an operational bathroom sooner than that. Hiring a contractor saved me a lot of mistakes, and I got some great advice on current bathroom trends.
I was still able to save money in a few areas. I will use my same toilet instead of purchasing a new one. My new light fixture will use energy-efficient LED bulbs. I believe my contractor is very fair in his prices, and love the work he has done so far.
I purchased materials myself, and had them ready for the contractor. I bought tile for $1.69/square foot instead of the $10/square foot tile at the pricier stores. I got a vanity with good reviews for $700 instead of a $2,000 designer vanity. None of my materials came with a contractor mark-up this way, and I had more control over the design.
You Never Need an Emergency Fund… Until You Need It
I didn’t want to touch my dividend portfolio. I avoided a home equity loan due to hefty annual fees and three-year minimum term (with penalty for early loan closure). Luckily, I have been carrying a decent emergency fund that will cover the costs of the remodel in cash. I’m glad, but now I have to replenish the emergency fund instead of contributing to my dividend portfolio at the rate I have been lately.
Hopefully, the bathroom remodel will make the house more attractive if/when I decide to sell. It will improve my quality of life, being a room I use multiple times every day. I have to not worry so much about my savings rate and do things that will enrich my life. The tile is laid, grout is drying, and things are coming together. It might not be an investment that pays me dividends, but it is an investment to ease my mind. I’ll no longer worry about the shower floor failing every time I use it!