Handling the Unexpected
As with all major remodeling projects, there were setbacks—such as the morning I woke up to the sound of rushing water. Atlanta's late-winter rain was filling up the bare foundation walls of the new addition-to-be—and then funneling all this water into my dirt basement. The result was like a swimming pool. I shot out of bed and rushed to a 24-hour home-improvement center for reinforcements. I rigged a system of tarps and got a pump running, but it was a nightmare.

Still, these problems pale next to the satisfaction of seeing my house come together. I'll probably keep tweaking it, but the biggest projects are done. As for my original plan, don't look for a "For Sale" sign in front of my house anytime soon. I'm enjoying the fruits of my labor too much to move.

Project Particulars

Remodeling Cost: About $75,000.
Time Frame: About two years.
Where I Saved: Using salvaged materials.
Where I Splurged: On the fixtures and radiant floor heating in the bathroom.
What I'd Do Differently: Nothing really because I lived in the house for a while, took time to imagine the house's potential, and let my plans evolve slowly.
Biggest Challenge: Building during the rainy season and saving trees on the property line from being cleared for a privacy fence.
How I Solved It: I spent days pumping water out of the basement. And to save the trees, my neighbor and I got together and zigzagged a fence around them.
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