Doing a home rehab is generally more intense than renovating, updating, or fixing the place up. Your goal during a home rehab is really about moving from an unlivable space to a livable space.

Big Labor, Little Money

Depending on why the property came to you, the first step is probably getting garbage hauled away. If the house is in a city, you’ll want to rent a dumpster. However, it’s a good idea to bag up all the trash and be ready to load the dumpster before it gets delivered. Unless the property is far outside the city, you may end up paying to dump a lot of the trash from your property.

In addition to bagging up the trash, move any abandoned furniture to the door closest to the dumpster site. Don’t set things outside unless you know someone is coming to get it. Once you’re ready for the dumpster, secure it properly. Change the locks, screw windows closed, and barricade doors to prevent anyone from busting in and stealing anything of value left in the house.

Strip the Place

Once the furniture and garbage are all in the dumpster, cut and roll up any flooring you plan to replace. While old carpet does work as masking while you paint the walls, it can also house bugs and stink. Roll it up and get rid of it. Save an old shower curtain for masking near the wall.
You may find that the floors underneath are salvageable, but make sure to clean them thoroughly first. The first step in fixing up a house is to detox it no matter how badly it’s been used.

Detox a Dirty House

If you can afford it, hire an exterminator to get rid of pests. Ensure they go under the house to look for rodents like possums and skunks, and make sure they go in the attic to look for raccoons and squirrels.

For those on limited funds, start by chasing out the pests. Raccoons hate ammonia, so rags soaked in it in your attic is a good start. If you’re there early in the morning, you may see a raccoon skulking away from a house after residents added ammonia to their home. Now that they’re out, you’ll need to

  • find and seal their access points
  • remove their nesting materials from the attic
  • seal any wood they marked
  • replace insulation

Raccoons may be cute, but they’re terrible roommates and filthy once they’re settled in. They also bring fleas, so try not to bring in your pets until you get all of their waste out of the attic.

For animals under the house, make your presence known. Put a radio under there and turn on a classic rock station to clear out the pests. No slam on classic rock, but it seems to be the most jarring to nocturnal animals, such as possums, which might make a home under your house.

Inside, keep an eye out for mice and bugs. Seal cracks and put down boric acid to kill roaches and larvae. Sprinkle it and leave it until it’s time to replace the flooring or mop and salvage it. To get rid of mice, use something sweet on the mousetraps. For example, one fig cookie, cut into six small pieces, can be six mice’s last meal.

Once the carpet is out, fleas and bedbugs will likely die off over time, unless you carry them home. To avoid this, undress as soon as you step in the house, bag and wash your clothes, and shower. If you can, leave your shoes outside for a couple of hours so pests will go; if your feet aren’t in them, there’s nothing to feed on. The easiest way to start a home refurbishing project is to make sure you’re all alone in the space.

Start Your Home Renovations

If you’re planning to live in the space, don’t worry about significant tear-outs and reconstructions just yet, unless you know what you want and have the budget for it. Some of the best home rehab ideas don’t come to you until you’ve lived in the place.

Once the carpet is out, clean everything thoroughly from top to bottom. Paint the whole place from ceilings to trim. To clean up a dirty plank or unsalvageable wood floors (not plywood) once the old carpet is up, get an old fashioned wringer mop and several heads. Put fans in the windows to keep air moving, and mop the floors with water. Mix 1/4 cup of bleach per one gallon of water and mop again. Let the floors dry, and go over them with water again. Now you can carpet and know the space is spotless.

Re-Use What You Can

Not all home renovations have to cost a fortune. For example, if the ceiling fans are working well but out of style, pull the blades down (bag the hardware) and spray paint the blades. Pull all the outlet covers and switch plates and wash them. Inspect all the windows for breaks or cracks, repair what needs repaired and live with them until you have the money to update.

Invest as You Go

Home refurbishing, flipping, rental stock additions, or as a home for you and your family can turn into a money pit if you try to put all the fixes into the first house you come to. Stick with the existing footprint and learn the process of fixing up a house. Every project should give you new skills and will likely be an excellent excuse to buy new tools. Remember, the best home rehab ideas will come from the house, not a TV show.