Wanna Be a Successful Rehabber? Follow This Recipe – Part 3

From Craig Fuhr, The Fix & Flip Artiste …

Well hello there my rehabbing friends! Thanks for tuning into the third installment of my tried-and-true rehabbing recipe for success. Remember, just like making a perfect pot of spaghetti sauce, rehabbing a house requires a precise recipe of steps that you’ve gotta follow.

If you’re coming in late to this series – no worries, you can catch up by checking out PART 1 and PART 2. Regardless of whether you’re a new rehabber, or even a grizzled veteran, I know you’ll find many tasty tidbits in part 1 and part 2 of this series so be sure to check those out before diving back in below.

In part 2, we left off with the completion of Windows & Insulation…

The Exciting Part

From here on, your project will really take shape. This is where the house will go from something that looks like a skeleton to something that looks like a home.

You’re essentially at the ½-way mark of the project. But beware… if you don’t carefully manage your contractors during this second half of the project, getting to the finish line will take three times as long as it took to get to the ½ way mark!

Step 6: Drywall

Following your insulation inspection (yes, you need an inspection for that as well!), you’re ready for drywall.

Because you’ve already met with your drywall contractor at the completion of the framing step, your drywall contractor will have given you a detailed materials list. You also will have shopped around for competitive quotes, then ordered and scheduled the delivery of all of your drywall materials.

These materials include:

  • Drywall
  • Screws
  • Corner Bead
  • Tape
  • Drywall Mud

Rehab Tip: When possible… buy 12’ sheets of drywall. Drywall crews are paid by “the sheet.” In Maryland, I generally pay “8 and 8.” That’s rehabber lingo for $8 dollars per sheet for hanging the drywall, and $8 per sheet for finishing the drywall.

Here’s the funny part…you can buy 8’ sheets or 12’ sheets of drywall – but no matter the size, you’re still paying “8 and 8!” So buy 12’ sheets when possible!

Most supply houses will deliver your sheetrock and materials for a small fee. Optimally, you’ll want the drywall lifted via a mechanical boom in to your house. If that’s not possible, just know you’ll have to hire a crew to carry all of the materials into the house. Home Depot will not do that for you. If you’re rehabbing a house with multiple levels – divide and stage the sheetrock into the amount needed for each floor. Your drywall contractor will tell you exactly how many sheets he’ll need for each floor.

Drywall is essentially two major steps: hanging and finishing.

It’s rare to find a crew that specializes in both steps, but very common to find hangers who will refer you to finishers – and vice versa. When you have your initial planning meeting at the framing stage, both contractors should be present…

Let the finishing guy know that he’s going to be the inspector of the hanging guy’s work. The hanging guy doesn’t get paid until the finisher says, “Yes… this guy did a good job, now I can do my job.” And because you’ve paid for all the materials, you should not pay these guys a dime for their labor until each is 100% complete.

Finishing drywall is truly an art. The best guys are artists – and there seems to be fewer and fewer really good finishers. Finishing drywall is a 3-step process…

First, they’ll “tape and block” the drywall. This is the first coat of mud where the drywall joints and corners are covered. The next coat is the skim coat. Wider and thinner than the tape coat… this is where the artistry really comes in. When done properly, each joint will be beautifully tapered so when covered with paint – the joint is completely unrecognizable. A good skimmer will be left with VERY little to do in the third stage, which is sanding. If he’s done a good job, he won’t have to add any more mud at this point, and he’ll spend very little time lightly sanding his previous work.

Based on all you’ve learned thus far – who do you think would be the best contractor to inspect the work of the finisher? Ask yourself – whose work goes over the finisher’s work?

If you guessed the painter, I’m sending you a virtual high five! Do not fully pay your finishing crew until the painter inspects the drywall finisher’s work and gives you the green light.

Adding a single coat of primer to the walls and ceilings is like shining a bright spotlight on the finished work, so don’t be surprised if your painter wishes to do so prior to giving his OK on the drywall finish.

STEP 7: Interior Trim

Opinions vary on the placement of this step in the process, with some contractors preferring to paint before installing trim. We’ve always done it this way so just stick with me.

At this stage, here’s what all gets installed:

  • Interior doors
  • Base Molding
  • Crown Molding
  • Window Casement

A good finish carpenter and his helper can install all the trim in an average size house in 1 to 2 days max. You can save money on this step by getting a detailed list of materials from your carpenter, and then have it delivered to the job site just before he starts his job. This would also be a good time to have your vanities and cabinets delivered as well.

Step 8: Paint
Do me a favor right now. Promise me that you’ll take the following advice…and that you WILL NOT stray. Seriously – I need you to commit this to your DNA.


For the ceilings and walls in every room, please… for the love of all creatures great and small… use flat paint.

Only trim gets semi-gloss: base molding, crown and chair molding and interior doors. Always use ceiling white for your ceilings, then 1 or possible 2 colors MAX for your walls.

Remember – neutral colors sell, but you don’t have to be boring. Pick up a design magazine, or log some time with Houzz.com for tips on color. Finally, a good painter will spend a full day prepping the house for paint. I cannot over-stress the importance of prepping. Areas requiring light sanding should be marked ahead of time.

Every joint and crack should be caulked or filled with wood filler. Every wall should be wiped down with a lightly damp cloth, and every wood surface should be completely cleaned of drywall dust. This is so important for a professional finish.

Rehab Tip: Painting contractors are a dime a dozen. Seriously, you’ll find some really rough looking dudes out there who are painters. Really good painters can cost up to 10 times more than an average painter. I never go with the cheapest guy, nor the most expensive…

In areas west of the Mississippi and especially in the Southwest, you can expect to pay $1 - $1.50 per square foot (materials and labor) for a decent paint crew. In big cities on the East Coast, I struggle to get my crews in at $2 - $2.50 per square foot. If you have a Pro Contractor account with Home Depot, you will accrue points toward heavy discounts on paint. At the Gold level of discounts, you’ll save up to 25%!

What comes next? Well my Eager Beavers, I’ll answer that question for you in the next and final installment as I wrap up this series of posts. I hope you’re getting a lot of great tips from this awesome series.

Do you have any questions at this point? If so, don’t be shy. I’d love to hear from you! Add your questions and comments below and I’ll personally answer each.


P.S. Need a mentor?

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