Operation: Certificate of Occupancy (and I have $21,000 to make it happen)

When our building inspector was out a few weeks ago, one of the main questions Ryan had for her was what EXACTLY is required to receive a certificate of Occupancy (aka – the city approves that our home is now safe to live in- yay!). Believe it or not, you can actually be fined and eventually arrested for living in your own home without a certificate of occupancy. Crazy, right? Thankfully our whole house does not have to be pretty or finished to move in. Here are the basics for us to get our certificate and move in:

  • A finished and functioning bathroom with sink, toilet and bath/shower.
  • All walls must be finished (dry wall, paneling, etc).
  • All electrical outlets, junction boxes and receptacles must be covered.
  • All water areas (bathrooms and kitchen) must have water proof flooring.
  • There must be a food prep space.
  • There must be one bedroom.
  • Handrail on the stairs
  • Handrail on the front steps to the porch
  • Dead bolts on all exterior doors
  • Attic has to be insulated.
  • Stair treads must be replaced

That’s the bulk of what is required by the City of Huntsville.

We have a few other things on our own list. We want to have the hardwood flooring downstairs sanded & refinished, have the house cleaned and primed for paint, install window casing around first floor windows and doors, and finish the kitchen except for back splash. I think the house will still feel dirty even after we clean and a nice coat of white primer will make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. No MORE RAINBOWS!


Now here is the real kicker. We have $21,000 left in our construction loan to make it all happen. Yep. You read that. $21,000! Did you know the average major kitchen remodel (new flooring, cabinets, counter tops, appliances, and back splash) in 2012 cost close to $50,000. Um, yeah, not happening. We are going to finish a kitchen, a bathroom, living room, dining room and bedroom for $21,000.


Is it even possible? Yes. At least my spread sheet says it is. My spread sheet also says I have a lot of work to do! Ha. I promise to share the details as we go. Maybe you will be inspired to take on a budget friendly renovation of your own.

Without further ado, meet our budget plan.

Refinish hardwood
Living room fireplace
Drywall & labor
Molding & trim
Vinyl Work (just wrote that check!)
Plumbing labor
Plumbing Fixtures
Tile & Flooring
Counter tops
Grant Toal

This should be fun. Snug is the nicest word I have for it. Stay tuned! Hopefully we can make this work! Do you guys find it as absurd as I do that you can be ARRESTED for living in your own home? Do you guys have any experience in snug budgets? I would love any advice people have to give! Is there anything else we should add to our pre-move in list? Am I missing something completely obvious (and don’t say finish the whole house!)?



14 thoughts on “Operation: Certificate of Occupancy (and I have $21,000 to make it happen)

  1. I entered a drawing at the Home and Remodeling Show Saturday for a toilet. If I win it, it is yours!! Your dad thought I was crazy initially until I explained. 🙂

  2. You guys can TOTALLY do this! I like your budget. I did my custom cabinets for $6,000 so you’re right on the money. I imagine you can have a gorgeous kitchen for around $12,000. That leaves a lot for the rest. With all your knowledge and do-it-yourself skills… this should be a breeze! And it looks like your mom may have already scored you a toilet. WOO HOO!

  3. To date I have not received notice as winner of the toilet. Fingers crossed!! 🙂 YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY DO THIS WITHIN BUDGET!! Look at it as a competition and I know you will not let that budget beat you!!

  4. Pingback: Operation: Certificate of Occupancy, Bathroom Edition | younganddomestic

  5. This is SO HELPFUL!!!!
    We are looking at getting a renovation loan but the bank has mentioned that the checks will be written out to both us and a contractor of our choosing. I’m worried that means that we won’t be able to purchase our own materials/do some small DIY projects with that money.
    Do you have any tips or suggestions on this?!

    • First, I would shop around and meet with multiple banks! I wish we had shopped more before pulling the trigger. Second, clarify about being reimbursed for small purchases. We were able to make purchases and turn in the receipt to be reimbursed with no issue. Best of luck to you!

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