Russell Holmes of ‘Renovation Impossible’ Reveals the Best Room for Your Remodeling Dollars

Russell J Homes of "Renovation Impossible"

HGTV

Even the most well-intentioned home renovations often crash and burn, but a new HGTV show helps them get moving again.

On “Renovation Impossible,” contractor Russell Holmes comes to the rescue of remodeling jobs that are faltering due to lack of money, time, or other issues. In the recent episode, “Next Get Reno,” Kelly and Barry Newell of Dallas are in limbo because they can’t agree on what to do.

“Kelly has big plans for every room. Barry, he’s all about budget and saving money,” says Holmes, who was an EMT and a mechanic before he became a general contractor. “I just need to figure out a way to make them both happy.”

And that’s hardly the only problem. When Holmes first tours the Newell house, he thinks it will take at least $50,000 to do everything necessary. But the Newells have just $35,000, so Holmes will have to get creative.

Last but not least, this couple’s first baby is arriving in less than two weeks, and they’d like the renovations to be done by then.

Here’s how Holmes pulls off this seemingly impossible renovation, with plenty of take-home lessons for us all.

Put your money in the kitchen

1960's kitchen before
1960s kitchen before

HGTV

After Holmes assesses the house and chats with the couple, he comes back with big plans.

“The kitchen is going to be the first thing, because it’s the biggest return for you guys as far as money goes,” he says. They’ll knock down a wall and expand into the formal dining room.

“This new, open layout will give us space to add an island, new countertops, and more useable cabinetry,” he explains. He estimates it will cost about $19,000.

“That sounds expensive,” says Barry.

“That sounds great,” says Kelly.

“It’s actually both of those, but it is the best place to put your money,” says Holmes. “Because we need to be able to have something that gives you guys an investment. And Barry, you said that you weren’t afraid to invest money in something that made a good return. This will be the best return.”

1960's kitchen before
1960s kitchen after

HGTV

Get projects done quickly with more people

Many hands make the work go faster.
Many hands make the work go faster.

HGTV

Since the baby’s arrival is imminent, Holmes tells the couple, “We need to have this whole project done in eight days.”

“That doesn’t seem feasible,” says Barry.

“That’s why we’re here,” says Holmes. He knows that bringing a lot of people at the same time and putting the homeowners themselves to work as well will help speed things up.

So a small army of workers troops in and the owners join in. There is no time for sitting around. It’s amazing how much can be done when a lot of people work together.

Check under the carpet for hardwood floors

Hidden wood floors
Hidden wood floors

HGTV

Holmes pulls up the pile carpeting that has been there as long as Barry can remember, as well as the carpet padding, and finds wood floors in almost perfect condition!

This is a revelation, because Barry really wanted wood floors throughout the house, and there was no way they could do that on a budget of $35,000.

“This is a huge savings,” says Holmes. “If we had to put down hardwood throughout this whole house, you’re looking at, like, $20,000. Being able to have this here, it’s going to save us a load of money.”

With Barry’s involvement in pulling up the old carpet and sanding the original floors, they’re able to restore the wood flooring through the whole house for an astonishing $2,000, for a total saving of $18,000.

Upcycle old wood as a rustic fireplace mantel

New living room with fresh fireplace
New living room with an updated fireplace

HGTV

In the family room there’s an old, red brick fireplace with built-in shelving on both sides. It really needs attention, and Holmes’ trusty designer, Paige Poupart, aka “the queen of upcycling,” knows just what to do.

She removes the dated shelving and saves the good wood. She then paints the red brick a gorgeous dark gray. To top it off, she builds a mantel with the wood from the old shelves.

Holmes says a new, rustic fireplace mantel would cost about $800. But by repurposing the wood and staining it, the mantel costs only $150. That’s a savings of $650!

A TV on a fireplace is OK if…

Fireplace with "invisible" TV
Fireplace with an “invisible” TV

HGTV

Speaking of fireplaces, Poupart is a little nervous that the couple will be of the school of thought that you shouldn’t hang a TV on the fireplace. A fair number of people think that way.

“I know some people dislike having TVs over the fireplace, and they don’t want that to be the focal point,” she says. “But the color of the fireplace just makes the TV kind of disappear. When it’s off, you can’t even tell that it’s there.”

Once all renovations are done, Kelly and Barry are elated with the results.

“It’s made that transition from old-school brown 1960s to a very modern house, and great for a new home,” says Barry. “This doesn’t even feel like the same house!”

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