Wednesday, August 19, 2015

goodbye little house.

We sold our first-home-turned-rental in mid-May. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to that little house that we brought three of my four boys home to for the first time. We finally finished all the projects we'd been meaning to do the whole time we lived there...and rented it. 

Since Kev works full time, and I work part time, the majority of the small projects that needed to be done fell to me. I asked a lot of questions and called my poor husband at work multiple times, but I got it done! Usually he does all the "heavy lifting" so to speak with power tools and such, but I got familiar with the chop saw and nail gun during this venture.

I'll spare you all the details, but I must share some of the photos from the listing. Here's a post from a while ago about the open shelving with a few pictures of what the kitchen looked like when we moved in.

We did a lot work on this little house, and made a lot of memories over 8 years...and when it was all done, it looked like a place I would like to live. Eli said he wanted to move into the house because it was clean, finished and "so big" (compared to our current 5,000 square feet?!). I guess that's what happens when your kids live in the middle of a messy renovation their whole lives.  I understood what he meant though. I'm looking forward to being finished with the major aspects of remodeling...though I love me a good fixer-upper!

Monday, October 13, 2014

my day off {or} why you shoudn't be a landlord

I never aspired to be a landlord.  I never thought I would have the opportunity.  When we were talking about buying our second home, my main concern was that we couldn't buy it until we sold our first.  I was under the impression that we don't make enough money to "own" two homes.  I still hold to that, but the bank apparently thought differently, so we ended up with a new home and made our old home a rental.  Our intent was definitely to sell it, but it needs some everything else in our lives.

We've had terrific renters, but the house is 100 years old and tends to have old house problems on a regular basis, as well as the usual wear and tear.  Our last renters had their own washer and dryer they wanted to keep in the home, and they just moved it out this weekend to their new home.  We had the old washer and dryer in our basement and needed to get it back to the rental, but the washer had developed a leak that needed to be fixed. There was also a light fixture in the rental that needed to be replaced, and the shower drain wasn't working.  My husband, who is the handy one, was working one of his two jobs (three if you count pastoring a church), just got over double pneumonia and has no open weekends in sight.

So, I called a holiday from home school and decided to tackle stuff on my own this morning and this is how it went down {roughly}:

9:00 After dropping off my 1st grader and his classmate at their school 15 minutes away, I come back to town and have coffee with a friend.

10:45 Set off to do landlord stuff. I stop at an appliance repair and sales shop to see if they have any washers that fit the bill, and they say to "just bring the washer in" and they will give me a diagnosis and see whether or not it's worth salvaging. "Just bring it in" by myself...well that would have to wait.

11:15  Place a call to my hubby at work and apprise him of the situation. We both concur that having a rental sucks.

11:30 Grab lunch for my remaining boys and drop off  at kindergartener.

11:45. As I'm leaving, I get a text from my friend who also happened to be my previous renter and the mother of my current renter. I's complicated.  She was wondering about the shower drain at the rental,  and if I wanted to use the U-Haul she had rented to move to get the washer and dryer from my basement to the rental.

11:50 Call my friend to explain that the washer needs be dropped off at the appliance shop.  Only catch?  The U-Haul has to be back by 1:00.  I tell her I have to grab a bottle of Drano and a clog removal stick and I'd meet her at my house in 30 minutes.

12:30-1:00 With clog removal stick and Drano acquired, we assemble at my house, at which time my awesome neighbor asks if we need help, and the four of us load the washer and dryer into the U-Haul and head to the appliance store.

1:10 Officially late on the U-Hual, we drop the washer at the appliance store and beat feet over to the rental, drop off the dryer and send the U-Haul on it's merry way.

1:15 Hook the dryer up.  It's broken. SERIOUSLY????

1:20 I set to work on the drain, but not before I'm distracted by the heater in the bathroom which has been missing it's cover for Lord only knows how long.  I get it put back together and realize I have to stop stalling and try to get this drain sorted out...

1:30 I place a second call to hubby at work to get the play by play on how I should proceed...even though I pretty much already know...still stalling.

1:32 Apply rubber gloves. Use clog removal stick. No results.

1:35 Pour Drano in tub.  No Results.

1:37 Try clog removal stick again. No Results.  Try again. Clog removal stick breaks off in drain.

1:40 Discover hole in gloves where Drano has seeped in and is now burning my fingers off. Strip gloves off, throw in trash with broken clog removal stick. Cry and swear a little and run to kitchen to wash hands.

1:43 Find plunger and go all crazy plumber on drain.  IT WORKS!!!! YESSSSS!!!!

1:45 Turn on hot water and fill bathroom with steam...Wait, what's that sound?  Oh, my alarm reminding me to pick up my kids from school! (at this point I forget that it's early release Monday for my kindergartener) Is it almost 3 already? Dang! I didn't get the light fixed!

1:50 Place a call to renter to let him know the dryer's broken and that he shouldn't use the shower until I come back and retrieve the broken clog remover stick part...oh and I left the hot water running a bit to clear the drain.

1:55 Place third call to hubby.  Tell him about the dryer and that I got the drain unclogged. He's totally impressed.

2:00 (I still think it's 3:00, mind you) I pick up Noah from Kindergarten and just happen to overhear another parent mention that it's early release Monday.  I realize I really have a whole hour and I can now go fix the light fixture!

2:15 After stopping at my house to get some drywall {for another fix I think I might be able to do}, and needle nosed pliers to remove the broken clog removal stick from the drain, I go back to the rental, retrive the broken clog removal stick and head upstairs to fix the light fixture.

2:20 Measure and cut out drywall patch to patch hole in ceiling. I decide I'm in over my head with that project. So my hubby will install...later.

2:20 Place fourth call to hubby and get a crash course in wiring a light fixture.  Realize I'm missing  several wire connection caps.

2:25 Run back to house (5 blocks away) to get caps.

2:30 Back at rental, turn off main power and try to follow husband's instructions. 

2:40 MY ARMS ARE KILLING ME!!! Realize drywall screws I brought are too short. Swear a little and go back home for longer screws.

2:50 FINALLY get the fixture mounted...but break the glass light shade in the process.  More crying and swearing.

3:00 Clean up glass shards.  Place a call to renter to apprise him of the situation and that he needs to vacuum before he walks around barefoot and that all his alarms are going to be screwy because I turned off his power.

3:05 Remember to turn power back on!  YAY!!!

3:10-3-30 Go back out to pick up my 1st grader and his classmate 15 minutes out of town.  On the way back in appliance repair guy calls.  The washer is totaled.  I tell him it to keep it and that it makes sense because my dryer is totaled too.  He says he wants my dryer for parts and will come pick it up whenever.  I tell him I will meet him at the rental in 20 minutes.

3:40 Drop off classmate at home and head to rental.

3:45 Meet appliance guy at rental. Help him load up dryer.  Tell him to let me know if he gets a cheap washer and dryer set in the next few days. Head home.

3:50 Get call from appliance guy.  He has a set for $200 that will be ready tomorrow. THERE IS A GOD!!!!

4:00 Get kids out of the car that they have been in for many hours watching movie after movie as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off.

4:05 What's for dinner?  I should blog this, cause you can't make this stuff up!

4:15 Start on dinner and sit down to blog my adventure before I forget what happened :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

kitchen dreaming

Our kitchen demo is, for the most part, complete. So now we're moving on to the putting it back together, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time.  We've never undertaken a remodel this big, and we're planning on doing most of the work ourselves so I know there will be a steep learning curve.  On the bright side, we don't have a time constraint-we've been working on this demo for two and a half years, for crying out loud.  But we also have a limited amount of money, which always makes things interesting.  One of my favorite bloggers The Nester talks about lovely limitations, things that seem like they limit us when, in fact, they cause us to be more creative.  It's sort of like the old adage "necessity is the mother of invention" {or creativity}.

So, here's the blank slate...
I have some "non-negotiables" which are actually negotiable under certain circumstances, which I hope will not occur.

I REALLY want a gas range. With a built in griddle.  It's really hard to find one we can afford, but I found this one and only have to convince my husband that I really do NEED it.

Gosh.  Isn't it gorgeous? And of course it needs a hood.

Add caption

My plan is to install a the gas range right about the center of the wall above.  The kitchen layout will look something like this image, original found here.

We also plan to install an island between the kitchen and the dining room offset towards the exterior wall, which will end up looking exactly something like this amazingness...

I really love the open feel of this wide island, with those awesome stools to pull up and chat with whoever is cooking on that gorgeous range, or washing dishes in that amazing sink.

Speaking of sinks...look at this beauty from IKEA...that I could actually buy without selling one of my kidneys.

And I think this Kraus faucet is the perfect complement for the sink.

 Together, they would look something like The Nester's kitchen sink.  Can't go wrong there...

Image via The Nester
I honestly have no idea what to do for countertops. The white countertops in The Nester's island are lovely, I'm just not too sure about all white everything. I want a variety of textures and colors in my kitchen.  I DO have a thing for concrete, but I don't know if it's too industrial for our very traditional home. But, I mean, how could you go wrong with this...

Image found here.

I also love butcher block countertops, but I just don't know how well they hold up under the kind of abuse we put our counters through. But they really do lend such warmth and patina to a kitchen.

Image found here.

We really want to put in about 6-8 recessed lights throughout the kitchen ceiling to ensure our kitchen has great lighting, which this almost 100 year old house is sorely lacking.  I want to put a few pendant lights over the sink/island.  These are a few of my favorites at the moment.

Ballard Designs

As far as cabinets go, I am pretty much sold on IKEA's Adel in off white, with open shelving surrounding the range hood.

I am kind of leaning toward some rustic-ness with my open shelving. 

Image found here.
Image found here.
IKEA shelving

Image found here.
Image found here.
We also need to do some creative woodwork to enclose the big drain pipe in the middle of the kitchen.  It will be the corner of the island, and we plan on making some sort of enclosure to make it look like a built in.  I really like the rustic old beam look

Image found here.
But think we'll end up with something more traditional, possibly with some decorative molding, or maybe just a plain column.

Well, my brain hurts from all this imagining, so I'm going to continue this post later.

By the way, all these images and many more can be found on my Pinterest kitchen inspiration pinboard.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

kitchen demo

We've been planning on renovating our kitchen since we moved in two and a half years ago. It was the only thing about our new {old} house that I really, truly hated.  We set up a very functional "kitchenette" in the laundry room, which we are still using.

One of the first things we (Kevin) did after moving in was tear into the kitchen.  I had some trepidation about ripping the whole thing clean out right away, but the fact that we had two major plumbing leaks in the kitchen within the first few days of turning the water on really helped his case for demolition.  The first thing he did was take down the wall between the dining room and the kitchen.  In the process we took out the lowered ceiling that had been installed in the kitchen, which raised the ceiling about a foot and a half. We discovered several drain and heating pipes that could not be rerouted, but we were happy we were able to open it up as much as we did.  These pictures were taken a few weeks apart from about the same angle, looking into the dining room from the kitchen.

A few weeks later, I came home from work and found that Kevin had torn out the wall between the foyer and the kitchen.  I wasn't too sure about this either (can you tell which one of us is the cautions one?) but he was right...again.  With two walls gone and the ceiling raised, the kitchen was actually starting to feel open!

The other major demo we did in the kitchen was the staircase to the outside and basement. There was already one staircase to the basement on the opposite side of the kitchen (right next to the new foyer entrance). The staircase was behind a badly placed heater element and was camouflaged by a set of faux cabinets which had been decorated with artificial flowers.  We figured we could add some valuable square footage to our small kitchen by covering the staircase and moving the heater to somewhere other than the middle of the floor.  The staircase was split, with the external door halfway down.  Kevin ripped out the faux cabinets, moved the heater and covered the staircase.  Then he installed a set of french doors, with plans to build an external staircase from ground level up to the doors in the side yard.

Since then we have ripped out the old flooring, which was not salvageable and put down new sub-floor.  We knocked out the old plaster walls and did some drywalling, but we're now at the point where we need to hire some subcontractors for electrical, plumbing and HVAC for the gas range and hood we want to install.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

the new {old} house

About halfway through my pregnancy with Finn, we suddenly realized that our house was too small.  Well, actually, we'd known that for a long time, but we had made our small space work pretty well for us.  We had about 1,200 square feet with one real bedroom and a loft that was perfect for our three little boys.  We did a lot of renovating in that little house (much of which STILL isn't finished...) and we never felt like we could put it on the market without fixing some things we didn't have time to fix, so we just stayed there. We knew we needed more room, eventually, but it wasn't until we were preparing for the arrival of a fourth child that it really sank in.

So, one cold night towards the end of January, Kevin called me into his study (which was actually more like a glorified closet) points to his computer screen and says "I want this house."
I laughed and waddled my pregnant self over to see what he was talking about.
"There's a fireplace in the master bedroom.  I want this house." he said again.

You'd think after 10+ years of marriage, moments like this wouldn't surprise me, but they still do.
"I didn't know we were in the market for a house" I said jokingly as I took a closer look.  The house was nice, built in 1920 and in a nearby neighborhood that we always admired as we strolled by on evening walks.  And it was HUGE. 5,200 square feet to be exact.  It had almost all of our non-negotiables: a garage and shed for Kevin, old house character for me, a big yard for the kids, fireplaces (3 to be exact), more than one bathroom (5, actually).  It even had some bonus things like a great big walk in closet and a huge master bedroom that you wouldn't expect in an old home.  And the price was very reasonable.
(All pictures are from the original MLS listing)
"I'm going to go look at it tomorrow" Kevin told me.

So he did, and then we all went to look at it a few days later when they had an open house.  And then we put an offer in on it that was immediately accepted. Voila!  Well, that was easy, right?


Everything was done on our end and on the seller's end, but now the bank had to appraise the house...which took FOUR months.  No joke.  We were sitting in packed boxes at our old house waiting and waiting and waiting.  We brought Finn home to a house full of boxes and we were STILL waiting.  My maternity leave ended and we were STILL WAITING. The bank ended up doing 3 separate appraisals and the day after the third one we finally got the go ahead to close.

Part of the problem was that the house had been used for many years as a daycare, and the back bonus room and basement bonus room below it were just were their adjoining bathrooms with two mini toilets and two mini sinks each.  That's right, folks, this house had a total of SEVEN toilets in it.  We went from SEVEN.

The rest of the house was fairly normal.  There was a nice sitting room/sunroom just off the main entrance...

Which led to this dining room with eight foot pocket doors and an AMAZING built in with original craftsman woodwork.

That little door on the right side of the dining room led into a strange passage which led into the (sad, dated, gloomy) kitchen.  I may or may not have had a panic attack one night thinking about this kitchen...
Do you see that brownish "trim" near the ceiling?  That was actually brown plexiglass with florescent lighting behind it.  And then there was this little railing on top of the cabinets at the far end of the room with fake grapevines sticking out of ancient floral foam...this is the stuff nightmares are made of, people.
Then there was this vast empty, purposeless room with more fluorescent lights.  It led into the daycare/bonus room on one side and the garage and living room on the other...
Here's the living room.  More beautiful woodwork, built-ins and a fireplace.  Also, notice the LOVELY fluorescent lighting.

This completed a big loop back to the front door, foyer, and the staircase leading to the second floor. That was when the carpet started...most of it TEAL.
Upstairs there were a total of four bedrooms...however the MLS listing only had pictures of three of them.
The Guest Room
The "Gym Room"
Guest Bath
And then there was the master bedroom. This was the PINKEST master bedroom you've ever seen. Pink wallpaper. Pink carpet. Pink tile. Pink rug. Pink blinds. Pink bedspread.  But, oh, look at that fireplace.
But the pink was quickly forgotten because it was outdone by the most hideous green wallpaper I've ever seen in the master bath.  And it was ON THE CEILING!  Also, the only washer and dryer in the house was located upstairs in the master bath.
BUT there was a walk in closet...a big one, and it was the size of our bedroom at our old house.

We saved all the money we could to start the many renovations we had in mind, and promptly had to spend it ALL on three fairly major plumbing leaks, two of which involved the only working showers, relocating the washer and dryer to the empty room off the kitchen and putting a full bath into the "daycare bathroom" on the main level so we would have a working shower/bathtub.  We also put in a privacy fence to close off the backyard so we could trap contain our littles, and painted the mauve-ish house exterior a light greenish gray.

The third plumbing leak was in the kitchen.  The sink had a leak that just POURED water onto the counter anytime the faucet was on and, judging from the damage to the cabinets and floors it had been there for a LONG time.  Kevin had to rip out everything down to the floor joists...and while he was at it he gutted the kitchen and knocked out two walls.  But that's a long story for another post.

We really didn't get to complete any of the fun renovations we had planned, and now, two years later, we are still making very slow progress on a lot of areas in our home.  But it's worth it to have so much room for our family and we really love our new (old) house.

I'll be posting before and afters of what we have done, and (hopefully) some new work-in-progress posts as well :)