Flooring Demo

Remember this glorious example of kitchen flooring?

into kitchen

Yep, it’s awful. Dirty, stained, peeling up around the edges, this terrible rip right in the entry from the living room that I unfortunately didn’t get a great photo of…could only have gotten worse if it smelled like cat urine. But now I’m talking about the laundry room, so back to the subject.

It had to go.

Kyle’s dad and my mom teamed up one day to get that process started, and they actually got pretty far in that one day. Underneath the vinyl you see in the top photo, we predictably found subfloor. Under the subfloor we found more vinyl.

This is after we pulled up that top layer of vinyl. You can see the subfloor and the second layer of vinyl.

This is after we pulled up that top layer of vinyl. You can see the subfloor and the second layer of vinyl.

That cut you see in the subfloor is a groove that Kyle’s dad made with the circular saw. The subfloor was nailed down directly on top of the bottom layer of vinyl, so the only way for us to pull it up was to get a crow bar or some such thing under the subfloor and yank.

Since that bottom layer of vinyl looked pretty old, and it occurred to one of us that the adhesive used to attach it to the floor might contain asbestos. What we should have done was take it to be tested. What we did instead was suit up properly with masks and gloves and such, keep it wet while we pulled it up in an effort to keep the dust down, and lay backer board straight over it.

Here’s our (probably faulty) thought process: there’s nothing we could have done about it, the adhesive was thoroughly stuck to the floor. We would have had to sand it off. Probably not the best idea when you’re talking about an airborne carcinogen. So we decided to seal it in. We plan on keeping this property for quite a long time, and (as evidenced by laying the backer board), we plan on tiling the floor, which will be a huge pain for anybody to pull up, ever. It’d be hard to get to that stuff ever again. So we’re choosing to not worry about it.

If that’s the wrong decision, I guess we’ll find out in fifty years when we get lung cancer.

My mom hard at work!

My mom hard at work!

We really did get down to the nitty gritty bottom after just a day and a half of pulling stuff up, then moved on to ripping up the bathroom floor because both surfaces are signed up for the same treatment: get ripped up, have backer board laid over them, and be tiled.

My daddy worked really hard over a couple of weekends to get most of the backer board down. He and mom tiled the floors and countertops of the last house we lived in before moving up to Seattle, so he had some experience in this area. In our book, one tiling job is good enough to make them experts!

In the bathroom, Daddy and Kyle decided to take out the toilet in order to backer/tile around that hole. Definitely the best idea…but the toilet is currently living in the backyard, so we’ve got to get that tile down fairly quickly!

Hopefully the rest of the backer board will be laid down really soon so we can get the tile down. It’s coming along!


Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

Jumping ahead in the kitchen story just a smidge (we’ll get you the whole story soon!) we got an initial quote for kitchen cabinets and countertops and everything, and all in all, it was simply too much for us.

It included the cost of a graphite kitchen sink.

Let’s talk about that sink for just a minute.

Honestly, I was going along with the idea of this sink for Kyle’s sake. The place we stayed for our one-year anniversary trip had a little kitchenette that had a graphite sink that Kyle really liked. I’d seen them before and am not really a huge fan and I didn’t think it’d be super appropriate for this particular house, but I thought I’d keep my mouth shut and we could just go with it because it wasn’t that huge of a deal.

Compromise, right? That’s one of the things marriage is all about. And he already thinks that I don’t take his opinions on aesthetics seriously. Which…is…kinda true, if you want to state the truth in a skewed kinda way. I care about his opinions very very much, and I do take them seriously! I really want him to enjoy living in our house and to look forward to coming home because it’s such a cozy, lovely place for us to carry out our lives. But, to be honest, (and he knows this, so I’m totally not throwing him under the bus here) his taste is pretty outdated. Circa early- to mid-nineties. (Goodness, you should have seen us trying to plan our wedding…that was interesting.) I mean, what else is to be expected really? The man has a truly brilliant business and logistics mind, and I’m SO thankful that he takes the lead on that stuff for us! However, not everyone can be brilliant at everything, and he’s not exactly Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier. Never really developed that artistic eye. So, when he does have an aesthetic idea or preference that doesn’t initially illicit some sort of artistic revolt from within the soul of the creative half of our marriage over here (hi!), I really try to go with it.

However…paying the $260 price we were quoted for that particular sink that he liked ended up turning it into a compromise that he was unwilling to make.

Hey, I tried.

We went by the RE Store again (where we got the legendary washer/dryer for the rental unit…just waiting till that’s all hooked up to share that story, because it’s EPIC and deserves proper photos), checked out what they had, and came home with a beautiful white cast iron sink that was just the size we needed, a garbage disposal to hook up, and a bunch of little plumbing fixtures for a grand total of: $65.

Yep. $65.

Just to recap real quick, that’s $195 less than just the sink as we were quoted. Who says I have expensive taste, now?!

And just check out this gorgeous thing:

kitchen sink in yard

Sorry for the weird angle. Okay, so it might not exactly be ideally showcased at the moment, but this puppy’s going to polish up nicely! Can’t wait to use it every day!

Kitchen Demo

I’m actually having a hard time with the title of this post…it should probably read “Sink Room Demo” or something along those lines, because this was not a kitchen.

Anyway, remember what it looked like before?

kitchen cabinets

After ripping out the floors and getting some other things into a worse state than they initially were, we finally decided that the time had come…the cabinets had to go.

So we went to work. Kyle on the cabinets, me on the Red Sox game. Priorities, man.

Ladies and gentlemen, my husband worked so hard. He first had to disconnect this weird junction box in the cabinet (yes, in the cabinet) and secure it with tape so that he didn’t get electrocuted. I, unfortunately for y’all, was too engrossed in the game to take photos of that part.

He then had to take out the uppers. Looked a little like this:

kitchen upper outApparently the cupboard innards were originally fire-truck-red.

In the midst of taking out the uppers, he removed the ancient fan that was in the cabinet directly above the sink, and found this:

kitchen fanHe’d already thrown it out the window by the time I got to it, so it was a little dismantled, but *that* my friends, is a bird’s nest. Sorry birdies.

Kyle then had to take all the tiles off of the backsplash and the countertops. I think this part was mid-game-2 of the World Series, so I don’t have any photos of that part either.

The next step (which he conquered the following day) was to dismantle the countertop boards. It was hard to watch him do because I couldn’t help him at all for fear of straining things that should be strained and it was difficult for him to get the leverage to do on his own. But he hulked it out and was ready to tear out the sink and the base cabinets.

And this, dear reader, is what it looked like when he got (mostly) done with it:

kitchen cabinets 5We ended up taking out the base that you see there, but decided to take the after picture at this point to make Kyle feel more accomplished  ; )  He’d done SO much work. We packed it all up, headed to the dump, and made their floor look like this (if you look really closely you can see that nasty old single-bowl, shallow, stainless sink down there too, underneath that left cabinet):

kitchen cabinets 6Little explanation as to why we didn’t save much of the material because I know our eco-friends are going to grill us:

1) The cabinets were custom built into the house, so they weren’t stand-alone pieces that we could pull out and reuse or sell.

2) They had years and years of paint on them, and testing in other parts of the house has indicated that it could very well be lead-based paint. Eco-friendly *that*, dear friends. If we didn’t need to deal with it, we weren’t going to.

3) This house is not huge! There aren’t tons of places we could add a bunch of extra cabinetry.

4) If we decided to try to sell it, who’s going to take that stuff? I mean seriously.

In the end, Kyle did such a great job and got so much done, I’m so proud of my man! Three cheers for husbands!

Let There Be Heat

Going into this project, we knew we had an oil furnace. We also knew that the oil tank was empty.

That posed a couple of interesting questions.

  • First of all, did the furnace even work? Since there was no oil in the tank, testing the furnace wouldn’t be as easy as it would have been otherwise.
  • Secondly, was there a hole in the tank and it all seeped out, or did the people who lived in the house before us just use up all the oil that was available to them and not pay to have the tank refilled?
  • Thirdly, what should we do about it?

Initially we thought we might just test the furnace by putting a small amount of oil in the tank. As we researched that possibility further, the problem with that popped up was that the amount of oil we’d have to put in just to test the furnace would cost us about $600. That’s one pricy test.

We have a good friend who works in heating and we asked if he’d come by to take a look at it. He suggested we put in a gas line and install a new gas furnace. That sounded expensive to us, but in finding out more about it, we learned that because all the homes around us ran on gas heat, the city would run a gas line to our place and install a meter for free.

Free sounded promising. And that would mean that I could get a gas stove. Guess what my vote was for.

When we relayed our findings to our friend, he said that it’d be super easy for him to find a slightly older model gas furnace that we could use, and that he would install it for cost.


So we called the city and had them come out to put in a gas line.

Our friend and his sons came to our place one day and took out the old oil furnace. The house was furnace-less for a weekend, and I don’t know what the deal was, but I swear the house was colder, in spite of the fact that the furnace that had been there wasn’t producing any heat. Seriously, I’d put money on it, it was ridiculous.

Early the next week, the guys came back and installed a like-new gas furnace and even did some fancy duct-molding work to make sure it was nice and snug in there. Kyle took his time to thoroughly clean out that whole closet area where the furnace is so that it would be possible for our renters to use it to store some things. We even talked about putting in a little access door on the other side.

Blessedly, the guys also pulled the gas line into the laundry closet so we could put a gas dryer in there. Hooray!

All of this, these guys did for cost. So incredibly generous of them, we’re so so thankful! And now, as of yesterday, our home has heat! Getting so close to being able to live there!

While the Cat’s Away…

…the guys will come in and refinish the living room floors.

Wait…no. Yeah, that’s totally how it goes.

Over Labor Day Kyle and I went to Chicago to see his parents. We had such a great time with them, eating, laughing, getting to see their faces when we told them we were having a baby (HYSTERICAL, I tell you!), and I got the chance to visit with several family members that I’d never met before, as well as Kyle’s piano teacher from when he was a kid, and an administrator from his college who became a mentor to him. Everyone was so sweet, we had a really great time.

And we made sure no time was wasted while we were gone! Kyle’s former roommate Aaron works as a flooring refinisher extraordinaire. Aaron came in and expertly told us that we had a lovely mix of white and red oak that would polish up nicely. His coworker helped us out by refinishing our floors over the weekend we were gone. Perfect!

Now, we had a couple of choices as far as the floors go.
1) After he sanded them down he could either stain them or just put on the finishing coat.
2) The finishing coat he used could be a water-based finish, or the legendary Swedish finish.

First and foremost, we loved the idea of the natural colors of the wood showing through, so we opted out of a stain.

Now for the pros and cons of the floor finishes:
Water-based: takes two coats, off-gasses in three days, looks lovely
Swedish: takes three coats, off-gasses in ninety (90. nine zero.) days, extremely durable, is banned in most states due to its toxicity

I’m pregnant and my husband’s afraid of chemicals. We went with the water-based. So having them done while we were gone was perfect because the finish could off-gas while we weren’t even in the state!

I still didn’t go in there for like a week.

Totally a first time mom. Just watch, with kid number four I’ll be so unconcerned about it.

This is so not kid number four. No baby brain damage here!

Just look how gorgeous these are.

living room floors 2

I love them! They’re completely covered with brown paper right now so that we don’t damage them in the process of getting other renovation stuff done, but we cannot wait to see them again!


Since no project can be complete without a couple twists and turns, we simply cannot leave them out here. And friends…this was quite the curveball.

One week after closing on our house, and four days before moving out of our rental condo, I woke up and took a pregnancy test, mostly so that it could tell me that I was definitively *not* pregnant and I could spare myself from being distracted by the highly unlikely possibility all day long while I was RIDICULOUSLY busy packing and such.

This is what I saw:

bfp 1

A quick glance at the instructions and my surprisingly quick recollection of that Eric Church song Two Pink Lines informed me that this was an…unexpected…result. But, knowing pretty much nothing about pregnancy tests and thinking it *could* be a false positive, I took another one. Made sure it was different brand, just to spice it up a bit.

bfp 2


Told my mom around lunch time when she came to help, told Kyle that night when we were at the house, told the rest of my family that night (even skyped an aunt and uncle, who gave wonderful, very appropriate reactions that I will be forever grateful to them for), and everyone else as soon as we saw them after that. (Yeah yeah yeah, you’re “supposed” to wait till the end of the first trimester. Here’s the thing: I’m VERY heart-on-my-sleeve, cannot hide anything, and am an absolutely miserable liar. I have no clue how mommies hide hyperactive emotions and bloating and all the very necessary naps for a full three months.) Everyone was so supportive and wonderful, we couldn’t have asked for anything better! We are so blessed!

I then spent three months sleeping, eating, and occasionally bursting into tears without warning or reason. Strictly to prep Kyle for having an infant, of course.

I’ve been so helpful with the house!

Okay, not so much. But I’ve been growing a baby just fine.

Home Ownership: Day 1

Welcome back! Thanks for sticking with us! This’ll be a short one, I promise  : )

Our house sat empty for at least eight months prior to us seeing it for the first time, which compounded the amount of attention it needed. We got the keys at 6pm on a Monday, and Tuesday I spent six hours in the yard trying to clean things up and make it look like someone might live there. Here’s a before and after of just a tree in the front yard and some serious blackberry picking I did in the backyard:

photo 3-6

Then my mom and brother stopped by and Ben helped me take off those unnecessary doors from the living room to the kitchen and the living room to the hallway. Brothers are so wonderful  : )

photo 2-6

After day one of home ownership, with a compost bin of yard waste completely full and the living room opened up with those doors gone, I felt so grown up and accomplished!

Basement Unit Tour: Before

Now that we’ve shown you the main floor, where we’ll be living, let’s check out the basement unit I mentioned way back when. This is the area we’ll be renting out while we live here. It’s the same square footage as the main floor (832) and it also has two bedrooms and one bathroom. So it’s a pretty decent size!

Please don’t mind the mess too much, I’d forgotten to take these before grabbing this project by the horns  🙂  I give you…the living room!

b living room

And the kitchen:

b kitchen

The bathroom…yes, the toilet has its own pedestal, and the fan isn’t really attached to the ceiling so much as just thinking about it:

b bathroom 1

b bathroom 3

One bedroom:

b bedroom 1

The other bedroom:

b bedroom 2

And the laundry closet (because we like to keep things exciting around here):

Now, I’m sure you’re seeing as clearly as we did some of the “rough around the edges” bits to this place, but for the most part it looked pretty good to us. We thought we’d clean a few things up, slap on a coat of paint, and call it good.


The week after we closed I spent about forty hours down there putting three layers of paint on the trim, two layers on the walls and ceiling, and instigating a spider genocide for which I am not remorseful.

And as it turns out, that nasty old musty smell that the unit originally had was thanks to the fact that whoever lived there before had clearly smoked. Inside. The bottoms of the cabinets, the bathroom fan, and the windows were all caked in a thick layer of tobacco goo. The smell has definitely improved since sealing in the walls with a good primer and paint and cleaning everything!

Can’t wait to post the after pictures!

House Tour: Before

Now for a quick tour of that lovely little thing we purchased. Please don’t get your panties in a wad about the quality of my pictures, I literally took them with my iPhone. Brilliant little invention that is. Welcome to our house!

See! I told you there was a house behind the bush! This is the front entrance. See those two sets of house numbers (the set to the right of the door and the set on the left support)? And how they don’t match? That’s totally my fave. Perfectly complemented by the absent porch light fixture. And the security door.

front door

The view of the living room when you walk in the front door. This is probably the best view we have of the shape the living room floors were in…see right before the doorway to the left, where it’s grey? These floors were so worn down.

living room 1

This is the opposite corner of the living room, to the right of the front door.

photo 3

The door that’s open goes to the hallway. Guess they weren’t really into flow in 1940? The door that’s closed is a good-sized closet, and the only one that’s not in a bedroom, so it’d better be ready to do some serious multi-tasking. Don’t you love the door handles that *don’t exist*?

hall door

And this is going into the kitchen, straight through from the front door. Check out that arch!! I absolutely fell in love with it. How ’bout that linoleum, eh? This is also a pretty good shot to show some of the torture the millwork has endured. Big paint chips out everywhere, and really really dirty.

into kitchen

This is the original existing bank of cabinets. Honestly, considering the shape that the rest of the house is in, and the fact that these cabinets older than my grandparents, they’re actually alright. The countertops and backsplash are fairly new, but there are some cabinet doors that are literally falling apart and the countertops are quite narrow (for one) and the uppers are really built too low to the countertops, making for some difficult workspace. They gotta go.

kitchen cabinets

This is the opposite side of the kitchen. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they  did this intentionally because they wanted to leave it flexible for future layout options, rather than just assuming that they’re lazy and didn’t really want a kitchen after all. Which is what I really think.

kitchen cavern

This is a bonus that came along with the house…a grotty wire storage rack behind the door to the kitchen. The resorts people go to when they don’t have kitchen cabinets. And yes I did say, “the door to the kitchen.” Again with the flow. Or not.

kitchen wire rack

Welcome to the sunny dining room! Right off of the kitchen, through that lovely arch we saw above.

dining room

And THIS is where the sun comes in. Glorious!! My favorite room in the house. Doesn’t matter that that the plaster paper is literally falling off the walls and the screens are playing hooky.

dining room windows

The hallway off the kitchen to the laundry porch (you read that right…getting there) and the door to the backyard beyond that. You can see behind the door there’s a plastic cleaning tool hanger thing attached to the wall. Another bonus  😉  And the dark stuff in the doorframe is I think supposed to be weather stripping? But it’s MacGyver-ed foam weather stripping, not real weather stripping. Is icky.

hall to porch

The laundry porch! I’ve determined that they originally did laundry outside, and when that went out of vogue they just didn’t have anywhere else to put the laundry facilities, so the porch it was. No idea how accurate that is, but it makes me feel better than to believe that they did this intentionally. I love how much light comes into this space. If it wasn’t needed for the washer and dryer I’d totally use it as a breakfast nook. You can see from these next few pictures that the walls are in pretty rough shape out here…we’re gonna have to figure out what to do about that.

laundry porch

Washer and dryer. Only appliances on the main floor. Pretty good condition actually. They don’t match, which is annoying, but that’s because matchy things look nicer and I like when things look nice. Now originally most of these houses weren’t built with insulation, so the white, filled-in holes above that outlet you see there are where they drilled holes through the exterior walls and added insulation. They go all the way around the house. It’s incredibly attractive, very desirable feature.

laundry 2

A third bonus that came along with the house: a medicine cabinet on the laundry porch. Because that makes sense, right?

laundry med cabinet

Back to the other side of the house, here’s the bathroom. Yes, the wall color is just the same as raspberry chocolate mousse (oh pun-lease honey, that totally jumped into your head too). But no, that’s not a good thing. Also…the floor. That’s all. But I do I love how the shower is open on two sides and has the curved shower rod hanging from the ceiling. So vintage!

bathroom 1

Vanity and mirror, classy classy.

bathroom 2


Check out that light fixture, huh? QUALITY.

bathroom 3

This cabinet is built in behind the bathroom door to serve as a linen closet. I love it  : )  Do note that the upper cabinets are really really high. Like, bottom-shelf-at-eye-level high. And reminder: I’m 5’5″. Not that short. Oh well storage is storage. And hubby’s 6’1″, so that should come in handy.

bathroom 4

photo 5

Both bedrooms are exactly the same size and have the same size closet, so I’ll only show one. Nice and exciting. You can kinda see some of the paper peeling off under the windows. Now, one note about the bedrooms: check out the floors. They’re different than the other hardwoods in the house. That’s super typical of houses built around this time because the oak used in the living room and hallway was more expensive, and the bedrooms (as more private parts of the home) didn’t require as nice of flooring, so they used Douglas Fir instead. These days, old-growth Douglas Fir flooring is nearly impossible to find. These are currently in terrible shape, but we hope to get them shining again  : )

bedroom 1

bedroom 2

So that’s the main floor of our house! Obviously there’s a lot of work to do, and we’re taking it step by step. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

THE House

My wonderful husband is infinitely more financially savvy than I am. Thankfully. We’d be screwed if I was in charge. Not only that, but he’s also rather ambitious…in a good way, not in a hold-your-horses-there-young-buck-and-let’s-introduce-you-to-reality way. He has such great dreams and plans for our future and the future of our family, and he’s not just all talk, he really makes steps towards achieving those goals. I’m glad to be along for that ride, even though my eyes glaze over from time to time when too many numbers and acronyms are involved.

Sorry, enough husband bragging.

On that road to full financial security and freedom, we (meaning Kyle) made the decision to plunge into home ownership. We knew what we were looking for. It’s actually something we talked about the first day we met (you know, the one where we were up half the night talking about the party he was going to be throwing). I told him I had this dream of flipping a few houses in a really high quality way, and on the earnings from those, begin to purchase homes with the intent of making them really nice and renting them out to single moms and nice college kids (emphasis on nice). Well my friends, in a way, that dream is coming true.

First criteria: it had to be a fixer house. Couple reasons, 1) that’s all we could afford, and 2) I have the eye to make it nice on a budget and the ability to stay positive in stressful situations, while Kyle has the mind for profit and the braun to help make my vision come to life. Perfect team!

Second criteria: we needed two bedrooms. We wanted to have a guest room/office space.

Third criteria: ample parking. We love having people over and didn’t want parking to be a deterrent to that happening. Our last place had awful guest parking, it was terrible, and as a result we rarely had people over.

A couple of “it’d be nice”es: a second unit that we could rent out while living there (shooting kinda high with that one, but why not), and a garage

We spent hours searching high and low, north and south, large and small. We spent quite a long time pouring plans into a friends house that was going to be foreclosed on. The place was falling apart, but could have been gorgeous. We put in an offer before it was even on the market, the bank rejected it, then they listed the house for $150K more than our offer. And that was the end of that chapter.

We then put an offer in on a teensy tiny little two bedroom that was one hundred square feet smaller than the condo we were renting at the time. Lost out on that one in a bidding war.

Hoping we could prove that the third time would be the charm, we put an offer in on a two bed one bath 1940 bungalow with no appliances, too many doors, and some serious flooring problems, that had been severely neglected for quite a while. Oh…and a finished basement that’s a separate unit. So we could rent that out and be gaining income while living there. WINNING.

You see that staircase? it actually really does lead to a house that's hiding behind the obnoxiously gigantic rhododendron bush.
You see that staircase? it actually really does lead to a house that’s hiding behind the obnoxiously gigantic rhododendron bush.

We got it! And in the end, we actually got it for $10,000 less than our original offer, which was pretty sweet. Check out my next post to see what we got ourselves into!