Kitchen Tile

In the past few posts we showed how we installed the cabinets and then cut and installed the butcher block countertop.  The next step was to finally add the subway tile. Originally we had just planned to have the tile backsplash go up 18″ on the wall to the height of the shelving and cabinets.  But then a neighbor who is also renovating a kitchen mentioned something about tiling all the way to the ceiling.  The seed was planted.  It grew.  It was reinforced by research and many examples of subway tile to the ceiling.  Turns out – you hardly ever see subway tile in kitchens that don’t go all the way to the ceiling.  Despite the fact that some family and friends looked at us with a look of doubt when we told them what we were going to do, we made a firm decision to go for it.

The best thing about subway tile is that it is cheap and classic.  Even though we were covering a lot of square footage, the cost of the project was minimal.  This wasn’t our first time tiling and we learned a few valuable lessons from previous projects.  One – no more cutting tiles by hand.  I finally invested in a wet saw!


It wasn’t overly expensive and I can probably sell it pretty quickly on Craigslist.  Also, we decided to use premixed mortar instead of mixing it ourselves.  We were able to get by with one large container of the premix and it saved us a lot of stress since we didn’t have to worry about moving quickly.

Before we could begin we had one last kitchen lighting decision to make.  We originally ran electrical for under-cabinet lighting.  It turns out that we weren’t going to use it, but we wanted to use one area for a sconce.  After finally making this decision, reviewing all the electrical plans, we started to cut out the drywall for the new box.  We didn’t get far. Turns out that it was also the location of a double stud from when there used to be a wall between the old bathroom and pantry.  There was no way to center a light in between the windows.  Not a great start.

20170811-DSC_0114I love that look on Amy’s face.  It says so much…  I have one of those pictures of me coming up soon.

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Restoring our clawfoot bathtub

I (Amy) have always been excited that our house came with it’s original clawfoot bathtub..even though it was in pretty rough shape.

The development of the downstairs bathroom has been a very long-term project. When we purchased the house (before doing any rehab work or making any messes) it looked like this.


Before demolishing this bathroom to allow more space for the kitchen, we salvaged the original cast iron clawfoot tub along with the medicine cabinet (featured in the previous blog post).

The tub sat in the shed behind the house in this condition for about a year before our house was “habitable” enough to even think about adding frivolous things such as a second bathroom. Here is what the tub looked like when it finally made it out of the shed and into the light of day.


I did a lot of research about the variety of ways people restore old cast iron tubs. The best and most expensive way to do this would have been to send our tub away to have it completely resurfaced. We opted not to do this because (1) it’s too expensive and (2) we didn’t mind all the nicks, dings and imperfections that give it it’s antique character (at least we convinced ourselves of that after reading about the cost of a complete overhaul). Also, removing the antique surface and having a brand new surface baked on feels a little like taking the history out of the tub.

There are inexpensive resurfacing kits that you can buy at big-box hardware stores, but after watching a lot of youtube videos and reading a lot of reviews, this seemed like a short term fix with varying results. A lot of people who chose that route were afraid to scratch their tub and just refrained from using it at all. For us, the best option in terms of cost and daily use was to care for, repair and clean the existing antique surfaces.

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Medicine Cabinet Restoration

Now that we are essentially done with the 2nd floor (a post on the completed master bedroom will come soon), it’s time to turn our attention back to actual rehab work.  One of the pleasant aspects of working on the 2nd floor was that much of it was working from nothing, instead of undoing old work and then making it look nice.  Rehab work, without question, is more difficult.  That’s why many people, sadly, just gut an old house and start over.  We continue to be so thankful that no one ever did that to our house.

The original bathroom contained a clawfoot tub and built-in medicine cabinet that we knew we would someday re-use in the relocated downstairs bathroom.



The downstairs bathroom was one of the few spaces that we had to alter, and in this case, completely relocate.  This space was claimed when we expanded the kitchen, which means it contained walls that had to be knocked down.  When I was doing that, one thing I was careful to remove in tact was the medicine cabinet.

The built-in medicine cabinet appears (to my admittedly untrained eye) to be original to the house.


Inside it contained many razors, a handy chart for “Emergency Counterdoses”, and a ton of dirt and grime. Continue reading

Pretending to be a carpenter

The holiday break gave us time to make good progress with unpacking, organizing, and wrapping up some new projects.  One big project that has been in the works for a long time was creating storage spaces in Lucy’s bedroom.   We have known for more than a year exactly how we were going to create storage that fit the character of the room and wouldn’t take up too much valuable floor space in this awkwardly shaped room.


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Book nook under the stairs

It might be small and not very significant in the big picture of our rehab project, but we have officially finished one “living” space of our house!  As we mentioned in our previous post, our top priority recently has been to finish all storage spaces so that we have places to put things as we slowly unpack.  An area that had a little bit of storage potential but a lot of fun potential was under the staircase.

Utilizing this space was something we knew we wanted to do way back when we first designed the layout for the new stairs.  Amy and I have always enjoyed house that have unusual spaces, nooks, or personalized layouts.  It is also important to us for there to be kid-friendly spaces in every room, not just the playroom and kid’s bedrooms. We want our kids growing up in a playful house that is as much theirs as it is ours.

Here is what the area under the stair landing has looked like for the past several months…


paint storage

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Storage Wars!

We’re back!

We never intended for the move-in to be the end of the blog, but I’m sure it must seem like that considering how long it has been since the last post.  A year ago our intention was to try to be done with the rehab project during the summer so that we would have ample time to to unpack and continue to make the house inhabitable before school started (Amy and I are both teachers, remember?).  Well, that didn’t happen.  I will spare you the whole “we were so busy…  yada, yada, yada” spiel and just get right back to where we left off…

Remember all those pictures I took after we moved-in?  They were all warm, bright, glowy, and made it look we would soon be living in a Pinterest house, right?  Well, much like the rest of the human race, we are sometimes selective about what we display on social media .  It’s only natural for us to want to only show the nice stuff that makes it look like all our hard work paid off.  Pictures like this…

20150920-DSC_0101Edit from Amy: I see hanging cable for non existent fixtures and a desperate and serious need for Killz primer. On the postive side you should know that having the laundry upstairs has changed my life forever. Forever. 

And this…


…made it seem like we were just a couple coats of paint away from being ready for a home tour.

Well, let me give you the reality photo tour.  We have not had time to even unpack, let alone do much to continue the renovation project.  Many of our rooms still look like this: Continue reading

The Big Move

As you would expect, moving day and the days leading up to it were hectic, long, and stressful, but also full of anticipation and excitement.

The day has finally arrived

The day has finally arrived

By the time the day had actually arrived the vast majority of boxes and small items had already been relocated to the rehab house.  The movers were going to take care of the big stuff.  This was Amy’s idea.  At first I was hesitant because it seemed ridiculous to me that two people who had just rehabbed an entire house would not do something as common as moving.  But the closer it got to moving day the more I agreed that this was a brilliant idea. [Edit from Amy: I think this proves that I have good ideas…and that you should listen to them….always.]  One reason this was a good idea is because, sadly,  we are now too old to ask our friends to help us move.  Everyone has kids and busy lives and no one is just sitting around on a Saturday wondering what they are going to do that day.  Beer and pizza as a reward just doesn’t cut it anymore.  [Edit from Amy: Although we did have several people who graciously offered to help. I was feeling the love.] Another reason – our bodies are tired and our backs are sore.  Amy and I now joke about making a date out of a trip to a chiropractor.  That could be romantic, right? [Edit from Amy: I wasn’t joking.] Continue reading

Sprinting to the finish line

We have finally reached the most important milestone of our rehab project.   We have moved into our new home!

(pause for long applause)

Thank you.

This past month has been one of the most brutal of our rehab year.  This is evident by the fact that we haven’t even had time to post one single update despite a lot of significant events going on.  Most people understand how much time and energy is involved in getting one house packed up and ready to move and many people do this while maintaining full time jobs and raising kids.  But this becomes a lot more arduous when combined with extended job hours and a renovation project operating at max speed.  The past 5 weeks have been a tired and sleepy blur of work, sweat, and stress.

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Adventures in floor finishing – Days 5, 6, 7 and… I’ve lost count

So much has happened since our last post that I had to go back and reread it just to figure out where I left off.  On the 5th day of sanding we were finally done with the drum sander and edger, finishing up with the 80 grit.  On day 6, the Saturday of my last day of summer break, I rented an orbital sander to do the final “buffing” pass.  The orbital sander is supposed to provide one consistent look and, since it can get much closer to the wall, get rid of any remaining lines from the edger.  This type of sander is the one that is recommended (instead of the drum sander) by a lot of websites for DIYers because it is much less aggressive and much less likely to damage the floor.  Of course, this also means it doesn’t actually do much.  This sander would have run screaming just at the sight of our floors in their original condition.  The orbital sander has hundreds of little rubber stubs on the bottom of it that help hold a thick pad and then a 12×18″ sheet of sandpaper.

The orbital sander

The orbital sander

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Plaster repair – Part 1

One of the big remaining jobs we have left to tackle before moving into our rehab house is repairing the plaster.


Technically, I guess we could do his after we move in, but it’s a messy job and not something we really want to be doing with furniture in the house.  Plus, those silly people at the bank would probably deem the house uninhabitable at the very sight of exposed lath.  Plaster repair was one of the jobs that we didn’t know much about in the beginning and it seemed as if we might just hire someone to do it, but the more I researched the more I believed in our ability to do this. [Edit from Amy: Big surprise there]  Like most aspects of home rehab, it’s not horribly difficult.  It just requires time and practice.

The plaster issues include cracks (lots of them!), missing plaster, crumbling plaster, small holes from insulation being blown into the exterior walls, and big holes from who knows what.  One of the things that makes plaster repair challenging for a novice is that each situation requires a different strategy.  It was only after researching every possible scenario I would encounter did I then feel like I could proceed. [Edit from Amy: Yep, that’s the man I married.] Continue reading

Doors (Part 1) and Weed Moats

As we look back on the past year of our rehab project it is obvious that the stages can be neatly divided into categories:

Stage 1 – Planning (and lots of thinking).  Meetings with architect, contractors, skilled friends who can give advice.

Stage 2 – Demolishing (knocking stuff down and taking it out).  The demo stage goes on for a long time.  In fact, it still seems like it is going on.  I’m still making trips to the landfill.

Stage 3 – Structural (building stuff).  Once the old stuff is out of the way, any new framing or structural reinforcements take place.  For us, this included new walls upstairs, a bathroom downstairs, new stairs, addition floor support under the new stairs, under Lucy’s room, and under the new loft space.

Stage 4 – The guts (the important stuff in the walls).  For us, this included new plumbing, electric, and hvac.

Stage 5 – The walls.  This is when everything you spent the past 12 months working on is covered up by drywall. [Edit from Amy: And it looks like you’ve done nothing.]

Stage 6 – SURFACES.  This is our current stage.  As you would expect, it means getting all the door, window, wall, ceiling, and floor surfaces repaired, primed, painted, sanded, refinished, or all of the above.

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“I’m yours until you say to stop”

Week 35 – Joe A week ago I got a text from our carpenter.  It was a text that rehabbers in need of structural expertise only dream of getting:  “I’m starting Monday and cleared out all week or longer if needed.  I’m yours until you say to stop.”  There was much rejoicing in our house and we dug out the list of items that needed attention.  There are a couple of large items that are way above our heads to accomplish on our own and then a lot of smaller tasks all related to framing.  The very first thing to get accomplished was the installation of the new windows.  Done.

[Edit from Amy: Let’s pause to celebrate that! YAY!]

We moved to the next most pressing concern – the old staircase to the 2nd floor. You might remember (probably not) that our original plan was to wall over the existing door to the basement (located in the kitchen) and add a new basement door on the opposite side of the stairs. This would allow us to use what was previously door space as added wall space in the kitchen.

[Edit from Amy: You might remember that our kitchen was originally comprised of doors. Not much wall space at all.]

When I did the demo for the new door to the basement stairs we discovered that we liked how this new-found hallway to the kitchen made the flow of the house flow so much better.  It meant that there would now be a good traffic pattern from upstairs to the kitchen.  I really think it is one of the best changes that we have made to the house – and it happened completely by accident.  Here is what that area of the house looked like after the initial demo:

The area of the house currently being revised

The area of the house currently being revised

Continue reading

We have water!!!

Week 23 – Joe

There are certain milestones that we reach in our renovation that have more significance than others.  The first one was the framing of the new walls.   It was the first glimpse of what this house will become.  Up to that point, those walls were just lines on a piece of paper or pieces of masking tape on the floor.  The home renovation process takes so long that it is almost impossible to comprehend that eventually we really will be living in this house.  It sometimes seems like a slow moving glacier with occasional jumps forward.  Two big steps were completed this week.

I’ll begin with the hvac…

We had such a thorough meeting with the hvac company representative that I assumed everything would be installed without any issues.  Unfortunately, the chain of command and poor lines of communication between the higher-ups and the on-site workers taught me that I needed to constantly check the work of our sub contractors.  I won’t go into all the details, but here are just a few complaints we had.

1.  The contract clearly stated that all rectangular run outs would be replaced, but after they let me know they had completed the rough-in I went over to investigate and saw that none of the rectangular duct work had actually been replaced.

2.  They added a floor vent right in the middle of a nook we were going to use as a play space.  This was not on the original work list and was not discussed with us prior to cutting a hole in our floor. (Edit from Amy: a hole in the floor we plan to finish.) They did eventually relocate that vent to a spot that made more sense, but now we have to repair this floorboard.

Poorly located vent

Poorly located vent

3.  They ran duct work to the wrong vents and then forgot to replace another rectangular run out even after they had already gone back to replace the other ones.

4.  I had to notify them twice that the removed duct work was not hauled away.

5.  They had obviously been smoking in our house and left cigarette butts and fast food trash on the floor.  This irritated Amy a lot! (Edit from Amy: I have three things to say about that- 1. sawdust 2. Fire and 3. No running water. And for extra measure 4. Seriously?)

It wasn’t a completely negative experience.  I do have to say that the two people in charge were always very professional, polite, and were quick to admit errors and fix any problems.

This picture below shows the upstairs furnace room with various run outs, returns, and venting.

Upstairs furnace

Upstairs furnace

Here is the downstairs furnace…

Downstairs furnace

Downstairs furnace

We are waiting to install the air conditioner units until spring so that we don’t have to worry about theft.

Waiting until spring for AC units

Waiting until spring for AC units

The plumbing process took place over several weeks.  That was a good thing because it allowed Amy and I time to scramble ahead on some decisions we didn’t know we would have to make so early.  We did have the downstairs and upstairs bathroom sinks picked out as well as the upstairs and downstairs tubs already at the house.  We were surprised that we would need to have the upstairs tub faucet picked out.  Also, there was some last minute debating about the exact placement of the upstairs sink.  It seems like that would be a simple decision, but sometimes it’s hard to anticipate every possible scenario.  For instance, how far should the sink be off the ground?  The “standard” for a vanity is 31 inches, but that just seems SO low!  We ended up doing 36 inches.

Another issue that complicated our decision making process was the discovery that the faucets that most people get for the sink we are ordering are not certified lead free.  Apparently regulations recently changed and this faucet doesn’t meet those regulations.  Several people have told us that those regulations are ridiculous because there is probably more lead in the plumbing to the house than in those faucets.  BUT, we have two kids.  Is any amount of lead okay?  It seems terrifying to tell your kids they can have just a little bit of poison.  So, now we are stuck.

We have lots of scrap to give away.  Although, I feel like we could use some of this for some artwork or rustic furniture.

Scrap from the old plumbing

It feels good to get trashed items out of the house

One great thing about this whole rehab process is that we will know exactly what is behind our walls and under our floors.

First floor plumbing in the crawl space

First floor plumbing in the crawl space

We do have an issue that was created by the plumbing scenario.  In this picture below you will notice that the plumbers needed to cut out a section of the wall to allow the drain to travel down through the wall to the crawl space.  Notice that we now have a floor joist that is largely unsupported because the beam that it was sitting on is now only sitting on one vertical stud.  Not good. Other than that the plumbers did a great job and were super easy to work with.

under the bathtub of the 2nd floor

under the bathtub of the 2nd floor

Plumbing for upstairs bath

Plumbing for upstairs bath

Our sink that we are ordering is a 94 pound cast iron sink.  You can see in the picture below how much additional support we needed to build in to the wall.  Also notice the hot and cold outlets are stacked instead of side by side.

bathroom vent, dryer vent, flex duct to Lucy's room, and rough in for upstairs bathroom sink

bathroom vent, dryer vent, flex duct to Lucy’s room, and rough in for upstairs bathroom sink

That is because our faucets will look like this…

Our new faucet.... maybe

Our new faucets…. maybe

So, now we have running water at the house!  Actually, we only have water at this one spigot…  but that is better than nothing.

Water at the front of the house

Water at the front of the house


Our friend has started on the new staircase.  We are shopping around for the new upstairs windows. We thought we had exterior paint colors all picked out, but now we aren’t so sure.  I continue to pull out my remaining hair as I wrestle with stains, finishes, removers, and general woodworking dilemmas related to our old windows, replacement old windows, and old trim.  More on that later…

Decisions, Decisions!

Amy and I are well aware of how small projects can become big projects before you even realize it.  In our current home, a little dog pee on the carpet in the upstairs hallway resulted in ripping out that carpet and then the subfloor…  which meant it was a good time to scrape off our popcorn ceilings, replace baseboards, renovate our entire bathroom, and refinish the newly exposed hardwood floors. And…since there was carpet on the stairs (and no surprise..lead paint!) you can guess where that led. Yes, we would have probably done all those things eventually, but the dog pee was the spark and once you get going – it tends to snowball.

When we bought our new house we knew that we wanted to TRY to keep the renovation costs as low as possible.  We did not initially plan on knocking down walls or doing much to add to the scope of the project.  The problem is…  that philosophy can easily conflict with the “let’s do it right the first time” philosophy and the “while we’re doing this, we might as well do this” philosophy.  We quickly figured this out when we started thinking more thoroughly about how we would live in this house.

We couldn’t wait to see the initial plans that our architect would have for us.  We had given him the run down of our current thoughts and he said he would sketch out some of those ideas, but also maybe show us some others to help us think through other possibilities.  When we finally got to meet with him, he laid out 5 different plans.  We were slightly overwhelmed with all the options and possible directions we could go.  As you would expect, none of the 5 were perfect, but there were aspects of each that we liked.


Pondering floor plans

We preferred avoiding knocking down all the walls and changing the historic nature of the house.  In fact, we quickly discovered that forcing our own will on the house did not work nearly as well as just paying attention to why the current floor plan of the house works, then seeing if we can work a little closer to the original intent of each room.  For instance, we thought about having one of the bedrooms downstairs in a room that was already modified with added drywall, but the more time we spent in the house the more we realized that having the wall there made the whole downstairs feel confined.  By opening up that room it was as if the house could breath again and it really gave us a good feel for the width of the house. As a bonus, it brought back the circular floor plan that was originally there.


After the ninja kick

Another example of the benefits of listening to the house was the placement of the kitchen.  The original kitchen was in the back of the house, but was very small and had a total of FIVE doors and two nearly floor to ceiling windows.  It would be nearly impossible to create realistic counter space let alone make this a kitchen that would work for us. After all, we are bonafied foodies and don’t mess around in the kitchen. So, we thought we might just move the kitchen to the old dining room and have the back room be the dining room.

Something like this:


Original idea – before meeting with the architect.

This would have worked great, except for 3 big things…  The kitchen wouldn’t realistically fit in that old dining room space, it felt strange having the dining room in the back (and having the bathroom right off the eating area), and we would have had to tear down that big built-in that is in the current dining room. We lived with that idea for several weeks, but once again the more time we spent in the house the more we realized that having the kitchen in that area of the house just didn’t work.  Putting it where it originally was (in the back of the house) just felt better and made more sense.

After going through all the original 5 floor plan options, we were able to make some firm decisions and priorities.  It is impossible to get everything, so having these 3 priorities gave us a great starting point.

1.  We wanted all 3 bedrooms to be upstairs.  Originally we thought that maybe one bedroom could be downstairs.  The more we lived with that idea the more we realized we didn’t like it.  This meant that we would either have to do an addition above the kitchen or move the stairs and work to get three bedrooms and a bathroom in the existing space.  We chose the latter.  The kids’ rooms will have okay floor space, but we will have to get creative with the angled ceilings.  That doesn’t really bother us, in fact, we actually look forward to working with the oddly shaped rooms.

2.  We wanted the kitchen in the back.  This meant that we would have to expand the kitchen and absorb the space currently taken up by the pantry and bathroom.  This would create a 13′ x 20′ kitchen.  Big enough to include a table and even a small island.  Of course there is also a consequence for this…  We have to relocate the bathroom and we lose a large historic pantry.

3. We wanted to restore the original circular floor plan.  This was easily accomplished (just a swift kick), taking down the drywall that plugged up the old opening between the two rooms.


We have not finalized our floor plans yet, but we are getting closer.  We think we have an arrangement upstairs that will fit the three bedrooms and a bathroom.  We also think we have a good spot for the downstairs bathroom.  The big item remaining is the stairs.  We know where it is generally going to go but we might need to move it 12-16 inches (which would mean moving a wall upstairs).  Hopefully we will have this figured out within the next week or two.

In meantime, no reason we can’t start demo on the kitchen…


Follow our story and read the next post here: Finally! We get to do something.

Read the previous post here: So…Now What

So… Now What?

After closing on the house we were anxious to get going!  In fact, we were so excited that we immediately started getting our current home ready to sell and prepared to move.  We weren’t really that naive about the timeline, we just wanted to make progress of some sort and that was the only thing we could think of to do at that time.  Looking back, maybe we just should have relaxed and enjoyed our Spring Break.

The finding and purchasing of the house happened so quickly that we hadn’t had much time to line up all the other aspects of the renovation.  We needed to:

1.  Get financing for the renovation

Actually, we thought we had this figured out before we purchased the house…  but that option fell through.  So now we needed to secure enough financing from somewhere else to at least finish the first phase of our renovation.  We foolishly thought it would be easier to get financing for a renovation than buying the actual house.  Turns out that banks don’t have much faith in the do-it-yourselfers.  It also turns out that you cannot get a home equity loan on a house that is not inhabitable, even if you have 100% equity in the house.  We determined that the first phase of renovation needed to be all about getting the house livable.  Once we achieved that, financing options would open up a little.  The first phase will need to be financed by a home equity loan on our current home, a personal line of credit, and our own savings.  We had talked to several people about cost estimates for the first phase and also did a lot of cost estimate research online.  It’s going to be tight, but hopefully by doing as much work as possible on our own and carefully prioritizing our spending we will be able to get the house inhabitable using our available budget.  We figure worst case scenario – we sell our current home, rent, and use the equity to complete the first phase.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

2.  Figure out what changes we are going to make to the house (if any)

Before closing on the new house we had seen the inside only twice, but taken many pictures.  We used those pictures to develop a floor plan of how we might lay out the house to best fit our needs and begin planning for the renovation.  We laugh now when we look back at the scale of the rooms that we initially sketched out based on our memory of the first visit to the house.  It is amazing how well everything fit when we weren’t restricted by pesky things like actual dimensions!   It became apparent that we needed more than a little help with the floor plan, especially when we started thinking of ideas on how to finish off the 2nd floor.  We needed an architect.  We are fortunate to already know a “retired” architect who lives in our neighborhood and knows old houses as well as anyone.  Plus I (Joe) have known him and his family for 30 years…  so there was a good comfort level before even starting.

3.  Find a contractor (or not)

We assumed we would need a contractor to handle some of the work that was beyond our capabilities.  Our architect was able to recommend several people.  We contacted them all and met with one of them very soon after buying the house.  Still not exactly sure of what we were doing, we showed him around the house and pointed out everything we thought we might do.  The contractor seemed excited about the project and the potential for the house…  until I told him our budget.  Now, to be fair, I don’t think he understood that I was not talking about our final budget, I just meant our phase 1 plan.  I wasn’t really surprised that we didn’t hear back from that first contractor.  It was at that point that I realized it was a little early to be talking to contractors – we needed a more definite plan and scope.  It was also at about that point that we decided we weren’t going to use a contractor.  Amy and I are increasingly bucking the idea that everyone should follow some standard path to achieve certain goals.  Usually this path is laden with people just looking to make money off of you.  We figured we were capable of hiring people to do the jobs that we knew were over our head.  Plus, we have the luxury of being surrounded by people who have plenty of home rehab experience!  When we run into something we aren’t sure about, we’ll just ask!


While we were waiting to get everything going with our architect, finalize financing, and find sub contractors, we were itching to do something with our new property.  We were told that maybe a good place to start would be the landscaping.  At first it seemed silly to be worried about the yard when the house itself needed so much work. But then we realized that now was a perfect time to work on the yard.  It was still Spring, the bugs weren’t out yet, the temps were low, and the massive weeds hadn’t completely taken over.  Plus there was glass and other dangerous things all around the house that would need to removed before we could even let our kids play in the yard.  After a trip to the hardware store to pick up an electric chain saw, we were ready to get going!

We split up.  Amy tackled the driveway, front sidewalk, and steps.  Joe began chopping away a decade worth of unattended tree saplings and weed-trees that surrounded the foundation of the house and the fence line around the back yard.



This reminds me of those documentaries about what the world would like if all humans became extinct.



This picture actually doesn’t look as bad as it was really was. The fact that there weren’t leaves on the trees yet disguises just how much much debris had to be cut.


After the first weekend of yard work.

Amy devoted her time to uncovering the driveway from years of encroaching dirt, weeds, and grass.  I have to say that Amy’s job was not as visually rewarding because she spent hours just picking up glass, shoveling dirt, and fighting ants.  Her handiwork did uncover a big portion of the sidewalk to our front steps that had been taken over by an enthusiastic front yard and also revealed a brick border that we had no idea was there.  We forgot to take before and after pictures, but here are a couple pics of the driveway.


The driveway -before



The driveway - after

The driveway – in progress


The alley behind our garage was also completely covered in saplings and weeds.  Here is the before picture:



Here is the after:



After the first weekend Joe’s arms were covered in poison ivy.  Should have expected that.  After three weekends of working on the yard, we finally got it to a point where the property didn’t look completely neglected.  As an added bonus, it turns out that lawn mower sitting in the garage still works!

Now, we need to decide what we are going to do on the inside of the house…


Follow our story and read the next post here: Decisions, Decisions!

Read the Previous post here: Under New Management: A BEFORE house tour.



Under New Management: A BEFORE house tour.

One of the first things we noticed about our new house was that at some point someone had left a nice note on the boarded up front door. “No body luvs me. My owner is an asshole.”

Now, I want to make clear that the former owner of this house was a really nice guy. So, we didn’t feel this was entirely fair. However, we didn’t need people wandering by getting the wrong idea about US, so the very first thing to be done was to revise the message on the front door.


A Nice Note

That’s better.

As a side note, it was our son’s idea to name this blog after our new sign on the door.

Now for the “before” tour.

Our house is a 1910 late folk victorian home.  Coming from an 1870’s home this fast forwards us into the future where there were things such as indoor plumbing!  This house seems downright fancy compared to our current house.



The new management (AKA not assholes)


The exterior of the house looks rough mostly because of pealing paint and boarded up windows. The siding is actually in pretty good condition because it was covered up with asbestos siding for many years.  It needs minor repair in spots, but mostly just needs a lot of scraping and painting. Asbestos siding remains on the gables and we are curious to see what the siding looks like underneath that section.  The roof of the front porch obviously needs work, but that isn’t at the top of our priority list right now.



The north side of the house


The south side of the house with exterior door

The back of the house

The back of the house


Let’s take a look inside.



Come on in!


When entering through the back door the first room you see is the kitchen. The door to the left is a walk-in pantry, the door in the center is the bathroom, and the door on the right takes you to the basement. You can see there is a mott sink which may be an original detail to the home. We plan on keeping it.



The Kitchen


The Pantry


The Kitchen


The bathroom has two points of entry, one from the kitchen and one connected to the bottom of a stairway. We assume that the claw foot tub and wall cabinet are original to the house but the sink and toilet are obviously not. We’ll be refurbishing that tub. Check out that snazzy fake tile laminate on the wall.



Tub and toilet


Built-in cabinet


Beyond the kitchen is a formal dining room with an original built-in. Inside the built-in is a little door that we assume would have been used at some point by household help to deliver food without being seen.



Dining Room


You can see the sliding pass through door


Adjacent to the dining room is the living room. On the left of this image you can see an opening from the living room into a secondary living space- maybe a former study or library which was dry walled over to make a separate area for renters.  The doorway in the center of this image is a sliding pocket door which takes you to what would have been the parlor.  On the far right you can see two sets of exterior doors. This is the vestibule.


The living room

The living room


Entering the parlor you will notice there is an original fireplace, additional access to the vestibule, and large front windows at the front of the house.



The parlor. Left door to vestibule, right door to living room.

Detail of parlor access to vestibule

Detail of parlor access to vestibule



Parlor pocket door


Front windows in parlor


original fireplace

The vestibule is a tiny entry room with a large front door.  The room features a window (on the right in this picture) that we will eventually repair with stained glass.


Front door and vestibule


Moving back to the dining room, there are two “bedrooms” on the south side of the 1st floor. The blue bedroom with the exterior door is the room that was once open to the living room and will revert back to it’s original configuration after I ninja kick that drywall.


The 2nd “bedroom” that was created by dry walling the opening to the living room

You can see that the closets have small upper doors on them. The bottom doors on the closets are the size of normal doors. This images gives you an idea of how tall the other doors are in the house.  This house has 10ft ceilings!


Bedroom 1

Bedroom 1 with access to stairs

Before we move on to the 2nd floor here is a view of the entry to the stairs which is also connected to the bathroom.


Bathroom and bottom of stairs


At the top of the stairs is bedroom 3. It’s the only finished room upstairs and the only location in the house with a ceiling. Sweet plaid floors.  This room will eventually be the master bedroom.


The steep stairs


Why is there a sink?

Closet and dormer window bay

Closet and dormer window bay


Beyond bedroom 3 there is another half of the attic that is not finished. We plan to finish this and have all three bedrooms as well as a bath upstairs. We have grand plans…  More on that later.


Attic center and doorway to front attic room


North half of the attic with matching south side not shown

And then lastly here is an image of the basement. The basement is a multiple room affair with crypt-like qualities as you move your way back. This is actually the nice part.


Least scary part of basement

As of now there is no running water as the plumbing needs to be gutted.  The whole house is currently knob and tube wiring and will need to be replaced. In the ceiling you can still see the original gas pipes from the house’s pre-electricity days when there would have been gas lamps in each room. The previous owner already took care of providing a new 200 amp box for the house.  Other than that, the electricity is confined to a few outlets in the basement (which we are very thankful for!)  The windows are in surprisingly good shape.  They all have original hardware.  Almost all of them are still connected to the counter weights and move up and down pretty easily.  There are a couple windows that need new glass and ALL windows need to be glazed and refurbished.  The foundation is solid and there is no rot or structural issues.  The previous owner had also already replaced the roof, so the house is good and dry! There are paw marks on the walls where animals came in under the roof. In fact, there is even a spot in the dining room where we are pretty sure an animal died at some point. Yes, what we currently have is less than habitable (despite our laughably futile attempts to convince a bank that WE could in fact live in this house as it is).  But soon, and by soon I mean I have no idea when, it will become our home.  We are shooting for within one year.

Welcome to our new house.  Soon it will be our home.

Next up…  hiring an architect and beginning the long project!


Follow our story and read the next post: So…Now What?

Read our previous post here: House Stalkers! How we found our fixer upper.