Knowing we’d have kids entering school soon, 3 years ago, my husband and I put our first home up for sale and searched for a home with better schools. Our house just days before our 6 month contract ended and we had 2 weeks until closing. We had already been searching for homes and researching schools, but when our house sold all of a sudden we’d had nothing that we wanted to buy. Our criteria was 4 bedrooms, big lot, mature trees in the neighborhood and we were open to the idea of a fixer upper.
We found this house:
This is the after picture, by the way, it did not look like this when we bought it.
It checked off all our criteria except 4 bedrooms (it only has 3). It was in an excellent neighborhood, the best schools in the county, large lot, lots of trees, private backyard…and it was a fixer upper. To be honest when I first saw it (right after accepting an offer on our house-which is never as high as you want it and it can be an overwhelming experience), I didn’t even finish looking at the whole house. I got to the master bedroom and said, “Forget it!” and walked right out.
Of course, after thinking about it several days (and getting pumped up by watching too much HGTV). I started thinking maybe we could tackle it and because of the state it’s in maybe we could get a good deal. Plus there weren’t too many other choices for the area we wanted to be in. So we bought it and got what we thought was an excellent deal. Of course, 3 (or is it 4?) years later we are ready to sell it and buy one this time with an extra bedroom. We are learning now that you don’t want to try and sell the first renovated house in the neighborhood. There are a lot of houses in our neighborhood that are being renovated and added onto, but none of those homes have ever been listed. People only see the price of the houses that have sold that were in the same state ours was in when we bought it. Oh well, you live you learn, right?
Anyway, enjoy some before and after pictures. Some rooms didn’t get enough attention in the finishing decorating touches that really make it stand out because I’ve run out of steam in doing all the many updates it needed….
Front of the House:
In the front of the house, we painted the shutters brown and added tons more landscaping. I spent DAYS and DAYS by myself, with the kids (no they weren’t helping – quite the opposite), shoveling out grass in order to add in a lot more beds for plants. It’s backbreaking work! I never want to do that again. I really sympathize with anyone in the landscaping/manual labor business.
The previous owner lived alone with his dog. So of course then entire house was nasty when we got it. The carpet and floors were so bad that we ended up replacing them within days because we had young kids who couldn’t walk around without shoes on. As you can see I painted the living, made curtains, replaced the light and decorated.
I just want to note here that this house had tons of wallpaper that had to be taken down before we could paint. For anyone who’s taken down wallpaper knows that you then have tons of walls to repair where the wallpaper pulled off the paint underneath in spots. That meant lots of spackle and sanding…that is all before the actual painting takes place. Have you ever had to paint beige trim and doors white? It took FOUR coats!! And there is a lot of molding in the house, almost every room has crown molding, wainscoting in the dining room and foyer…it took me 3 years to finish painting the house. And don’t even get me started on painting ceilings…that memory is still to fresh for me to even talk about without feeling pain!
So even though in the picture it looks like I put wallpaper back up in the living room, I didn’t. That is a stencil that can easily be painted over. I never want to put someone through what we went to remove all that wallpaper!!
The kitchen is where we put the most money. We definitely wanted to have a breakfast bar, so we had to replace the window with a sliding glass door so that we’d have room to extend the counter tops. It definitely is a decision I don’t regret because I have 3 kids that sit in those 3 chairs while I feed them and clean the kitchen at the same time.
We had planned to put tile or wood floors in the kitchen, but when we first moved in I tried scrubbing the kitchen floors for over an hour and couldn’t even get them close to clean. So since it was winter and I couldn’t wait until I could get the wet saw out in the summer (there was no way I was tiling with it being freezing outside!), I went the next day after we moved in and bought the vinyl peel and stick tile to put down. It was suppose to be a temporary solution until we got around to something else but since I’m burnt out and we wouldn’t get the return on investment…Vinyl floors it is!! ‘Course I don’t really mind. They are easy to keep clean and I don’t have to mop the floor every day to keep it looking clean. Okay, okay don’t judge…for anyone who has kids, you know you need to have surfaces that hide the dirt or you’ll spend your ENTIRE life cleaning!!
We added granite counter tops and tore out the old back splash and added a travertine tile back splash. Of course while we had the old back splash torn out we had an electrician come in and add under cabinet lighting. We had also had him quite a price on adding recessed lighting (because we wanted a BRIGHT kitchen). He didn’t seem too thrilled about cutting a bunch of holes in our ceiling trying to figure out where he could place the lights where there weren’t any pipes and stuff. The second floor is above our kitchen so there was no easy access. Well the price was WAY more than we wanted to pay, so we asked him if we cut the holes and figure out where to place them how much would it cost just to put the lights in and wire them. That ended up only being 200-300 dollars so that is the way we went. If you are willing to learn how to patch dry wall then this is a great way to go about adding recessed lights if you don’t want to mess with wiring. It did take some time figure out where we could place them and we did cut some holes we couldn’t use and had to patch but it was worth it! We also had him add a electrical box for that chandelier over the bar…I always wanted one of those 🙂
I don’t even know if I should bring the subject of appliances up…it’s painful…. Oh well, here it goes. We went to a small appliance store (not a chain) to buy our appliances because of deals they were advertising. My main criteria was I wanted a stove where the pots and pans weren’t right on the edge of the stove when placed on the burner because that made me nervous with kids. So we found one with a control panel in the front of the stove that made a buffer between the edge and the burners. It was an Electrolux stove. I didn’t care about getting a dishwasher and microwave to match. I really wanted ones that had good reviews and would hold up. But the guy at the appliance store talked us into getting all Electrolux because the stainless steal wouldn’t match. So we paid for our appliances, they were ordered and fortunately delivered the next week. A few days after we got our appliances the store we bought them at folded and the owner declared bankruptcy and LOTS of people were left with no appliances even though they paid for them. We considered ourselves fortunate to have made the decision to buy the appliances on the day we did and not think about it for a few days.
Of course, over the next 2 years our dishwasher broke every couple of months and it always took about a month to get it fixed. We constantly had dirty dished piled on the counters because it takes HOURS to wash by hand (man we’re spoiled these days). Electrolux was good enough to keep paying for the repairs even after the year warranty expired, but after 2 years enough is enough! It was practically a new dishwasher because almost ever part had been replaced on it. My husband finally called them up and demanded a refund, they didn’t want to do it but he got tough. They gave us a prorated amount which wasn’t enough to buy another dishwasher equal to what we had. So we replaced it with a Bosch, which a year later hasn’t caused any problems, but who knows.
Anyway, on to the microwave…..I don’t know if I have the energy for that story…lets just say that the plastic parts on it are so thin that pieces just broke off of it from the tension the screws put it under. Anyway, eventually the latching mechanism for the door broke (because I’m sure the plastic inside the door is just as thin as else where). Instead of going down the road we went with the dishwasher, we bit the bullet and replaced it with a Bosch microwave instead of repairing it.
The stove/oven is still standing, of course that is the only thing from Electrolux I wanted in the beginning. I think it’s the only appliance that Electrolux actually makes so I’m fairly confident it should hold up….fairly. Anyway if you haven’t figured out the moral to this story, I’ll spell it out… DON’T BUY ELECTROLUX APPLIANCES! Kelly Rippa, you lead us astray!
Let’s see, what else did we do in the kitchen? Oh yeah, how could I forget…one word… WALLPAPER.
In the powder room, I took down the wallpaper added wainscoting. I got some very thin molding so it would be the thickness of the top of the baseboard because I didn’t want the molding to stick out beyond the baseboard. I nailed up the thin molding, added chair rail, caulked everything, and then painted it white. I did the molding this way because I didn’t want to take out the toilet (that would have required getting my husband involved and cutting holes in bead board where the toilet pipes are).
Also in the powder room, I took out that awful brass faucet, added new towel holders, painted the mirror, added a light and we eventually changed the toilet because the old one kept getting stopped up…I know, TOO MUCH INFORMATION 🙂
In the dining room, I took down the wallpaper (the walls took forever to patch), painted everything (molding, ceiling, walls). I also refinished the wood floors using the Varathane floor sander from Lowes. This is the perfect sander for beginners. It has 3 separate rotating pads that make it impossible to gouge the floors. They have all the directions at Lowes on how to do it and what you need to buy. The great thing about this sander too is that it goes right up to the edges of the floor. This was a very rewarding DIY project. The only headache is that you have to live in a mess for a while. (We had our dining room table right in the middle of our kitchen forever!) I think it was 2 weeks for me because of all the coats of polyurethane and drying time and trying to find time without the kids. I’ve learned how to do DIY with kids… 🙂
I recommend letting each coat dry a whole lot longer than the can says b/c you have to sand each coat in between with fine sandpaper (I just used a handheld palm sander b/c I didn’t want to keep renting the big sander). If you start sanding before it’s completely dry (think many days to a week depending on where you live (keep fans on it too)) then it gums up and you’re left with a big headache trying to scrape it and make it smooth again. I think this is what made it take so long. If I had just wanted a lot longer between coats then it would have gone smoother. We live in the south, so lots of humidity and it took forever to completely dry. It was dry enough to walk on after a few hours or half a day but it takes a lot longer before you can sand it.
In the master bedroom, I painted and we put in new carpet (throughout the whole house).
In the master bathroom, we put in ceramic tile floors. I also put the tile around the tub and shower to hopefully give it a more high-end feel. If I were to do this again, I’d choose smaller tile than 12 by 12 for the walls. The walls looked straight but there weren’t so it was hard trying to make such a large tile lay flat on a bowed wall. Plus the large tiles kept slipping down so that was a pain having to keep readjusting them. Plus I had decided to do them on a diagonal which is even harder to keep the spacing even. So if you want to easily put tiles on a wall – NO large tiles and NO diagonal pattern.
We also put up new towel holders, replaced the door fronts on the cabinets, replaced the lights., and put in a new toilet. I also had an electrician switch out the fan for infrared heat lamps because I hate to be cold! But I really don’t notice much of a difference with them 🙁