October 2009


I’m used to living in disarray, but I thought I was making progress! So imagine my surprise when I got home to this:

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What's this? A stove in the dining room??

Thankfully, there was a good reason for the madness. Jonny had sent his guy Rodrigo over to paint my kitchen floor! He even used the specklies. How fun! Two more coats of clear-coat, and this fashionable floor should last me until March. I can even mop it! A vast improvement from this.

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Sparkliffic Floor

Not sure when I can move the stove back in though…

What a mess! It’s hard to clean up all this stuff when you’re still using it, or when you don’t know when you’ll need it again. So this is how my dining room was looking…

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Eek!

And like this…

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Aak!

So I did a little bit of cleaning up, found a table in the classifieds, and made a few subtle improvements (honestly, they’re subtle, so don’t get too excited).

Where the two chairs are will be my little mini-entryway with a coat rack hung on the wall over a bench.

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Don't look at the dust under the couch

And I’m thinking of putting a little desk on the left side of the door.

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The pile is shrinking!

Here’s my new-to-me table that I bought from an ad on ksl.com.

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Now I need to find some dining chairs that fit.

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It's bad when you can see the dust particles in the flash

The kitchen is probably my least favorite part of the house so far, but that’s okay, because in March, my dad is planning a trip out here to spend some serious hardcore time doing a complete kitchen renovation. (Right dad?) But for now, this is what it looks like:

I hung up a rod from Ikea to hang utensils from, so they would be close to the stove since there’s no counter space over there. I also screwed that little box into the wall to put oil and cooking spray on. The microwave just sits under the window on a little table that was left behind by one of Jonny’s tenants.

Stove corner

Stove corner

The sink had a really bad leak. It went from a drip to a stream so I finally called the plumber. They came over and completely replaced the faucet. I’m not sure how much that will cost, but I’m glad since now it’s nice and aerated and not nasty looking, AND it doesn’t leak. I LOVE my plumbers. (On the same trip they also worked magic moving the toilet so the bathroom door will close and put washer hookups downstairs- more on that later.) Also, notice that nasty grout and caulk. I’m still working on de-nastifying it. Bleach has improved it, but I’m thinking of just putting a thin new layer of grout on top. I know it’s sanitized, but I can’t deal with how gross it looks. I still have yet to really cook in my kitchen, mostly because of the nasty countertops.

Leaky sink

Leaky sink

And a big thank-you to HUD for painting my kitchen floor. Thanks a LOT. Obviously this needs some improvement- Jonny wants to try out this floor confetti stuff that is really meant for a garage, but I’ll humor him. A layer of clear coat on top should last until the big makeover in March.

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Nasty painted floor

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Sparkles

And here is my cupboard. Almost every one of these dishes is from roommates past. And that cute little birdie is from Grandma Beth- don’t ask me what it’s doing in the cupboard though.

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Cupboard

This is my little fridge nook. It’s sitting on a platform that’s above the stairs leading to the basement. If you were to walk down to that little landing, the back door would be to your right. So no, the fridge isn’t technically in the kitchen. Good thing I got french doors, because opening a big door might be a bit (more) awkward in this space.

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So that’s the long and short of my kitchen.

My elation at finishing the shower is waning… there’s still a little ways to go for the bathroom to be finished. Side note: Please don’t judge me for living in these conditions.

Jonny told me to put down some sticky plastic so we wouldn’t destroy the tile while we were working in there. I’m glad I did, but it is proving a huge pain to get it all off. Bits of dirt and grout have really ground in there, breaking the plastic, and making it so it will not peel up in one shot. Once I finally get the plastic all off, I’ll have to scrub the little sticky bits off with one of those green scratchy sponges.

Fun scrubbing

Fun scrubbing

Here’s a fun challenge. The bathroom door won’t close! They had to move the toilet over when they installed the new wider tub, but they moved it a bit too far. Not quite sure how we’re going to fix this one, since they have to work around the floor joists in the basement. The plumbers are coming Friday so hopefully they can figure something out. This is one of the reasons I haven’t had anyone over for dinner… heh heh.

Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

Here are some sad pictures of broken tile. You can see where the toilet used to be. I’m not really sure what to do to fill in that hole. Matt suggested thinset I think. Also you can see where we gained a few inches behind the sink and toilet that was not tiled. And we so nicely cut those edge pieces, which will now have to be chipped up.

Tile needs fixin'

Tile needs fixin'

And I haven’t finished going all the way to the tub yet either.

Next to the tub

Next to the tub

And of course, I still need to paint.

Need paint

Need paint

The beadboard will be the same color as the tile (did you know you can take any object to the paint store and they can match it? Cool!). And I’m thinking of doing gray for the walls. I’m digging this one from cococozy.com. Except mine would be the opposite of course. Any thoughts? Is my bathroom too small for gray? Or would it be a nice contrast to all that (off)-white?

As I mentioned before, I receive lots of advice.  I admit that I tune some of it out, but most of the time I’m very glad to hear feedback and suggestions. And sometimes I even solicit it. In fact, here’s a picture of me doing just that. While I eat dinner on my bed.

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That's Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream, in case you were wondering.

I think this was when I realized the tile window frame problem I found.

Here are some examples of very, very wise words of wisdom.

Kami and Roy: You need to live like no one else now (in squalor and sawdust?), so you can live like no one else later (like royalty I presume).

Jonny: Amanda, your tile job is not going to look professional. You’re not a professional, just get it done and deal with it. No one’s going to notice unless they sit there and stare at it.

Matt: Fill out those forms so you can get your 8 grand! Nag nag nag! (Love ya Matt!)

Dad: When I was your age I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff either. But then I realized, Hey, I have a college degree. Surely I can figure this out?

Tommie, my realtor, whose gorgeous house I had the privilege of housesitting while she went on vacation: Well I don’t have a direct quote, but basically she inspires me- when they first bought their house it looked nothing like it does now. They did a lot of the initial work themselves, and then as they got older and more financially able, they hired it done professionally. This is how I have to think of my own house- I can live with my sub-par tile job/glass block window/various other things I’ve done myself for now, then when I’ve earned it, I can hire a professional to make it look real nice.

Sherry and John of younghouselove.com: Live in a space for a while before making major changes- it’s the best way to figure out what you really want, even if it means living in a less-than-perfect house for a while first.

Mary at work: You stand on the shoulders of women who have fought hard for equality in the area of finance. Your grandmother had to have a male sign for any financial arrangement she made. She could not have bought a car, a home or a piece of land on her own. Your mother, when she was born, could not have either, though that changed as she older, though banks were not fully engaged and often required people to be married etc., My mom was widowed when we were young and we had to move. They required a signature from her brother to buy the house. Always be aware. Always be grateful.

Mom: Take one day at a time!

There has been more, but right now it’s tucked away in the recesses of my brain, to be retrieved at a time of great despair, surely.

Now, anyone have any advice on how to help my poor hands?

What am I, a man??

What am I, a man??

Or any other advice in general?

Oh, the shower. The shower, the shower. The shower has been my biggest project to date. It has taken hours and hours of my life. It has taunted me. It has promised to be beautiful and then laughed in my face. It’s been mean to me.

The whole bathroom has actually been kind of mean to me.

I’ll back up- the first thing we did in the bathroom was take out the old scratched cast-iron tub. It could have been a cool piece of the bathroom, but I already had enough on  my plate. So Matt and Jonny somehow hoisted that thing out of there and onto the front lawn (someone picked it up within 24 hours). We removed the toilet and sink and decided to rip up the linoleum and do the floor- why not? Gotta start somewhere, right? Kind of.

Under Matt’s direction, Wendy and Stan helped me put in these neato classic old-timey tiles. Nice work everyone!

Bathroom floor

Design magazines are funny, because in one article you’ll read “Use small tiles in a small space to make it seem larger.” and in another, “Use large tiles in a small space to make it seem larger.” Sometimes they have good advice, but in the end you just have to pick what you like and make it go with the rest of the bathroom. Well, the floor was an okay place to start, but it was a little sad because when the plumbers came they found more wrong with the pipes than right, and had to do some serious finagling to fit the 5′ tub (apparently the old one was even smaller), and ended up breaking some of the tiles. The whole wall behind the sink and toilet had to come out and therefore be re-sheetrocked, and we gained about 4 inches which we sadly had not tiled.

Gutted wall

Gutted wall

Sniffle. So, the job of finishing that strip is on the list. The new tub was also wider, so the sink was hanging over it. The plumbers moved the sink, which meant they had to move the toilet, which means there is now a big hole where the toilet used to be. Sniffle. (Too depressing to take a picture.) Ah well. Live and learn. Live and learn.

Stan standing in the future tub

Stan standing in the future tub

Now we start the shower!

Matt shows me how to do wall tile

Matt shows me how to do wall tile

I'm getting the hang of it.

I'm getting the hang of it.

"Just tile up far enough so they can put the fixtures on, so you can at least take a bath for now." -good advice from Matt

"Just tile up far enough so they can put the fixtures on, so you can at least take a bath for now." -good advice from Matt

What better time than now to rip out the window?

What better time than now to rip out the window?

Oooh yeah, the glass blocks will look nice.

Oooh yeah, the glass blocks will look nice.

Before we could put in the glass block, we had to make sure the opening was level and square. This was quite the challenge, but I got lots of good help from Stan (left) and his twin brother, Duncan.

Leveling the window

Leveling the window

Gotta keep the burglars out somehow

Gotta keep the burglars out somehow

The window and one wall of tile are finished!

The window and one wall of tile are finished!

I made this cute little frame around the window with bullnose trim pieces, but then I realized that there would be too small a space between the top tile and the bottom of the trim piece for another tile, and too big a space for a big thick line of grout.

Cute frame!

Cute frame!

So I had to take off my cute frame.

Poor window frame.

Poor window frame.

But it’s okay, because I found some thicker bullnose trim pieces, and just cut them down to the right size. I took 5 hours of vacation one day to finish the tile and boy did it feel good. Jonny came and put wood trim around the whole thing to give it a more finished look. Don’t worry, plenty of caulk and paint should keep it from rotting since none of it will be directly exposed to water. Then this weekend Stan helped me grout, as well as clean the film off each tile afterward. He’s so awesome.

Shower! Done! With grout!

Shower! Done! With grout!

I just need to caulk, and then I can take a shower in my own house! Someone pinch me! Paint next weekend. Exhale.

Renovating is truly maddening. It really is. The first month that I owned my house, I didn’t live there because, well, it wasn’t livable. (I house-sat for my realtor and stayed with friends during that time.) But as more and more got done, I realized that if I waited until it was “ready”, I would be waiting a looooong time. And besides, a lot more gets done when that’s the place you go after work, rather than having to make a special trip over there and then a trip back to your friend’s house. And you can stay up till the wee hours working on it without having to wake anyone up when it’s time to go to bed. So after scraping off the cottage cheese ceiling, painting (thank you, Rodrigo), new carpet, and gutting and partially putting back together the bathroom among other things (many other things), I moved in! It wasn’t a dramatic “My house is finally ready!” move-in, more of a “Sigh. Here goes nothing.” move-in. I mean, would you be excited to get to bathe in this?

Tub

Or keep your toothbrush here?

Medicine cabinet

Maybe you would be. I was lucky to get my bedroom at least somewhat relaxing, so I have somewhere to unwind after the day. By no means is it decorated or finished, but it’s a pleasant contrast to the current bathroom.

My room

Remember the before?

Yeah. Much better. By the way, after removing the pee-soaked carpet and pad, we painted Kilz over the wood floors (not the kind of wood floors you could re-finish, so I didn’t feel too bad) to hopefully seal as much of the “substance” far below the new carpet.

Also, I had no idea how long tile would take. NO idea. I knew it was “a lot of work” and would “take some time” but I still wasn’t fully prepared. Especially since the window had to be built too, which was a project that was tough to get advice for (not many people have done glass block). I decided to go with glass block because I didn’t want to deal with water/mold in the window tracks and with a vent fan installed I didn’t see any reason to need an opening window in the shower. And glass block lets in a lot of good light. It’s probably not totally private, but hey, it’ just my back yard. Just don’t come over to take a shower while I’m having an outdoor garden party.

I took these pictures through the front window before I bought the house (that’s how excited I was). Yes, that’s water on the kitchen floor (that’s how badly it needed a new roof).

Kitchen and hallway doors

Kitchen and hallway doors

A fuzzy picture of my beautiful picture window in the disproportionately large dining room:

Picture Window

Picture Window

And here you can kind of see the fireplace and eyesore swamp cooler vent in place of a small window.

Nice arch.

Nice arch.

Now for the actual Day 1 pics.

View from right in front of the fireplace: Don’t be fooled by how nice the wood floors look. HUD came in and did a crappy stain job and let stain overlap and make ugly stripes,  and there are still plenty of spaces that need to be filled.

Arch from fireplace

Arch from fireplace

Fireplace

Fireplace

Trying out paint colors

Trying out paint colors

Yep, here we are on day one, already starting work.

Kitchen minus appliances

Kitchen minus appliances

Here are the ones sure to make your skin crawl:

Dog pee. Lots of it. Nasty.

Dog pee. Lots of it. Nasty.

More pee and holes in the wall. Classy.

More pee and holes in the wall. Classy.

Darling green linoleum! <gag>

Darling green linoleum!

Thankfully the instructions on the yellow tape had been followed.

Nice natural light!

Nice natural light!

Please note the wood trim around the shower window (?), the wood around the top of the tub (??) and last but certainly not least, the electrical outlet in the shower (???)

Just know that nothing in the house looks the same as these pictures currently. It hasn’t become a butterfly yet, but there have been improvements. Watch for some current pictures on my next post!

Here is a picture of my house as it looked the day I bought it- September 1, 2009. The house-hunting was surprisingly short and relatively painless, but actually buying it was a different story.

My house

My house

It needed (needs?) so much work, that I did a 203(k) loan, which enables you to borrow extra money on your mortgage for repairs. It was a HUD home and had been vacant for a long time- at least a year. And from talking with the neighbors, I’ve decided that there were probably druggies living in there before. The worst part? The smell. Upon entrance to the house, one’s nostrils were immediately stung by that acid, consciousness-robbing odor of dog urine. I am convinced that this was the single most important reason my little brick darling had been on the market for so long. It really was enough to make you want to turn around the instant you went in. Nevertheless, as we do in our family, we smelled past all that and saw an adorable little bungalow just itching to be fixed up. Luckily my dad was visiting at the time and he convinced me that it could be saved. It was listed at $90,000. There was a bidding process, and Housing and Urban Development would give weight to a non-investor- they really want people to buy and live there to help the community. I put in my bid at around $85,000 I think, and it was rejected. By this point, I was positive that this was the house for me- close to downtown, easy access to the freeway, close to the Fair Park (not that I’ve ever been to the Utah State Fair), grocery stores, a few little parks… and the price was unbeatable. I was a stress case during the next few days as I waited to see if they’d accept my next bid, $93,000. In retrospect I was probably a little over zealous and should have bid at a flat $90,000. Nevertheless, my bid was accepted and here I am. Figuring out financing was the next step. I had already been preapproved for $190,000- can you believe that?? That kind of payment would have literally taken up my entire paycheck! I thought the housing crisis was on it’s way out! Anyway, Jonny and Matt and I made a list of things that would have to be fixed or replaced.We first had to figure out what was eligible to go on the loan and what wasn’t.

ELIGIBLE IMPROVEMENTS INCLUDE
1. Repair/Replacement of roofs, gutters and downspouts
2. Repair/Replacement/upgrade of existing HVAC systems
3. Repair/Replacement/upgrade of plumbing and electrical systems
4. Repair/Replacement of flooring
5. Minor remodeling, such as kitchens, which does not involve structural repairs
6. Painting, both exterior and interior
7. Weatherization, including storm windows and doors, insulation, weather
stripping, etc.
8. Purchase and installation of appliances, including free-standing ranges,
refrigerators, washers/dryers, dishwashers and microwave ovens
9. Accessibility improvements for persons with disabilities
10. Connection to public water or sewage system
11. Repair/replace/add exterior decks, patios, porches, sidewalks, driveways
12. Basement finishing and remodeling, which does not involve structural repairs
13. Basement waterproofing, including mold removal
14. Window and door replacements and exterior wall re-siding
15. Septic system and/or well repair or replacement

INELIGIBLE IMPROVEMENTS INCLUDE
1. Major rehabilitation remodeling, such as the relocation of a load-bearing wall
2. New construction (including room additions)
3. Repair of structural damage
4. Manufactured Home foundation repairs / upgrades to meet HUD standards
5. Landscaping or similar site amenity improvements, including fence
6. Any repair or improvement requiring a work schedule longer than three (3)
months; or Rehabilitation activities that require more than two (2) payments
per specialized contractor. That would necessitate a “consultant” to develop a
“Specification of Repairs/Work Write-Up”
7. Repairs requiring detailed drawings plans or architectural exhibits, or require
a plan reviewer
8. Result in work not starting within 30 days after loan closing; or cause the
mortgagor to be displaced from the property for more than 30 days during
the time the rehabilitation work is being conducted. (FHA anticipates that, in
a typical case, the mortgagor would be able to occupy the property after
mortgage loan closing)
9. Lead-based paint stabilization or abatement of lead-based paint hazards.
Although HUD allows this, the Lender does not participate in this at this time.

I will try to find the detailed plan that we submitted to the bank, but the main things were approximately:

New Roof: $6000

New Furnace: 1800

Carpet: $800

Water Heater: $500

Paint: $1500

New Appliances (there weren’t any): I can’t remember

We ended up deciding that we would need about an additional $18,000, making my full loan amount approximately $111,000. Not bad for a house in Salt Lake. There was one down the street for sale when I was looking, listed at $150,000. It wasn’t awful like mine, but it was very dated and oddly put together. And mine, for $40,000 below that, will be a brand-new adorable abode! Stay tuned to see what all I’ve (we’ve) done so far.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Where to begin??

Where to begin??

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