The back story

Who lives in a house that is in such bad condition? We all had different theories about the previous owners. I had seen a google earth image of the house that had 4 or 5 work vans parked in the driveway so I imagined a house full of immigrants that were in the construction business. The kids were pretty sure it was a drug den. Dan just thought it was an old red neck. Whoever it was I imagined they were not very happy about their house being foreclosed. One day I tried to go to the house by myself to get some measurements and I was so terrified that I was going to be murdered by the axe murder hiding in the basement that I only lasted about 3 minutes before I had to run out of the house. Because, ya know, whoever lived there before still had keys!

Besides the bad condition inside the house there was one very bizarre clue left in the yard.


Why was this broken down van left behind? There are no plates and 4 flat tires. Then when we looked inside it was completely full of hazmat materials. Cans of paint, blacktop sealant, stain, fire extinguisher, oxygen tank, propane tanks and that’s just what we could see on the top of the pile. There are no seats in the van, just a lot of leftover construction materials. So part of our demo includes getting rid of all the stuff inside the van then having the van towed to a junk yard.

Another bonus that was left for us is a pallet of cement bags that have been left out in the weather for who knows how long. Which means they are all now solid cement. Thank goodness Thomas has spent all this time working out and building up those muscles, he’s gonna need them!


These items have added to the mystery of the previous owners. But the other day I was finally able to catch the neighbor letting her dog out. I went over and chatted with her for a bit about her cute dog, who is always excited to see us and runs along the fence whenever we’re over at the house. Turns out the dog used to live in our house but when the previous tenant left he couldn’t afford to keep the dog so they took him. No wonder he gets excited when he sees us, maybe he wants to come home.

And then I asked her what the deal was with the house, who lived here before? Turns out none of us were even close. A woman owned the house and her partner lived with her. And they were hoarders! Well that explains everything, no wonder the walls hadn’t been painted in decades or the carpets were so gross, they couldn’t even see those things because the house was so full of stuff. The five vans parked in the driveway were just more things they were hoarding. The neighbor said it made a (very ugly) privacy fence that blocked out all the other stuff that was in the back yard.

Recently the woman died and her partner couldn’t afford to keep the utilities on or pay the mortgage so he was eventually evicted and the house was foreclosed. Then the bank had many dumpsters of stuff removed (including some of the storm windows, I think) and 4 of the vans removed. Why did they leave 1 van and a pallet of cement for us to deal with? Instantly the fear of returning thugs has disappeared. I am no longer scared in the house and I am much more comfortable with the kids living in the house.

I’m so glad the back story was as benign as it was!

Basements and attics

I have always loved attics, when we were looking for houses years ago I dreamed of finding one with a drop stair and a usable attic. Sadly our bungalow/ cottage/ cape cod style house has no attic just slanted walls in our upstairs bedroom. We did, however, have a crawl space that we were able to make into a pretty awesome fort that the kids spend many years playing in with their friends.

The new house has what could be an awesome attic if it was going to be my home and the kids were still little enough to enjoy a secluded fort. I would totally spend my weekends tearing down plywood to fit through the small attic access so we could lay a floor. My kids would have loved having all this space to play in. But the kids are now 23, 21 and 16 and while they do still share my love of secret forts its up them to create those spaces now.




So on to the basement, since this 1400 sqft house is a ranch it has a pretty good size basement. You can access it through the kitchen or through an exterior door in the backyard. Perfect for small parties they may have.


I envision getting a ping pong table and a dart board for this area. Along with some couches and a stereo. Instant party!


This corner could some day be framed out for another bedroom if needed, but in the mean time I thought we could gather up all the weights that I find lying around my yard (this is a complete mystery to me, if you search around all of our outbuildings, gardens and yard spaces you will find a never ending supply of workout weights. I don’t know why.) and set up a workout area. It might not get much use until BJ and Thomas are in residence but who knows.


That sink will come out during the demo and that area will become the laundry area. It will be nice that the kids won’t have to drag their laundry over to my house anymore. I love those built in cabinets to the left. A little paint and they will be awesome.


More built in cabinets under the stairs.


And the basement even came with a 3 piece bathroom. Well kinda… there is a shower and a sink and a toilet, but it’s definitely not a traditional bathroom.


Those old shower tiles are awesome and they all seem to be in good shape, no broken tiles!


I love the little nook with the toilet and I love that toilet seat. How cute is that flower on the lid? The funny thing about the toilet nook is the door and wall don’t go all the way to the ceiling or floor, much like a public restroom. A little awkward if you’re having guests over. 🙂


This door goes into the workshop.


This is a great workshop with custom made workbenches and shelves. It will be a great place for the kids to work on small projects. Hmm I wonder if that will ever happen?


And look another door on the other side of the workshop.


Which goes into a cold storage room. This house has everything!


The basement also needs some work, all the loose floor tiles need to be removed and all the ceiling tiles need to come down. I’m sure there is asbestos in both of those so that is a job that needs to be done very carefully. Next I am going to power wash everything. and finally I’ll get out my paint sprayer and paint all the walls then paint the floors. When I’m done it should be a clean, bright and very usable space.

I wonder if my vision of the basement space matches up to what the kids have planned?

It completes me…


Beth really tries not to be just like me, I’m sure it’s not cool for an almost 21 year old to be anything like her over 40 mom. But try as she might she just can’t escape all of my influences. She saw the house for the first time this week and after walking through it and squealing with delight she said, “this house completes me.”  And I know exactly what she means because that is exactly how I feel about the house too.

When Thomas and I first walked in with the realtor, that we had never met before, he didn’t know what to expect from us. This house was a foreclosure, it is not in good shape. There are falling down ceilings, holes in the walls, a bathroom that needs to gutted down to the studs. Carpet stains that look like blood and plenty of animal urine. He said that he shows houses to a lot of people that want a fixer upper but when they see what that means they leave without even looking at the whole house.



Not me, I fell in love! All of the door knobs are glass door knobs, most all of the lighting are antique fixtures. There are built in cubbies and cabinets in almost every room. IMG_3832



There are arched doorways and nice solid wood doors throughout the house. I didn’t see the stained carpet only all the hardwood floors underneath. None of the wood trim or doors have been painted, how awesome is that?



There is so much light coming into the dining room with all those windows, even if only half of them work. That’s still more openable windows than you would have in a new build.



Yes the windows are old and several of the cranks seem to be broken, but the outside storm windows are wood, and actually hinged to the house so they can easily be opened up.


The kitchen cabinets are seriously dated, but they are sturdy and built well and only need to be cleaned up and painted. The yellow Formica may not be for everyone but I kinda love the vintage feel it gives the room.


The kitchen layout does have me a little stymied. Where will I put the stove and refrigerator. How much should I change it to make it more useable? I’m glad I took so many pictures so I can start planning what we will do.


One week away from closing then all the fun begins.

Dusting off the blog

It has been almost 2 years since the last blog post that I have written. Long enough that I couldn’t remember how to log in to my blog or even what program I used to use to write my blogs. Thomas and I are starting a new adventure and a friend suggested I should blog about it. I love the idea of documenting everything we’re doing but I’m not sure if I’ll have the dedication to take the time and write about it. We’ll see how this goes.

It’s funny how I have shared different interests with each kid. When Daniel was still living at home we watched a lot of cooking shows; Iron Chef, Anthony Bourdain, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Man vs. Food. Mostly shows with exotic foods and chefs that travelled around the world. Then when he left for college I never watched another cooking show, it made me too sad to watch them without Daniel. Beth and I watched Project Runway and Americas Next Top Model again not shows I ever watched without her. Thomas and I also have our favorite shows, we love car shows; Top Gear, Fast N Loud, Counting Cars if we had the space we would buy an old car to rebuild together, sadly we don’t have the garage space for that. We also like auction shows, house flipping shows and renovation shows. Thomas has also been the kid that has had the privilege of living almost his whole life in a construction zone and helping with the many never ending renovations we’ve tackled in our very old house.

So on to that new adventure…I am buying a house for us to renovate. While I really want to flip houses this first one is for the kids to rent. At first Daniel, Megan and Beth will live in the house. Then in 4-5 years when Thomas is ready to start at the Police Academy him and BJ plan on kicking the other kids out and moving in.

I think I need to clarify my previous statement that “I am buying a house for us to renovate.” I have been wanting to do this for years, recently I started looking at house online and stumbled across the house we are now very close to owning. I didn’t mention any of this to Dan until the night before I had set up a showing, it was just an idea I was throwing around and I wasn’t really sure where it was going to go. Dan couldn’t go see the house with me but Thomas and I fell in love. OK maybe I fell in love and Thomas was quietly stoic. Dan did go look at it the next day and agreed that this was an amazing deal and a house with great bones. Yes, it needs a ton of cosmetic work but structurally it is very sound. Without one word of complaint or objection Dan worked out the financial side of this endeavor and made it happen for me. I love that about him, instead of pointing out that our house is practically condemnable due to unfinished projects he just lets me go into something that is a little bit crazy.

I do have a big picture plan; Thomas and I will do all the work we can on this house (with a little help from Dan when his expertise is needed) and within 2 months it will be move in ready. Then I think we should move in so Thomas and I can gut our kitchen and bathroom and finally get our house finished. That idea is very dependent on our financial outlook at that point, but that’s what I’m hoping we can do. About the time we are done with all that the kids leases we be ending in their apartments and they should be ready to move into the house. And if all of this goes as planned then the next house I buy will be a flip and we can finally make some money from this new endeavor.


What is the word for someone that never completes a project? I actually tried to Google that and I didn’t come up with anything. Whatever it is, unfortunately, it describes both Dan and me. Which, I guess, is why over the past 16 years not one single project has been completely, all the way, finished around our house. There is always something left behind, trim around the door upstairs, posts not cut to height on the fence, siding put on the top part of the garage… the list goes on. We literally have never finished any job we’ve started on this house.

Which is pretty scary considering how much finish work is still left in this remodel. So how do we handle that? Do we go room by room finishing things off? No, we head outside and completely destroy the yard in an effort to redo the landscaping, remove the cement walkway, put in a new patio and add an outdoor kitchen area. WHAT? Are you serious? We really have a problem!


This all started because of that damn drywell, that hopefully will help with the flooding the backyard. It really better eliminate the flooding!


Oh my, at one point the back yard was actually a nice space. I don’t think I really appreciated like I should have.


The boys have got to be SO sick of all of these house projects. I suggested to Thomas that we could start flipping house and he vehemently disagreed! He does not want to be part of any more remodeling!


But he did finally get to drive the tractor.


Well that is definitely a clean slate, just waiting for us to do something with it. Dare I say, finish it…


Yes, even the side yard was destroyed in the process.


What’s Dan been up to

He’s been spending all his free time trying to get this renovation done. There is just not enough time in the weekend for him to finish the house, plant all the seeds for our garden and fish! Poor Dan all he ever does is work, work, work.

This weekend he got our new back door installed. I’m really excited about having the glass door in the back of the office. Once the back porch is cleaned off and not a staging area for all the construction stuff it will be really nice to look outside and see the back yard.


First he had to remove the existing window and raise the header.


Then he had to frame in the spot for  the new door. And Finally he had to build a new doorjamb and install both the jamb and the door. It’s way more work to install a door than one would think.


Boy the office is bright with that huge hole in the wall. Of course today was cold outside since there was a big hole in the wall all day.


That’s a very fancy lock system we have going across the door.


A new helper around the house

My sister and her family are in the process of moving back to Ohio from Seattle! We are all so excited to have our family back together again. The journey to Ohio is happening in stages. The first person to make the trip is my nephew BJ, or as I hear he now goes by William. He got in Wed night and we have already put him to work on the house.

There was one section going into the kitchen that still needed that dreaded plaster and lathe board knocked down. In an effort to not cover the kitchen in black dust I put up tarps on all 4 sides of the space and I was hoping the boys could just stick their arm in the sheets with a crow bar and pull it all down.


That worked, kind of…they managed to get a bit of the plaster to fall down.


But eventually BJ just had to climb in and really go to town on it.


Yeah it was really that dusty. But he did have a breathing mask and goggles on.


This is only about half of the debris, I cleaned up half way through to try and keep him from stepping on any nails (that didn’t quite work he did step on a nail that I had to pull out of his shoe, oops. He was a trooper he never even complained.)


Here’s the finished area, all the plaster down and ready to be dry walled….


I love having some fresh blood to help around here. I think we’ve worn our own kids out. Poor Daniel never even comes to visit anymore for fear that we’ll put him to work. Will this renovation ever be done?????

The floors are all up

This is where the day started, so empty and clean…


Boards coming up and nails being removed.


Thomas has been right by Dan’s side all day.



Daniel came by to help but he hurt himself in the first 10 seconds and was demoted to vacuuming.


Poor Ann, there is just no where for her to go. She can’t get upstairs to my bed, she can’t get to the couch. She’s trapped pacing in the kitchen wanting to find a nice soft place to take a nap.


And here’s where we are now. Oh boy I thought it was dangerous to walk around before. I’m trapped just like Ann. Time for Dan and Daniel to go buy more plywood so we can get that sub-floor down. Like Daniel said his best ability is being able to help carry stuff. Three years of engineering school and all the boy can do is carry wood.


Watch your step!

Be very careful if you come to visit us in the near future and you probably don’t want to bring any small children. The floor is coming up and it makes for an unsteady walking experience.


Really if you were to walk in the front door you would end up in the basement.


And it’s very challenging to get in and out of my bedroom. The boys have no problems just walking on the joist’s but if I want to try and get across I just can’t. Even when the plywood is down I have to hold on the something because it feel like I might just fall through.


No worries though Dan didn’t leave everything in this complete state of destruction. He put down plywood and covered up enough of the holes that I can kinda walk around without worrying too much.

Pulling up the floors

Finally this weekend we had the time and the gumption to get started on pulling up the 100 year old pine floors that separate the living room from the basement. It’s a long and delicate process lifting the old wood floors. The very large nails that are holding it in place cause the wood to splinter and break apart. Since we’re relaying this floor on top of a new and level subfloor we need to minimize the breakage as much as possible. Dan will be gluing together any major splinters, so for now blue painters tape is holding together any broken pieces.


We started in the corner that covers the freezer and pantry. Now that we see how much dirt, grime and wood splinters will be falling through into the basement, we know that we’ll have to put up tarps in the kids bedrooms before that section is removed.


Dan is happy that he now has access to our crumbling cement foundation so he can remorter the top of it. He can also get into the nooks and crannies and fix all the cold air leaks. It also gives us an opportunity to get in the unreachable parts of the foundation and vacuum up all the years of dust.


Here is Dan checking for cats in the cold air return before he puts the plywood down. Of course the cats went straight for this new and undiscovered area to play. I was worried one of them would fall down the hole that goes right into the furnace but they managed to avoid that, thank goodness!


Here is our very temporary floor just to prevent anyone from falling through the floor joists. During any free time Dan can conjure this week he will finish pulling up the floor in this section and loosely lay the plywood floor. Once all the floor in the living room is lifted he will level the floor joists by adding wood wherever is needed then he will permanently lay the plywood that will be our new sub-floor. And that will be the floor we have until later in the spring after the framing and drywall is completed. Then we will finally relay the hardwood floor. I’m hoping I get less slivers with the plywood than I do with the rough hardwood.