What We’ve Spent So Far

We’ve now owned the 8K house for two years and four months.  During this time we’ve spent roughly $7000 on renovations.  The bulk of that was spent during the first year getting the house habitable.  One of the most expensive and tedious tasks was getting the electrical up to code.  Wiring is not cheap and we tried to keep costs down by waiting for sales and coupons but often times we found ourselves running out paying full price just to complete a job.  We still have some wiring left to do.  Right now we’re making do with one outlet in our bedroom and no light in our closet.

Another expensive job was refinishing the floors.  We saved the original flooring in every room with the exception of the kitchen and bathroom (too rotted).  While no doubt this in itself is a huge savings, refinishing them was costly.  We rented a large sander for one day and the rest of the time we were on our hands and knees finishing the prep work.  We used gallons of stain and polyurethane to get them looking nice.

The 8K house used natural gas for it’s heating source.  As with the electrical, the gas plumbing was not up to code, in fact it was crumbling.  We were quoted $1500 by a plumbing company to complete the task.  With help from family we completed the job for less that half that amount.  Yes, it took longer and there were back aches and frustration but in the end the savings were worth it and we learned a lot.

Keeping Costs Down has been our main goal throughout the renovation.  At times this has caused great frustration. How easy it would be if we had a construction loan and a handy contractor!?!  Yet we’ve stayed the course and completed all the work ourselves.  We have reused so much of what was already in the house.  We had huge stacks of lumber that we removed, those stacks have dwindled down to just a few lonely boards.  Friends, family and coworkers have been so generous with hand me downs. Seriously, ceiling fans, vintage hardware, leftover poly and paint… the list goes on and on.  All of this has been greatly appreciated and enjoyed by our family.

We still have work to do.  Budget friendly restoration and up keep will always be our style.  Right now, we’re pleased with our progress and pleased with what it’s costs to get here. For $15,000 we have a house that when you squint and tilt your head just right is almost cute.  We’ll get there.  Slow and steady.

 

Here are some before and afters of the bathroom.  This room always get the most praise.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hey, We’re Back!

Sorry for the hiatus.  Things got busy with work, school, renovations and life in general.  We hope to post here regularly as we still have lots of projects to complete.

Right now, we have the interior almost like we want it.  Almost.  We are currently painting the exterior and we’re about 50% done with that.  We’ve added a deck off the back and replaced the dangerous back porch, all for under $500.  Really, safety is priceless and the the back porch had become a death trap.

We have plans for a room in the attic and we still need to landscape.  All of this will be accomplished when we have time and money to do it.  “No loans” is still the motto here!

 

So here are some pics of our handy work.

IMG_0267 (2)
The back deck finished Memorial Day Weekend
exterior shot (2)
Exterior- We’ve painted more since this photo was taken.
IMG_0271 (2)
Living Room with a kid in it.
IMG_0268 (2)
Kitchen with a kid in it.
IMG_0269 (2)
Another Kitchen Shot!

Movin’ on up

Forgive me, Internet. It’s been many weeks since my last confession, er, blog post.

I’ve had sinful thoughts. In one, I hire someone to finish the renovation of the 8K House. That would be a sin, to have worked this hard and fork out cash near the end.

No. We’re still at it, but we did move in! We decided that as soon as the plumbing was done, some of the electrical outlets installed and the floors refinished in at least half the house, we’d go ahead and take the plunge. We did so Jan. 15.Took a whole lotta tryin’ just to get up that hill.

house5

It’s less like living in a home and more like camping in a construction site, but we’ll never again have to pay rent. And no mortgage. What we spent on rent we put into materials. Eventually that money will be used to take the family on killer vacations. We want to see the world.

The plywood planked floors in the kitchen and bathroom came out great. At some point we’ll put down those small hexagon black and white tiles on the bathroom floor, but the wood looks just fine and was very inexpensive to do.

house3

Still need to refinish the living room floor, and put down poly in the pantry/laundry room. Always more to do. Always. So many outlets to run and doors to refinish and trim to install.

Nora's floors after two coats of poly. I sanded after that, then put down a third. I used a small foam roller for the last coat (my wool applicator was shot) and it came out great.
Master bedroom floors after two coats of poly. I sanded after that, then put down a third. I used a small foam roller for the last coat (my wool applicator was shot) and it came out great.

As we keep working on the inside, we’ve begun to plan for what we’ll do on the outside: new porch columns and decorative railings. White picket fence around the front. Huge vegetable garden out back, which I need to start preparing for soon.

Drainage is an issue in several spots in the yard, so I’ll need to figure out a plan to address that as well. I may have to dig drainage ditches, install gutters and truck in fill dirt. I should probably talk to an expert on that, as I have no idea really what’s best to do.

Nora's bedroom floors came out nice. Lots of sanding but it paid off.
Nora’s bedroom floors came out nice. Lots of sanding but it paid off.
Our beloved White Star stove at home in the kitchen. We're using a vintage electric 1950 G.E. stove for now. The gas lines need to be brought up to code before we can hook up the White Star. An appliance guy came by and said we got a great deal on it. Said he thinks it'll work great. Not much to them, really.
Our beloved White Star stove at home in the kitchen. We’re using a vintage electric 1950 G.E. stove for now. The gas lines need to be brought up to code before we can hook up the White Star. An appliance guy came by and said we got a great deal on it. Said he thinks it’ll work great. Not much to them, really.

Spent most of the day today TRYING to hang a single interior door. It would have been hysterical if I weren’t so discouraged from the whole debacle. Had to find the old door jam, which I’d removed to refinish. Found two of the three pieces under a huge pile of saved wood. Cut a replacement side and went to work. About six hours later I still had three pieces of door jam, a door and two hinges.

Some days it’s best to throw the hammer and saw back into the toolbox, put the kids in bed and watch some Netflix. That day was today. The door, and all the hundreds of other projects left undone, will be there for me tomorrow.

We’re Still At It

Yes, it has been awhile since the last update.  No, we haven’t moved in yet but we are close, very close.  We spent Christmas break working on the floors.

Floor Sander
We rented a floor sander for $70. It was a beast.

The kitchen and bathroom floors are done and we have stain down on 2 of the 3 bedroom floors.  A few coats of polyurethane and those will be done.  We’ve had some frigid weather that has temporarily halted finishing the floors.

Kitchen floor in progress
Kitchen floor in progress
100% Done!
100% Done!
Master bedroom awaits polyurethane.
Master bedroom awaits polyurethane.

Speaking of frigid weather, our heating source for the 8k house is natural gas.  We had the gas lines tested by a professional who found that the 40+ year old pipes are not up to code.  He provided us with a lovely estimate of $1300 to complete the job.  We are researching alternatives and we’ll keep you updated on our decision.

Plumbing is 99% done.  We will be hooking up the fixtures this weekend so fingers-crossed, by Monday we’ll have a fully functioning bathroom.

Electrical if finally up to code.  We will run outlets for the stove, fridge, and water heater in the next couple of weeks.  We also will need to finish wiring up the outlets.  Currently, we have one functioning outlet in each room and we plan to complete the rest of the outlets one room at a time, starting with the kitchen.

We have a little painting left to do and tons of trim work but for now we are focused on the big things and getting the house inhabitable.

The Doors

It took longer than expected – is what this blog should be called.

We discovered several weeks ago that the city refused to hook up our electricity permanently (We’d had temporary service connected while we worked on the house) until we installed a new 200 amp meter box and a breaker box outside, so the power could be cut from outside in the event of an emergency.

My mother gifted us a new box, pole and weather head that she had no need for, which saved us about $200. My father put together a new breaker box for outside, but there was the task of installing it all, which I’d never done. No worries. I read a book, called dad for advice, called my brother-in-law James for help and we both figured it out and got almost all of it up last weekend. Had to buy a new service wire to go from outside box to inside breaker box, but I got that installed on Black Friday.

Will helped me get the service wire connected from the outside box to the inside box. Not the old meter box to the right. The city will take that away next week.
Will helped me get the service wire connected from the outside box to the inside box. Not the old meter box to the right. The city will take that away next week.
While everyone else drove, sleepy-headed and in the cold, from one store to another, fighting each other for parking spots, shopping carts, that latest thing that’s on sale and everyone just has to have because it’s so awesome, I completed one more thing that needs doing before my family can start saving money and stop paying rent.

My Black Friday protest done, I started work on our front door. There’s not much else to do until the city turns the power back on early next week, and front doors are important. They tell a home’s story, in a way. First impressions and all.

Our front door was shot out. Crippled, drilled to death, nailed nine ways from Sunday, abused and only able to lock by way of a padlock.

But it’s the original 1940 door and built solid. It cost us nothing. Some sanding and paint went a long way. Katie had the idea to add some white accents, which looked great. I might have considered stripping to back down to wood and staining, but all the scuffs and holes made that next to impossible.

door painting

We wanted a nice handle set in bronze, and found one for $69 at Lowes and brought it home, but I started having second thoughts. The existing hole for the door knob was way too low, which means I’d have to drill out for the plunger in a new spot, and this door is thinner than modern doors. The existing plunger hole leaves hardly any meat on one side – way too thin – and the thought of attempting to drill it out myself with so little margin of error, and without a drill press, wasn’t appealing.

The new set, which is going back to the store.
The new set, which is going back to the store.

Why’d they build the door so thin? Because they could. In 1940 the door used rim locks, mounted flush to the inside of the door. No need for plunger holes. Simple to install, and, in my opinion, some are beautiful. More sculptures than door locks.

Nope. I’m not putting on a new door knob on this door. The new set goes back to the store. I’ve got my eye on a great antique rim lock set, compete with a skeleton key and an engraved brass keyhole cover and doorknob rosette. And all for the same price as the new knob we bought. No more abuse. The door deserves the proper hardware.

This s what  hope to win on Ebay. It's amazing. Who knew door locks could be so sexy?
This s what hope to win on Ebay. It’s amazing. Who knew door locks could be so sexy?

I filled the three existing holes in the door with plugs I drilled from plywood then glued in place. I used putty and sandpaper to get it all smooth before painting. It might have been more work, but everything’s more work with this house. Why stop with the front door?

door plugs

Taped up for paint.
Taped up for paint.

door2

When someone comes to our home, the story our front door will tell is that the family who lives there doesn’t do Black Friday sales.

This family refuses to put new door knobs on great old doors, because it’s just plain wrong. And who else opens their front door with a skeleton key? Nobody.That’s who. Whoever lives here is different.

I like different. I’ll take that.

Moving target

Our target move in date has changed a few times in the six months since we bought the house. There never seems to be enough time or money to get done all the things that need doing. I’ve learned that renovating an old house is a marathon, not a sprint. Run too hard too early and you’ll collapse. Just take it one day – or weekend – at a time. New target date: In by Christmas. We finally got around to pulling up the old vinyl in our bedroom and we pleased to see pristine, never finished pine floors. Four layers of heavy 1940s floor covering kept the floors safe. We’ll be sanding and finishing the floors at the very end to prevent damage to the finish caused by other projects.

Flooring designs from the 1930s - 1940s were amazing. I saved some of this stuff thinking maybe we could frame a few pieces for some found art.
Flooring designs from the 1930s – 1940s were amazing. I saved some of this stuff thinking maybe we could frame a few pieces for some found art.
Great floors underneath all that covering. After all that rot in the kitchen floors we were happy to see this.
Great floors underneath all that covering. After all that rot in the kitchen floors we were happy to see this.

After much thought, we chose something a bit different for the kitchen floor. Rot ruined the original pine flooring, and while tile would have been nice it costs several hundred dollars all told, so instead we went with wide plank wood floors.

Here I am putting a slight bevel on the sides of the planks. It helps create the look of real hardwood boards instead of straight cut plywood.
Here I am putting a slight bevel on the sides of the planks. It helps create the look of real hardwood boards instead of straight cut plywood.

But aren’t wide plank wood floors more expensive than tile? Probably, but we wouldn’t know. That’s because we bought pine plywood cut into eight inch strips, beveled the edges and shot them down with a nail gun. We aren’t the first to go this route. One can find numerous blog posts about folks who have done the same and with great results.

Bro-in-law James installing those new plywood planks in the kitchen. About half had these great darker streaks running through them, so I mixed them in throughout along with the more clear pieces. Should look great when finished.
Bro-in-law James installing those new plywood planks in the kitchen. About half had these great darker streaks running through them, so I mixed them in throughout along with the more clear pieces. Should look great when finished.

At $22 for a 4×8 sheet for the pine ply, we spent .68 cents per square foot for our kitchen floor. We still have to sand, whitewash and finish the floor with poly, but I estimate we will have spent about $1 per square foot when done. That’s the cost of unfinished standard width hardwood. Not nearly as striking as those wide boards that can cost much, much more. Floors aside, we’re still slogging through the complete rewire. Discovered much to our dismay that we need a new 200 amp meter box and outside breaker box, but thanks to a freebie from my mother, Sadie, who had one she wasn’t using, it’ll only cost us about $25 for new wire going down from the weather head to the meter box. And then every inch of wiring will be new from the city’s hookup down to the last outlet. As for plumbing, well…we haven’t even begun that part yet, but I feel confident that my bro-in-law and I can knock it out in a couple weekends. Most of the drains coming from the bathroom and kitchen are good, so I’ll just need to connect up a new water heater, new water lines to kitchen, bathroom and laundry room, and install our clawfoot tub, old farmhouse porcelain kitchen sink, toilet and vanity. Alright, maybe three weekends, but we’ll get it done. I’ll say it again. Renovating an old house is a marathon, not a sprint. If we don’t make Christmas there’s always New Years.

A new, free fan in the living room. Huge thanks to my coworker Deirdre Long for the fan. She installed a new one in her home and had no use for the old fan.
A new, free fan in the living room. Huge thanks to my coworker Deirdre Long for the fan. She installed a new one in her home and had no use for the old fan.

Our Town

We’d like to share a little bit about our town. Rather than a long rambling post we decided to share this video. It was made by local high school students as part of an Economics class project.

This town not only offers affordable housing but a great school system as well.  We hope you enjoy!