Wednesday, December 28, 2016

All I Want for Christmas is a Dry House

Date and time: December 25, 2016. 2:45pm.

Presents have been opened, family is inside, turkey is out of the oven and the rest of the meal needs to be started. Husband is sitting outside talking to his Dad when he notices water dripping from the doors that lead to the porch. It hasn't rained recently. He pulls on the frame and more water pours out. 

Dan comes inside and tells me something is leaking. He disappears upstairs and I wait. I work on getting dinner ready figuring it can't be that big of a deal (you know, because water is never a big deal in a house....) 

He comes back down at one point and grabs some buckets and tells me that the tub is leaking. I was a little confused at first. We had noticed the faucet dripping a few days ago but the dripping had stopped, my best guess was it stopped the night before because when I took my shower on Christmas Eve, I didn't see the faucet dripping. We believe it stopped dripping out of the faucet and started dripping underneath at that point. 

I head upstairs to help and we realize the buckets can't help because there isn't room under there for them. I try cups and bowls for a while but the water is dripping down the pipes so we really can't "catch" it. I grab a bunch of beach towels and rags and just stuff the interior of the tub cupboard with towels which seems to be the best move until we can shut off the water to the house. We turn on a fan and blow it under the cabinet to help dry things out. 

These pictures were taken before the leak under the tub.
Original pipes and connectors soldered together. 

Original faucet and hot/cold knobs. 

I head downstairs to help with dinner again and our 4 year old comes up to me and says, "Mommy, Grandpa found a wet spot on the ceiling." 

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a big wet spot in your sunroom ceiling. The good news is we had already planned on painting the ceiling so this will be hidden once we do that. 

Our tub is an early 90's design with the Pretty Woman style tub and a cabinet built around it to hide the plumbing. It's pretty ugly. There are two doors to get inside the cabinet and once you open it, you can see the tub and the plumbing. Turns out the faucet's pipes were soldered onto the pipes leading to the main water source. Once the main water was shut off, Dan went to Lowe's and bought the tools needed to cut the pipe and add shut-off valves. We still have to remove the old faucet but we haven't had time to go look for one and thankfully this isn't attached to the shower so the bathroom is still usable.

It's 3 days later now and we still have a fan blowing into the wet area. It's slowly drying out and with the minimal damage we believe occurred, we are comfortable just drying the area out and moving on to the next disaster. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Selling Our Old House

When we decided to look for a home, our biggest worry was timing of it all. We knew we needed the cash from our house sale to buy where we wanted to move to. It was unfortunate, having to move, we were on track to have our house paid off by 2026. That was a bitter pill to swallow but we knew we were doing this move for a good reason, even if it didn't make the most financial sense.

We watched some houses in our neighborhood sell and checked some comps that our real estate agent who helped us buy our new house gave us. We were lucky to be selling in a hot market and decided to be our own real estate agents. Through a friend, I found an agent who charged a flat $249 fee. With that fee you get your listing on the MLS, a sign and a lockbox. We also received amazing assistance from the agent who really didn't have to do half of the things he did. He was a great resource to us through the process and we feel we got a great deal.

One of the biggest things with listing a house these days is online presence. With the listing on MLS, it is not only sent to the local agent's website, but to all of the other local and national websites, as well such as Coldwell Banker, FM Realty, and Zillow. We were in charge of our own pictures. I felt that was something I could do but our agent told us we could use him if we needed someone to take them for us. I was pleased with how our pictures came out.

The funny thing about the internet is people really have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. Since we were still living in the house at this point, my mom, dad and husband were all scurring around behind me hiding things under cabinets, hiding lamp cables and opening blinds.

These are just a few of my favorite rooms from that house and our amazing backyard that my husband transformed from a literal blank slate to this.

We listed the house on the MLS on Thursday and started showings on Friday. We did not live in a very sought after area but we felt our house showed well and was priced right.

We had 3 showings on Friday and 4 lined up for Saturday. Friday I received 2 phone calls from agents asking if we had offers already and asking a few questions about the house and the natural area behind it. Saturday we had 3 showings in the morning and one scheduled for the afternoon. By 10:30am, I had a verbal offer. At noon, we had a written offer in our hands. By 4pm, we had finished our haggling, a final offer was signed by the buyer and by us and we were under contract, with earnest money in hand. What a whirlwind.

Closing was set for a date that worked for both us and the buyer and we were on our way. The process was surprisingly smooth all of the way. The inspection report had a few very minor things on it and we offered to pay for a couple of them. The only hiccup happened at the final walk through when the buyers found the washer and dryer in the house. We thought they wanted it, turned out, they didn't. We spent a tense couple of hours that night trying to make it right and they ended up just keeping them (thankfully). Closing went quickly and smoothly (so much smoother than our closing on the new house!)

Finally. All that hard work was worth it.

Do I miss it? Yes. I miss my friends. We had great neighbors in that neighborhood. Young couples with young kids. There are not that many young couples with young kids in our neighborhood. I miss them a lot and miss having someone for our daughter to play with but we'll get through it. Hopefully we will have other young families move in close to our new house and we will work with what we've got.

Monday, December 19, 2016


While I'm still unhappy with our cabinets, I am IN LOVE with our granite. It is amazing. Beautiful. Perfect. We started looking for countertops before anything else in this project. We were leaning towards a white countertop so we started looking at quartz. We got a lot of feedback from stone companies and installers while we researched the stuff and one thing was for sure - people prefer to work with granite. We came away with the thought that granite is better because it's natural, looks natural, has a lot of different options and will stand the test of time.

I was kind of disappointed at first when we decided granite was the way to go. I was really looking forward to an all-white kitchen. But then we started looking around and found if we searched well, we could find something we really wanted. What I didn't want was something like these:

Not my style at all. Not my husband's style either. He would love to put marble in everywhere but marble is not made for the kitchen so that's out. 

I knew I wanted more of a streaky look than a splotchy look like the ones in the above picture. I took many lunch hours to go look at what the many companies around here offered. I thought I had finally narrowed it down when I found one last company who had a slab come in that I fell in love with. I told the owner's son what I was looking for. He called me the day the slabs came in and I went to see them. He listened to me and he figured out what I wanted. And what they had was exactly what I wanted. He sent me a picture of their new slabs of Himalayan White. 

Perfect! It's smooth and has the streaks I was looking for. We went the next morning to look at it. Not only was it gorgeous from far away, up close it was even better. It showed other bits of stone inside of it. It was just what we wanted. I was so excited. We went ahead and booked the granite guys that we chose and scheduled them to come out and measure the night the cabinet people were done.

This company was so great to work with. Not only did they call us when they had a slab they thought we would love come in, they had us come out and check the slab after they laid out their template. We were able to see exactly what portions of the slab would go where in the kitchen. And they showed us the seam (which is almost invisible now that it is installed). 

They came on Wednesday and it is even better than I had hoped for. 

Close up of some of the granite details

The gorgeous island

The sink

The one thing I haven't yet mentioned is the sink. Our beautiful, rectangular, not rounded sink. How gorgeous is it? And the faucet, as well. It was one of the few faucets I could find that wasn't bulbous in some way or another. I love all of the clean lines. It's perfect. I love cleaning dishes now - no more barrier in the middle of the sink to work with! We had to spend a little more to get the industrial sink but it was so, so worth it. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Kitchen Cabinets

We hired 3 different people/companies for the renovation. We hired someone for the cabinets, countertops and a plumber (the same guy who replaced our hot water heater). We found the cabinet and countertop people through local recommendations.

Our cabinets came in first. I took a day off from work on a Friday to be home while they installed because Dan didn't want to be the one I yelled at if I hated something. He wanted me talking directly to them. Good thing. They installed the cabinets and I wasn't happy. The bottom cabinets were fine and looked great. I was in love with the island and maybe that skewed my original view a little when we went to see them in their shop.

The cabinets do not look like any cabinets I have ever seen before. They put the first few up and I had to stop them because there was about a 3" gap between the door and the top molding and then a 3" gap between the door and the bottom of the cabinet box. They fixed the gap at the top with more trim and that actually made it look really nice and finished. They couldn't do anything about the gap at the bottom of the cabinet. I'm still unhappy about it today. I've never seen cabinets that look like this before - with this big of a gap between door and end of cabinet - yet, these guys say they've never had a complaint. Now they have. The reason they added that extra trim at the bottom was to cover any under cabinet lighting we may put up. That's fine but I still think the cabinets need something else down at the bottom to make them look finished. They look unfinished to me.

I hate even blogging about it because every time I see it, I get mad. I hate it. I hate how it looks. I try to look at everything other than the upper cabinets, though, now that everything is done. I will admit - I guess I didn't know what I was looking at when I reviewed the final drawing of the cabinets. I've never done this before. I thought we were dealing with experts who would steer us in the right direction. 

There were other hiccups. The big one for both of us was that the old man who owns the business was a cranky old dude. He didn't like us inspecting the cabinets closely and complained about our choice of hardware. He said I was nitpicking every little thing and that I need to understand that nicks are going to happen. 

Um. When I buy something brand new, I expect it to be brand new. I do not expect to have nicks or dings in things. I do not expect to see bubbling in paint. I do not expect to have a cranky old man telling me to accept the flaws. $10k says there should be no flaws. 

The team worked from 9am until 3pm. They had a few outstanding items when they were done. A few doors had to be fixed and some hardware had to be evened out. They also brought the wrong size end cabinet. We ordered a 15" cabinet for the right side of the sink. The rest of the cabinets were 12" and this one was to come in slightly bigger.

Thumper. In the way the entire time. 

I love the crisp, clean look of the white cabinets. The beadboard on the island was a great upgrade and I'm so glad we did that. It makes me happy every time I see it. I also love the drawers. When we decided to redo the cabinets, I decided I wanted mostly drawers on the bottom. We ended up doing all drawers or pull-outs other than under the sink. We have a pull-out for cookie sheets, a pull-out for the trash/recycling and drawers for everything from silverware to tupperware, pots and pans to kid cups and plates. Now our daughter can get her own cup when she needs a drink, total parenting hack right there. 

After the work was done, they took the 12" end cabinet back, along with some of the doors that had bubbling to be fixed. We did get the cabinet and the doors back just a week later and it all looked great...other than that pesky bottom trim problem on the top cabinets. We still haven't figured out what we are going to do about that. 

Finally - a "real life" photo of the kitchen in action complete with 15" cabinet and 3/4 of the family. Plus princesses. Our microwave goes in soon and then we still have to find a cover for the vent under the sink cabinet. 

Tell me - would that trim at the bottom bother you? Or does it look finished enough for your taste?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kitchen Demo

After we moved into the house and really lived there for a while, we started to notice some things. I mentioned one in a previous post about how weird the house is. The kitchen was just gross. There were extra kick plates on the cabinets, no trim or corner round on the floor around the fridge, flat edges instead of 45 degree edges cut for corners of the shoe molding. It was all so, so strange and extremely annoying.

My commission from selling our house was about enough to replace the countertops and the sink and faucet, with some to spare. That's the money I could use to reno the kitchen. Once we had lived in the house, though I realized I hated the cabinets. They became my sole focal point. Somehow I convinced my husband to dip into our earnings from selling our house and redo the countertops, as well as the cabinets. We had thought about refacing them but they were just so gross that we decided to go all the way.

It took about a month to find a cabinet company that we thought we liked. We scheduled our cabinets to be installed on Friday November 4th. We decided to save a little money and tear out the old cabinets and countertops ourselves. While it was frustrating and hard work to get them out, it was also kind of therapeutic.


As we pulled the cabinets down, we were able to take a look at just how bad the situation was. The cabinets that were originally installed were pressed particle board. They had what looked like a sheet of contact paper on the outside to make them look like "real wood." Then, one of the previous owners decided to reface them. Another layer of particle board was added to the ends and the doors were painted white.

For some reason they added the extra kick plates in one or two places. They also did a hideous job painting - there was paint on the hinges, inside the cabinets and drips down the sides of the doors and the sides where they added the extra panel. Once we started demo, we were both really glad we decided to rip them out.

So much wine was needed to survive this demo

Oh yay, mold.

What a mess. There was so much caulk in that kitchen from the cabinets to the floors. Most of the caulk on the floor was disgusting from years and years of being open to dust and dirt since they didn't cover it probably with trim or shoe molding.

When we tore out the cabinets under the sink, we accidentally broke off the water shut off valve. It sheared right off. Thankfully we had the water turned off before that happened and didn't need water there again until the plumber was scheduled with our counter install.

The last picture is the final shot before our new cabinets went in. After we removed the cabinets, we cleaned and sanded and finally Dan painted. He painted around where the cabinets were going to go so we wouldn't have to tape them off later. Gray is so much calmer than that awful yellow that was in there before.

Our dining room became our staging area for everything that we had removed from the kitchen cabinets. We attempted to eat dinner in here a couple of times but mostly we just ate out. We even had company while we were in the middle of this mess but it all worked out in the end.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I've talked about all of the weird and gross things about our house so you're probably wondering why we bought it in the first place.

1. Bones. Our house has great bones. The layout is perfect for this stage in our lives. The main floor is a square, typical of Colonial homes. I like our layout because there is no formal living room area. The family room is in the front of the house and there is what the builder called a sun room in the back, across from the kitchen. It's currently being used as a play room, the perfect place for our daughter to play while we cook dinner. There are just enough bedrooms and a bonus room for my husband, plus a bonus room for me (the entire 3rd floor!) That 3rd floor can also become a getaway space when our daughter is a teenager.

Kitchen into sunroom

Sunroom into kitchen

2. The backyard. We have over 1/3 acre and beyond that is a protected wooded area that can never be built on. It's a great feeling to know that you will never be staring at another house behind yours. We also have a stream behind our house. It, too needs a lot of work - we have to add rip-rap and I'd like to lay river rock to make it prettier but it's also perfectly fine for now. We have an area with a lot of debris and rock that we can walk across and some really deep areas. I'm sure our daughter will continue to enjoy it as she gets older. For now, she likes to fish for minnows and salamanders.

3. The area. We moved here for the schools. We had been looking for a few years and finally found an area in this town that we loved. There aren't a lot of other kids this age around but I'm sure that will change as this is a transitional neighborhood. We live on a cul-de-sac street and spend some evenings down in the cul-de-sac on bikes or writing with sidewalk chalk. And the best part of this town? The greenways. We can travel anywhere throughout the area easily and off main roads. We have to ride our bikes about 1/4 mile to get to a greenway but then it's all safe riding from there. There are also restaurants and grocery stores within a mile. We couldn't be happier.

Monday, November 28, 2016


If someone said, "Use one word to describe your home," I would use weird.

This house is so weird. Maybe not the house itself but what the former owners did to the house. We are the 4th owners of our circa 1993 home. It has seen many small children and has had many adult hands doing strange things to it.

Let's start on the third floor and make our way down.
The attic was converted to living space at some point by the first owner. The family home-schooled their children and she wanted a nice place to do so. So, they built a nice space up here. I'm just curious about the stage. Why? Is there something under there? Or did she just want to be able to see out of the window?

The second floor.
The second and third floors share a heating and air conditioning unit. It is split into zones so the third floor is a zone, the main bedroom area is a zone and the bonus room over the garage is a zone. We replaced the filters in the returns and found the main hallway's return doesn't have venting. It's just one big open hole in the ceiling. Very strange. We recently also found that if we turn on the heat on the main zone or on the third floor, the zone in the bonus room starts blowing out air. And when I say blowing, I mean it sounds like a jet engine in that room and the room heats up to 85 degrees in about 30 minutes. We had an HVAC expert come out and what we got was "needs a complete overhaul." We trust these guys and they have walked us through the whole process but that $2500 is not going to leave the bank account easily.

The main floor.
At the intersection of the hallway, kitchen, family room and sun room, there are 3 transition pieces. The floor to the kitchen is higher by about an inch from the sun room. The DIY work here was something else.

My favorite weird thing is the kitchen. This is what various places on the floor of the kitchen look like. Who would do this?

Straight edges instead of angles, bad caulk jobs, no molding in the fridge nook, strange kick plate, bad paint job, double kick plate?? Lots of open space in the floor to allow for dirt, grime and general nastiness to build up.

Finally, let's take a walk outside. This is an electrical outlet. It is in the middle of the yard. It sits in front of where these out of control bushes used to be. We have no idea why it is hanging out here by itself (it's that brown thing about a foot in front of the stake). Hello, safety hazard! There is also a low wattage electrical wire going through the front yard. So weird.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Finding The House Through the Trees

"I should have taken 2 weeks off of work just to unpack this house..." 

My thoughts every evening when I get home from work. We have a lot of stuff. We didn't realize just how much stuff we had until we couldn't find places for it in our new house. We ended up donating 9 bins of stuff to the Vietnam Vets who came to our house to pick up. That is so much better than me driving around town for 3 weeks with my donations in my car because I'm too lazy to drop them off.

While unpacking, organizing and yes, still cleaning (the former owners were so, so gross), we had a few main things we wanted to do: remove trees and replace siding.

While we were unloading our Pack-Rat, we had a team of tree guys show up at our house. We were in the middle of cutting down what we could, so they showed up at a very convenient time. We walked around the house and discussed the many, many trees that had to come out. The house had unfortunately been neglected for a long time and trees had grown into other trees, causing many to struggle for light and water. There are a ton of roots on top of the soil and a lot of dead branches where trees just couldn't get the nutrients they needed. We also couldn't see the house.

The tree guys removed a bunch of trees from the front and the sides, as well as two large trees from the back. They cleared out the out-of-control ground cover to the left of the driveway, as well. We chopped down the bushes in front of the windows. It's now November and because of our mild Fall, the bushes up there have already started growing again. By Summer 2017, the front should look pretty good if the grass in the front takes at all and once we get mulch down. One thing at a time.

As for the siding, we used the contractor that our real estate agent suggested and it turns out he was just a middle man. He found the guys to do the work and that's all he did. We had the wood guys working on our siding for 2 full days. The "few pieces of rotted siding" turned into replacing all of the siding around the far right window and finding out that window is cracked and needs to be replaced, along with the casing around it. We replaced the siding and rotted boards underneath and left the window for now. Windows will be replaced at some point but right now we are hemorrhaging money on the house and don't need one more thing added to it.

We had some rotted wood in the back of the house and didn't notice until a few months later that the contractor conveniently "missed" a few places in the back of the house that needed the siding fixed, as well. We were so done with him at that point that we have thrown in the towel and will just pay the wood guys, instead of going through the middle man again.

The hardest part about all of this is we hate paying other people to do jobs we can do. The problem is we have so many things on our to do list and some things are just best contracted out to save our sanity.

Once the boards had been replaced and the trim above the window had been replaced with PVC, we let the workers go and painted the siding ourselves. We are just happy we can finally see the house! While we have been out working, we have had 5 neighbors stop us and tell us how great it looks now. I guess this house had been hidden for about 10 years. Not anymore!

We left the big Sycamore tree out front, just cut back some of the lower branches to allow us to get under it when we eventually need to mow. The wood pile has been moved to the back of the house and we have enough wood for 3 years worth of fire pit fires.