Compared to the 1st House Renovation, this one was much more involved. We had gone through the arduous process of getting a Rehab Mortgage, and most of the $87,000 allotted for repairs was only for the kitchen, addition, and exterior. This left us having to do the work and foot the bill for the rest. Shall we get started?
Let’s talk about the redeeming qualities of the property: we weren’t thrilled about the “Rainforest Green” roof, but it was only a couple years old. Both bedrooms upstairs and the living room had vaulted ceilings. The main level had solid oak woods. The house sat in the middle of five wooded acres with a barn and a 2nd outbuilding, both with power and water.
Now let’s talk about how “livable” this house was. The ductless heat system (I hate those things) pumped out enough air to keep us comfortable, so we essentially had a furnished roof over our head… but the smell! Notice where we slept the first week after closing while we tried to figure out where the smell(s) came from:
The more we worked on the house, the more we peeled away the several layers of stink (it took MONTHS). Day 1: removed all the carpets and padding. Day 2: TSP’d the walls and mopped the floors.
By then, there was no reason why we should have still smelled dogs, but we did. Along with hints of mildew, wood rot, apple cinnamon, and raw red oak (if you’ve never smelled it, it smells a bit like urine or vomit. There were solid red oak floors throughout the main level, but the finish had worn off, leaving the wood bare and stinky). We found the apple cinnamon plug-in located right by the drafty fireplace, which we swore was full of bat feces and mold. To this day, I get nauseous if I smell artificial apple cinnamon or see a similar pile carpet.
There was the master bedroom and bathroom on the main level with two additional bedrooms and another bathroom upstairs. The bathrooms were awful. We gutted them both right away, though the downstairs one had to wait a couple years before we got the funds to finish it. I got pregnant about a month after we moved in, so our budget and time took quite a hit. But I am getting ahead of myself…
My husband would say the upstairs bathroom looked like a clown threw up. Who would go to the trouble of painting perfectly good solid-core wood doors? An “artist” would. The previous owner considered herself an artist, and the builder was some artsy-fartsy, whimsical architect, so go figure: this house. Anyway, we replaced both the toilet and vanity and grout-renewed the tile. Since we’re both relatively tall people, I moved the shower head up (patching the fiberglass with some auto-body filler) and refinished the dingy shower surround with Rustoleum Tub & Tile. This was the easy part; I learned very quickly that I do not enjoy drywall work on ceilings! One side of the bathroom faced the stairwell ceiling, which was waaaay too high to ever be able to dust cobwebs. Not only that, but the architect had built in some kind of interior skylight that let light from the stairwell into the shower area.
Since the skylight was located so high in the stairwell, it could never be cleaned, and it was tilted, so dust bunnies collected on it. Also, the bathroom fan (one of those old heat/light/fan combos) hadn’t been cleaned in 40 years – you can see the strings of dust hanging from it in the picture below! So we got the ducts cleaned and installed a new fanlight.
I got through it, painted every surface, refinished the door, and installed new trim. It was the only clean, finished room for several months, so needless to say it my favorite room in the house for quite a while!
The downstairs bathroom was gutted to the studs for nearly two years. We ripped out the shower surround in this one as we could already see some areas of rot on the floor. We patched the drain holes and had our pest guy spray some sticky chemical (I can’t remember what it’s called) to stop any spread of rot, and found there had been a family of rats living under the tub (smell #7?). We re-framed the shower with some borrowed space from the old washer/dryer area on the other side of the shower wall to get a little more room; I really wanted a double vanity, which didn’t happen, but at least we had some space for our hamper. I waterproofed the shower myself, but called someone in to do all the drywall, cement boarding, and tile.
Of course, we replaced the toilet and vanity, and I painted all the walls and installed new trim. We were happy when this was FINALLY finished, but the tile shower pan wasn’t the easiest to clean. The end result:
The two bedrooms upstairs were fairly straightforward. We ripped out the carpet of both, primed and painted the walls and ceilings, put new closet shelves up using stock lumber (why do people think particleboard is okay in closets?), removed the wall cadet heaters, and put in new windows to code. In the front bedroom we had to re-frame the exterior wall for a dormer to accommodate the roof line for the addition.
Neither rooms had lights in the ceiling, so we had electric run and my husband installed a couple new ceiling fans, then we had new berber carpet installed in the bedrooms. We didn’t take very good “before” pictures of these spaces, so I’ll use the MLS pictures:
Now for the downstairs bedroom, the “master,” which the seller used as her “art studio.” At some point she had cut a hole in the wall and installed a makeshift doggie door, then had someone completely unqualified patch up the interior, leaving the flap to essentially expose the studs to the elements. Not pictured: me, nervously removing and replacing a portion of rotted 2×12 rim joist with a Sawzall and sistering disintegrated exterior studs. It was the first and only time I have dabbled in structural rehab; the house did not crumble on top of me, so I consider that success.
The bedroom had some pretty cool wavy-glass windows. Initially I wanted to save them, but finally agreed with my husband that it wouldn’t match the rest of the house when it was all said and done (plus they were drafty and painted shut). We took those windows out very carefully and found a significant amount of wood rot; not even an antique store could sell them after a year. You’ll also see a funky space in the back right corner of the bedroom where there was another tall window. Of course, the seal was broken and there was wood rot. We framed it up, dry-walled over it, and waited for new siding to take care of the window.
There were newer Milgard windows in the living room, so we installed matching windows in the master after removing the window seats and hidden baseboards. Looking back, we should have installed windows on the entire wall, as it faced west and one could see sunsets from bed on clear nights. I’m not sure why we didn’t do this, but I think it had something to do with not having a place for a TV in the entire house, so we figured we could at least put a place for it in the bedroom.
Then the skylight… UGH. Having a skylight in your master bedroom is the last place you want it unless you love waking up at dawn every single day. And the way it was done was so silly. They simply exposed the 2×8 floor joists and painted them. The skylight shaft was 2 stories; right above the bedroom was the upstairs hallway with some weird painted glass art.
We tore out the whole thing, sealed up the bedroom ceiling (remember how much I love doing drywall on ceilings?) and put in new sub-floor upstairs. We also removed some ill-fitted, ugly cabinets in the upstairs hall.
A few months later, we had a carpenter build us ceiling-height built-ins, including a storage window seat under the skylight.
Here is the finished master bedroom sans the funky skylight:
And the finished upstairs hallway, making use of the skylight appropriately!
It was hard to find a stopping point for Part 1, but that’s going to be it! Click here for Part 2!