Remodeling Past

My current house, before and after new siding and porch.
My current house, before and after new siding and porch. It’s a work in progress.

As you may have guessed from some of my previous posts, I have a thing for remodeling. When I spend a lot of time in a space, I can’t help but see all of the possibilities. I especially love older homes with unique character. I would definitely say that home remodeling is a hobby of mine. I’ve remodeled multiple kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms, in my homes and the homes of other people. You name it, I’ve probably done it, or helped someone else do it.

I love the pride in completing a project. I’m stubborn in that I prefer doing projects on my own. That being said, I do have personal guidelines when it comes to remodeling. First of all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Research, ask questions, and do it right, and completely, the first time around. Second is to know your limits. I’m willing to do a lot of projects, and love learning new skills. But I know when to leave it to a professional. Everyone’s limits and comfort levels are different. I have an “in the wall” rule; Once electrical or plumbing goes into the wall (or under the floor), it’s off-limits. For the most part. I also won’t do anything involving gas lines. I understand the principles of gas, but I don’t really trust myself. I did assist my Dad when he installed my gas stove and gas water heater, but I wasn’t willing to do them on my own. I’m also leery about doing any structural changes. My third rule? Save money whenever possible. Consider all of your options. Be willing to be flexible with your plans. Reuse or repurpose when possible. Research to find the best deals.

All that said, I occasionally do bend my own rules. My living room floor is one example of that. The original floor is wood, but when I moved in, it was in bad shape. So, I put in carpet. It was nice. Until I got Hannah. Let’s just say old dog and carpet wasn’t a winning combination. But it wasn’t going to be cheap to have them redone professionally. I had friends who tried renting equipment and redoing wood floors on their own, only to end up badly gouging and creating waves in the wood. They ended up having to pay a professional to fix the damage they’d done. Trying to refinish the floors the right way seemed risky. So, I did an “unprofessional redo”:LivingRoom2

Above you can see part of my living room floor. The floors were stained, discolored, and had splotches of paint everywhere. There was also a square of flooring leading into the kitchen that had been replaced with a piece of plywood. Really, plywood?!? So, I pulled up the flooring in that area and the adjacent “hallway” (okay, it’s a 3×3 area leading into the bedroom, which my Mom says doesn’t qualify as a hallway), put down a barrier layer, and relayed the floor. I’m still working on a decorative flooring solution for the hallway, but now the living room floor all matches.


From there, I used a hand sander to remove any paint and old finishes, and to help even things out a bit. It actually wasn’t too hard, since most of the old finish that had once been there was worn away. I planned all along to do a dark stain, so I knew that the wood didn’t need to be perfect.


Stain and a couple of coats of finish and it was done. It isn’t perfect. But then, it was never going to be; the current living room is what once was the living room and a second bedroom. Yep, my 680 square foot house was once a two bedroom home! The result was an “L” shaped room, with a large beam running between the two sections of flooring. But all the defects give the floor character. A fresh coat of paint on the walls, and some new drapes, and the living room was done. Okay, close to done; the base boards on one side of the room didn’t match the other, so I’ll be replacing them. That’s why in this picture there are no base boards. One of the many things on my To-Do List!

The living room remodel overlapped with the kitchen remodel. When I moved in the kitchen was dated. Country kitchen kind of dated. With Hunter Green laminate countertops that were worn down in spots. And the layout was terrible! The room is 10×10, which isn’t bad for such a small house (actually, almost every room in the house is 10×10, which is kinda odd). Part of the layout problem was due to the location of the two doors; one into the living room, one into the laundry room, on opposite walls, on opposite ends of the walls. The diagonal cross-through created a lot of issues trying to redesign the layout. The original layout resulted in very little counter space. And an empty wall. And that empty wall happened to be the tall wall; The ceiling vaults to match the angle of the roof. So the empty wall was 12′ tall. It was weird.


So, I changed the layout of the kitchen. I moved the refrigerator over a few feet to the adjoining wall, next to the dishwasher.


Moving the refrigerator allowed me to bring cabinets down the empty wall, without blocking the path to doorway. I had to move the stove over about a foot, but that didn’t create any issues. And I gained a lot of cabinets and counter space!





Speaking of cabinets, I replaced them. All of them. The old cabinets couldn’t be refinished, they were falling apart inside. But I decided not to replace the upper cabinets on the wall with the sink. I wanted a more open, brighter look. The picture doesn’t do it justice.


All told the kitchen remodel cost me around $3,000. Most of that money went into appliances; I replaced the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and garbage disposal. All of the cabinets are unfinished wood cabinets from Home Depot. I used a Rustoleum cabinet refinishing kit to give them a custom finish. They aren’t fancy, custom cabinets, but they’re still way better than what I had. And they’re in line with the value of the house ($50,000 house, remember?). The counter tops are marble tiles. Doing tiles was cheaper than doing marble slabs. I was originally planning to use laminate or solid surface countertops. But the new layout created a deep, odd angle next to the stove. That one corner meant a custom order for countertops. And it wasn’t going to be cheap. The small change to make it a standard depth also would have made the transition from the counter to stove weird. So, marble tile was the cheapest option. Unless I wanted to do ceramic tile. Which I didn’t. Plus I love tiling! Win-win!

I changed most of the can lights to pendant lights. This house has a ridiculous number of can lights! The ceiling fan was still in good shape, but looked dated. I hate replacing ceiling fans; they’re heavy, and I’m short. Not a winning combination! I had to replace the light fixture part (I don’t remember why now), and I updated the globes. It was originally a gold fixture, so I painted all the metal bronze. It looks like a whole new light. And the fan over the stove? I planned to replace it. But hood fans are expensive! And there was nothing wrong with the old one, except that it was almond colored. A can of spray paint, and now, it’s black. And no one can tell the difference. My Mom and older sister helped me install the upper cabinets, but otherwise I did all of the work myself.

I do have regrets on the dishwasher and garbage disposal. The dishwasher was a cheaper model, and it sucks. It just doesn’t clean right. Although I’ve heard a lot of people complain about new dishwashers in a variety of price ranges. So it’s possible even a more expensive dishwasher wouldn’t have made me happy. And the garbage disposal? Well, when I moved into the house the garbage disposal was broken, so I had to replace it. I hate replacing garbage disposals! There was nothing wrong with that new garbage disposal when I remodeled the rest kitchen. But, it had been several years, and I was having to replace some pipes anyways because of the new sink. And did I mention I hate replacing garbage disposals? I think it’s my #1 hate of all remodeling projects. So I figured, if I was going to have to remove and install one anyways, might as well be a new one. A better one. A prettier one. So, I bought a new one. It was a bitch to install! And honestly, it doesn’t work as well as the old one. I should have kept the first one I bought.

Those are my big remodeling projects so far in this house. I painted in the bedroom, put in a new door (the old one was broken), and replaced the bi-fold doors to the closet. The wood floors in there were in much better shape than the living room, so I lightly sanded them and added a top coat. I also replaced the bedroom window, and the two windows in the kitchen. Windows turned out to be much easier than I expected. I plan to replace the windows in the living room as well. A small amount of money and a couple of hours of time makes a huge difference in looks and energy efficiency. And new windows in an older home are a big selling point.

I’ve mentioned before that I plan to remodel the bathroom before listing the house. Typically remodeling isn’t recommended before listing a property; it’s better to let the new owners do their own thing. But there’s a soft spot in the sub floor next to the tub. It’s better to go ahead and deal with that now, rather than dealing with it during negotiations. The damage could be a plumbing issue. But it occurred when I was out of state for several months, and my brother was watching the house. The shower curtain doesn’t always close all the way. So, it’s just as possible a wet floor issue as it is a more serious issue. So, the sub floor needs replaced. I’ll also replace the old, blue tub. And the toilet. I’ll probably keep the vanity. My plan is to hire someone to remove the old tub, rip out the sub floor, put in a new sub floor, and install the new tub. The rest of the work I can do myself.

Which leaves the only remaining room in the house: The laundry room. And my current remodeling project…

– Cindy W.

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