The nursery was a fun project, as we are excited for the babies to move in, and, it is the first room we have completely finished from beginning to end. Derek and I painted multiple coats on the ceiling to hide what looks like was once a navy blue ceiling. In the future, my grandma says we should use the ceiling paint that goes on pink, blue, or purple and changes to white after it dries to make the process easier. We were lucky that our families were willing to paint the walls and trim, so it was one less part of the project for us. We took off the old baseboards, with plans of moving them down, as there was a gap between the floor and the baseboard from old carpet. However, because the house was rented for over 25 years before we moved in, there was a lot of paint and caulk build up on the wall. We decided that instead of sanding it down, we would buy new baseboards that were higher than this lip.

This baseboard project was a lot easier than the one we did on our first house in Gainesville, thanks to our experience and some new tools. We picked out MDF baseboard from our local lumber store. We then painted it with a semi-gloss white to match the trim around the doors and windows. We measured all the walls and used a chop saw (Derek’s PhD graduation present from his dad!) to make the cuts. This was much quicker than using a table saw and miter saw, and the cuts are probably also a little smoother! We also decided to buy a brad nail gun, as we will eventually be replacing all of the baseboards to match the nursery. This gadget has nail depth adjustability and was a life saver. It was super quick, and Derek didn’t have to worry about hammering his thumb! In the name of teamwork, I was the stud finder, and Derek was the nailer. Afterwards, Derek laid a bead of caulk, and I wiped it down with my wet cloth. Finally, we touched up the baseboard paint in a few places, and we love how the freshly painted and caulked trim makes the grey walls pop and the room really look finished!

Crib 2


Paint and Baseboards

Dresser and rug.JPG

Pre-Babies Housework

While the Drayer family and the Kimutis/Bryan families live far away, we have been lucky that they have been willing to come help with projects before the babies arrive. Derek’s dad and stepmom, June, visited a few times in April and May. June painted the nursery, while Darryl helped Derek remove the studs, put up the header, and run new electrical that has opened up the doorway from the family room to the dining room.

Darryl opening doorway.JPG


My dad and I both had off the same week in June, so my dad offered to visit and help with some house projects. It was nice to spend time with him. We discovered that thimbleberry bushes run along almost one whole side of our property, and we acquired a free grill that we cooked some yummy burgers and corn on. In 2 days, my dad got a lot done! He was able to do a lot of the little projects that have been adding up. And, he was helpful with things I shouldn’t be doing like moving some boxes to storage and mowing the lawn and spraying the wasps’ nest in the yard.

  • Fixed back door latch issue
  • Replaced bathroom fan because the old one only worked intermittently and cleaned the bathroom ceiling while he was up there
  • Installed a shelf above the washing machine
  • Temporarily fixed the garage door
  • Re-ran the dog’s invisible fence along the outside of the garage so we wouldn’t have wires going through the inside of the garage
  • Moved towel bars in both bathrooms to configurations that actually made sense

At the end of July, my mom and dad, my mom’s 2 sisters and brother in law, and my grandma all came to visit. My parents generously offered to drive their Chevy Traverse out here and trade it for my Ford Focus, as Derek and I have been searching for a larger car that would fit 2 babies and 2 big dogs. With 6 family members in town, I felt like I had a painting, yard maintenance, and cleaning crew! Since I was still working this week, they asked me to just leave them a to do list, and they did an awesome job with it!

  • Weeded, edged, and added to my gardens
  • Tore out some thorny bushes in front of the house because we would like to plant evergreens along the front for privacy and to block road noise
  • Painted the master bedroom walls, ceiling, and trim
  • Refinished 2 ice chests that we use as bedside tables and my hope chest
  • Hung curtains in the family room and nursery
  • Hung pictures all over the house
  • Re-arranged the family room so it would feel more open
  • Fixed the leaking kitchen sink

Our house would not have come so far in the 4 months we have lived in it without the help of our family, and we are incredibly grateful!


Who Needs Walls?

One of the things with old houses is they defined spaces much more narrowly than current new construction.  While there is some appeal to having a function for every room, Michelle and I both enjoy having some of that open feel that is currently in vogue.  The house had a large dining area, but it was so segregated from the other rooms, it felt small.


Michelle did really like the arch look of the doorway, but we thought that opening it up would really make the dining room live a lot larger. In theory, tearing down a wall like this is a really simple process: you knock a hole in the drywall, pull off the sheet rock, then tear down the studs.  However this process can be complicated by a couple of considerations.  One of the most obvious is the question: Is this wall load bearing?  The second issue we had to contend with was outlets and light switches in the wall we were set to remove.


Leaving these considerations for later, our first weekend in the house we got to work starting the demo process.

After we got most of the sheet rock out of the way, we started considering those issues I just mentioned.  The question as to whether a wall is load bearing isn’t always straight forward, especially in older homes.  Exterior walls are going to always be load bearing, and interior walls that run parallel to the roof line tend to be load bearing as well.  We got into the attic space to check the structure of the roof, and it was pretty clear that load was being transferred onto the wall in question.  We also had a contractor come out to look at it and confirm our suspicions.

As a brief aside, general contractors can be a great resource.  We found a great guy who was willing to come consult for free on the notion that it would eventually turn into some paid work (it did).

After determining the wall was indeed load bearing, I did quite a bit of research on the appropriate wall structure to span the space in question.  I looked at the code for the dimensions for lumber to span the space in question and went with that.  We ended up using 2x8s for the header to keep the roof from falling down. My dad came into town to help finish demo, rewire, and reconstruction.


Rewiring the outlets and lights was a challenge with the house being a mix of knob and tube and modern romex, but that’s a story for another time.  Once we got the wiring sorted out, we were ready to pull out the studs and remaining sheet rock.  The challenge with this process is to keep the house from falling down during the time in which the original studs are gone and before the replacement header and associated wall structure can be put up.  We bought a bunch of 2x4s to use as braces under the roof joists to take up the weight that the existing wall was originally holding.


We were pretty confident in our support system, but still wanted to minimize the amount of time relying on it.  We constructed our header on the ground before pulling down the existing wall.  In general, you want your header to have the same width as your wall.  Due to variances in lumber, placing two 2x8s side by side was a bit off on the correct width.  We were able to find some thin MDF (medium-density fiberboard) to place between our 2x8s in order to get the appropriate width.  Once this was done we quickly tore out the studs and got our header in place.  This process was a little difficult, but two people made it possible.  I was able the hold the header in place while my dad placed the supporting studs.  Once the header was in place, we pulled out the supports.  IMG_4860

From there we hung new sheet rock and corner bead.  While mudding and texturing is definitely something a home owner can do, I long ago decided it was not something I would do.  So we called our helpful contractor from earlier and they did the mudding work.  They still have to come back to finish the texture work, but our new entry to the dining room is nearly done! From there it’s just paint and trim.




Project Updates

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley” – Robert Burns (translation: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry)

Well we thought that we would be able to handle some smaller projects shortly after moving into the house, but as things often go, money and time have gotten in the way.

So an update on the 5+ week front door project: The trim around the window is made of plastic. Plastic does not like paint. When we took the painters tape off of the glass, the paint peeled right off the plastic, as well. We went back to Home Depot, and their suggestion was to spray paint the plastic. We didn’t like that the red wouldn’t be an exact match, so Derek had the brilliant idea of spray painting the trim, then painting it (the Home Depot lady also thought this was brilliant). We peeled all of our hard work off, taped wrapping paper around the door, so it wouldn’t get sprayed. Then Derek used gray spray paint, so we could see what had gotten sprayed. When taking the painters tape off, we used a box cutter, which seemed to help but our new solution doesn’t really seem perfect. We still had some peeling and wondered if we should have just used the box cutter with our original paint job and skipped the spray paint method.

As there has not been a post about the refinished hardwood floors, you might have guessed that they haven’t gotten done. We were able to remove the drywall and plaster from the doorway we wanted to open, before all the furniture was moved in. However, there was not enough time to refinish the floors, as well. Part of the hold up was waiting for a refinisher to come out and tell us which part of the floors couldn’t be salvaged (just sand them down and then we can come back and look) and waiting for a contractor to come out and tell us if the wall we were opening up was load bearing (probably). This process was a bit frustrating, as both people made appointments with us and then cancelled when they had other things come up.

Minor Victories:

  • Removed plaster and drywall from doorway we are opening upOpening doorway.JPG
  • Bought a self-propelled push lawnmower and mowed the grass
  • Bought and installed an in ground fence for the dogs (Nala has chased cars into the street and rabbits into other yards)

Indefinite Timeline To Do List:

  • run a gas line to the dryer
  • finish the opening doorway project
  • refinish floors

In Ground Dog Fence

We decided to put in an in ground dog fence because a wooden fence would be too expensive and time consuming to install, we didn’t like the look of chain link fences, and Nala kept running out of the yard to chase cars into the streets and rabbits into neighboring yards.

After looking at options, I decided to go with PetSafe. Originally, we were hoping to install a wireless fence, as the installation is much less time consuming. However, the unit can only be programed to create a circle with the transmitter at the center. This would have meant that based on our front and side yard boundaries, the dogs would not have been able to use much of our yard. What is the point of having over an acre, if the dogs can’t use it?! We ultimately went with an in ground wired fence from the same company.

We laid out the wire around our yard, starting and ending in our garage. We bought an extra wire and flag pack because we didn’t think the 500 feet of boundary wire would be enough. We only used a little bit of the 2nd spool, but we will have extra in case we have a wire break in the future. Next, we plugged in the line to test that the loop was complete and all was good to go. The directions weren’t great as they were not specific to the fence we bought, but after some cursing, internet searching and fiddling, we figured it out.

Our wire loop was testing as complete, so Derek began using a hand edger to create a trench for the wire. Even though the wire only had to be 1-3 inches deep, after completing 20 feet, Derek realized how long this would take. Michelle quickly called Home Depot and found that they had a gas powered edger (see the image above!). While the machine proved to be quite helpful, it was not perfect. Maybe the machine was old or just hadn’t been run in a while, but it would often quit or not want to dig through our rocky soil and thick grass. We ended up using the machine to break the ground, then going back and using the hand edger to create a deeper trench. Michelle followed behind pushing the wire into the trench with a plastic knife because she didn’t want to get her fingernails dirty and the trench really wasn’t wide enough for her fingers to push the wire deep enough. All told we spent 5 hours laying the wire.

After placing the flags 10 feet apart, we leashed up the dogs and walked them around the fence. The collars were only set to tone and not static correction. They didn’t seem to care about the tone and weren’t making the connection to the flags. As we were in a bit of a hurry to be able to leave our dogs outside alone, we didn’t follow the directions at all… We changed the collars to correction mode and let the dogs off their leashes. Both quickly learned that they would get a zap if they ventured to the edge of the property. They also began learning that the tone was a warning that they were getting too close and would receive a zap soon. Derek could’t believe how effective this was! After a few hours in they yard, the dogs still seem a little unsure of where exactly their boundaries are (because they don’t seem to be associating the flags with the boundary), but we are confident that they will quickly pick this up! Now the question is when will we trust them enough to leave them outside while we are gone?

Front Door Drama

Front of House

We decided that one of our first project would be to replace our front door – the actual door and the hardware. The door looked cheap, was missing weather stripping, only the deadbolt would lock (not the handle), and we wanted to add some color to the very brown house. We went to Home Depot to look at all of our door options. There were options including pre-painted, hard wood, and glass details. You can easily spend $2,000+ on a nice wood pre-hung door. However, since we were on a budget, we opted for one of the cheapest doors – primed steel with a small half circle glass feature. Home Depot didn’t carry any slab options, but we didn’t want to/feel we needed to replace the frame. If you do decide to go with a pre-hung door (as we had to) and don’t plan on replacing the entire casing (as we didn’t want to), make sure to measure the hinge location.

We opted for the recommended quart of Behr Premium Interior Paint & Primer in One. We picked “Flirt Alert” red in semi-gloss (satin was the other recommended option). We also bought a foam roller and angled paintbrush for the detail. After getting the door home, Derek measured the hinge locations. We then took the hinges off and used painters tape to tape the window and weather stripping. We put on the first coat of paint, and the door seemed to soak it up. After that coat dried, there was not even coverage and white was still showing through, so we put on another coat. When those 2 coats dried, we were disappointed that our door did not look like we expected. The gloss was not even and there were lines from the roller. We did some research and decided to use 220 sandpaper to sand the areas that had bad lines. On the next 2 coats, we also made sure to keep a wet edge, light pressure, and the right amount of paint. While our door is not perfect, it definitely looks better than after coat 2!

Front door

Struggles with painting steel: soaks up paint and shows lines from the roller

Solutions: use a foam roller, keep a wet edge (don’t over-roll!), use light pressure (don’t press too hard!), use the right amount of paint (make sure that the roller is evenly coated and roll out on edge of paint tray so it is not dripping). Sand down any awkward lines between coats.

Front door 2

Our Home: The Before

We wanted to make sure that we documented the before very throughly, as this will be our first major home renovation. We own a house in Florida, but putting in new floors, fixing the fence, knocking down some walls, and lots of paint are pretty minor compared to this long-term home renovation project!

Lot size: 1.08 acres

Built in 1951

Vinyl exterior

2040 square feet (approximately 1350 square feet finished)


Main floor (1210 square feet):

  • original hard wood floors with some water damage by windows
  • large family room
  • separate dining room
  • smaller and outdated kitchen (no dishwasher or microwave!)
  • walk in pantry with extremely small doorway
  • small enclosed back porch
  • 1 full bath that could be reconfigured for better use of space
  • 2 bedrooms (1 quite small but will work for a nursery!)
  • single pane non-tempered windows painted shut
  • some damaged sockets and non-grounded sockets


Daylight basement:

  • washer and dryer hookups
  • 1 bedroom
  • 3/4 bath
  • long and skinny storage room
  • walkout to small patio space under 1st floor deck
  • knob and tube wiring visible in unfinished ceilings

Detached 2 car garage

  • 1 door is set up with garage door opener but does not work


Upcoming Projects

Our first project will be replacing the front door. We are planning to paint the front door bright red (the color red is said to bring prosperity and adds a much needed pop of color). We are hoping that our next project will be to refinish the hardwood floors on the first floor before we get our furniture moved in.

Buying the House

What a crazy start to our home renovation story.

In January 2016 we made the move from San Jose to Seattle.  I am sure it’s getting old for people in the Emerald city to hear that, so I like to make sure they know we were only transients in San Jose.  We stopped long enough for me to get established in my new job before looking further afield for a city we could actually call home.  For us San Jose felt like an embodiment of the movie “Office Space” as it feels a bit like perpetual suburbs and very little character.  To add to that, the median home price is well over a million dollars, not something a young family enjoys.


The problem of course, is that we aren’t the only couple that feels this way.  There has been a fairly large flight of people from California up the coast to cities like Portland and Seattle, which has driven prices up in those markets as well.  We found out we were moving in October of 2015, just a week after our wedding.  A couple of weeks later we were in Seattle looking for our Home (capitalization intentional).  That first weekend we toured over twenty homes and were left feeling tired and a bit disappointed.  It’s the reality of the market, but its still hard to face the realization that on our budget we would be looking at a home in need of serious TLC.

We wound up in a two bedroom apartment on Mercer Island, locked into a three month lease to give us a bit more time to house hunt.  Every weekend from the time we moved, we were out on the hunt – often touring upwards of ten houses a weekend. All told we toured close to 75 homes and made offers on five. Each rejected offer was soul crushing. Before making an offer we had to imagine the house as a Home, and that took a real emotional investment.

We looked at houses all around the Seattle area, not caring too much about the area as long as the schools were good and the area felt safe. Eventually we found a home in the Renton area that had everything we were looking for.  Incredibly it sat on an acre of land right next to a church and across from a new subdivision.  It was an older home, with original hardwood floors and a ton of “character.”  We began building our lives in this house in our imaginations and we liked what we saw!

We made an offer, and after some back and forth with the seller, it was accepted! But the fun didn’t end there.  We still had to get by appraisal in order to get our loan in order.  Of course that came back well under the offer and it was back to negotiations with the seller.  Thankfully, they were willing to meet us half way and a couple weeks ago we came to agreement on the final price.


Finally, this morning we went to the escrow office and signed away our lives for the next 30 years.  Closing will be on Monday and then we take possession!  Our journey is just starting, but its already been a lot of fun with some heartache thrown in as well.  We are excited to move and get to the actual renovations.