Adventures In Homeowning
Part 1 : Dealing With Filth

The Ground Floor

We closed on the house in mid-February of 2006. We bought it from an older woman whose husband had passed away some years prior, and at various times her adult children were living with her - but not at the time we took ownership of it. The home inspector told us the house was basically in good shape, but needed some updating in a lot of places. True, indeed. It was also dirty as shit. Luckily, both of our leases weren't up until the beginning of March, so we had that couple of weeks to clean it up and get it ready to move our crap in. We also both took a bunch of those days off, and Tristan spent some extra time at his dad's.

The Arsenal. Those paper towels lasted about 3 days. I should've taken pictures of the fridge - I spent more than 8 hours total cleaning that damn thing. It was beyond ridiculous.

Here's the kitchen right after we took posession, nothing but cleaning supplies and a CD player.

The kitchen circa April 2006, a couple months into it actually looking livable. Never mind the dishes.

The kitchen, circa July 2007. In June/July of 2006 we finally got around to painting it, which went mostly well. We also removed that hideous wall lamp in August 2006 and put in this new one...

Ain't it purty? I installed that damn thing myself. Put the hook in the ceiling, too. I've never really done anything electrical like that, and it was kinda scary because it was really jury-rigged to begin with. I didn't know which wire was which (they were the same color and unlabeled), so I kinda put the old and new spliced together and hoped it was the right way; it was! It was also ungrounded because the wire was basically just fed into the outlet below it and fed up through the wall and out this little odd-shaped hole. Thankfully that big brown thing covers the hole up. I think it looks pretty damn good. We still hadn't yet re-done the floor tiles, though we had the new ones and I got to it eventually (it was in mid-progress by 1/08 and had been for several months).

Fast forward to when we were finally ready to sell... this was our first "staging" of the kitchen. Sometime in Spring 2013. But we got "complaints" about too much dark wood, and the yellow was apparently too much color. So we blanded it all up into...

The final product, just before selling. Spring 2014. Hard to believe it's the same kitchen. Painting all those cabinets was the most enormous pain in the ass. Wow. Steph did more of that than I did. We put that little high table in there just to sell and gave it away when we were done. It was cheap. We also painted the ceiling a couple times, which made it a lot brighter. We also had a little bit of water damage up there and a couple hair cracks. The paint seemed to mostly cover it and we didn't really say anything about the water. Notice there's barely much floor in the pictures. (which were taken by the realtor's photog). All the new paint in there made the floor look meh. Which it was.

So after buying replacement kitchen floor tiles way back in like 2006, I finally got around to tearing up the old floor and putting the new ones down in November of 2008, when this set of photos was taken. Actually, I tore out some of the old peripheral tiles (the strip on the right in the above photo) probably a good 18 months earlier - just to see how it was gonna go - and it wasn't easy, so I was not looking forward to it. And that's also why I put it off for a good year and a half.

The glue underneath the old tiles was really hardcore (both old and new set were 12x12 self-adhesive, peel and stick). It took way too much effort to pry them up, using hand scrapers and pretty much every ounce of strength in my body, contorted into various positions of leverage (on my knees, on my butt, against the wall, foot on wall, etc). I broke out towels and a pillow for comfort because my ass and knees and elbows were really feeling the pain. Not to mention my back, which I couldn't put on a pillow.

The first two rows of tiles took almost 3 hours to remove. That's over 20 minutes per tile. The first row of those were also so attached to one of the wooden floorboards that it took out part of that, too. So I had to add some filler to try and get it to flatten out so the tile I put on top would not cave in. That's the filler up in the upper right hand corner - the grayish spot, which continues underneath that entire row of three tiles.

The tiles were so chippy, they wouldn't come off in one piece (this is the edge of a typical old tile in mid-removal). That was the major problem - I could pry up a corner but I'd have to constantly re-scrape and re-pry becuase it would chip or peel off in a thousand little pieces (notice the pile of them in the 2nd photo) instead of just shearing off in one piece, in one motion. As of February of 2009, I finally have all the main tiles down and am still working on getting the ones under the fridge and stove (that you can't see) done and then adding on the molding and trim and duct vents.

The kitchen faucet in the above 7/07 picture started to slightly leak sometime in early-to-mid-2007. We used rubber bands, speaker wire and other various ties to crank the handle down so it would not leak, but that of course just made it worse over time and was totally driving Steph insane... this is our NEW faucet, complete with spray nozzle (previously was just a hole), that I installed entirely by myself in January of 2008. The old faucet might have been able to be fixed but it was super old and corroded and just nasty; check out that shine! In addition, the area of wall where the corner is, in yellow, required some emergency remodeling after a water incident while we were on vacation.

When we first looked at the house, there was a doorway that led directly from the kitchen into the other bedroom, which was really a dining room (there was no door, just an open space). They put up this silly frame of 2x4s or whatever they are (with the molding still framing the doorway!) and said they were in the process of making it a wall. Yeah, they didn't finish it - we had to pull out all of the frame, anyway, because it wasn't going to work in that space at all. She kept claiming her son was going to do all this work, and he did some of it... but a lot didn't get done and so we ended up getting a decent amount of cash back from the sale to go towards fixing all the stuff. We got this fixed up pretty nicely, by a drywall guy who was pretty cool and happened to once live on Cobb street back in the day! (that's the street next to ours). I'd show you a "current" picture of the hole but it'd just look like a wall. Not very exciting. Actually, the very last picture of the kitchen on the very far right... that's where the hole would have been. I still haven't put down molding on the bottom of the wall on either side (kitchen side is waiting for new floor tiles; Tristan side is just waiting on me).

Close-up of the molding, where the new drywall was put in to cover the door hole. It took me a few trips to the store to properly match the wood. that's three kinds of shapes all in there. Then I tried to match the stain, and didn't quite succeed... but I wish I had taken a picture of the final product, which I didn't. It was close!

Here's the landing from the ground floor to the basement, with that awesome wallpaper in the closet behind it! This didn't change much, except we tossed that non-working phone and removed that wallpaper (and tons and tons of glue) so we could paint it. It's took a long while. That stuff does not want to come off, at all.

Since we needed the dining room for our 2nd bedroom, we needed a place to eat. She had a little table in this space, too, and so we put our little cozy table there and called it our dining room. It worked for us nicely, and also didn't change much. Except that we upgraded the table and the wallpaper is also gone (Steph painted that area with a textured paint), and the Rita's cup has died.

Here's the first listing phase, when we were still living there. Fairly normal and mostly how it looked while we were in the house. We actually put that same old phone BACK in because the one we bought never quite fit in perfectly (with some adapters necessary for the internet at the time) - and of course I didn't actually throw away the old one. Note the changes below, when we completely removed the table when we moved out and staged the house without a living room for round#2.

Here's Steph in the living room with some of Tristan's toys to keep him occupied while we were in the process of trying to finish up the bedrooms, before we moved in, back in 2006. That nasty green shag carpet was intact for awhile, the god-awful curtains are gone and the smoky picture shadows haunted us for some time.

The living room just after we finally got all of our stuff in. It's The Pile.

By late April 2006, it was more or less OK for us, but for some reason we kept those curtains rolled up on the rods for a long, long time.

July 2007 - we got Steph's mom's old entertainment unit, so we scrapped our very-functional-but-not-pretty old stuff and rearranged the furniture a bit, including the guitar. Put the new family picture up! Three new lamps from the registry replaced my old halogen lamp, and there's a hamster, too!

Close up of the horrible, horrible ghosts left by the previous owner's pictures. She was a smoker. We originally wanted to remove all that wallpaper but the process was horrendously slow and painful in the area around the landing and we ended up painting over most of the rest of it.

The bathroom has some good things going for it... she put in new faucet fixtures before we bought it, and had other new stuff (soapdish, toothbrush holder, towel holder, toilet paper holder) that I installed myself, later. I started to clean that old shower door...

...but it was just too much. Steph took the whole thing down one day when I was at work and found a ton of gunk that we would never have been able to get to. We don't really like doors, anyway. So I installed that shower rod and also re-caulked pretty much everything, including nailing in a new piece of white molding on the edge of where the shower meets the wall. I had to put some pieces of wood (actually paint stirrers) underneath the sink cabinet to keep it pressed up against the wall so I could caulk it and have it stay sealed. We also removed that awful window curtain, and we'll eventually paint the walls and put in new floor tiles, too.

Oh, my. Tristan's room, pre-cleaning/painting/sandblasting. This was a long, long haul. We started off having a really hard time getting that wallpaper off. It was two layers and the original stuff had to have been from the 50's. The whole thing just looks yellow-dirty, doesn't it? Some of that is from the light, and the wallpaper is really supposed to be that kind of light beige color, but it was pretty filthy, too. So we finally got all that wallpaper out, and painted it, and painted Tristan's chest and armoire to match, and put in new curtains and a large room rug, and voila!

Tristan's room in baby boy blue! This took a while, and for some time we were all sleeping in the basement, which you'll see in a minute. As previously mentioned, I still need to put down molding (which is actually 3 pieces) on the floor, under where the hole in the wall was, but otherwise it's pretty solid.

We told Tristan he had to earn his keep and paint his own room. He was excited.

For about 3 minutes. Then he'd had enough. But we told him NO BREAKS! BACK TO WORK! We don't think we broke any child labor laws.

All of the outlet covers in that room were also wallpapered, and very meticulously so; it was folded and taped on the inside of the outlet cover with mini-strips of duct or electrical tape. It was mind boggling to me that someone would give that much effort for an outlet cover. Every woman who has seen this picture didn't think it was that big of a deal.


On to Part Two