One year ago today…

The renovations started on our house! Some pictures of Demo Day from last year, which is always the most exciting part of the process. :-)

The dumpster arrives!

The dumpster arrives! We had this dumpster in our driveway for 3 months last fall. It was completely full by the time they were done!

Upper cabinets down

Starting to take down the cabinets.

Multiple layers of wallpaper and ceiling tiles

Showing the multiple layers of wallpaper and ceiling tiles our kitchen had.

Walls coming down!

Caroline shows off the kitchen at midday – the walls are down and the cabinets are gone, but the studs are still there. They called in an electrician at this point to take care of all the wires.

Everything gone but the stove

The wall of the kitchen with the stove, after the cabinets and backsplash are gone. It looks so ugly once everything is gone!

Where the sink used to be

The floor where the sink was. When I saw this, I was really worried about water damage on the floor underneath, bit thankfully once they removed that layer the subfloor underneath was fine. Phew!

Where the fridge used to be!

Where the fridge used to be! It was crazy to me to be able to see all the way to the bay window from the kitchen window. I remember how much brighter the downstairs felt once the walls were down.

Walls coming down...

They thought one of the walls was load bearing and would need a beam and a column, so they put up temporary walls on either side before they took down the studs. We had these temp walls here for a few weeks before a structural engineer inspected and said the wall was not actually load bearing, and we were fine. That was very happy news!

Getting ready to fix the foundation

After demolition, the first task was to fix the foundation. They had to remove the stoop outside the back door to get access to our crawlspace.

The kitchen is opened up!

The walls in the kitchen are completely down! (You can see the temporary walls on the right) Hooray for an exciting day!

I am hoping to chronicle the whole renovation process, but not sure how fast those posts will come. :-) Just as a heads up! You can jump ahead to the official before and after pictures here.


A House Story

About 6.5 years ago, we bought our first home – a fixer-upper at a great price. We approached the challenge with stars in our eyes and an adventurous spirit. We quickly learned two things: 1) even when you DIY, repairs can be expensive, and 2) we aren’t DIY people. The latter was an unfortunate lesson, and we now know for any future house purchases not to bite off more than we can chew.

Our optimism started wavering when we got the quotes for our foundation a year after purchase, and realized just how expensive fixer-uppers can be. Three years ago, we poured out a bunch of money we didn’t have to get rid of a rat infestation, and at the same time were notified that they had redrawn the lines and our house was now in a flood plain. We were now required to purchase flood insurance, raising our mortgage about $100 a month. And to just rub salt in the wound, we came home one day to find our house broken into and trashed.

I hated this house. We bought low, but prices had sunk even lower, and because of the foundation problem we couldn’t even sell it. We tried to walk away – just foreclose, take the loss on our credit, and rent for a while. The mortgage company (Bank of America) refused to give us the time of day – we spent hours on the phone over a period of several days, trying to figure out our options. (We were attempting a deed-in-lieu or a short sale.) We were so discouraged and unsure about what to do.

We ended up staying. Honestly, those were dark days and I don’t care to revisit them long enough to figure out what our reasons were at the time. We stayed in this house with all its problems, and honestly I felt miserable here. I stopped inviting anyone over. I struggled to find the motivation to clean it, and I dreaded cooking in our small kitchen that was so closed off.

I stopped writing in the blog because we stopped making improvements. We no longer put money into anything except repairing broken things. We treated it like a rental house.

But, time was on our side. We bought right after the housing bubble burst, so we just needed to ride it out until the market improved. And, finally, it improved. I kept a close eye on home sales in our neighborhood and when prices were high enough that we could break even, we decided to sell. We contacted a few real estate agents, namely trying to figure out what our options were as far as selling without fixing the foundation. We actually had an investor make an offer, but the sale ended up falling through.

Around this time, we started looking at rental houses since we were frankly over home ownership and we were unlikely to make enough profit on the sale to afford a down payment. After visiting a few, I quickly realized that we were looking at renting a house that was smaller than the one we owned, with a rent significantly higher than our mortgage. And with 3 kids and homeschooling, space was a big consideration. We began to wonder if selling was the best idea after all.

Several years ago, a friend of mine (Kacie) had told me about an FHA renovation loan called a 203(k) loan. I’m going to go into more detail about it in a future blog post, but it was our best chance at getting the funds to fix the foundation. We began to talk – what would it take to make this house worth staying in for the forseeable future? I gave Paul my list:
– foundation repaired
– new double-paned windows
– roof replaced
– new HVAC unit
– replace all the pipes
– major kitchen overhaul

The next part of the story involves a lot of paperwork, phone calls, bids, and appraisals, but in the end we were able to secure the funds to do all of those things.

We started renovations in August 2015 and they finally finished in early December. The conditions of the loan required us to hire a general contractor, so no chance of DIY, but we cannot be more happy with the finished product. It feels like a different house.

It’s been a long time coming. I’m so grateful that we were able to do this. There’s been a major improvement in our quality of life living here, and I’m finally inspired and excited to really put those small touches that make a house a home.

I chronicled the renovation process with many pictures, so I’ll be collecting those and getting descriptions typed up in the next few weeks. I still need to take official “after” pictures (I was waiting for the Christmas decorations to come down), but I’m really excited for the big reveal! So, stay tuned!


Dehumidifier: why didn’t we get one earlier?!


When we moved into our house 4 years ago, the inspector told us that because of the way it was constructed and vented, we should always expect to have high humidity levels in our hours. No worries, we thought. That was something that doesn’t bother us as much. However, this summer it was  getting almost unbearable. It rained sooo much this summer – we’re on track for having one of the wettest years on record. Needless to say, we were feeling the effects of that in the humidity level in our house.

So, I started researching dehumidifiers. I tried to get one off Craigslist but was unsuccessful. There just weren’t many listed, and the ones I did contact never got back to me. I price-shopped online and went to several discount appliance stores only to find they weren’t in stock, and finally just ended up getting it at Home Depot. I went with a 50-pint size, which seemed to be the best size for our room. (I found this article really helpful for figuring out what size was best.) We got it in the evening and set it up in the den. When we woke up the next morning (about 11 hours later), the unit had automatically shut off because the tray was full of water. It ran all day and shut off about 12 hours later. Wow! We have run it continuously for about a month now, and have noticed a huge difference in our house. The average humidity level according to a thermometer/humidity gauge we have in our dining room, used to be around 60-70%, and perhaps higher if it was raining. Now, our levels are closer to 40%! We still empty it every 18 hours or so, but it hasn’t been too bad.


The den especially feels more comfortable. That room has so much potential but looking back I’ve realized that the humidity in the room was really affecting how much time I wanted to spend there.

We one we purchased was a GE 50 Pint Capacity dehumidifier. They got good reviews from my online research, and it was the capacity we needed. (And I’m glad we didn’t go any smaller in capacity!) So far, we haven’t had any complaints. It does a great job, beeps and automatically shuts off when the tray is full, and is easy to empty. The only downside is it’s a little noisy. I can hear it humming even from upstairs. I’ve mostly gotten used to it, but sometimes when we’re in the den playing, I turn it off just to reduce some of the noise. We also think it does increase the temperature of the room slightly – we’ve noticed that we’ve been turning on a fan more frequently than we did before, but it doesn’t make the room hot or anything.

This has been a real help and I wish we’d gotten one long ago!


Well, hello there!

Almost a year of silence on this blog. Many of you noticed that it disappeared for a while… A lot has happened in the past year and I wasn’t sure what the future of this blog was, so I was hesitant to invest any time into it. However, I think this blog is good for me to chronicle just how far we’ve come in regards to this house.

I am going to try to update with some of the projects we’ve done in the past year. They have mostly been decor-related and not anything major.

Over the past year, we have tossed around the idea of selling this house and buying another that needed less work. We did a lot of number crunching and options investigating. We have tossed around a lot of ideas, talked about our dreams and goals, and did some soul searching. We’ve been uncertain for a long time. We contacted real estate agents and talked to our neighbors to get a feel for the current market. However, it came down to the fact that we need major foundation work and the market just hasn’t risen enough to support that. So, we have decided to stay put for the time being.

When we were talking about selling, I made a list of all the little things we could do to help make the house more attractive. I was surprised at how many little and inexpensive items there were… it made me wonder why I hadn’t bothered to do them yet. I have really struggled with my feelings towards this house, and I think a lot of these little details would go a long way in helping me feel more positive.

So, I decided to resurrect this blog. I am hoping to continue to chronicle our adventures, but I also want the reminder to be positive. I’ve been updating the before & after photos pages (I’m about half done at this point), and I always forget what this house originally looked like, and how much better it is now. I think I just focus on the imperfections. Going forward, I hope to:

  • Not focus too much on the future. It’s fun to brainstorm, but I think I will reserve that for private off-line. If we’re actively planning a project, I’ll share that, but if it’s just hopeful “someday” dreams… I’m going to try to avoid doing too much of that.
  • Not talk in depth about the problems of this house. For one, it gets me down. I want to explain issues that we run into, but I don’t want post after post listing all the reasons why this house is a fixer-upper.
  • Be positive and use this blog to motivate me to take care of the small things. I might resurrect the Project Tuesday or whatever I called it. Or maybe I’ll find my own pace.

And as always, I’m a busy mom of two little children. If weeks (or months!) go by without a post, I’m not going to feel guilty. Sometimes I’m not actively doing things to our house – I’m just trying to maintain the current state!


Well hello there!

I haven’t blogged here in ages! I’m going to try to highlight a few of our projects that we’ve done, but mostly we haven’t really done much to our house recently. Here is the main reason why:


Caroline joined our family this past July. She was born in our home and is now almost 3 months old. How did that happen?? Time just flies.

We had to take updated pictures of our house for our homeowner’s insurance, so I thought I’d share here.

Our house

Side of the house

Back of the house

My sister-in-law is doing a 31 Projects in 31 Days Challenge for the month of October. I love the concept, but unfortunately this month isn’t going to work out. Between having events taking up our Saturdays and Paul’s work schedule preventing either of us from being productive during the week, I think 31 projects would just be too stressful.

However, I did make a list of 31 projects and I’ll see how many I get done this month, and I do hope to put them here. I should get two projects with each one – one to actually do the project, and one to update the blog. :-)


From Hovel to Home

I finally changed the name of this blog! I suspect this will also affect those reading via RSS subscriptions so hopefully I don’t lose anyone with this change.

From hovel to home…

A hovel is “a small, wretched, and often dirty house”. It’s also another name for a shed or something similarly simple. Now certainly our house doesn’t fit the strictest meaning of the word, but the idea is similar. Hopefully we’ll be able to turn this house into a beautiful home that is a pleasant place for all who enter! (We’re not there yet!)

Next up is a redesign – I’d like to find a nice theme that includes a picture of the house in the header. I am also working on my before/after pages so you can better see the evolution of each room. And someday I’d like to make an earnest effort To have a Project Tuesday feature, but I suspect that now (when I’m 6 months pregnant) is not the time to start!


Hello! and a quick update

I’m sorry for disappearing from this blog. A few things have been happening. First of all, sometime around Christmas my camera battery died. And when I went to look for the charger, I couldn’t find it. So, I have not been able to take any pictures of our new backyard. I need to either buy a new one or look harder… I’m excited to share our grass, which we had put in around the beginning of November!!

I also repainted a dresser for my daughters’s room, which turned out pretty awesome. I took all the “before” pictures but again, need the camera for the after pictures.

I want to change the name of this blog but I’m stumped for a good name. But once I do, I’d like to be pretty regular about posting here. You know, the project Tuesday I originally intended to do. We’ve lived here almost 2.5 years now and I still have yet to hang anything on the walls. I really should get on that!

With a new arrival expected this summer, I haven’t had any energy to do anything other than basic household chores. I am hoping that changes, because I really want to use this blog to keep myself motivated to provide a nice home for our family. Anyway, that’s what’s going on here.


before & after: the backyard (phase one)

I know y’all have been waiting anxiously for pictures! This is phase one of the backyard. Phase two will be grading the entire thing and putting down seed, to happen this fall sometime. I also want to paint that shed green to match the house, as well as touching up the paint on the back of the house where that room was. Maybe we’ll do that this summer so we’ll be done with everything by the time we lay seed. :-)

Here is a backyard picture when we moved in:

We took the porch down last summer.

Another angle; I took this picture yesterday. You probably can’t tell, but we also removed part of the chainlink fence.
Before: our backyard

Our backyard looks kinda trashy, doesn’t it? We didn’t really do any mowing or cleaning, in anticipation of the landscapers working on it.

And…. after!
Back of the house

What a change! Here is a picture of the spot where the water always collected, and the previous owners tried to fix it by putting pieces of cement there.
Water collects here

Now we have a catch basin to take the water in a pipe underground and deposited in the dry creekbed at the back of our property. They also removed the fence posts for us.
After: our backyard

I took this picture as they were working, and here you can see the ditches, waiting for pipes. We had underground pipes attached to our two downspouts and to the catch basin, taking water away from our house and hopefully preventing further foundation damage.

A closer picture of the retaining wall. They did a nice job, didn’t they?
New retaining wall

Our foundation still needs help – that is the bigger project we’re saving up for – but at least this downspout won’t cause any other damage.
Foundation is still messed up... but the downspouts are taken care of!

Another nice thing is that the random pieces of cement, cinder block, and bricks have been cleared away (and deposited behind our shed), so that really makes the yard look nicer! Also a lot of the weeds were cleared away as they were digging the ditches, which helps too. :-) Here is another set of before/after pictures – taken in the morning and then late afternoon of the same day:
Before: our backyard

By the shed

Can’t wait to see it all with grass! And I’ll have to work on painting that back side, and then we’ll have a lovely little backyard to spend time in. Does anyone know if you have to watch daytime max temperatures for outdoor painting like you do minimum temps?


the big reveal!

I am so excited about this! I worked hard all last week on raking, painting, and other miscellaneous things to improve the curb appeal of our house. My in-laws, who were visiting, also helped a lot. I have been waiting for a cloudy day to take the “after” picture, but I forgot on Sunday and we have had lots of sun since, so I decided to go ahead and post the picture with the shadows from the trees. (Watch it be cloudy tomorrow!)

Here is a picture I took of the house two months before we bought it. It was taken in July, so the green stuff was at its peak. I wish I had a picture of it the day we closed!! The weeds were taller than Paul in places.
The outside

This picture was taken a few months ago. We had taken off the shutters from around the front door because I thought they looked weird, only to discover that it was the house’s original color underneath (yellow). It remained like that for the next 18 months because after a while, you don’t even notice the flaws anymore.
Our house

Over the winter, I started noticing the shutter colors in other houses in the neighborhood, and I realized that very few houses had the same color for the shutters and the window frames. I thought two different colors would really help set the windows apart – before they just looked weird, in my opinion. After taking a careful survey of house colors in my neighborhood (especially the houses that caught my eye) and consulting with many people, I decided to go with black shutters. I also needed to touch up the paint around the front door. Here is the result:
Our house

Newly painted black shutters

Newly painted shutters - another angle

What we did:
* Painted the shutters and the railing by the front door black.
* Painted the entire front section of the main level of the house. I was just going to paint around the door, but the paint was so slightly off in color that it looked better to paint all the way across. It really brightens up the house!
* Painted the front stoop to match the house.

I noticed a few things about the house when I was up close, painting. For one, the color used to be yellow. The shutters used to be teal green. I am pretty sure the brick section was the original brick color until the previous owners painted the house green in 2006. (I’m currently researching ways to get paint off brick – I’d love to return it to that original state, since I love, love the look of brick on a house.) I think at one point, brown was an accent color, since it is the color of one of the stoops in the carport and the stoop outside the sliding glass door in the back. I am also looking into getting a paint sprayer, because after looking at what needs to be done in the back and also the shed, I think a paint sprayer would be worth the money. That project will come later, though; maybe this summer? Depending on how the budget runs.

And I meant to get a picture of the 14 bags of leaves, pine straw, and pinecones sitting by the curb, waiting to be picked up last Monday. I am happy to report that I did my 30 minutes a day, and it was wonderful to force myself outside and also so satisfying to see the leaves in the bags and not on the ground.

Cleaned up yard.

Trust me, it looks soooo much better. Paul got the lawn mower working and cut all the grass/weeds – they were getting pretty tall and made the yard look so ragged! Overall, the yard looks much better than it has, but overall not much different from when we bought the house – we didn’t really do much yardwork last summer.

Next on the horizon is the backyard, which we are currently collecting quotes about that.


new name for this blog?

I am thinking of changing this blog name, since I just ripped off an existing title, and now that’s starting to bother me. I am terrible at coming up with names, though. Anyone have ideas?