Skip to the end (Beach house 81)

May 2nd, 2018

I did it! I made it to the end (almost) of the Beach House chronicles before post 100!! Of course, I mostly did it by being so busy that I forgot to write blog posts altogether…. whoops.

Anyway, long story short: I finished! (Mostly. Except for a few details.) Josh took a bunch of gorgeous photos.

Time for some before and afters!!


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First bedroom:



bed1 a


Second bedroom:


bed 2 a


Old kitchen – moving the kitchen into the open living area lets us have a third bedroom or a more private TV/family room with walk in closet/breakfast room attached:



One bathroom becomes two (in both of which, the toilet is actually attached to the floor! And the tub is actually hooked up to the plumbing!) by shifting the bedroom doors and moving the linen closet to the inside of the first bathroom.





Living area looking towards old kitchen:



Standing in old kitchen doorway looking back at living room:

493 living room before


New kitchen space:

493 living room 2 before


And lemme just show off that kitchen a little bit more:



So y’all are probably sick and tired of my bragging by now – Don’t worry, I’m pretty much done.

I posted these here photos on Zillow, Craigslist, Padmapper, Zumper, Turbotenant… and we’ve already got a renter! In fact, 48 hours after I accepted that renter, I had another awesome couple offer to pay me the whole year in cash up front! Too bad I was already under contract, but at least there’s strong interest in the property. :)

Plus, the bank refinancing is going to come through on time and we may just get all our money back; and we’ve got a really sweet family renting from us that we hope may stay at least a couple years. So it’s looking like while it’s going to take some time to recover, it was a sound financial decision in the end.

So while I wondered so many times during the past year whether I’d made a stupid decision, whether I’d bankrupted us, whether I had bitten off something so large not only I couldn’t chew it but I was going to fatally choke on it – I can say that now that I’m out on the other side, I’m glad I did it. Nothing can quite compare to the experience of standing around inside something that you did, looking around at something you built and feeling proud for having made something sad, beautiful again.

So will I do it again? I sure hope so! After I spent a while working on our own home (at the pleadings of poor Josh, who points out that a good 1/4 of our garage space has been taken up with tiles meant for our kitchen for over a year now). I have plans to add a basement bathroom and bedroom or den, plus a complete revamping of our bathrooms… eh, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll take a vacation first. :)

Glamming it up (Beach house #80)

April 12th, 2018

I got around to putting up the kitchen backsplash this past week. This project was fun because it was all from leftover mosaic and repurposed materials, plus the marble tiles from Habitat for Humanity that I got for $10.


Recognize that herringbone?

I was mad at myself – I accidentally cut the herringbone inset a whole inch shorter than I’d meant to. After spending too much time carefully working out the ratio of width to height of the 8×12 tiles and matching it in the herringbone so that they would coordinate despite being different sizes. No one will ever notice except me, whom it will bother forever.

And yes, there’s a lot more space on the top than on the bottom. That’s because I’m accounting for the depth of the hood that I plan to install. I’m tiling behind it so that if I ever switch out the hood for a different model, I won’t have to worry about patching in naked wall behind it.


I bordered it with leftover metal border from the showers – there was exactly enough for 3, 16″ pieces which was exactly what I needed. Whoda thunk.

I used the high-end white grout left over from my own kitchen backsplash 6 years ago.


And when I got the hood installed:


Oooooh it looks so nice!

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With the adhesive at $30 and the 8×12 tiles at $10/box plus the Lash leveling clips, I spent about $60 total. Not too shabby for a few hours’ work!

Trimmed out (Beach house #79)

April 10th, 2018

The trim is on, the nail holes are puttied, the joints are caulked, we are ready to paint!!! And somehow, this baby seems so much closer to finished. So close.




The windows actually look like windows!

Apparently I accidentally set the bathroom window back too far when I installed it, but that ends up being just fine because we made the windowsill extra deep and now it can function as a shelf.


The thresholds have been installed, which I think covers up the very last of the naked framing in the house.


This task pretty much sucked, since all the floors are at different levels. So I had to take a piece of oak stock, rip it down to about 3/8″ thick, and then carefully cut a quarter round to fill in the other side. On the living room threshold, the floor was slanted so I had to cut a 5 foot long quarter round at an angle. They’re not perfect, but they work. Once they’re stained I doubt they’ll be noticed at all.


And here are the marble thresholds I found at the ReStore for $10:


This was a huge pain because they didn’t fit in my 24″ tile saw (they were 29″). But they had to be cut down from 6″ to 4 1/2″ and then beveled, or else they would look dumb.


I made it work in the end, and they do look nice.

Last of the naked framing covered. It’s a milestone!

All is not terrible (Beach house #78)

April 8th, 2018

I know the last few posts were gloom and doom, but not everything is awful. Progress is being made, to the point where I’m now down to dealing with only the millions of small detail-loose-ends type of things. Doorknobs. Trim. Shelves. Coat hooks. Screwing in the dishwasher.

The biggest change lately: new countertops!


Suddenly the kitchen is… kitchen-like. And I’m very pleased with how the soapstone-look goes with the paint and cabinets. I think it blends well. Sorry the photo is sort of dim.

Breakfast bar area:


(I got those pendant lights from Habitat for Humanity for $10. I just saw the exact same ones at Lowe’s for $70 each. Made me feel pretty good.)

And from the other side looking into the kitchen:


I know the whole point of planning is to make things happen in just the way you want them to, but even so it is pretty cool (and a bit eerie) to see the kitchen actually looking exactly like the mockups I’d drawn initially.

Progress in the back (Beach House #77)

March 29th, 2018

Got another day’s worth of work done on the back porch today, in between putting coats of poly on the disappointing, despised Devil Floors. Got two out of three walls insulated and drywalled – put in a couple of electrical outlets while I was at it, too, that’ll be hooked up after the electricians come for their final trim-out.

Looks a little brighter in there!


Made a smooshed-together panorama of the back wall, since there’s no good photo angle out there.

back drywall

Not too exciting, but another checkmark (almost) checked off my list. I still have that remaining 1/2 wall to do, and then all the taping and mudding of course.

Once we get permission to make that an official, REAL room, it’s going to be such a perfect little laundry/mud room. In the mean time, I’m going to order some plexiglass to keep the rain out of that giant gaping hole and hope the county doesn’t call me on it.

Floors, sweat, and tears (Beach house #76)

March 27th, 2018

So you know how sometimes, you should just leave things the hell alone?


So the footprints all over the floor were like little ugly blemishes everywhere. They were annoying, especially given the week of backbreaking work it took to get there, and took the whole look down a level. You could totally tell they were footprints all over, too – you could even perfectly see the fine waffle print in the HVAC guy’s prints. I had wanted those floors to be gorgeous. I wanted glamorous. I wanted a comeback in oak.

And I almost had it – if only I’d put down cardboard overnight after I sanded. Or known about what wet footprints would do. Or taken off my shoes, and asked the HVAC guy to do the same.

If only I hadn’t then tried to fix the damn things.

Because sometimes…


Things are better off…


Left well enough….




I could slap myself. I am so angry. I RUINED THEM.

Another two 12 hour days – I had thought I wouldn’t have to work this weekend, and instead I ended up only seeing my family for about 3 hours total – and all I did was make it even worse. I feel sick about it. Now it looks old and patched instead of new and beautiful. Like, why did I even bother if it was just going to end up looking almost as bad as it was before?

So at this point I have 3 choices. 1) leave it alone, for god’s sake, it’s only a rental or 2) get the floor sander back and suck it up and work some more, for another $150, or 3) get a floor refinishing company in here and have them just fix the damn thing – for $500 if I’m lucky.

And honestly? I don’t know what to do. I feel like I should just leave it be and forget about it and plan to refinish for real in 5 years. Maybe tomorrow, with all the dust spread around more evenly and the final finish cured, it won’t look so bad.


It was so close to perfect. So Close. And I worked so hard, my body and joints have been aching for days. And I’m damned if I’m doing all that work again. So guess what I’m tempted to do? I’m actually tempted to spend money and have the pros do it.

But I don’t like spending money. And so I think: they’re just floors, floors that are going to get ignored and beat up and scratched right away. And we’re not trying to sell the house, so does my deep frustration and disappointment in the floors even really matter?

So I don’t know what to do. What do you think?

Floor hubris, or the beginning of the end (Beach house #75)

March 26th, 2018

So you know how I left the floors gorgeously sanded? Well, overnight it snowed about 7 inches. I came in the next morning with snow on my boots, as did the HVAC guy. At this point, if you’ve done woodworking you are  totally groaning right now.

If not…. just enjoy the photos. And call me Icarus.














Gorgeous, right? So I left it overnight and the next morning came back to –


Footprints everywhere.



Maybe you can see them better if I make it black and white:

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At first I wondered if someone had come in overnight and walked through my new stain – but that didn’t make any sense, since it’d been another 2am night. Then I figured out that…

It had been my own stupid fault.

Walking with wet shoes – even just the residual dampness after wiping off the snow – was enough to open the grains in the wood enough to take the stain much darker than the stain around it.

Footprints. Everywhere. And they don’t look very obvious in the photos, but in person they were just glaringly obvious. I couldn’t let them stay.

And that was my second mistake.


Naked floors (Beach house #74)

March 25th, 2018

Started refinishing the floors this week – and BOY was that a harder job than I had thought it ever would be. I mean I knew the floors were pretty effed up from about 60 years of abuse – stained all over and in one room, the old owner said the tenants had just left a window open for over a year so the entire floor was cupped and warped.

So I knew it would be a chore. But I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it was going to be. I’ve done some hard projects on this house – and this one, I think, I’d rate up there with about as hard as hanging drywall ceilings by myself. Just to start with, the drum sander weighed about 150 pounds. I managed to carry it up the 10 stairs to get inside, but then I spent about 17 hours pushing it around.

Yes, 17 hours. I worked until 2 in the morning multiple times on this part of the project. Which is why the end as you’ll see, is so damn frustrating. Just a little foreshadowing there for ya. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But first, the good parts. Some before/afters!

The master bedroom (the one with the worst floors). This was the one where I straight up replaced half the floors to begin with, and left the rest because it looked like it was in relatively good condition. Forgetting that I was judging it based on the rotten parts that had been there before… suffice to say, I probably should have removed more of it.



You can’t see how cupped the boards are, and in these photos I’ve already patched a whole bunch of holes and gaping seams. Still:


Worked out pretty good. This was soothing.

Moving into the second bedroom:



Took about 1/3 the time the first did. The floors were flatter.




Great room:



So very satisfying.




This part was more difficult. Not only was it nearly 2am and I was at the end of my strength, but it seemed like over the years various coats of paint had been laid down between coats of polyurethane. Or maybe it was just sticky black layers of decades-old crusted pet pee – smelled like it, at times. Suffice it to say, I didn’t do as thorough a job here. I admit it.

So I left the place (relatively) beautiful. Sanded up to 100 grit and vacuumed within an inch of its life, as I intended to come in and apply sealer the next morning. That was my mistake. I should have applied the sealer that night, before tragedy struck…

Working downstairs (Beach House #73)

March 18th, 2018

Because the upper half of the house is coming so close to completion, it’s freeing me up to start working in other areas. I’ve still got to finish up the basement and the back porch before I can consider my job close to done.

Remember how the basement used to look? It was a dungeon that stank of mold. It was really hard to breathe in there. I didn’t permit the girls to go in further than just inside the door, even though it was the only cool place to rest in August.


Doesn’t look all that bad, but… That white door on the left was just propped there to hide a gaping hole.


This is after we got a new header and sill plate put in. To take this photo I was actually standing on top of a giant pile of trash that we removed from in there.

So because of the way the refinancing process works, I’m going to have to temporarily have the laundry room down in the basement instead of the back porch. I’m supposed to build one of the cleanest rooms of the house…. from this??


Challenge accepted. (Reluctantly).

First: to close off the furnace and water heater area to make the basement less deep and dark.


The wall went in very easily! I got it all the way from loose lumber to drywalled in one day.


This cuts the basement depth by about 1/3 and lets the natural light from the window bounce around more easily. Makes it seem brighter even with one less lightbulb.


I still haven’t bought a door to cover up the gaping hole on the left. But I did cut down the only non-smashed-up door remaining from upstairs to become the utilities door.

But because neither the slab nor the joists above it are level – and of course not even parallel with each other, that would be too easy! – I had to plane down every single corner of the door individually, turning it into a sort wonky not-quite-parallelogram.


All that work, and it turns out I miscalculated the upper left-hand corner and it looks crooked! GRRRR! I mean, I know it is all crooked, but the goal was to make it look like it wasn’t by following what was there exactingly. That wonky top is going to bother me forever!

I finally got to install the big ole 60″ shelf unit that I’ve been holding onto for like 8 months now. I think I rescued it from the kitchen originally? It’ll make a nice ledge for laundry soaps, etc. and I love keeping stuff out of the dump.

The paint on the walls is called Drylok and it’s actually a moisture barrier. It should help keep the basement smelling nice and clean. I’m also planning to mount that dehumidifier next to the shelf and have it drain down into the washer drain. I still have to paint the whole wall behind where I was standing to take that photo above, though, and man do I hate painting cinderblock.

Unfortunately the three still-in-good-shape-enough-to-be-refinished kitchen cabinets are covered in mold and will be thrown out after all. I suspect the mold was there from before, since it’s only on their backs and nowhere else, and not on anything else either, but it’s certainly possible that it’s from their unexpectedly long stint in the unfinished basement. In any case they’ve got to go – I’m not doing all this work only to have it STILL smell like mold when I’m done!

There’s a ton of work left to be done, but this is a pretty good start.

Working upstairs (Beach House #72)

March 16th, 2018

The upper half of the house is getting so close to being finished. I got the vanity cabinets installed yesterday, and the recycled medicine cabinets screwed in.



And it’s been painted, for the most part! Still haven’t done the closets though, and there’s a lot of edging yet to do.


I chose this sort of warm, light-grey paint that I’d used and loved in our own house, but up on these walls it’s looking a bit more beigey. :(


Doors are in too, and just waiting on final trim.


I’ve got to hang the giant sliding door to the TV room, which you can see to the right in the photo above. First I have to change up the framing a bit, as the opening is a bit too tall. Then I need to case it in drywall and paint it, since I won’t be able to once the door is hung.

I still need to case the closet openings so I can hang the closet doors, and the next huge task is refinishing the floors. Then all the baseboards and window trim and we are practically finished! UPstairs, at least…