Salvaging The Budget

It’s really easy to go off budget with renovations, and with a husband that can build anything I sometimes have to remind myself that just because he can build anything doesn’t mean that he has either time to, or that we have the budget to. It’s extremely important for us to stay on budget. I figured I should do a post about our budget, and about how we’re staying in line with it so far.

There are four big things we’re doing to keep ourselves on budget.

1. We are paying for this entire renovation ourselves with no financing. We are not rich by any means of the word, it’s taken a lot of work on our part to put our money where our mouth is. Not eat it, save it. I’m not being literal because that would just be straight up wasteful. Our budget is well under $20g for the entire house including the new deck, addition, porch, complete gut and re-layout of the original house, finishes (millwork, trim, casings, etc.) and appliances.

2. We are taking it one project at a time. We do not have all of the money we’ll need for everything at this point but we continue to save. We saved enough to do the addition and porch. Our hope is to get the area to a complete-enough place so we can move into it. It won’t be painted/decorated, etc most likely right away. We may not even have a solid wood floor in our bedroom for a while. Taking it slow.

3. We’re doing the work ourselves. I understand that not everyone can, or should, do this level of a renovation themselves. We’re fortunate enough that Andy was raised in a very hands-on environment where he was taught these things from a very young age. Doing the work ourselves will save an exorbitant amount of money.

4. Salvage salvage salvage. We’re no strangers to salvaging considering Andy built most of our current barn with the plywood and pieces from our old barn. At work, if a client has a nice piece of furniture they want to get rid of you can bet they often call Andy first. Salvaging everything we can simply saves a lot of money. If the insulation is good, salvage it. Plywood still good? You bet I’m pulling all the nails out sheet by sheet so we can either re-use it on the addition, or another project down the line. Those $15-20 dollars here and there add up. We most definitely aren’t afraid of a little extra work when it will save us a lot of money. When we pick up nails with the magnet, if I find one that is perfectly straight I set it aside. Now, I’m not sitting there inspecting every nail but if I happen to catch it, I’ll grab it.

Andy is very good with budgets and as a builder he really understands the process from negotiations on product cost, to the technical execution of the actual building process.  I won’t lie and say his knowledge and know-how doesn’t help, it most definitely does. We do get some of our materials at a discount but truth be told, not by much. Salvaging materials and doing the work ourselves is the biggest help of all for our budget.

For me, the hard part for budget will be further down the line when it’s time to do the interior design. This isn’t part of our overall budget, it’s something we’ll save for separately (new couch, rugs, new mattress, etc.). It’s going to take a lot of ingenuity and creativity on my part to pull off the looks I love. If you follow me on Pinterest (link in the upper right corner of the side bar under “P”) you can tell that I have a fairly specific taste. I’m looking forward to the challenge of how to execute an updated farmhouse/cottage interior. You can bet there will be plenty of flea markets in my future and lots of crafts.

If we continue to follow a simple rule we learned in elementary school we should be just fine: “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Whether it’s saving money for the project, with actual building materials, or finding/making a specific decor item I’m pining for we can just reduce to save money for it, reuse what we have, or recycle another items to stand in for it (or to barter for the item you want!).

Salvaging our budget all comes down to one overarching principal: this project really is a true “DIY” adventure, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Why let someone else do it, when you can do it yourself?



Making Your House A Home During Renovations

When renovations are in full swing, sometimes it’s hard to keep your house feeling like a home. With the drywall dust, construction debris, and in our case moving two huge rooms of our house into tiny spaces, it can quickly make you feel like you’re living in a construction zone. This isn’t a fun feeling for anyone, and I assume it’s one of the biggest reasons people get stressed out during renovations. Lord knows a few months ago I had my moment of “what if this process is bad?”. Then, I got over it, pretty quickly. Attitude is everything in life. There are a few key things you can do to help lower your stress levels and keep your house a home when it looks like this:

  1. Plan: As important as it is to plan your actual renovation, planning the space you will be living in during renovations is crucial. Maximize your space so disruption of flow from room to room is kept at a minimum. If you’re renovating your kitchen, you can cook dinners ahead of time that you can easily heat up in a microwave. Think of moving your fridge to another location so you can still store food. Keep things in place for as long as you can, but have a plan so when it does come time to move them it’s not stressful. If you’re doing a bathroom it’s a little more tricky but can you try and plan it so you have at least the toilet and shower back up and running in one day? We’re moving our bathroom to an entirely different room, so we’ll finish the new bathroom before we tear out the old.
  2. Phase Construction: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you take a hammer to every wall “just to see” what’s behind it, you’re going to leave a lot of dust in your path. Every time you look up you’ll see that hole in the wall and be reminded you need to fix it. One room, one project, at a time. Not only does this help you focus on the task at hand, it’s also helps in case you can’t finish the other phases as planned. The last thing you want is to run out of money, time or help and be reminded of it because you’ve ripped apart every room in the house.
  3. Get Creative and Be Flexible: Yes, it would be great if we all had the budget to afford whatever it is we wanted to do during renovations, but be realistic. You might have to get creative to make some of the things happen that you want. It may also be about picking the most important things and scrimping for them. Do you want lunch with the girls/guys, or do you want a marble counter for your bathroom sink? This goes in hand with being flexible. Sometimes walls just can’t be opened as much as you thought because it would be too expensive for the added structural support.
  4. Stay Within Your Budget: You’re probably thinking “duh” but honestly, when you’re caught up in it and you’ve already spent a bunch of money you might say “what’s a few more thousand?” That’s only a question you can answer, but be careful-it’s a slippery slope. You will be much happier in the end if you don’t have looming loans over your head, just so you could have a bunch of minor details. If you’re stressed after it’s all over, you’ll be too consumed with it to even notice or truly appreciate them. All you’ll see is the debt you’ve incurred. Be smart about it, get creative when you need to in order to attain the things you want, and be flexible. A blown budget just isn’t worth it.
  5. Don’t Forget Your Routine: Let’s face it, when you’re both working full time (I include stay at home parents in the “full time” category), it’s not easy to find time to renovate. Your schedule will be thrown off – but at least try to maintain some normalcy. For Andy and I, we make our dinner and sit on the porch. I do laundry, brush the dogs, take them for walks, play with them, weed the garden, etc. We aren’t letting our lives fall by the wayside just because we’re renovating-it’s just a new part of our lives. This often means Andy is doing a lot of the renovations, while I’m helping to keep the rest of the house running. Dinners are a little less prepared than they used to be, but we aren’t eating out. If you have kids, keeping some routine will help them a lot (and everyone) with the transition.
  6. Keep A Clean Job Site: This is one Andy stressed hugely to me. Messy job sites are the sign of a sloppy job. At the end of the day, no matter how tired you are, do a quick pick up. You will find yourself way less stressed if you don’t have to see everything everywhere when you want to get work done. This includes putting your tools back in a designated spot when you’re done for the day.
  7. Keep A Clean House: Just like a clean job site, a clean living area during renovations is extremely important. You’ll feel like you’re in your home – even if it feels like your home crammed into a tiny box. In our case, because all of our belongings are in a very small area now, it’s incredibly important to stay on top of any messes. With our bedroom being 8×8 it means clothes get put away immediately. No baskets of clothing sits around waiting to be put away. Small spaces force you to be more conscious of not only what you have, but how cluttered it can get. Keep it to a minimum. If you have to, do a once a day clean sweep through the house to pick up any odds and ends. You’d be surprised how good it feels just to keep your floors vacuumed, your laundry put away and your coffee table picked up.
  8. Remember The Little Things: I love having fresh flowers in my house during the summer. To keep our house feeling like a home, I’ve been picking wild flowers and keeping them in a case next to our bed. Not only do they last longer than anything store bought, and are free – but they are significantly more beautiful and diverse. Whatever the little things are that make you feel like a cup of tea and happy, then do them still if you can.

When you’re done, it will be so worth it and even more so if you aren’t fighting the entire time. These are tips we are using in our own renovation, and I hope will help you get through yours. It’s a new and exciting time in your life – embrace it and have fun.



Retro Post: I Hope You Have A Strong Stomach

Andy mentions sometimes that I should have had this blog when we moved in, because so much has been missed. The man speaks truth. There is so much we have done to our home and land that I’m not even sure where to start—nor do I have pictures of everything. Except this photo of me when we first bought the house and we were moving things in. I think I peaked at 23.

Anyway, Andy suggested I write a few retro posts to catch you guys up to what we did, at least the bigger stuff like our garage, tearing off the deck to the house which I briefly grazed on when discussing the new foundation we put in last year, for the addition we’re building this year, as well as our septic system Andy built.

But me being me, I want to get to the heart of single handed the absolutely most disgusting thing ever. I mean ever that we have encountered in our house. This makes the half eaten pear I found yesterday morning from the resident mouse (I will catch you) seem like a Christmas gift. Why am I about to show you this? Because I want you to be as grossed out as me. Because Andy told me it was too gross to share. Because my husband has a serious aversion to anything fake apple scented and this is the reasoning behind it. Because it is hilarious now that it’s approximately 4 1/2 years out. I’m almost positive Andy still does not find this hilarious, and if I think about it too much I’ll gag but it still makes me laugh in an “oh my god I can’t believe that was real” kind of way. Sure I have more current posts I could share with you, like barn updates, landscaping updates or even better retro posts.

But no. Today.

Just today.

Because you’re special.

Because I’m gross.

We’re talking cat shit.

When I say cat shit, I mean cat shit.

Once we started looking for a home, we looked into what kind of dog we wanted. While I on the side kept going on Uncle Henry’s and Craigs List looking at “free to a good home” cats going “oh, she’s so cute!”. To keep a long story short I got a cat about a week after we moved in despite the fact my man strongly dislikes cats. We had a cat for about 6 days before she ran away. We’ll call her Zelda for purposes of this story. I was told a few things about Zelda. Mainly that she loved people, wasn’t nervous and didn’t mind loud noises. Perfect. In reality, I found out she hated loud noises and had been feral her entire life. I was willing to take her as she came. I had made a commitment to her. At least she might eat the mice if she was going to live in the barn. After a few days she hid in the basement in our crawl space. We had only lived in the house for a little over a month, and the basement had always had a weird smell to it, but nothing distinctly identifiable. I called the former owner and agreed to follow her advice so I opened the door so she could stay in the old barn, with her food left outside for her. Why I believed the owner she would ever come back, I don’t know. But I did. Unfortunately after searching and calling around Zelda was gone. Even though I was sad, I still like to think Zelda either made her way home or found a nice quiet old couple. The cat was clearly used to being on her own.

Andy asked me if I was ready for a dog.

The point of the story is that Zelda tipped us off to something by hiding in the crawl space. Because see, here’s the thing, when we came back that day and she was gone the basement smelled a little more than normal. Andy figured she had shit in the crawl space. The space under the old deck that I’m sitting on in the first photo. The space that is just about 3 feet tall—maybe.

The conversation went a little something like this.

Andy: “I think she shit in the crawl space” *Andy looks in the crawl space* “Oh my God”


“Oh my God.”


“There’s shit. Everywhere”

“From Zelda? She was in there for a few hours?!”

“No. Everywhere”

And when he said everywhere. He meant everywhere. The previous owners cats, and maybe the previous-previous owners cats had used it as a giant litter box. Under our crawl space was a few inches of sand. Sand that was filled with one fresh load from Zelda, and I wish I was exaggerating over 2 inches of petrified cat shit. Throughout almost the entire space. This photo does literally no justice to what it actually looked like, and is the only photo documentation we have of the fact his happened.  I even left it full size so you can click on it and make it super big. Also, you aren’t seeing all the shit in layers underneath of that top one.


Do you know who got in their in full gear, mask, gloves to clean it? Do you know who fashioned a sled attached to our older tractor that could fit through the access that led to outside and, in a three foot high space, shovel full by shovel full excavated the entire crawl space from cat shit while Tom Cruise pulled the sled out each time to dump it?

My husband.

Everyone – round of applause.

During this time, I used copious amounts of apple febreeze in the basement. This is why my wonderful husband cannot smell fake apple scented items. Especially apple febreeze. Which worked great by the way, but it’s just way too much of a smell aversion. Two years after this incident I brought an apple candle home and burned it. The ensuing nausea from my husband made me return it.

So there you go. Retro post one, and by far the most disgusting thing ever, complete. I’m just nauseated looked at that photo again. Maybe it’s not funny. Quite yet. At least when I have to see the visual.


I need to go take a shower.


P.S. If you’re curious about the soil underneath of the sand, it was not contaminated thanks to a barrier that was originally placed down before the sand went on top. This allowed us to roll up the barrier once enough sand was excavated, leaving clean soil underneath.

Woodshop Upgrades

Do you remember last January when I posted about my love of a lathe, and how I wanted Andy to update his shop a little?

I knew you did. You’re so good like that.

It’s been almost a year, so I thought I would update you on the four new pieces we’ve acquired. Soon after the lathe blog post last January, we picked up our Shop Fox band-saw and jointer from an industrial wood-shop supply place here in Maine.

Our next piece, our planer, was found through some interesting Craigslist selling & buying. We sold an old fridge, and our oil hot water heater. Andy ended up getting another call about the fridge—and per what he told me, only went online and searched our town name to see if it was still listed for some reason. He swears he removed the listing—and that he wasn’t specifically looking for tools or a sawmill.

I’ve decided to believe him, with a little eye squintiness and smirk going on because I’m not 100% sold.

The search turned up a Jet planer. Even though he wasn’t the first one to call he was the first one over there with a pickup truck, and cash to pay for it. He got it for about 1/4 of what it’s worth. A little sharpening of the planer blades brought it back to near mint condition.

Finally—are you ready?

No really. Are you? Because this is exciting.

We have a lathe. Not a 30 year old piece of junk lathe but a nice lathe. I’m not sure how the conversation started between Andy and our coworker, but I do know it turns out he was upgrading from his Jet lathe. We ended up buying it, with bowl chucks, for about 1/2 of it’s retail cost not including the chucks. I might be just a little excited.

To be clear, I’m still slightly intimidated by my scroll saw so I’m ogling the lathe from a slight distance at this point.

It’s just so wonderful. Andy got all the adjustments done he needed, and then cut a piece of firewood on the bandsaw and decided to turn a “woodworking mallet”.

There’s just something so wonderful about wood shavings all over strong hands from woodworking.

I think the finished product looks like a solid oak replica of an old corked bottle. I can just picture it white washed with a beautiful hand-painted label on it.

Even though it’s meant for woodworking, or so I’m told (I am admittedly very gullible in some aspects) I still love that this was turned from a piece of firewood.

That my friends, is why I love lathes.

Happy Woodworking,



Last weekend we decided it was time to remove and upgrade our old oil heating system and take care of a couple other issues in the basement. We primarily heat by wood, and the oil system was just too inefficient and old to keep. Part of this reno/upgrade included removing a portion of our concrete slab. We have two chimneys, one which is of no use. Around the unused chimney the concrete was at different elevations, so evening it out was a must.

The first step was a trip to home depot to get a hammer drill to get the concrete out. We could have rented a jackhammer, but that would have negated getting a cool new Makita. Said cool new tool also came with a free grinder – kind of hard to pass up. After we got home I started priming more of the living room while Mr. A got to work jacking out the old concrete he had marked off earlier in the day. At this point in the photo below a lot of the heating duct work has been removed. This is Mr. A’s wood workshop, so opening up the ceiling and taking the chimney out will give a lot more room to work around. It’s normally much cleaner than this, but demolition takes its toll.

Slowly but surely the concrete came out, piece by piece.

Eventually, after many hours and many photos looking almost the same, Mr. A finally got all of the concrete out. I  ran out to Sherwin Williams to finish up the livingroom and came home to the chim-chiminey gone-gonzerama.

From the roof it looked a little like this, and has since been patched up.

I was a little late getting home today and laughed when I saw the concrete mixer the boys borrowed from the neighbors to put the new slab patch in. This thing was old, but it got the job done and worked like a charm. He’s banging on the top of it with a shovel at this point just to help loosen everything up.

Side story, see that window above? It’s a hinged wall. When we first moved in we  scratched our heads and couldn’t figure it out.  It’s since been secured and weatherproofed.  However, it was one of the oddest finds of the house. I’d love to know the back story to how that came into being.

Back to the concrete. Once the boys put down the proper barriers, they were able to take the concrete and pour the slab back in. This is as far as I took with pictures, but it’s all smoothed out and curing.

That’s that. Now we have more room in the basement and a much more even floor around where the chimney was. We’ll be installing a different backup heat system, as required by insurance but we won’t be going back to oil.


Happy Renovations,

Kenny Bloggins (that’s for you Mr. A)