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.



House Tour {The Before}

These renovations are going way faster than I thought since we unexpectedly started on Thursday, so I need to stay on it so I don’t fall behind!

Before I get into the other stuff in later posts – let’s house tour it up. This house tour is long overdue, and I did it right in the nick of time. I actually wasn’t intending for this to be the house tour because I had wanted to get the laundry taken care of, our bedroom furniture moved downstairs and the current master bedroom vacuumed, once empty, before I did it. On Thursday however, Andy came home and started tearing down some of the molding in the living room just to get an idea of what was behind it (don’t get me wrong, I was on board—more like jumping up and down). While he was out getting something else done, I decided to take a video of the excitement and then somehow it all got put into a regular old house tour. The only room I missed was the basement. I’ll try and remember to get that the next time I do a tour. Thankfully I had vacuumed when I got home, but I didn’t prep in anyway for the video so you’re in for quite a treat.

By treat I mean laundry, dinner items all over the counter, a messy pantry, some dishes and a super dirty window because of dog noses pressing up against it.

A few notes before the video:

  • The outside of the house tour was done before we fixed the deck in May and the inside of the house tour was just done last Thursday so it’s a bit of a mish mash.
  • When I went into the bathroom originally the seat was up so I cut to another part of it. It’s right outside the office/brother in laws bedroom though, which you see when I turn back around. It’s a really messed up transition in the video, so I apologize. I didn’t realize it until after it was completed and exported.
  • For some reason I call the patio set “the porch”. Nope, the porch will be on the other side of the house, though, it may have a patio set on it too.
  • It’s hard to hear me outside because that day was crazy windy, sorry.
  • I talk with my hands – even on video, when I’m holding it. Hence all the “let me point everything out” for you.

You love it, admit it. Or so I choose to believe this is your reaction.

Poor Winnie did start to get the basketball (that’s why her head was in her toy basket), but then I distracted her by walking around and ignoring her so she just left it. We did get  got in a big walk up to the farm right after all of this hullabaloo. While up there I took a video of the cows, with the intention of making a post about it–and then I got a straight shot of a steer unsuccessfully attempting to mount a heifer while at full *ahem* attention. So I most likely won’t be posting that video.

I will however be posting a video of the demolition work we’ve already done later on.

Drinking game: How many times can I use the word exciting in this blog or in my videos to reference the demolition? Nix that, you’ll all be drunk.



Kitchen Updates, Stenciling & Two Goons

Who upgrades their kitchen before they renovate it?

*points two thumbs at self* This little lady right here.

Yes, we are updating it before we entirely rip it all down and make a whole new kitchen. Why? Because we like to be difficult. Because it might be another year or so before we renovate and it’s driving me nuts. Because really we’re just mudding, caulking and painting. Because it will help with our equity so hopefully we can drop our PMI.

Without further ado, our kitchen looks almost identical to when we moved in. Here it is, almost right after we moved in over four years ago.

If I could find a more recent photo of the kitchen “before” I would show you. There’s no need though. Besides a few appliance switch outs we still have the same cabinets, same counters, same floors, same ceiling. Same. Same. Same. What has been getting worst have been the walls.

Ok, maybe they haven’t been getting worst. It just seems like it to me. I think they have always been pretty terrible. So the other day, while I was painting the guest room (post to come) Andy got started on the kitchen.

First he had me clear off the counters from appliances. This is the point in the blog post when I turn to Andy and ask him what on earth the steps were he did besides mudding.

Me: “What did you do first?”

Andy: “The first thing I did was put on my overalls…dungarees. *smug grin* Pretty awesome dungarees, huh?”

Me: “Did you sand first?”

Andy: “Nope.”

Me: “So you just mudded?”

Andy: “Yep, just slung it on.”

Me: “What’s the technical term? I know it’s called mudding…”

Andy: ” I mixed up a setting type joint compound called Durabond 45, which is a chemical set (joint compound) versus the other kind, which just dries out.”

After mudding everything up, he let it all set until dry which took about a day. Once that was done he went around and sanded each part smooth. So, as of right now this is what it looks like. You can see on the right hand side, on the skinny part of the wall next to the pass through, where I tested a dark beige/greige color. The color we chose will actually be a little lighter. I’m going between two different but similar colors, which I’ll divulge in a later post.

If you’re curious how this ties into the other large living areas of the house, here’s a better photo. On the left is the kitchen, in the middle is the common room, and on the far right is the living room.  I even took this without picking up – just for you.

What you can’t see in this photo is on the floor in the living room, which I noticed after taking the above photo. Two goons found my rice bag, and oven mit, and dish towel, today.

Besides the obvious guilt on their faces, you may have noticed behind the woodstove is now painted. That’s because I attempted to stencil it freehand.

Now, I could tell you that I attempted to paint the lines freehand and had no idea my hands were that shaky. I could even then show you a photo of said destruction….or you could just take my word for it since I didn’t take a photo. We could pretend I totally intended to always paint it solid, particularly Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore color matched at Home Depot.

The photo below was taken when:

a.) I obviously hadn’t pulled the tape yet

b.) The makeshift curtain was hanging from the guest room

c.) I hadn’t styled the top mantle above the woodstove

d.) The kitchen was in disarray, hence the microwave on the table.

e.) The pile of clothes next to the bookshelf is a Goodwill pile.  The plastic on the other side and bins are painting items. The basket is full of the dogs sticks & other toys. I have yet to figure out why it’s in this room in the photo, since it stays in the living room.

5.) The pillows are a wreck in living room because Primrose loves to dig on them before she lays down.

So now that we’re done mudding the kitchen, we still have the following to do:

  • Replace the corner door cabinet which fell off. By fell off I mean lost an hinge and I got so annoyed I took it off completely.
  • Caulk around all of the trim
  • Prime all of the trim
  • Do an initial coat of paint over the mudded areas. Joint compound holds paint differently so it’s important to do a pre-coat of either your paint or primer over the mudded areas, making sure to feather the edges so when you do your full coat there are no weird lines.
  • Do a coat of white on the trim
  • Do a coat or two of paint on the walls
  • Deglaze the backsplash behind the stove and above the sink, and paint it

As for now, this already looks better. You can trust me on this one.

Happy Mudding, Stenciling, Painting and more,


A Common Mess

This just in. For the past week Mr. A and I have been joint compounding, sanding and priming our “common room”. Why the air quotes? I just decided on the name. It is the largest room in the house, central to all the other room – and it has no definitive purpose besides all the other rooms being off of it. Hence, common room.

It started off looking like this. Ok, it didn’t “start” like this, just use your imagination and shudder a little. The large opening on the right goes into the livingroom we just primed, and painted.  Through the door Mr. A is near is a weird small hallway, a guest room, Tom Cruise’s room, and a tiny-itsy-bitsy bathroom. That weird window in the foreground on the left goes into our kitchen – and is about 5 inches from the main entrance to to the common room (weird). Behind me in this shot is a door into the office.

Maybe this different perspective helps a little. Thank goodness things are looking a little different.

Essentially after doing the living-room the rest of the house, especially the common room looked straight dingy in comparison. So we got to work and decided to paint it nice and bright. The boards will be Sherwin-Williams Extra White, and the top will be Reflection.

While I kept edging and priming, Mr. A kept working on fixing cracks, sanding, ripping old trim down and replacing it.

A note on the trim – Mr. A simply ripped boards to length, planed them to be smooth and snugged them together. As this is a temporary fix, we made it about camp-worthy. I.E. The opposite of fancy.  All the trim was eventually painted white, this is what it looked like before. It looks significantly better however that a.) the previous trim and b.) once it was painted white.

In keeping it real – yes, I have to put laundry away (primarily lots of sheets, blankets, etc.).

He also made a cute little mantle above the wood stove to cover between the fire resistant backboard behind the stove, and the regular drywall. There was a big hole where the stovepipe went into the chimney, so Mr.A framed it out to make it more visually suitable. I.E. less dumpy looking after we had to tear out some of the drywall last year. See that hearth the stove is on? Mr. A grew up with that and it now resides in our home.

So, all in all. So far the room has gone from this during the early start of prepping the room:

To this, fully primed and trimmed out, and still not picked up since we are not done painting:

If you’re curious, this is what it looked like when a puppy runs through your living-room and steps one paw in joint compound:

So there we are. So far – we’re completely primed. Next up – painting.

Happy Scrubbing Primer for Days Off Your Body,


Sherwin-Williams is in no way connected to this post, or our renovations. We simply like the paint.