Our house gets a facelift!

You know how everyone looks better with the glow of a fresh tan? Or how a great haircut makes you stand up just a bit taller? Or how a pair of fierce new boots makes you walk into a room like you own it? Well this past summer our house got all of those and now looks brighter, bigger, and acts like it OWNS this street (haha more like it is now the brightest house so it kinda sticks out…)

From what we know our lil farmhouse has always been a cheery yellow, but lack of a fresh coat of paint for (by my estimation) the past 15 years has turned it to a creamy-yellowing-off white-BLAH. Not to mention terrible amounts of peeling LEAD paint (hello lawsuit should the neighbor kids get hungry!) and droopy shudders that made our house just look, well, sad L

We originally wanted to re-do the entire exterior in a vinyl siding or Hardieboard (a type of fiber-cement siding that is probably the best type of siding you can use). Since both types can go up right over the original cedar shake siding, they would have allowed us to add a layer of insulation between the old and new layers. This would have been wonderful considering our house has ZERO exterior wall insulation as evidence by our $400 gas bills…sighhhh. Anyway the vinyl would have cost around $13 – $18K and the cement board around $20K so they were both, unfortunately, out of the budget.

*Side note: If we knew we would definitely be staying in this house for a minimum 5 – 10 more years we would have made the investment now and easily recouped it when we sold. But we are young and might need a bigger place in that time frame so opted for a fresh coat of paint instead

The first order of business was to get some estimates from local painters. I used Angie’s List as my source for contacts and carefully read reviews before calling four painters to come out and give us estimates. Since I was home for the summer, I made all the calls, set up appointments, and reported back to the hubs. Things I was looking for when they came out:

1. Were they professional and friendly? Did they have refs? (I had Angie’s List reviews too)

2. Did they give me a detailed list of what they would actually do and what materials they would use? (i.e. I didn’t want any surprise costs later on or cheap paint)

3. When could they start and how long would it take? (I made these calls in early June and we wanted it done by end of July)

So here are the results of the estimates

*I omitted names except the painter we chose because some of these guys were kinda scary!

Painter #1

–          Good reviews and has been used extensively in our neighborhood. Experienced with old homes

–          Could start end of June and take 1.5 – 2wks

–          Dropped off nice, typed, detailed estimate 2 days after our appt

–          Estimate: $6500

Painter #2*

–          Certified to work with lead paint

–          Stopped by and did estimate while I was not there despite my wishes otherwise (thus we did not discuss specifics)

–          Dropped off typed estimate within a few days that was not very detailed; could start right away

–          Estimate: $6900

–          *heard stories later on about his staff showing up to jobs drunk and rarely working a full day!

Painter #3

–          Came by soon after I called and acted like he was on some sort of illegal substance and reeked of booze

–          Would only give me a verbal estimate after looking at the house for about 2mins

–          Couldn’t start until July 11th

–          Estimate: $4500

Painter #4

–          Very friendly and spent a good amount of time writing up a detailed estimate (and went over each item with me)

–          Mentioned his business was fairly new and had only 2 – 3 workers plus himself

–          Couldn’t start until July 12th

–          Estimate: $4, 150*

–          *Later learned he can keep his prices low because he does mostly residential painting and has little overhead costs which assuaged my “you get what you pay for” fears

We obviously (due to price or just plain unprofessionalism!) went with Painter #4 which was K&W Painting owned and operated by Kevin Wheelous. Kevin was very friendly, easy to get a hold of (phone or text), and kept us updated throughout the entire process. He went above and beyond what we expected. He even helped me move some radiators when he saw me struggling with them one day. Kevin and his crew cleaned up everything beautifully (no paint chips on the lawn, paint cans stacked nicely on the porch) and since we left on vacation before they finished, he even called me when we returned to see if everything was to our liking. Would HIGHLY recommend!

Kevin’s estimate included:

powerwashing the exterior

scraping away all peeling paint

priming and painting all trim, siding, and brick foundation (including the window muttons and soffits)

removing our old shutters and the heinous awning over a back window

installing the new shutters

getting all the “stuck” windows to open (many layers paint had sealed many shut)

He thought about 10 – 14 days to complete the project which was accurate even with 2 rain day delays. Kevin recommended using either Sherwin-Williams “Duration” or “A100” paint. The Duration line is the top recommended paint from Consumer Reports, but at $63/gallon, a bit pricey. Thus we went with the A100 at about $36/gallon and were even able to take advantage of SW’s July sale of 30% off! I was very pleased with the end result and although the “Duration” likely lasts a few more years before fading, I was looking more for a “5-yr fix” so quite glad we saved the money.

We decided to “keep is classy” and do the siding in yellow, trim in white, and brick foundation in black. We used a satin finish on the siding and brick and a gloss finish for the trim. Helpful hint: using lower-gloss but not flat/matte gives enough reflection to hide the imperfections without being too shiny! The specific SW colors we chose were:

Yellow* = SW “Lantern Light” (#SW6687) – satin

Black = SW Tricorn Black (#SW6258) – satin

White = SW White (#SW7035) – gloss

*Choosing a yellow paint is damn near the hardest color to find the right shade. We originally had Kevin purchase SW#6681 “Butter Up” but after doing some test spots on the siding we determined it was too “submarine” for our liking. So we ate another $250 and got a few shades lighter with “Lantern Light” which is still a bit brighter than what I was going for but should lighten from a sun in a year or two. The SW rep actually recommended SW#6686 “Lemon Chiffon” and said that was a popular yellow for exteriors. I didn’t listen since it looked too beige…Lesson learned: spend $25 on the $5/each paint samples and test them first!!!!

Cost break-down:

$4,150 – K&W Painting (see list above)

$250 – “oops paint”

$50 – a few extras like fixing broken window panes

$300/ free – cost of shutters that were a anniversary gift from my parents (3 pairs were standard size an available at Home Depot; two pairs were special order size)

Here are BEFORE/AFTER pics of our new exterior. Notice how much “happier” the house looks J I will update you on the extra touches we did (doors, lights, etc) soon!


Front (from the street) before


Front after


Front (from the driveway) before


Front from driveway after


More front before (yes I know the boxwoods are a little overwhelming…)


Front again after


Before – the shutters on the far left window actually fell off on their own by this point!


Front after – yay for shutters!


Another after shot


Front windows and siding during scraping


Window muttons getting scraped


Windowns and new shutters after


Windows and new shutters after


The siding looks almost new again! In this shot you can see what I was saying about using a satin paint – I little bit of shine hides the imperfections


The back of the house and that AWFUL metal awning before


During scraping


Side shot – after


Side-shot before


Side-shot after




Side of the house from the fenced yard


Side from the yard after


The black on the brick really helps it blend with the landscaping














Black brick foundation with new mulch and some leftover landscaping rocks I used for edging


Our 83-yr old leaded-glass-single-pane windows almost look new


Front porch after – a much more welcome home 🙂



Annnnddddd we’re back!

So my foray into the blogosphere was smooth sailing all summer but only lasted about six weeks into the Fall semester before I realized “Dr” and “DIY” don’t mix too well. That’s what happens when prepping, lecturing, mentoring, and trying to be involved in EVERY campus committee/group possible consumes your life  (yea, I’m Type A if ya can’t tell; I’ve learned to just accept it).  Anyway, I had to put blogging in the backseat for the remainder of the semester since A) we weren’t even getting that much done around the house and B) students aren’t too keen on profs who B.S. their way through 50-min lectures 😉 Add in weddings, trips to Blacksburg, visits from family and friends, and a trip to Pinehurst over Thanksgiving…we were pretty busy!

But now that my final grades are submitted, I am on a two-week hiatus from “professing” and full-time DIY-ing it over the winter break 🙂  Stay tuned, I’m going to catch you all up on our DIY nonsense (the small amount we did accomplish) and some new project ideas I finally got around to cataloging. And we will have a major reveal of our basement overhaul which we have slowly (verrrrrrrryyy slowly) been working our way through. Here is just a taste of what we started with way back in September…


Some people have an Elf-on-the-shelf…I have a hubby-on-ledge…


This area has been our “staging” area for the past two-years. Now it is just a mess of tools, unfinished projects, and more half-empty paint cans than you could imagine!


Chaos on other side of the basement


Boxes and boxes from our moving around. Some haven’t been opened since 2007!


Oh hey there Brady! Another shot of the far side of the basement. That lovely doorway that looks like someone sledgehammered opens to the backyard


This is the future site of my laundry room which will include a stand to raise the W/D – no more bending over! 🙂


Probably having a panic attack right now – oh and whyyyyyy do I have so many rolls of pink/green duct tape???


Found these newspapers in the old coal shute (yes, a coal shute…there was no indoor plumbing or electricity when our house was built!)


Ummm Bat Phone?


After TWO WEEKS of cleaning we were finally at point where we could begin actual construction


Hoping to make this area the “mud room” so we can take the doggies in and out of this door and keep them down there to dry off when they are wet/muddy


Painting the stairwell ceiling….exactly how I want to spend my weekend!

Bathroom Reveal! Turning a ugly half-bath into a charming full bath

Older homes usually come with a lot of perks like character details, an alluring history, and likely being located in quaint, tree lined neighborhoods. One thing they usually lack? BATHROOMS! And our house is no exception. While the charm and location sold us on our 1800+ square foot house, the ONE FULL and ONE HALF baths was by far our greatest obstacle to overcome. Our first project before even moving into the house was updating our main bath to useable proportions and we are proud to say we did a pretty awesome job.

But with both us now living in the house full time, one small bath wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, our downstairs half-bath is quite large and was already plumbed for a shower (drain, hot/cold water lines) as if someone had just run out of money and walled over the plumbing. Unfortunately, it featured rotten vinyl flooring, a heinous louvered window, and wallpaper falling off the wall.

What we started with

Pink floral or apples – which is worse?

So with a budget of $2500 (which I totalllllllllyyy went over – see below) we set out to transform our sad half-bath into happy full-bath. Here’s how it went down:

Part I: DEMO!

After removing the medicine cabinet (which I salvaged), the radiator (salvaged but took both of us standing on the wrench to loosen the nut!), the sink (which was salvaged from the upstairs bath reno), and the toilet (was brand new when we bought the house), we debated tearing down all walls to the lathe. But since the plaster was still sound and level we decided to only rip down the walls around the shower so durock could be installed for water protection and tiling. This took us an entire Saturday afternoon with the both of us cramped in the 4×10 space together on a 100°+ day. Quite unpleasant. And lots of dust. SOOOOOO much dust! After tearing down just one wall I was so happy we decided to leave the rest!

knocking out the plaster wall where the new shower with go

We did pull out all of the molding and vinyl floor so a new subfloor could be laid. Did you know they make an actual toolfor doing just this?!?! It’s called a “moulding tool” and cost about $10 at Lowe’s. I pulled out the ¼ round and trim in about 15mins flat! I can’t believe I have been wasting my time with a hammer and chisel. The old vinyl floor was easy to pull up since the glue had been damaged by years of moisture (this was the bath that actually had an inch of water in it when we first looked at the house!). And at some point there were beautiful hardwood floors in the bath too (not salvageable :/)

Pretty sure Mike did something to deserve the job on the left. The “moulding tool” I used is on the right

Using my fun new tool

Trying to get the radiator out. As you can see I dont think it has ever been removed in 80+ years!

After getting the wall down and the vinyl floor out

We found original hardwood floors under the vinyl – so sad someone would do this to them!

Part II: New subfloor, new walls, new plumbing

At this point, Ken and the plumber came in to fit a new drain and new hot/cold H20 lines since all the old plumbing was corroded galvanized pipe. Ken then laid in the new shower base (found one online from Lowe’s that fit space exactly), put new walls around the shower, and laid a new subfloor. It took about one week and more about this can be here.

shower walls

new subloor

all new plumbing throughout

Part III: Tile and electrical:

In order to reduce moisture issues and give lighting over the shower we had a new shower fan/light installed and put on its own switch. The electrician did this when he was updating our whole house electrical system and involved cutting a hole in the ceiling and running the exhaust line out through the rafter of the house. He then installed it on its own switch right next to the switch for the sconce lights. This way the fan/ shower light only has to run when necessary.

new bath fan/ light

Ken then did a meticulous (as always) tile job around the shower and floor while we were away on vacation. He added a nice design in the center of the shower so that it was not plain white subway tile all the way around. He asked us if he could “get creative” while we were gone and I didn’t know what I was agreeing to but I am sooo happy I did!

shower tilework

Floor tile with gray grout

For the floor we went with the same black/white octagon Daltile as we used in the upstairs bath since we had 2 boxes leftover and so I only had to purchase one box more. Though we know how then I ended up one tile short…. :/ One VERY IMPORTANT difference is that we used grey/ platinum grout this time. We noticed that the white grout gets very dirty in the area that is always stepped on so you get a dirt track from the door to the toilet for example. The gray will help hide this and be easier to clean. I will NEVER used white grout again – learned my lesson!

Part IV: Trim and paint:

I HATE painting and I especially hate painting in small spaces – there is not enough room to roll and you keep bumping into the ladder as you try to move it around. I originally thought to do a red but figured it would be a bit much for a small space. I decided to go with a light grey to really set off the white and chrome accents and blend with the grey grout. I chose a Valspar color but I am ultimately unhappy with the choice. It just has too much lavender/purple undertones. Mike picked out another grey by Behr called Porpoisebut I we are waiting to put it up until a bunch of other projects are completed. The other grey is livable for now.

The gray paint I am going to learn to live with for now

I also filled in the cracks in the plaster in the ceiling and painted it twice. I caulked all of the cracks between the trim and the wall and around the sink and where the wall meets the shower tile. Finally I installed brand new quarter round (which I am sooo good at now), used wood filler in all the nail holes in the trim around the window, and painted everything a nice bright white.

Fresh coat of paint on ceiling which was almost yellow and probably had never been painted

Installing new 1/4 round and painting all trim white

The finished trim

Part V: Finishing touches

The final touches were a test in salvaging and being thrifty. I was successful in sanding and re-painting the large medicine cabinet. This was ideal since it might have been hard to find an new cabinet that would have been an exact fit for the hole already in the wall.

Sanded and spray-painted medicine cabinet white

I also powerwashed the dust, grime, and old paint off the radiator and then spray painted it white using Rustoleum High Heatspray paint in black. This is specially designed for high-heat products like grills and radiators and doesn’t even require two coats! I love the way the black radiator really goes well with the floor and is a nice contrast from all the white trim.

Even the radiator got spruced up!

Newly painted radiator and I have no idea what the chrome part is called but I got it shiny again 🙂

As many other DIY-ers know, bathroom accessories are perplexingly expensive – who pays $50 for a towel bar!?!?!? And then if you want period pieces expect to pay even more! I was already in love with the chrome-and-porcelain faucet salvaged from the upstairs bath, so I went hunting for matching pieces. I was lucky to find this perfect accessories setfor only $50 on Overstock and got free shipping! The quality was pretty decent too.


We purchased new chrome sconce lightsfrom Wayfair which Mike installed in less than 10min (love having my own electrical engineer!). I tried to find ones that fit the 1920-40’s style which chrome but that would also fit the existing holes. Fun fact I learned – most sconce lights can be hung either with the light up or down so when looking at images (like the one I found) don’t discount one until checking if it can be hung the other way if that is what you prefer.

New sconce lights

We were advised by our plumber to purchase a “1700 Series” Delta faucet for the shower since he said they were the best made and Delta has a great guarantee and free parts. But at $200+ it just didn’t fit in the budget. I then found this setof the Delta 1700 Series that had the look of a Victorian-era faucet on Amazon for only $90!!! It was like winning the lotto 🙂

Delta 1700 Series “Leland” shower fixtures

The Grand Total:

So with all the plumbing and electrical work and other unexpected cossts, my $2500 went pretty fast. We ended up spending closer to $4000…HOWEVER! We recently had our house re-appraised for a refinancing application and found our new bath alone has increased our home value $10,000!!! I think I can stomach the added initial cost for a final profit of $6G’s and, even more importantly, the fact we no longer have to fight over one bathroom!!!

Here was the cost breakdown (links to most items can be found above!):

Shower base = $183.00

Floor tile = $51.40

Subway tile for shower = $105.00

Grout = $25.00

Shower faucet + valve = $121.00

Bath fan/light = $58.00

Install of shower fan/light and switch = $100.00

Sconce lights = $50.00

Accessories (towel/tp bars and hook) = $50.00

Spray paint for radiator and mirror = $9.00

Paint 1 (oops!) = $25.00

Paint 2 = $35.00

Replumb shower/toilet water and drain lines = $960.00 (incl. labor + materials)*

Labor for new shower surround/subfloor and shower and floor tiling = $1,750

Materials for shower surround/subfloor/etc. = $500.00

TOTAL = $4,022.40

*this was an unanticipated expense as we had planned on using the existing lines. Unfortunately they were corroded and the toilet’s steel drain would no longer work with the floor raised from the new subfloor and tile. Thus the entire bathroom was re-plumbed.


Ceiling paint = free (leftover from other projects)

Trim paint = free (leftover from other projects)

Toilet and sink =free (re-used from other bath)

Mirror = free (repainted)

¼ round = free (leftover from kitchen)

Trim = free (re-used old trim)

New window = probably ~$300 (window + install) which we did when we first moved into the home 3 years ago

Official “Before and After” Pics of our half-bath turned full bath:

Fall = unofficial end of DIY season

It’s here. The most wonderful season of the year…FALL 🙂 I don’t know what it is exactly, maybe turning off the A/C and feeling a cool breeze through the windows? Or the hint of red and orange dotting the tree line? Or the fact that the house smells like pumpkin spice and everything nice? Not to hate on the other seasons – I love Santa and snowflakes, fresh spring blooms, and lounging in the sun on bright summer days, but NOTHING compares to the invigoration Fall brings. And there is one other very important obsession that comes along with the season of turning leaves, butternut squash soup, and candy corn….FOOTBALL!!! Yes pigskin is back which means weekends full of bourbon, tailgates, and…not working on the house! (more on this later)

You see, in this house, football reigns supreme from September through January, noon to midnight, every Saturday through Monday (and don’t forget those few pesky Thursday night games)! Our schedules revolve around when the Virginia Tech Hokies and New York Giants take the field and heaven forbid someone chooses one of those days for a major life event – we probably wont make it!

Hokie love ❤
My tailgate hat, my bungalow boys, Lane Stadium

Even when we got married and knew we wanted a fall-themed wedding we reserved multiple weekends in October and waited until the football schedules came out in January before we chose a date. Some of our most memorable trips include stuffing ourselves into my little Acura RSX and driving 12hrs to Florida or gallivanting on Bourbon St just to see our Hokies play. And nothing (NOTHING!) on Earth beats being in Lane Stadium jumping up and down to Enter Sandman. Nothing. Period. Don’t even try.

We have also taken up Fantasy Football as our fall husband/wife bonding activity which usually ends up more like WWIII. I just happened to be invited back to his one league after being ousted 4 years ago for winning the Championship in my first year. Boys are such babies sometimes! Our past few weeks have been filled with Fantasy Football Drafts and I am happy the say I got both Cam-Cam and RGIII in my lineup…I see another Championship on the horizon 😉 For any other couples who partake in such nonsense I suggest you watch The League on FX – a hilarious show that pretty much imitates my life!

Prepping for my FF draft!

And of course with all the food and football comes my rather extensive collection of Fall décor. Wreathes and bouquets in shades of maroon and orange, candles in scents like Apple Pie and Carrot Cake, and big blooms of mums on the front steps are all part of the Fall spirit. Some of my own décor ideas are below while I have a Pinterest board full of more to last me every fall for the rest of my life!

Knick Knacks Galore

Dining room table – plenty of room for a turkey and the works! And sideboard/bar with enough bourbon to last us he season

Fall is also time we head back to school/work/real life after a season of vacations, summer camps, and probably less-than-productive days in an empty office. Suddenly schedules fill up with multiple activities, you rearrange your commute to avoid school bus routes, and Back-to-School sales have you stocking up on fun new office supplies you don’t even need (helloooo 80-pack Sharpies!).

For me, this Fall is very special. It is the first Fall in 27 years that I will be heading back to school as the teacher and not the student as I start my career as Dr. Rumore at Randolph College. And even after 9 years of higher education at the greatest university in the land, I am just as excited and scared as I have been for every other first day of school. Will my students like me? Will they pay attention? Can I do this? All of these questions have me even more stressed than when the house renovations were falling apart!

Dr. Rumore reporting for duty ~ official first day pic

So I want to give a huge shout-out to all my former teachers and current teacher friends from PreK through professional school – in two weeks I already have a new found respect for all you do! This ain’t easy – prepping lectures, writing exams, and grading not-so-stellar papers. Oh and the whining, complaining, sleeping from students…I am honored that someone even thought I was qualified for this! Now I also think the first year is the hardest since I am spending countless hours just deciding what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. At least the second time teaching the course you have all the base materials! I also have the added stress of running a small but functioning research lab and training students on research techniques. This one-on-one is probably my favorite part but also the most time consuming! I even spent 8hrs on a SATURDAY completely cleaning and organizing my tissue-culture lab space complete with custom labels!

After my moving boxes exploded on to the counter

After putting everything in its place

So fresh and so clean

Hmm perhaps I am a bit OCD…

Which brings me to the actual point of this post which is – Fall has consumed my life and I have been slacking on the projects! The bathroom, exterior painting, and updated electrical are done and I plan to post those over the next week. Actually the plumber is here AGAIN right now re-installing the radiators in the bath and kitchen since they no longer fit with the raised floor. Let’s see how much this costs… :/

So as my teaching has kicked into high gear and the TV hasn’t been on anything but ESPN the past two weeks we have refreshed and are ready to schedule the final projects before the holiday chaos begins.

Still on the docket:

1. Tear down and have new back porch/stairs installed (still trying to find a contractor to do this)

2. Office:

– Install a built-in desk in the office

-sand and paint current built-in bookcases

3. Basement:

– seal and paint basement floor

– paint basement walls and stairs

– build my new laundry stand

-re-frame and paint exterior basement doors

4. Outside:

– paint front door

-paint garden fence

– install 12×12 slate patio area outside basement door

5. Living room:

-seal and sand plaster ceiling cracks

-paint ceiling

-install new curtains

-install new door to side porch

So while I really just want to pull on my favorite cable-knit sweater, get a pot of chili roasting on the stove, and sit back and enjoy some football with a bourbon+coke in hand, we are going to push through and see if we can get it done!

Happy Fall everyone 🙂

The Kitchen Reveal!

After weeks of cooking on a hotplate, washing dishes in our utility sink, and dealing with last minute disasters, we FINALLY have a beautiful working kitchen. I am going to do a “picture plate-by-play” of the new kitchen but if you have any questions about what we did or the products we used just ask!

The entire project from start to finish took about 6 weeks but was really only in “serious” renovation mode for about 2 weeks. Better coordination on my part and a lack of windstorm and unexpected wall tear down would have probably made it finish up faster.  Oh and the fact that we were also painting the entire exterior, refinishing a bath, updating the whole house electrical, and going on vacation at the same time probably didnt help either.  This is how it went down:

Week 1: Remove oven and counters; new gas line installed for new gas range. Paint and install new window grilles

Week 2: Remove appliances for pick up; new appliances delivered; fix electrical box for oven

Week 3 -4: Went on vacation (!) while Ken installed floor tile and appliances

Week 5: Granite install which required a wall tear down

Week 6: Finishing up: new tile backsplash from tear down, finish trim, fill and sand holes, touch up paint, new cabinet knobs

So basically during this entire time we had no usable kitchen. We moved everything to a ledge in our basement as our makeshift kitchen. We washed dishes in our utility sink by the laundry. We ate out a few times but then I got pretty handy with my electrical hotplate (which I snagged for $16.00 and FREE OVERNIGHT shipping on Amazon BTW!).

Our makeshift kitchen in the basement and hotplate which was totally worth every cent of its $16 price tag!

The kit with appliances removed

Week 1:

Our first fun “surprise” was when we removed the old, electric drop-in oven and found evidence of an electrical fire where the wires meet the insulation. Ticking time bomb!

Evidence of oven electrical fire

I also purchase window “grilles” (also sometimes called “muntins”, “grides”, or “dividers”) for the window above the sink. This window is clearly different than the original windows; still a wood frame, but has vinyl lining. The look without grilles just didnt mesh with the house so I purchase unfinished pine grilles and a new screen from “Screen It Again” which has a very handy app where you can put in your exact dimensions (cause nothing about an older home is standard). I ordered them unassembled – they easily snap together and can be sanded or cut to fit.
I spray painted them to match the wood window trim.

Unfinished pine window grilles

The grilles give the window the character of the other windows in the house

Week 2:

Since our old oven was hardwired in my wonderful electrical engineering hubby re-wired it to an outlet so we could plug in our new gas range. We left the hardwire line in place in case anyone ever wants to put an electric range back in (like that would ever happen) so there is the box where the wires come in from the basement and then the hardwire line that goes to the new outlet:

The mess of wires and electrical tape we found behind the oven

Before and after – new outlet

Our new appliances were also delivered this week. After consulting Consumer Reports and determining our appliance budget ($2500 max) we went with the Sears Kenmoore line. We purchased during 4th of July Sale (30% off) and had a coupon for free delivery and haul away. One of the big debates we had was about what type of fridge to get. We cant have a side-by-side since it is against a wall, so a traditional freezer-on-top or a bottom-drawer freezer were our choices. Obviously the former is cheaper but the latter is more fun and gives more space where we need it. So we spent a bit more for the bottom-drawer freezer and less on the range (sacrificed a few BTUs). We still came in $250 under budget and are so far very happy with the quality and look of each piece.

Sidenote: our pretty measly appliance budget is reflective of our market. Yes I would love a $10,000 Viking Range but I did my research by looking at MLS listings for homes with updated kitchens in our market area and most feature these standard appliances. This was important since we want the greatest return on our investment we can get!

New appliances

Whoo! We now have fire!!!

Week 3/4:

Our tile installer, Ken Mays, completed the kitchen floor while we were away on vacay. We used at 12 x 12 Marazzi brand porcelain tile called “Forest Green” which runs about $2.00/sq ft and chose a beige/gray grout. This tile has a “slate” look to it but also does a great job at hiding all the dirt the dogs bring in.

Since our old tile was well adhered to Durock, set on top of the original hardwood, Ken tiled on top (this is technically not advised unless your floors are absolutely flat (ours were)) even though he would have preferred to pull up the old tile. We also asked him to tile out flat across the first step of the stairs leading to the basement since the layers of floor had left a dangerous lip here.

Kitchen tile floor flat out over first basement step

Week 5 and 6:

We went with “Uba Tuba” granite after much debate between this and “Venetian Gold”. Both are “Level 1” (read: least expensive!) but ultimately we thought the black looked better against our cabinets and appliances. We chose a “half-bullnose” edge which is pretty standard. Our granite price included the granite, sink cutout, 4″ backsplash, installation, 1/2 moon edge on the island piece, and haul away of the old formica countertops.

Uba tuba granite on the island with the half-moon edge (no sharp corners!)

Besides all of the trim, touch-up painting, and new backsplash we did here, we also replaced all of the plain knobs with new ones with a bit more definition. After seeing these at HD I found them for less than $30 for all 20 (incl. shipping!) from a wholesaler on eBay.

New knobs on the left compared to old flat ones on the right

I even found the perfect home for my Dyson Digital Slim vacuum in the corner:

The Dyson nook

Here are some “Before and Afters” and other shots of the finished product:

And here is a breakdown of what we spent…



Spectrum Stone Design
Tile & grout


Legacy Tile/ Marazzi
Tile installation


Ken Mays


Sears – Kenmore 19.7 cu. ft. Bottom Freezer Refrigerator ENERGY STAR®


Sears – Kenmore 24” Built-In Dishwasher ENERGY STAR®


Sears – Kenmore 30” Microhood Combination


Sears – Kenmore 30” Freestanding Gas Range
Window grille


Screen It Again (incl. shipping)
Window screen


Screen It Again (incl. shipping)
Knobs (20)


Gas hookup for range


Sullivan Plumbing
Electrical outlet install for range


Free by handy hubby
1/4 round trim





Other incidentals:

1. New simplehuman trashcan  – $39.99 (from Bed Bath and Beyond, $49.99 retail but used 20%off coupon)

2.  New sink and faucet (purchased and installed about 6 months ago when we got sick of the old porcelain one). Sink was $99.95 and faucet was $88.00 both from Home Depot.

3. Tiles, mortar, and grout for the unexpected wall tear down was about $40.
So there you have it – what we had to do and what we had to spend to bring our 1929 farmhouse kitchen into 2012! We are hoping for a return of about $10K on the kitchen but until then I get to obsess about not scratching the new counters or lighting something on fire with the new stove. I guess I should probably learn how to cook now too… :/

Cheers to our new kitchen!


Let’s just call if Throwback Friday this week

Since I’m busy readying the house for those reveal pics (note to self: purchase bottles of Pellegrino and fresh flowers to make it look extra spiffy) I thought I would quickly share one of my more “Pin”-worthy ideas.

Our old house also came with old closets. And not only are they old, but they are the smallest damn closets I have ever seen! I guess you didn’t own much more than some overalls and boots back as a farmer in the 1920’s. But it’s 2012 and I have a shopping problem. My clothes deserve a nice home!

To make matters a bit worse, each of the closet walls featured plaster which has been wallpapered over. I guess they also had a lot of free time to spend wallpapering closets back then too. Who does that?!?!? Anyway, the plaster was heavily cracked in the master closet and the walls were stained and smelly in the other two bedrooms.

I had no patience desire to fix the plaster cracks, so I did the next best thing: I beadboarded over them! I was skeptical of how it would look, but with some nice added trim and a fresh coat of white paint it fits the style of the house just perfectly! I also added a fresh coat of bright white paint to each of the other closets to make them look deceptively bigger.

Sorry I don’t have more “before” pics for this but I assure you it wasn’t pretty.

cracks and wallpaper

And this is why I beadboarding right over it!

A few notes if you do this in your own ridiculously small closet:

1. Bring in lighting. Our closets did not have lights in them (I guess they used candlelight back then?) so I had to get creative with lighting. FYI those bright halogens make the small space warm up like a rainforest; use a regular lightbulb and task lighting fixtures instead.

The Dyson vacuum is also a handy lightstand

2. Use the goes-on-colored-dries-white ceiling paint. Because there is minimal light (see #1) it will be a lot easier on your eyes to use the colored ceiling paint. Just remember that these paints are flat so don’t use if you want a gloss coat.

The “goes-on-purple-dries-white” ceiling paint

3. Don’t worry if the trim looks crappy. I just caulked up all my completely wrong and awkward cuts. No one is going to be looking at the details of your closet trim. At least I hope not….

After caulk and paint you cant even tell how crappy my trim job is

I love how even the closets in this house have gorgeous trim!

After beadboard and paint. I painted the shelf in gloss white just to make it easier to clean

Added a few hooks and some bins for extra storage

The huge crack above the door is now perfectly covered 🙂

I left the original “shoe rack” intact. But yea, no way all my shoes will be fitting here :/







So about those reveal pics…

You may be wondering when those reveal pics I promised last week are coming. Even though the last contractor was out of here nearly 10 days ago we ran into “problems.” And by problems, I mean we, as usual, underestimated the amount of time it would take to do the finishing touches and of course did not plan for the inevitable unexpected issues like EVERYTHING GOING WRONG!!!

Here is a rundown of my excuses for not being “reveal-ready”:

Why we haven’t been able to take exterior house pics:

Being the organizer I am I wanted a nice file cabinet for the 60” wide empty wall space in the office. I originally wanted to refinish a dresser, but standard dresser drawers are not deep enough for files and my Craigslist searches weren’t turning up anything that would work. So after searching for weeks I found the perfect white, wooden file cabinet that would be long enough for the space. It was a bit expensive ($1200 retail) but I found a deal with a coupon and free shipping bringing it to $805. I also really like the whole Kathy Ireland Tribeca Loft office collection, so we can always add other pieces later.

Stock photo of my splurge/10th graduation gift to myself


After waiting TWO MONTHS for the delivery of my one splurge/ 10th graduation gift to myself it arrived DAMAGED. And not a little scratch – two corners broken right off! Now because I bought it through some crazy online discount store (https://greatfurnituredeal.com/) that ships through a third party freight company, I was in for having to deal with filing a claim and probably have to wait ANOTHER two months or more for a replacement. Ughhhh

The Damage – both corners looked like this

Anyway the reason this relates to the exterior pics is because the freight company delivered the piece onto our front patio and the thing weighs FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY TWO POUNDS. There was no way I was wasting mine and Mike’s time and energy to move it inside only to have to move it back out. I am only going to do that once and that is when I have my pretty, damage-free filing cabinet. So now we have an exquisite blue tarp over it held down by our old shutters – hopefully the eyesore will be gone soon and I can give the exterior of the house the photo shoot it deserves.

My new porch ornament

Why the kitchen is a mess:

Old plaster walls = not straight. Granite backsplash: needs straight wall. When our granite was installed nearly a week and half ago, we had ordered a 4” blacksplash to go along the walls. But during the installation it became very apparent that the wall behind the sink was not straight enough. Like 4” off not straight enough! This created a “see-saw” effect when the backsplash was placed up on the wall. The only solution? Tear out the wall. Which also meant tearing out the tile and plaster and building out a new wall. Great. Just f***ing great.

So that is what we spent allll weekend doing. Mike carefully tore down the wall (as to not disturb any more than necessary) to the lathe and then used Durock left over from the shower to build the wall back out and make it straight. Then he taped and mudded the seams.

Tearing out the wall revealed that someone had previous put up sheetrock over some insulation on top of the lathe and never leveled it

After waiting FOUR DAYS for the granite installers to come back with this last piece, it became apparent that the previously perfect-4-tiles-from-top-of-counter-to-underneath-cabinet area was now 3.75 tiles tall.  So Mike spent all day cutting tiles to fit the new space and when he finished late Sunday night we then realized didn’t have any bullnose tiles for the edge so it was off to HD again in the morning.

Tile cutting on the porch – just how he wanted to spend his weekend!

After installing and mudding the new wall

I decided to keep myself busy while Mike was tiling by installing the ¼ round on the baseboard around the kitchen. Easy stuff I thought. Just cut to length and nail-gun it down. Umm. No. Our kitchen has nearly TWENTY inside and outside corners. So depending on if it is an inside or outside end you are cutting you have to cut the correct left or right 45° angle. This took my little blonde mind quite a few mistake cuts before I figured it out. I knew I should have paid more attention in geometry :/ Then our miter saw was teetering a bit so my cuts weren’t straight and the corners wouldn’t match. Of course I ran out of ¼ round and it was off to HD for more. It took me nearly SIX HOURS to finish installing it and then I had to caulk the seams, sand imperfections, and paint the entire trim in the kitchen (without getting it all over the new floor tile or cabinets!)

My diagram for the bazillion cuts I need to make for the 1/4 round

My handy work after caulking, sanding, and painting – not too shabby!

More trim. Painted the threshold of the kitchen door out to the porch black since white didnt hide the dirt very well

I also had to touch up the red and paint around the edges and re-paint the beige around the backsplash. And wash and iron the valence that hangs over the sink since it was now filled with dust. And…oh I’ll just spare you my ranting but the normal stuff like laundry, dogs, and dishes had to get done too.

On Monday I set the tiles on the wall without making too much of a mess and then grouted them on Tuesday. I did make one boo-boo in that I used unsanded grout when I should have used sanded because the grout lines are larger than 1/8.” That’s because I had 3 freakin bags of unsanded white grout and I REFUSED to go to HD one more time! It might crack over time but hopefully there will be a new owner by then! Mwahahaha

Setting the tiles and grouting

I still need to caulk the tile-granite edge and then I think we are finished. Well besides having the rub down the cabinets and floors of dust. DAMN YOU DUST!!!

I just want my kitchen back!!!

Why there is no water in the new bathroom:

After painting the bathroom wall and trim last weekend, I thought all we had to do was re-install the sink, toilet, and lights and then we were done. But no. After doing the former we turned on the sink and orange-brown crap flowed out before turning to a trickle. Huh. Then we turned on the shower. Again, funky colored water and only a trickle. And no hot water at all.

Turns out that the new water lines were not cleared when they were installed and thus were filled with the corroded mess from the old lead pipes. This mess was now INSIDE our sink faucet and shower valve.

After taking apart the faucet we couldn’t blow the crap out by running water either way through it. Thankfully I found an almost identical one at HD for $90.  I was very upset about this because that faucet was a perfect retro look, salvage from the upstairs bath, and in great condition. At least there is still the sink and medicine cabinet from the original bath so I feel like I saved a little bit.

New faucet in bathroom

As for the shower valve – that was all the engineer! That contraption was scary inside. Too many parts for this girl. Mike took it apart piece by piece, cleaned it out (finding multiple big chunks of corrosion), and re-installed it which required picking out some new fittings to get the valve back into the wall without tearing the wall down.

The shower valve thingy that took apart and then engineered back into the wall

He didn’t crawl into bed until 1am last night but he was giddy to tell me he just took a shower in the new shower. I kissed him goodnight as we drifted off to sleep as two proud DIY-ers dreaming about our next house which will be a DIY free zone 😉

And my real job…

I know you all might think all I do is housewifin’-DIY nonsense, but I actually DO also have a real job as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Randolph College here in Lynchburg. Though my contract “officially” started July 1st, I really have not had to be at the office full time until the past week (though I have been managing to get in some lecture planning at home amongst the chaos but barely). I even have a fancy professor-esque office with leather couches and everything. Classes start on Aug 27th so from now on I will be Professor by day and Dr. DIY by nights and weekends!

The office of Professor Rumore

There comes a time…

There comes a time in every remodel where you just don’t think you can go on. You question how you got here (Was I drugged into doing this? Is the CIA testing my ability to crack under pressure? Am I on some reality show about torture by renovating?).

You fight with everyone (your partner, your friends, even the dog) and you curse. A LOT. Enough to make even a sailor blush. When you are done yelling, you cry. Not weepy tears either. Full on temper-tantrum tears. Why. Why. WHY AM I DOING THIS!?!?!?

Then you realize how tired, dirty, and hungry you are. You haven’t slept in days, you want to take a shower but it takes an hour to climb over all the crap in way just to get to the only functioning bathroom. You can’t even boil water because your brand new appliances are still sitting in boxes and they took away the old ones. So you turn to your typical mid-reno dinner of peanut butter and jelly when you realize you don’t even have bread. A spoonful of peanut butter it is.  And then you just want a glass of water but the only working water faucet is going to the toilet or the hose outside since every sink in the house is currently removed and you have no refrigerator.

This was just a brief re-cap of how I felt when we returned from our Swiss vacation. Now, I should have known that gallivanting around the lovely land of chocolate and cheese would be better than what I was returning too. But still, I was unprepared that the jet-lag combined with the dust and mess would totally outweigh the amazing things that had happened while we were gone.

And amazing they were. Ken successfully finishing tiling the new shower and floor in the downstairs bath and got the trim and shower valve installed. He also laid our new kitchen tile floor (LOVE IT!) with a beautiful marble threshold and even sanded the doors down so they would fit after the floor was raised. He sent us pics and email updates throughout our trip so at least I knew things were moving along as I was indulging in hiking glaciers and homemade grappa.

The finished shower – floor to ceiling white subway tile and delta rainwater faucet

The new bathroom floor – wayyyyyy better than rotten vinyl!

Love our new “dirt concealing” kitchen tile. It’s 12×12 Maratzzi tile in “Forest Green”

Even better yet was that Kevin (K&W Painting) pulled through on his promise to finish painting the entire exterior of our house before our return. I was a bit nervous about giving him a check for the remaining balance when we left but before the work was done but not only was the siding, trim and brick finished, but the new shutters were installed, broken window panes were fixed, and his clean-up job was immaculate. It was like driving up to a whole new house!

Our brand spankin’ new exterior incl. new shutters

But all these good things were overshadowed by my panic attack of what still needed to be done: the granite install! The appliance hookup! Sanding and painting! The trim, radiators, this, that, and all the other little details. And of course, the cleanup. SO MUCH DUST! Everywhere. Every single damn surface of the house. Even though the central air was off, Ken kindly turned it back on so the house was pleasant upon our return (seriously, this guy was about to make our bed for us – he is THAT awesome!), but I think it spread the dust even more and required us to replace the filter the next day.

What was more is remember all that furniture we hauled out of the two of the bedrooms so I could re-finish the hardwood floors before we left? Yeah umm totally was not what I wanted to have to be dealing with when all I wanted was to unpack and curl up in bed to dream chalets, and raclette and cozy train rides of just the two of us.

So kids, the lesson is, don’t go on an amazing European vacation in the middle of a major reno. Or do. Cause there is not enough dust, dirt, or unfinished projects that could have truly taken away our amazing time ❤

Mike and I enjoying our time hiking across the the Eiger Glacier – 12,000 feet up on the Jungfrau mountaintop!

A little slice of Switzerland taken from the main street in Lauterbrunnen

Ok now that I have recovered from my misery, I will get to work on writing up the reveals for the exterior paint job, new bathroom, and new kitchen. Stay tuned cause they’re pretty awesome 🙂

The Garden Remodel

Since we were busy eating our way through Switzerland last week (!) I have a kinda- double TT for you today! The first will be our major re-landscaping of our backyard garden and how we dog-proofed it afterwards.

I know it’s hard to believe, but this used to be a fancy-schmancy English boxwood garden when the former Dr’s lived here. It featured intricate plantings in a figure 8 pattern with brick walkways throughout. Unfortunately by the time we moved in most of the boxwoods were diseased and dead and weeds and various reptiles had taken up residence. We decided to keep it low on our to-do list and continued to not care for it until my parents came down in Oct 2011 to help us demolish the entire area.

Former English boxwood garden

The 8ft – 12ft (depending on where you are standing, it’s on a slope) solid wood fence was designed to keep the deer/ boxwood demolishers out. The entire area measures ~40’ x 60’ which is a nice size for the dogs to go out quickly or a perfect space for a future playset 🙂

We first attempted to attack the garden in Spring 2011. After it took us ONE HOUR to remove ONE BOXWOOD it became apparent we were going to need some heavy machinery. Oh and the snakes and snappers didn’t help either.

Our first attempt…
note the beautiful pink peony plants too- we did try to relocate them but not sure if they made it!

Just chillin in the sun

We also found a ceramic turtle while digging…Mike thought they might want to be friends.

So in Oct 2011, once things had died off a bit, my Mom and Dad brought down the truck and we rented a Skid-Steer for the weekend.* This thing basically destroys everything in its path which is just what we needed – I wanted it ALL GONE! It only took ½ a day to pull our THIRTY-TWO boxwoods and a bunch of other tree/bush like vegetation. We were also able to use the Skid-Steer to drag the brambles of bushes down to the woods for easy disposal.

Unloading this bad boy

Had to break down a section of fence to fit through


Having fun with big boy toys

The hardest part was digging up the ½ ton of bricks from the former walkways. Most were under earth after so many years, but Mom and I went at them with a pick-ax and made a nice pile for a future project.

Free bricks

Once all the vegetation was out of the way, we ran the Skid-Steer back and forth to level and smooth the ground and fill in the holes left from old shrubs. Then we simply threw down some good-quality grass seed and topped off with straw. Any easy 1.5 day project that left us with minimal injuries or screaming matches 🙂

After day 1

Since we did this in Oct, we had to wait until the spring before we saw the real results which was a beautiful lush and green garden space! Right now we are using it as an enclosed space for the dogs, but have plans to put in some flower and veggie beds next year.

The other part of the garden-remodel was making it dog-proof. Since the fence was designed to keep deer out and not dogs in, we had to make some modifications so our little fur children didn’t escape.

Since the fence is level but on a slope, it would have been possible to scoot underneath. We purchased wood lattice sheets (about $20 each for a 4×8 panel) and cut each one to fit along the bottom of each fence section. I filled in some of the smaller spaces with bricks (cause I have a friggin ½ ton of them!) to discourage digging.

Lattice panels cut to fit bottom of fence

The front side of the garden (the side that faces the street) had a lovely “Secret Garden” style gate by only had a large hedge which was easily crawled through by our hounds.  We purchase pre-made treated wood picket fence panels from HD to go along this side and affixed them to the existing posts on either side. They will blend better once we re-paint the whole fence and the new pickets white.

Picket fence on the backside of the hedge which faces the street

To do this we also had to dig and install 3 additional 4×4 fence posts which involved:

1. Dig 8” – 12” hole per post + fight with hubs about depth and position

2. Fill hole w/ 3” gravel + fight w/ hubs about gravel type

3. Place post in and level and plumb + fight w/hubs about what is level

4. Pour Quickcrete concrete into the hole surrounding the post + fight w/ hubs about keeping post straight

5. Fill with water and mix+ fight w/hubs when the concrete burns through your gloves

6. Wait 24hrs and post should be solid + fight with hubs when you don’t think they are in the right position.

So the take home message here is that we will not be building a fence together anytime soon!

Finally, I built a lattice gate for the stairway (the stairs come down from the kitchen porch door and then split going into the garden or into the yard). This was a very simple DIY project:

1. Using a circular saw, cut lattice sheet to size of opening

2. Using a table saw, cut 1×2 treated lumber to frame the lattice. I chose “Shaker” style (non-mitered) which is easier. Cut 4 pieces for each side and the lattice fits in between.

3.  Staple the lattice to the first frame, then place the second frame on tip and staple that, creating a sandwich.

4. Using deck screws, screw threw the lattice and frame at each corner and the middle of each side

4. Attach hinges and latch

5. Paint with exterior paint if desired

Ok so this was a bit boring but sometimes ( ok, a lot of times) these projects are just that….coming up: review of our Swiss vacay and my post-vacation home renovation nervous breakdown! Whoo!

Bonjour! Guten Tag! Buongiorno!

***Bonjour! Guten Tag! Buongiorno! I originally meant to post this before we left. I will post a belated Throwback Thursday upon our return. Ciao!


Today we are doing what any responsible homeowner in the middle of a renovation does – heading off for a European holiday! The house is currently upside down and inside out with every single room in absolute chaos. So before I have a nervous breakdown, we are leaving the madness in the hands of Ken who promises that our house will be back to order upon our return. How can you complain about service like that?!?!?!

All our new appliances are delivered and living in the dining room 😦

Ken had just finished grouting the tile on the bathroom floor when we left

The tile that will *hopefully* be installed in the kitchen when we return

The house is about ½ done being painted and Kevin hopes to be finished upon Tuesday. The yellow is perhaps a shade brighter than I had imagined but certainly a drastic improvement over the peelings and bleached-out before color. I have been very pleased with Kevin and his crew throughout the week. They are polite, work hard all day, and have been paying attention to details.

The house looking naked without its shutters

Ken finished tiling the floor and waterproofed the shower. He was about to start tiling the walls as we left. He asked if he could get fancy with the tile design and I replied “Get as fancy as you want as long as it is complete when I walk back in here!” I think he was a bit scared.

Unfortunately we had to have to plumber back out this week to run a new drain pipe to the toilet in the new bath. With the floor rising due to the tile, the lead drain pipe could not be properly fitted. So for the unplanned price of $525, we now have a brand new PVC pipe connected with all the new shower drainage. Oh boy, can you feel my excitement?!?!

Our first “unplanned” expense – new toilet drain. Whoo!!!

Luckily we have this opportunity to escape for a few days in wonderful Switzerland. We fly into Geneva, followed by two days in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and a day trip 12,000 ft up the Jungfrau which has been on our “bucket list.” We then head down to southern Switzerland for a new leg of the Global Perspectives program hosted at Virginia Tech’s Villa Maderni in Riva San Vitale. I had the amazing opportunity to travel as part of this project last year and look forward to the reflection and discussion with the deans attending this year’s special trip. Following the Seminar, we will spend a day exploring castles in Bellinzona and enjoying some lakeside time in Lugano. Then it’s back to Geneva and hopefully back to a “brand new” house.


Mike trying to pack among the chaos. All the bedroom furniture is in the hall so I could refinish the hardwood floors before we left and give them a few days to dry