Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New Home

We started looking for new houses earlier this year without any real timeline or plan for buying. We knew we were interested in a larger home in a quiet, established neighborhood somewhere between my work and Phil's. We found a realtor who began sending us listings for homes that met our criteria, which at first included a swimming pool, no exceptions. But as we thought about it more, we opened ourselves up to houses with backyards big enough for a pool to be added in the future in neighborhoods with pools, and that's what we ended up buying. We were not in any rush to buy, which put us in a much stronger buying and negotiating position. After driving around neighborhoods in our favorite areas we narrowed down our search to one particular subdivision. We found one particular home that had been on the market for almost a year, through various listings. We looked at it once, then thought about it for a few weeks, then looked at it again as it continued to grow on us. We then brought Phil's mom to look at it a third time and when my parents were in town one weekend they also drove by the house and looked in the window. Again, we were in no rush since we had a place to live, but were interested in the house because of its potential. This time we were much more knowledgable when we looked for homes and not as emotional as first-time buyers tend to be. We could see this house's potential and that it had good "bones". Neither Phil nor I are in love with the open-concept floor plans that are so popular today. We prefer smaller cozy rooms and we loved the traditional feel of the house, in our favorite neighborhood. It was a very good deal and the sellers were motivated since the house had been on the market for so long. After about a month of negotiations with the seller, we finally came to an agreement on price and considerations. At the end of May, we moved in to our new home! The house was listed as 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, with a 2-car garage, fireplace, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, totaling just over 2600 sqft. This was a BIG change from our 1174 sqft little home! As it turns out, we had quite a few empty rooms with absolutely no furniture in them at the new home once we moved in, which made it look kind of sad. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When we bought the house, we had a list a mile long of projects we wanted to do to improve it. The first thing we did when we moved in was scrape off the popcorn ceilings from every room downstairs. We decided right away to focus all our energy (and money) downstairs and probably won't even get to any upstairs projects for a few years! We talked to different people and were told to spray water on the ceiling, let it sit, and use a scraper to remove the popcorn. Well it was slow going, using an empty Febreeze bottle to spray with, me going ahead of Phil to get it wet, then him scraping. Not to mention the mess!

We laid down plastic on the floors to cover the carpet/laminate, covered the windows, tried to cover and do one room at a time, but nothing stopped that white powder from getting on everything I owned. One day I showed up at work and looked down on my white pants to see little white Cooper paw prints. As we got better at it, the work went a little more quickly but one evening Phil found a video on YouTube showing that if you add vinegar to the water, the popcorn texture would come off more easily. So we added vinegar to the water and it slightly improved our pace. Our biggest finding ended up being the use of a big pesticide spray bottle to spray a thick coat on the ceilings since they have those continuous spray nozzles, and once we figured that out (still with vinegar), Phil was able to go at least 20 times faster, doing multiple rooms before I even woke up in the morning!

When we moved in to the house, we decided that we would make what had been called the "master bedroom" downstairs into a TV room, so that the room with the fireplace could be our formal sitting room. The room originally had a large walk-in closet in it, and during the course of the popcorn ceiling scraping, we decided to tear out the closet and make the room bigger. My mom had come to stay with us to help us get settled into the new house, and little did she know she would be able to partake in some demolition! We had lots of fun swinging around a hammer and knocking the wall down! Here is a before picture...

...and a during picture...

...but no After photo just yet! We still had a long way to go!

After the demo of the closet was complete and the popcorn was scraped, Jack helped us get the ceilings lightly textured and painted, and re-painted all of the rooms. We went with a much more muted color pallete than in our other house, but still just could not deal with cream colored walls.

Another weekend project we did in the middle of August (yes, the hottest part of the year in South Texas) was installing recessed lighting in our new TV room, completely DIY style. We carefully marked off 5 light locations, cut the holes, and then climbed into the attic to wire them, one at a time. I would help Phil think the wiring schematic through, then he would climb up there and I would be his eyes and ears below while he did the wiring in the sweltering hot attic. It would start out fairly comfortable in the mornings but after about 11am, it was awful up there. The moment you went up, you were immediately drenched with sweat! But we did not want the project to be un-finished so we made it happen. So on Saturday we got all of the recessed lighting wired and working, with the new double switch installed in the wall! On Sunday we needed to wire the room for surround sound, and relocate the cable TV connection to another wall, so we accomplished that as well! We then had to patch the ceiling areas where the old light fixtures had been, and install the recessed lighting surrounds that we preferred (we went through 3 or 4 before deciding on the best fit/lighting for our room). It was a full weekend with a total I believe of 5 trips to the hardware stores!

So after we removed the closet in the TV room, there was a gaping hole left in the carpet in the middle of the room where the wall had been. It was L-shaped and could not be hidden, so this gave us the extra push we needed to make a decision on the new flooring we wanted to put in. We researched for a few months, visited multiple flooring stores, had about 10 wood samples to choose from, and finally made our selection. We chose Scandian's Bonita Collection in Timborana Cafe, which is an Engineered wood. We had decided that an Engineered floor was the better way to go for our needs than solid hardwood, after researching and discussing with flooring professionals. After living in the house for a few months, we had also decided that the white tile in the kitchen had to go. We decided that it would be a complete mess to try to do the tile project after our new hardwoods were installed, so we added the tile project to our scope. We selected Emser's Umbria Savera travertine in 16"x16" tiles. Most tiles come in either 12"x12" or 18"x18" so we were very happy to find a stone we liked in a middle size.

We decided that to cut costs and keep the project within the budget we had set, we would do the existing flooring removal on our own, except for the carpet. We started with the tile removal in the kitchen, initially with a hammer but quickly learning that borrowing Jack's sledgehammer was the way to go. The tiles came up easily so as Phil broke them apart, I bagged them up and vacuumed up the area. We had the tile up in the kitchen, half bath, hall, and laundry room in just a few evenings. The difficult part was that the tiles went all the way underneath the cabinets in the kitchen. Since we were not removing the cabinets, we did not want to remove the tiles and leave the cabinets with nothing to sit on. So we had to buy a tool and grind the tiles so that the edge of the tile would be flush with the edge of the cabinets. The ceramic tiles kicked up a lot of red dust and every surface, seen or unseen, became coated with it. This would just be another round of wiping down the walls, cabinets, counters, etc since we had already done this once after the popcorn ceilings came down!

Removing the laminate wood flooring from the dining room and fireplace room was very simple and I was able to do it myself. The material was fairly new and in very good condition so we were able to donate it to Habitat's Home Store so that they could re-sell it. We are not complaining that it's a good tax deduction, either!

The floors were installed at the end of August. Here are some Before and During photos...

Once the floors had been installed, we decided to install new baseboards. We bought all of the boards and painted 2 coats of bright white oil based paint on them, then with Jack's help we got them cut and nailed to the wall. Jack also helped us with caulking them. We have a final coat of touch up paint on them to cover the small nail holes, which is on our To Do list still.

While we were doing the baseboard project, we realized that if we wanted to install molding/trim around the openings from one room to another, we needed to do it at the same time, otherwise we would be cutting the baseboards to the wrong size. One project ALWAYS leads to another with home ownership!!!

So we bought molding and painted 2 coats (Phil is a perfectionist when it comes to these details so he did all the tedious painting, and it looks really good). After we installed them, we had some gaps to fill with wood filler, and then everything had to be painted again with one or more coats of paint. We also decided to paint the french doors from the office to the TV room white rather than the orangy wood color they were previously. With the white trim and dark floors, they just didn't fit in anymore. So we have painted the trim 2 coats, and the doors are in line to be painted next.

We are co-hosting a couples baby shower for our friends Jennelle and Greg at our house on November 7th, so now we have a deadline to get all of our To Do list complete and some new furniture here before we have a large group of people over.

Two weekends ago we drove to the outlet malls and bought 3 new area rugs at the Pottery Barn outlet. We got a very good deal for really nice rugs. The following week we started shopping around for furniture, and last weekend we purchased a sofa for the formal sitting room, and matching chair/ottoman which will go in our office downstairs (just off the front entrance hallway).

I should mention that Cooper had really been loving the carpet in the house when we first moved in. He loved gripping his nails into it and running at full speed through all the rooms in the house as we chased him. It was lots of fun but we decided, to his dismay, to pull up all the carpet and install the hardwood and tile floors. (We do still have carpet on the stairs and all the bedrooms upstairs, which he enjoys but is not able to run around like he could downstairs.) But he does seem to enjoy the new rugs and now we see him just laying around, always on a rug. Sometimes while I do dishes he will lay on the rug under the dining room table and watch. Other times he will lay in the formal sitting room on the rug and watch while I cook. I will not be surprised this winter to see him roasting smores in the fireplace, of course, with his paws firmly resting on the rug.

Here are some of the latest photos taken as recently as today. We still need to buy more furniture and finish a long list of projects in the next month, so we will post more photos as we go. Hopefully just reading this post has tired you out and you can see what has been keeping us so busy that we have let our blogging lapse!


Karthik said...

First off I like the design on your blog. It's an Indian design, its called "kairi", resembles a mango. Your house looks great, after everything is done, Ethan would love your house, espeically those carpets. His mommy got him some colors, so it would be some great places to use them on. Just kidding, your house looks great, I like the color.

Jane said...

Your house is gorgeous! I can't wait to visit. I like how Cooper is modeling the rugs. :)

Diddy said...

I love it!!! Ethan will love kissing your french doors. He likes to put his mouth allllll over glass!

Lauren & Phil said...

Felicity, and Karthik--- Sounds like your kid needs some discipline!!

Anonymous said...

You're right...I'll leave him at your house for a week or so and you can fix him :)

Randolph Coleson said...

Quite the huge house overhaul project that was! But it doesn't stop at settling into the new home. The last half of the equation involves beautifying and remodeling the house. With all the big tasks that were accomplished, it's really relieving to just sit down and admire everything that has been done. New home projects are the best!

Clorinda Altavilla said...

It's quite amazing what treasure of a house you're bound to find if you're patient enough to go through listings. But that's quite a wonderful abode! I bet everyone's settled by now.