I bought another house – 7 months ago. 😳 It isn’t like I’ve been keeping this a secret from you. I just haven’t told you is all. That all changes today, as I bring you up to date on MY NEW HOUSE.
Imma get you up to speed quickly so we can get to the pictures. Last year I paid off the mortgage on my own house in a whiplash quick fashion. After a mere 22 years I was mortgage free.
As it turns out, I like a mortgage. I find it keeps me more grounded and ambitious to know that I’m deeply in debt and one pandemic away from living in a pothole.
So last November I bought the house from the estate of a longtime neighbour who passed away. I had been in the house several times and knew it had never been updated to any great extent but it had been maintained and loved.
The house is a 1 bathroom, 2 bedroom (converted from a 3 bedroom years ago), 2 story brick house built around 1920.
After a simple real estate appraisal, a handshake and a bundle of cash I was the proud new owner of a very old house. The eye twitching and onion sweats didn’t come until the day I got possession and walked through it.
The main floor of the house was clean and solid. Good. No work to be done here I thought. Just some painting. I’ll let you sit back and contemplate whether that premonition turned out to be true.
As it happens – it was true! I painted the walls white and that was all I had to do on the main floor. I mean, unless you count running a water line to a new fridge in the kitchen – which I don’t because that is nothing compared the rest of the work in the house.
Why did I buy another house??
As a rental property. So no. I’m not moving into this other house. Repeat: I AM NOT MOVING.
I originally bought it thinking Betty would move in. She lives in the house I grew up in which is a biggish 4 bedroom family home with a pool and gardens to maintain. At 85, I therefore figured that Betty might be ready to downsize.
When I told her my idea of having her moving into this smaller house in my neighbourhood she didn’t swear at me.
DID. NOT. SWEAR.
With my mother, no swearing was a resounding affirmation that she was 100% on board with my plan.
That was my assumption anyway. And you know what they say about assuming. You either end up with food poisoning or shoes that don’t fit.
So now my rental property is being rented to a nice family. How nice? They agreed to rent it before I had done any of the improvements trusting that I would indeed fix it up.
Ripping out all the carpeting in the upstairs.
The area you’re seeing here is at the top of the stairs and was once a bedroom. Walls were removed many years ago turning this top of the stairs area into a sitting room/den.
I fixed this house up so quickly and in such a fit that I really didn’t document it as much as I should have. I don’t even have a photo of the upstairs with the carpeting, but you can see the staircase below and the carpeted stairs.
The carpet wasn’t awful and scary – it’s just that most people don’t want carpeting. I found that out when I started showing it to potential renters. Everyone LOVED the downstairs, but hopped around on the carpet as if the single stain on it was surely a mixture of vomit and bedbugs.
So the carpet came out of the second floor and off of the stairs.
I know you haven’t removed carpeting from stairs because if you had you’d still be in a corner with someone lovingly wiping drool from your chin.
Once the carpet was removed it was time to really question what the hell was going on with the upstairs floors. In this top room there was a combination of vinyl sheet flooring, square tiles (probably asbestos) and drywall.
Yes. The floors were drywalled where walls were removed.
Speaking of drywall. All of the rooms were wallpapered. What I found under that wallpaper confirmed what my mother has always said. When you see wallpaper in an old house, it’s there to cover something up.
In this instance the wallpaper was covering up The Shining.
And sliding closet doors.
That’s right. I don’t even have a photo of the original wallpapered walls. Solidifying my status as the world’s worst blogger.
The plaster walls would have looked beautiful in a chateau in France but in this front bedroom they had a very serial killer vibe.
The wallpaper in the bathroom revealed they hadn’t primed the drywall before wallpapering which meant when I removed the wallpaper, all the drywall paper came with it.
And the second bedroom wallpaper? Well, it just wouldn’t come off. It would have taken days and days of soaking the paper and peeling off tiny bits of it until I developed a rash on my chin from the drool.
Even though I pledged to repair and paint the walls myself at the beginning of this project THESE were going to require a professional. So I hired someone to skim coat all the rooms.
If you aren’t familiar with skim coating, it’s going over existing drywall with drywall mud and sanding and smoothing it out until the walls look brand new.
I even had him skim coat over the wallpaper.
HOW TO PAINT OVER WALLPAPER
I normally wouldn’t recommend painting wallpaper. It just isn’t a good idea. The paper can start to peel off and bubble and you’re left with something that’s worse than the wallpaper.
BUT you can paint over wallpaper if it’s your only option. Here are a few tricks for doing that:
- Scrape or pull off any loose paper around the edges and corners.
- Skim coat ONLY the seams of the wallpaper with a very thin coat.*
- Repeat skin coating in thin layers on the seams gradually feathering out the mud so you don’t have bumps where the seams are.
- Prime the seams and the walls with a THIN coat of paint.
- Repeat with regular coats of paint.
- Use thin coats of mud, primer and paint so they dry quickly. The faster they dry the less likely you’ll get bubbling of the wallpaper from the moisture.
As everyone knows, the first thing you do when they get a new house with carpeting, is pull a corner up and look underneath just KNOWING that below is going to be perfectly untouched heart pine, original to the construction of the home.
Or asbestos tiles.
One or the other.
I got the asbestos tiles. Beneath THOSE were the original beautiful pine subfloors.
Having asbestos tiles removed is a bit of a thing. Asbestos tiles are the cigarettes and tanning beds of the flooring world. They’re fine as long as you’re only looking at them but as soon as you disturb them they get all cancery on you.
That meant I had to put new flooring over the old flooring. Hardwood floors run about the same price as a Presidential campaign so they were out. Carpeting is the cheapest thing to install but people don’t like it and why would I remove carpet to install carpet?
That left the dreaded floating floors. I hate those floors. Click flooring in an old home just feels wrong to me. Very wrong. But very cheap.
I got a quote from a local store for installing the cheapest vinyl plank flooring (yes that’s click flooring) they had. The area to be covered was 450 feet.
It was going to cost $8,500.
The actual flooring was about $1,000. The rest of the cost was made up stuff they claimed HAD to be done. Like levelling the floor then laying new plywood over everything. Now if this were my forever home those things would have been good, but this is a rental house built in 1920. Nothing is straight, level or perfect in it and short of gutting the entire place it was never going to be.
I was going to be charged $1,200 to cut and put down the quarter round.
Quarter round is not crown moulding. It’s incredibly easy to cut and put down. It would take 1/2-1 day for me to do.
This angered me to no end, not just because the cost was so out of proportion with the labour, but because I knew so many people would just say, Yeah, O.K. I guess that’s what it costs to put quarter round down. So I was mad for myself and mad for everyone who didn’t know this pricing was a total scam.
I told them to suck it – I’d find someone else to lay the floor. (I know, I would normally be the one to lay this floor but I put in an order to add 17 hours to each of my days and I haven’t got the email from the Universe approving that yet soooo.)
Enter Pink Tool Belt and her husband.
It was mainly her husband who did the work. He put all the flooring down and was much more precise than I would have been. I was recovering from removing 1,980,534 carpet staples from the stairs.
As it turns out, heh, I really like this flooring. It’s easy to lay and is incredibly forgiving of rooms that have several speed bumps in them.
One key thing we did when laying the click flooring was to NOT attempt to run it the entire length of the house. We did it room by room with a threshold at each doorway. Doing this will help eliminate the chance the flooring will buckle or come apart.
There you have it. My new old house. I’m a landlord. Landlady? Land baron?
Really I’m just someone who doesn’t know when to stop. Which also explains how this post is currently close to 2,000 words.
After 7 months the house is fixed up (at least the inside is) and rented. I spent the first 5 months thinking about fixing up the house and the last 2 actually fixing it up. During a pandemic where you couldn’t actually go into any stores. Do you know how difficult it is to get plumbing supplies when you can’t go into a hardware store?
It’s like trying to order a pair of jeans that fit perfectly online. Very little chances of success.
But it came together and other than working on the outside, I’m officially finished fixing the inside.
Betty is currently relaxing by her pool drinking a Moscow Mule.
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