I Bought a House!

I bought another house7 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.

First Job?

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:

  1. Scrape or pull off any loose paper around the edges and corners.
  2. Skim coat ONLY the seams of the wallpaper with a very thin coat.*
  3. Repeat skin coating in thin layers on the seams gradually feathering out the mud so you don’t have bumps where the seams are.
  4. Prime the seams and the walls with a THIN coat of paint.
  5. 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.

The Floors

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.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

109 Comments

  1. maura says:

    Congratulations Karen!

  2. Jody says:

    Congrats. I am so envious. I would love to fix up an untouched old house. You know…just for fun.
    And I get the agony of pulling up stair carpeting. I’m still recovering 25+ years later.

    • Karen says:

      I had to do the same thing in my own house years ago. Pulled up the carpeting upstairs as soon as I moved in (where I did indeed have original pine floors) and a few years later pulled it up off the stairs. WE should form a support group. ~ karen!

  3. Edith says:

    Congratulations Karen!

    I’m so happy for you :)

  4. Arlene Stopps says:

    Way to go Karen!!
    Hard work but, great security for the future!
    Beautiful job on the renovation !
    And there is never a shortage of renters in our beautiful little town!!

  5. Gayle says:

    I’ve removed carpet from stairs. It was a 1924 bungalow style home my son bought 14 ys ago…my fingers still hurt lol Ialso chisled out penny tile from the bathrooms. Tile. By. Tile. He and dil were carefully removing what they wanted to change and trading it in for period things in the home–like for a door that had been removed but was nowhere in the house. And a doorknob with it that matched the rest in the home… (Tile. By. Tile. Hours. I love my boy.) So they could move the non-original half bath area out of the kitchen so a fridge could sit there… It’s absolutely gorgeous home now. Mortgage free. My dil and son know how to pinch a penny. While I chisled, hubby and son broke up the cast iron tub and carried it down 3 flights and out–not salvageable–to the dumpster someone tossed a toilet into during the night. Yeah.

  6. Marie Anne says:

    Congratulations! Wish you the best of luck with good tenants! Pulling up carpet on stairs is unbelievably horrible! My grandmother and I did it while renoing my mother’s house to sell years ago. They were spiral stairs too, so not even a proper place to stand while pulling with all your might!

    • Karen says:

      Uch. And it was so dirty! Not because the house was dirty, but because carpet gathers up SO much debris over the years. That’s why I’m wearing a mask in the picture! ~ karen

  7. Juni says:

    When we moved into our old house 17 years ago there was 1970s wallpaper in every room. We had an extra week in this house before we had to move in and we thought “that will give us time to pull up the carpet and tear down the wallpaper and paint”. Did I mention we were naive? We managed one room. Then we decided we really liked the rest of the vintage wallpaper (later we discovered some of it is holding the plaster in place….) I have managed to remove two more rooms old carpet. Two rooms and a hallway to go before I move into my pine box. We had a professional re-wallpaper our kitchen (an insurance job) and he papered over some of the old wallpaper that would not come off.
    The insurance company had two young guys working on a one foot height by 8 ft long strip above the sink for EIGHT HOURS and they managed just the edges!

    (I have the same simple moulding in my 1920s house as you have in yours – I really love that simple style)

  8. Mona says:

    We (my husband) put cork flooring in the bedrooms of our mid century modern house (built on a slab). Love the look and that it isn’t cold on our bare feet in wintertime.

  9. Mary W says:

    I suspected something was going on – so glad you told us after it was done. I would hate for you to read that many comments on what not to do. Seems we all have our own piece of hell to fondly remember and want to protect others from. Congrats on the new baby. I can’t wait for the yard post!

  10. Mary says:

    Thanks for the flooring inspiration. I’ve been wrestling with how to proceed with the floor in my bedroom. I loathe carpeting but solid hardwood is out of my reach. Luckily, the carpet pulled up easily and the subfloor is what my Dad used to call hard-board so click flooring should work well. Good luck with your rental.

  11. Susan Labrie says:

    Wait, are you pink toolbelt…do you have a husband we don’t know about??

  12. Karen A says:

    Congratulations!
    Your confidence is inspiring to me.
    One more title to add after your name … Landlady
    :-D

  13. Judi H. says:

    Good for you! That should keep you out of trouble for awhile😉👍

  14. Jane says:

    Ambitious and a well-done job, Karen! We once bought a century old house nearby to be used as my parents’ vacation property. They never used it and our older one moved in for a while. Together with a roommate, he embarked on an ambitious renovating project, leaving things half finished when he moved to a different city. We rented it out for a few years and had endless problems with irresponsible tenants. Ended up selling it at a loss.

  15. Jenny W says:

    Well I certainly did not expect THAT!
    Good for you :) I too live in a 70 year old 1 bathroom brick house and I love to see options for renovation & decor so bring on the content!

    • Hi Jenny!

      I, too, have a “70-ish year old 1 bathroom brick house” – built in 1958. It was very well-built by a mason, who worked his day job, ..then in evenings worked on this house for his family. A lot of love was put into it.

      But the BATHROOM !!! Coral pink tub, sink and toilet.
      Baby blue tile bath surround and lower walls.
      Floor, a mosaic of tiny tiles in multiple shades of green
      and blues.
      AND, the coupe de gras, upper walls papered in a wild pink, blue and
      green FLORAL !
      Yikes !!
      Not having the funds to remodel, the only way I could tame this Eisenhower-era masterpiece was to remove the wallpaper and paint the upper walls white and use a lot of white shower curtain. Not a total fix , but a lot better.

      Theresa

      • Jenny W says:

        Thanks to Karen’s “CanDo”inspiration I have renovated almost every room myself EXCEPT for the Bathroom – I saved up and hired professionals and they executed my design perfectly. It was such a tiny room compared to bathrooms these days :)

      • Karen says:

        I haven’t even renovated my bathroom yet, lol. Which by the way is situated conveniently in the bathroom of my 180 year old house.🙄 ~ karen!

  16. Penny says:

    NOW the upcycled posts make sense! I have been wondering what you were busy with, I knew there must be a good reason.
    Soooooo….. Property Developer/Landlord is the latest arrow in your quiver, whatever next?

    • Karen says:

      I was a little afraid people were going to think that I was slouching, but trust me when I tell you that updating old posts is necessary on a blog regardless of whether I’ve done something stupid like bought another house to fix up.🤣 And still very time consuming. One day I’ll do a wholeeeee post on why bloggers need to update and republish old posts. As far as the new house goes, I believe it will be the beginning and end of my property development career!😆 ~ karen!

  17. Linda J Howes-Smyth says:

    Back in my drinking days I used to love Moscow Mules.

  18. Jane C. says:

    Two years ago I decided to rip out the horrid blue carpet in my bedroom. The plan was to paint the plywood floor I figured I’d find beneath the foam underlay. Wrong! There was another, ancient layer of underlay that had adhered to painted pine boards. A friend and I spent two weekends painstakingly scraping off that ancient layer of crud with putty knives. There was still some material stuck to the floor, and I discovered the best way to remove it was spraying with household cleaner, scrubbing with a metal scouring pad, and then washing and wiping with many, many rags. I will not be removing carpet in any other rooms, no matter how much I would like it gone.

  19. Joanna says:

    My son, mom & I bought a house in 2015 it was supposed to be move in ready. The woman that owned it carried the purchase contract for us because we had not credit to speak of. Any how we ended up taking the entire place down to the studs, ne wiring, electrical panel, plumbing, studs, floor joists, sub floors, installation, sheet rock, windows, roof, I mean heck we should have bought a nice manufactured home it would have been cheaper & faster lol. But we only paid $18,000 for it plus $12,000 & some change for all the materials. We did all of the work ourselves with the help of a friend. We moved in in 2018, it too about 3 years, there were cockroahes, termites & other creepy crawlies like snakes living there in the house, it for sure wasn’t an easy journey to make especially after ending a bad 25 year marriage to aman who has bipolar & refuses medication, but we ouwn the house outright now, we’re getting ready to sell it to buy a bigger place with some acerage close to family. So things do turn out sometimes.

  20. Jennifer says:

    I am jealous of that floor. It is beautiful. I have been living with carpet for three years and I hate it. We are afraid to pull it up because we are 99% sure the results will be asbestos. How did you find that gorgeous flooring?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jennifer. You’re O.K. to remove carpet from over asbestos if you do it carefully. You just can’t disturb the asbestos tile by ripping them up and breaking them. The flooring is actually not at ALL what I picked out, lol. I bought it at Rona / Lowes. And I picked one that was half decent and on sale. When it showed up it looked completely different from what was online. (I couldn’t go in store because we were locked down the entire time I fixed the house up) So mainly it was luck. ~ karen!

  21. Robert says:

    So Karen, I heard you bought a new home.
    I swear I hadn’t been so anxious to click on one of your emails since who knows how long.
    I cannot believe Betty didn’t swear! Is age finally mellowing her?

  22. Carol says:

    Congratulations! Hope it all works out. We had the carpet from he’ll when we moved in this house. Removing carpet is the worst and then wall paper. Or is that wallpaper y hen carpet either way it sucks.. hope your renters work out!

    • Karen says:

      They will. :) It’s the *next* renters who come in after this lovely family I’ll have to worry about, lol. And by that I mean Betty obviously. ~ karen!

  23. Linda says:

    Hahahahah Welcome to the world of rentals. Your headache has just begun!

  24. Paula says:

    Congratulations!
    Ironically, I bought another house in my neighbourhood last October. Glad I did it then because you know what the real estate market is currently like in Southern Ontario!

  25. Lauren says:

    I love the new plank vinyl flooring. It’s more waterproof than laminate, less slippery, softer to walk on, and looks nicer. Good for you.
    Betty didn’t want to pack, or what?

    • Karen says:

      Now that the floor is down I realize how much easier it is to maintain than actual old wood floors, lol. So it was probably a good choice! Betty’s too busy drinking Moscow Mules to move. ~ karen

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