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.

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109 Comments

  1. CG says:

    We have a 100 year old Craftsman we’ve loving restored (read: spent our retirement fund fixing up and putting an addition on), and it’s left me *so* immune to this stuff that when you described your sans-wallpaper walls as “the Shining” I shrugged and thought, “Eh, looks fine to me.” Same with pulling up all the carpet staples/nails/tacks, etc. It’s amazing how one old house can leave you expecting the worst possible option in every house you see from that point on. Congrats, by the way! I know you’ve been part of the “old house club” for ages, but a 100-year-old house is a club of its very own. They’re old enough to have every issue known to man, yet young enough to have many things done semi-correctly (while still usually being pretty incorrect).

  2. Marcia M says:

    We’re getting ready to rip up carpeting/sheet vinyl flooring in our cabin and replace with the same stuff you used. We’ve been dithering about color for over a year now, and I love the flooring Pink Tool Belt and Husband put down. I think I’ve found my flooring! Your renters are lucky ducks! The home is charming.

  3. Lisa says:

    You nailed this Karen and it looks fab. I removed carpet from our stairs years ago sans the mask – BIG MISTAKE. I called someone in to finish the floors. Your tenants are very lucky people!!

  4. Chartrice says:

    I too was looking to replace the floors in my house (small, 1200sq ft) and got the $1200 quote for the floor trim! Do they think we are crazy? Still getting quotes, but at least others have been more reasonable! Love your blog, have been following for quite some time. I so want to be you when I grow up ( but am older than you now!)

  5. Cathy says:

    Well shit, thanks for leaving us/me out of this
    tiny piece of your life!!! Just for that I’m not gonna tell you my news till ((counting on fingers)) January 21, 2022! So there!!

    Ok, fine congratulations.
    I’m still miffed.

  6. Melanie says:

    Congratulations! One question: how do you know if they are the asbestos floor tiles? I’m scared to know if that’s what we have. :-/

  7. Julie says:

    Oh wow! Great news!

  8. Meg says:

    Hooray new (to you) house!
    We are currently wondering what to do with a floor in a rental we just inherited, right now. Also your writing is so hilarious. Vomit and bedbugs had me absolutely cackling over here. POSSIBLY because of our own pukebugs situation for the *multiple* rugs we need to rip out of that rental. But hilarious nonetheless.

    • Karen says:

      The funny thing is, the stains are probably chocolate ice cream or a rum and coke. Pigs in a blanket, if the house is from the 60’s. ~ karen!

  9. Kathy Knapp says:

    When I ripped the ugly AVOCADO carpets out of a 1950’s Brick Ranch-style home in Dallas, I discovered the ‘Wonder Bar,’ a girl’s best friend!

  10. Kelly says:

    Congrats Karen! And love everything about this so much! Can’t wait to see what you do to the outside of the house. I’m sure it will be amazing!

  11. Jackie says:

    Wow. Not a story I expected. Congratulations, I’m happy for you. Looks like a great house. I was starting to get afraid that you were winding down on your blog & moving on to something else. Love your stories.

    • Karen says:

      Winding down is definitely not describe my existence at the moment.🤣 And even though it’s a lot more work, having The Art of Fun Stuff and the new house have been a great change of pace and creativity for me. :) ~ karen!

  12. Darla Ragland says:

    Spent 16 years in a 100+ year old house. Lots of renovations. Even found old newspaper in one of the walls. Luckily no stairs…just lots of uneven floors and wall paper. Congratulations!!

  13. Kate/Kathleen says:

    Holy Cow! No moss growing on you! Well done!

    Hmm. That new plank flooring looks awesome. Might have to try that on the asbestos tile floor in the basement of this old 1920’s house. Maybe doesn’t work for basements? I dunno.

    When I grow up, I want to be like you. There’s nothing you can’t do!

  14. Lia says:

    Oh no!!! Asbestos tile – how do you identify it? I wonder if that is what we revealed under the horrible wall-to-wall carpeting in the tv-room of our 1968 backsplit a couple of years ago. Glued down on top of the cement floor. Pops loose and breaks if you look at it funny. Ugly too.
    Oh great…

  15. Lindsey says:

    Bought my house with hideous apple wallpaper in kitchen. My dad is a finishing contractor and ‘the right way to do it is remove it Lindsey Rae’. Yea old man, well it’s one with the wall. Spent 2 hours one day with a steamer and cleared a 1 ft area. ‘Keep on trucking Lindsey Rae’. Pff. He left town for a couple weeks, so I knew he wouldn’t be stopping over. So. I Bbought me a 5 gallon bucket of plus 3 and spent 2 hours skim coating. Short story long. That was 5 years ago…he still thinks I spent the week removing it. Professions. 🙄

  16. Vikki says:

    Congrats 2X-homeowner. But….more photos please.

  17. Billy Sharpstick says:

    We removed the carpet in our 1927 house, found linoleum squares on top of tarpaper and glued to the pine floor with hardened black “mastic” glue. Chiseled off the tiles and tarpaper. Then had to use a heat gun to heat up about 8 square inches at a time, then scrape with a carbide scraper. Then carved out all the termite galleries and filled with tinted wood putty. Should have just put vinyl over the wood, but who knew?

  18. Tricia Rose says:

    We had an advantageous dishwasher flood just after moving in which paid for replacing the condo carpet I’m cheap so I took it up myself – and the two layers of lino underneath. Some came up in sheets, and other areas had to be chiseled millimeter by millimeter, then the tar-glue scrubbed. Ruined my manicure. Douglas fir underneath, thank goodness.
    Congratulations landlady!

  19. Patricia says:

    This was therapeutic reading for me. I inherited my family’s 95 year old home in March. It was built by my grandfather and remodeled respectfully by my father. (Both were carpenters.)
    I found original 1920s wallpaper and linoleum in the upstairs. It revealed itself when I was pulling up the 1980s shag carpet. And, yes, I am having the stairs recarpeted by professionals.

  20. Kippy says:

    Congratulations Karen! I hope your renters stay there for many years. Yeah for Pink Tool Belt and Mr. Tool Belt. The place looks much improved.
    I removed with no help, wall to wall shag carpeting in my home and then had the wood flooring (hickory) professionally refinished. Green shag in hall and living room, gold in bedroom. The underlayment stuck on floor in many places and stank the stink that only 50 year old materials have. The tack strips were killer as were the random tacks nailed directly from pad to floor.

  21. Deb from Maryland says:

    Oh. My. Goodness! If only we could bottle your need to “do” and share it with us “need a major prod to get started” peeps. The world would be a DIY haven. ;) Congrats and great job taking the chance.

  22. Pattie Meyers says:

    Bravo from Texas. So good. So smart. So maniacal. Congratulations.

  23. Vicki DeLeo says:

    Wow! Congrats on the new house. The flooring looks great. We put it down over questionable vinyl flooring and it’s the best thing ever. What was on the closet doors? Was it wallpaper? Did I read that right? 😵‍💫

    • Karen says:

      Yes, the closet doors were wallpapered. Blue wallpaper with tiny flowers. The people renting actually sent me before photos of the house from when they looked at it so I’ll be able to show everyone what the rug and wallpaper looked like in an upcoming post! ~ karen

      • Vicki says:

        Ohhh boy. Well, old houses, I guess. Can’t wait to see the “before” of that. I’m sure there would have been swearing if it were me doing work. A lot.

  24. Lacey says:

    Beautiful!! Love the look and the idea to do one area at a time with thresholds is brilliant. I’ve had buckling. It sucks.

    And I do hope Betty will eventually move in and start her cussing again.

  25. Anne Hogan says:

    Congrats Karen! I remember walking by your house and you said the carpet was from a photo shoot – now I understand. :)
    I had a flood from my washer in the basement recently (didn’t tighten the cleanout properly) and ended up ripping up all the old dark grey carpet out and I put down (well I had someone put down) the same flooring as you picked – after 13 bags of levelling to even out the 2″ difference in height!
    Now I’m on to picking paint colours ’cause we’re allowed to now. I look forward to watching your progress. I bought this 1940’s bungalow a couple of years ago & I’m going through renos constantly. Fun stuff!

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