How a rental house makeover goes when you don't have the budget to add an addition, take down walls, put up walls, raise the roof or install marble anything. Paint, drywall compound, caulking and an endless supply of coffee is all you really need. And if your mother has a bottle of 34 year old valium in her medicine cabinet, obviously grab that too.
Let's start with what was fun about this house makeover so's I don't give you the impression this was the awful job that it actually was. Cause that would make me sound like a whiner and not the twinkling lover of doing stuff that that I truly am.
The most fun thing about fixing up a rental house or a house you aren't the one moving into is that you're MUCH more willing to take chances.
Take the stairs and railing for instance.
The downstairs was originally all beige. Every single thing was beige: the walls, the trim, the cabinets, the doors, the stairs, banister - everything. All the colour of television barf.
So I decided I needed to break that up a bit. The fastest and easiest way to do that was to take the (beige) carpet off of the stairs and paint them.
Since it WASN'T my own house I also decided to paint the banister and newel post the same colour (Benjamin Moore Iron Ore) as the steps. Had it been my own house it would have taken me at least 3 months just to decide on which colour and how to paint the staircase. Black risers and steps? Just black steps? Black spindles?
But a rental house? I quickly decided on black steps and banister. Done.
The stairs aren't perfect and I'm not worrying about it. There are cracks, bangs, dents and enough carpet tack holes for them to double as a fencing mask.
Again. It's a rental. I'm going to do a good job, but I'm smart enough to know that I can't erase 100 years of age.
Unless it's my face in which case I'm not smart enough and bring on the gadgets, serums and palm sander.
What I did for the staircase
- Removed the carpet and underpad.
- Removed 789,544,540,652,549,666 carpet tacks and staples from stairs.
- Filled in gaps between stairs and wall with caulking.
- Painted stairs, banister and newel post with Benjamin Moore oil based paint.
- Painted risers with a not quite white oil paint. BUT NOT BEIGE.
This is the room that was the worry.
It looked better than this above photo when I bought it. The walls were beige wallpaper with little flowers.
This shot on the left is after I started to go Free Britney on it.
The small bathroom had a tub, no shower and oak everything. The vanity was oak, the towel rack, the toilet paper holder and of course the toilet lid. All wood. The window (that is conveniently located right in the shower area so you can both get clean and wave at the neigbours) was also unpainted wood. And the trim. Did I mention the trim?
The wood wasn't the scary thing. It was the fact that this bathroom only had a bathtub and I didn't want to get into any big renos with this house.
So how do you get a shower into a bathroom without a reno? Like I showed you last week, with a diverter faucet, a handheld shower and some Diazepam.
I also plumbed the new sink and faucets, painted everything and got new accessories. I'm still waiting for the mirror and medicine cabinet to arrive.
The bathtub has fairly neutral tile surrounding it but it wasn't high enough to protect the walls during a shower/neighbour wave.
So I thought about it, researched it and did something very strange.
Instead of tiling the shower walls I painted them with oil based paint.
Again, this is something that you might be a bit worried about doing at home but in a rental? I'll give it a shot! If it doesn't work, I go in and fix it, but as long as I've siliconed well between the wall and the the existing tiles it should be fine.
For protecting the window I've used 2 shower curtains in the bathroom. One on each side of the bath to stop water from getting on the floor and the window.
What I did in the bathroom
- Removed the wallpaper and had the walls skim coated so they were like brand new again.
- Painted all the trim with primer and white oil based paint.
- Removed ALL wood features and replaced them with chrome and white.
- Removed the old vanity, sink and faucets and replaced them with a new inexpensive ($179 from Canadian Tire) vanity/sink combo and used faucets I scrounged from a tear down house in the neighbourhood.
- Painted the walls in the shower area with 3 coats of white semi-gloss oil paint.
The upstairs sitting room
The area at the top of the stairs in this house had lightly stained carpeting and a lot of water damage in all the closets from a leaking roof years ago.
So there was black mould, rotted crumbling drywall and for some reason indoor/outdoor carpeting in the closets.
The walls in this sitting room are textured and I VERY briefly considered getting them smoothed out but quickly laughed and thought, um, no. The walls are in good condition and plain white. No changes needed.
The entire upstairs was carpeted so that was the first thing to be done. After I got that done, my sister and brother in law descended on the house to put down the click flooring.
With that finished I could paint the walls and trim and call it a day on the sitting room.
What I did in the sitting room
- Pull up carpeting and tacks.
- Level floors a bit with Bondo (which is what you repair cars with, lol) because my brother-in-law did it and he owned an autobody shop for years and therefore fixes EVERYTHING with Bondo.
- Laid vinyl plank flooring, because it is the most forgiving of floorings.
- Painted trim with oil based paint and walls with Benjamin Moore's Simply White.
The room looks great now with furniture in it, but it's amazing what just pulling up the carpet and putting down inexpensive flooring did.
It feels clean and unbeige.
Bedroom number one
The bedroom at the front of the house seemed like an easy fix until I started to remove the blue floral wallpaper.
That's when it dawned on me that even the sliding closet doors were wallpapered. My solution to that was to remove the wallpaper which I just KNEW was going to be super-easy to take off and then have the skim coater skim coat the doors so they just looked like drywall.
I'll say this for him, my drywaller didn't even snicker when he reminded me that the panelled doors were pretty bouncy and bendy and if he skim coated them they'd all crack to bits the first time someone moved them.
Right. Good point.
So I just painted them and they came out fine.
That will become your most favourite saying if you're renovating a rental house by the way.
"It'll be fine."
Which isn't to say that I want to be a slumlady - but you DO have to keep perspective. I wanted the house to be nice, clean and welcoming without spending time or money where I wouldn't see any return.
I wanted this to feel like someone's home, not a rental - but I wasn't willing to fix it up better than my own house is fixed up. And my bathroom is in my kitchen and has never been updated so that didn't leave a lot of room for improvements on this house obviously. 🤣
What I did in bedroom number one
- Stripped the wallpaper.
- Had walls and closet skim coated and drywall repaired.
- Removed the carpet - even the flashy indoor/outdoor carpeting in the closet.
- Laid new click flooring and quarter round.
- Caulking. If you don't know what to do with caulk - here's my post on it.
The massive sliding closet doors made the perfect spot for a desk for school.
The second bedroom
The second bedroom is the one that had the separation anxiety wallpaper.
Nothing but NOTHING was going to convince it to let go. So my skim coater Terry worked some kind of drywall man magic and skim coated the seams of the wallpaper so perfectly and gave me such good instruction on painting the walls afterwards that you 100% would never know it's painted wallpaper.
Like I mentioned in my original post on getting this rental house painting wallpaper is NOT recommended but in extreme cases it can be done well. You just have to follow the basic steps I outlined in my first post on the rental house.
What I did in bedroom number two
- Removed the carpet.
- Removed 2" of wallpaper.
- Skim coated the wallpaper seams.
- Primed and painted the walls and trim.
The living/dining Room
Floors. Perfect, lovely, in excellent condition floors. I love you so.
No carpet to take up, no flooring to put down. All I planned on doing was painting the walls and trim white.
When I realized painting the trim was going to be days because it involved things like massive built ins and windows with a bazillion mullions (the cross pieces of wood in the windows) I rethought my plan.
I mean a little big of beige is O.K., right? Right.
So downstairs all I did was paint the walls Benjamin Moore's Simply White and fill in any nail holes on the walls.
That was all it needed. As you can see.
When my neighbour's family first thought of selling the house they had a real estate agent come in. The agent told them they'd have to take out the built ins completely before listing the house because nobody wanted built ins. They wanted blank walls and the built ins felt dated.
I'd like to redirect you to this post revealing the built ins I did a few years ago in my own house. That ended up being featured in The New York Times.
And now I'd like to direct you to the rental house complete with furniture and - the dreaded built ins.
Real estate agents usually have a very good understanding of the market and houses in general. They have good advice. Not this time and not this agent.
What I did in the living/dining room
- Painted the walls white. That's it.
The kitchen. I love this kitchen and didn't update it at all. Even if I'd had the money, time or energy I wouldn't have updated it.
It reminds me of the original kitchen in my house which I also LOVED. The only reason I redid my kitchen is just opening and closing drawers was a ridiculous struggle. And the configuration was horrible.
My sister Fish Pedicure came in and cleaned her little heart out (she LOVES cleaning). She scraped and Windexed and wiped until this little 1940's kitchen was ready to open her cupboard doors to the renters.
She was just doing it without a dishwasher or any good spot for a microwave because - 1940's.
That is a very nutshelled overview of how I went from buying a house to having it readyish for renters in a couple of months. Obviously it could have been done much more quickly but I was working this overhaul in during nights and and weekends when I wasn't working on my blog or The Art of FUN Stuff membership site.
Why YES! My garden is WAY behind this year, thank you for asking. THAT overhaul will be ready for viewing soon. I'm thinking of installing built ins.
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Looks great. You did a great job! Who wouldn't want to rent such a nice house.
Thanks Carol! ~ karen
I haven't been by in a while. Congrats on your rental reno! Now that you're done and it won't do you any good, I wanted to share a trick I came up with for removing carpet staples from wood floors: Use a corkscrew. (I used the one on my Swiss Army knife.) Just insert under the staple and turn. You can get under the staple easier, and you avoid pressing/rocking a tool against the floor and denting it. Maybe this'll make somebody else's project easier.