Archives for October 2010

Paint vs. Stain

I have three kids.  I totally understand how this could happen…

Wall art

Someone’s offspring used a pen to carve words into wood paneling and then attempted to scratch out the graffiti.  The words may have still been legible because the child then used permanent marker to make them harder to read.  I’m estimating the artist was about 2 or 3 years of age based on masterpieces my children have scribbled on walls at my house.  Usually behind their bed, oddly enough.

Knotted pine and permanent marker

It happened randomly throughout this attic bedroom.

This house is a great example of when painting wood is waaaaay easier (and more fun) than restoring and staining wood.

Wood purists will still be mad at me.

Ignore the missing pull... Craig made a replacement knob after I took the picture.

It’s ok.  I understand.

Soon I’ll post pictures of a bedroom where we restored painted wood. It will make a wood-lovin’ heart sing.

I Love Ugly Carpet

Green Knight

Ugly carpet is like a battle weary Medieval Knight who gives all he has to protect his Lady in Waiting.

Lady in Waiting

Must. Stop. Watching. Ladyhawke.

Small Budget Kitchen

In fairytales you can create a dream kitchen with an unlimited budget.  In real life the wicked step-mother’s name is Budget.  Actually, my rehab budget is more like Jiminy Cricket in Pinnochio…  always there to whisper words of wisdom into my wooden ear.

We had a very small budget to update this kitchen.

Believe it or not, the cabinet frames were in decent shape.

Does anyone need an encyclopedia set?

Frank, from Frank’s Installation Services,  built new cabinet doors/drawers.  We painted them and updated the hardware.

The appliances needed to be updated to ones that worked.  To save money, we removed the built-in ovens and added cabinet space.  Actually, Frank did.  Thank you, Frank!

The box on the floor holds some of the food left in the cabinets.

The white appliances blended well with the painted cabinets which helped the kitchen look a little larger.

The budget for this neighborhood only allowed for laminate counters, but at least they were fresh and new.   Jiminy Cricket also dictated the choice of new vinyl floors.  Here’s the Before/After again…

Resilient Wood Floors

In response to the previous post,

Krystal comments:

In the last picture I’m seeing gorgeous hardwood floors. Is that the original floor re-sanded? Looking at the before pictures, you’d never believe that a little sanding and varnish could transform such a neglected floor into a beauty.

It is amazing how resilient wood floors can be.  Yes, the before pictures show wood floors (not dirty carpet).

The floors are not dirty carpet. They are neglected oak floors.

Here is a picture of the wood floors with a coating of drywall dust after the walls were repaired.

After priming the walls

The floor guys sanded and varnished those original floors and voila… beauty was underneath.

Original oak floor restored.

Our floor guys rock.

Subtle Changes

Sometimes a room needs only simple changes during the rehab process.  Well, after it’s cleaned.

Order another dumpster and clean some more …

This living room had an amazing lead glass window as its focal point and original wood trim.   Sometime in the nearly 100 years since the house had been built, the original trim in the room divider between the dining and living rooms had been removed.

Missing trim is at the far left of picture.

Also, someone added a window seat in the living area with a vinyl window.

After priming the walls

We sanded and re-stained all the trim, restored the missing trim in the divider…

And added a wood seat to the inset window…

Subtle changes make a difference.

Penguin Bath Remodel

In order to go from this:

To this:

Pardon the dirty floors. Snapped the picture before they were cleaned.

We had to totally gut the entire bathroom except the flooring, tub and antique radiator.

The floors had original tile from when the home was built in 1930’s.  I found similar mini-octagon tile at our tile shop on clearance (woo hoo!), so we repeated the floor theme in the new bath surround.  I love it when a plan comes together.

The style of the house had a craftsman/cottage feel.  With that in mind we chose classic bead board for the walls and a pedestal sink.  Normally, we like to put original medicine cabinets in cottage bathrooms, but we didn’t have access to one at the time.  After this project we started stockpiling antique medicine cabinets. We have two in storage right now.

Here is an example of an antique medicine cabinet…

This is an original 1920s medicine cabinet in a different rehab.

The former penguin bathroom could have been improved even more with additional changes like an updated shower head.  Instead, we decided to keep the costs down on the project.  Small savings, like a budget shower head, add up.  It helps to keep the price of a house more reasonable for its neighborhood.

Ode to Plastic Grass Carpet

Plastic green grass.  I always think of my Great Aunt Alberta when I think of fake grass carpet.  She had it in her four season porch.  Over time the plastic carpet had lost some of its shape and took on the look of rolling hills.

One of our pre-rehab houses had it in the bathroom.  Really.

It was on a wall behind the toilet…

It was on the wall above the shower…

But the piece de resistance:  it covered an entire wall inside the shower.  Behind the wall of porous green plastic?  Plywood.

They loved penguins, too.

It was the most creative use of plastic green grass I’ve seen yet.

For a palate cleanser, here is the bathroom After picture.

To Granite or not to Granite

Kitchen countertops.  There is a dizzying array of choices:  soapstone, concrete, laminate, wood, stainless steel, engineered stone, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Even with budget restraints, most people can usually find something to make them happy.

This makes me happy..

Compliments of House Beautiful

Remodeling a kitchen for a client is completely different process than remodeling a kitchen in a home that we sell for a profit.  With a client, it’s all about helping them find their countertop bliss.  However, when we intend to put a house on the market, we stick with a system.  Systems make life easier.

When we remodel homes for resale, we keep the choice simple: granite or laminate.  There are a three main deciding factors in our decision making process:

  1. Surrounding neighborhood
  2. Price of home
  3. Important design element

Here is how we made the countertop decision for a townhome we remodeled…

Kitchen was dated and needed TLC.

Wall separating the kitchen from the entry was begging to be torn down.

Decision criteria:

  1. The townhome was in a great neighborhood. The association had a well maintained pool and the grounds around the complex were also in very good condition. The complex itself was in a prosperous area of town, close to the freeway, and within 10 minutes of both Downtowns.
  2. Extensive updates to the property would not increase its overall value. The monetary value of a property is generally decided by mortgage company appraisers.  In the 6 months prior to the start of the project, a few similar townhomes had sold.  Most of those homes were a bit dated in their look but generally in good shape.  After our rehab, our townhome would be in excellent shape even without granite counters.
  3. The kitchen was the centerpiece of the home. The kitchen was the first thing you saw as you entered the townhome, and it was the most memorable part of the home.

We decided that having granite on the island would have a strong visual impact as soon as you entered the home.  The area of granite was small, so the cost was reduced.  Having laminate in the rest of the kitchen was not as noticeable and helped us offer the townhome at a lower price.


I prefer to put granite in a home if it makes sense.  I love the idea of being able to take a sheet of cookies fresh out of the oven and lay that baby down on a surface that won’t leave a burn mark.

Not that I’ve burned my counter like that.


Before and After

The before and after pictures of a remodeling project are all about reminiscing… remembering where you started and comparing it to the end result.



Sometimes the before pictures can be more impressive than the afters.

It took many dumpsters to empty this house.

Look what was under the trash.

Our latest project had very few before pictures.  Why?  The day we purchased the house, we met with our subcontractors and left for vacation the next morning.  It wasn’t until we were a few states away that I realized I had forgotten to take before pictures.


It’s not like we haven’t been doing this for 13 years.

It is quite satisfying to look back at “what was” when you are walking through a completed project.  We weren’t going to have that emotional reward after months of effort.  Crud.

But, wait.  Craig said that he took a picture here and there as he was giving instructions to the subcontractors.  And even better… the appraiser came to our rescue and donated all the pictures he had taken of the property.  Thank you, Dennis!

Now, as that project is nearing a close, I am very grateful to be able to see how far we’ve come.  And I have learned my lesson.  Always take Before’s to fully appreciate the After’s.