Embarking on a brand new adventure

I feel like I’m lost – I’m standing there looking at the pile of rubbish scattered around my feet and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. This home improvement learning curve is steep.

Now I know what others feel like when they are just starting out on a bike tour.

We finally closed on our house this week and I’m feeling majorly overwhelmed here. I have no idea how to replace a roof, refinish a wood floor, update an old appliance , fix a leaky toilet, or somehow make windows more energy efficient. I mean – no effing clue.

All I can say is that I tend to like adventures – and this “fixing up a house stuff” is sure to be one heckuva interesting one.

Anybody got any great tips for us?

Our new (old) house

One of our concerns is the big windows in the house – very energy inefficient. We don’t know if we’ll replace them or just get some kind of blinds or something to help hold the heat in.
Big windows

The back of the house looks good. I really like the big covered patio – hope we can take advantage of cool evenings there.
Back of house

For the most part, the bricks are in good shape. There are a few places where John will have to work his magic – not sure how he’ll do that yet.
Brick work

The house doesn’t have a huge back yard, but it’ll be big enough for the boys to get out and play a bit. Maybe they’ll build some kind of clubhouse back there.
Back yard

This is what I love about the house! I stood in the doorway to take this pic – it’s basically one big room.
Back yard

We will look for a small wood stove to put in this corner. I love heating a house with a nice wood stove!
Wood stove spot

The living room is in very good shape. We’ll need to refinish the floors, but otherwise I think it’s good to go.
Living room

Although it’s not my dream kitchen, I think I’ll be very happy here – but this color has got to go!


Apparently the kitchen sink leaks really badly. We are hoping it’s just that the seals and cracked since the house has been empty for so long.
Kitchen sink

This is one of those “What were they thinking?” spots – they put tile on the kitchen wall. Yes – the very same tile that most people would glue to their floor is stuck to the kitchen walls. What were they thinking?
Kitchen walls

The bathroom is the real show stopper. Seriously, what were they thinking when they painted the whole bathroom BROWN – from floor to ceiling?

I don’t like that we’ll have the sink in our laps while sitting on the throne, but that can’t be helped. The long, narrow layout of the bathroom dictates that one.

Now this one blows my mind. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Paint the bathtub brown? I mean – really. Who paints their bathtub in the first place? And BROWN?
bathtub painted brown

Here’s another little “What were they thinking?” spot – what’s up with the funky paint job on the ceiling of the bedroom?

And why – oh why – did they put sticky paper on all the windows? It’ll take a whole lot of Goo Gone to get that crap off.

The floor is generally in pretty good shape, but there are a few places where they’ve been gouged. I think we’ll have to do some research and figure out how to fix those boo-boos.
hardwood floor

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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50 Responses to Embarking on a brand new adventure

  1. Merav @AllWays Car Rental NZ July 16, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    That’s an exciting adventure! I love the wood floors. Have no idea why so many people hide them under a carpet. As for windows energy efficiency go with double glazing. Nothing keeps the heat in better. can’t wait for the “after” photos!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      I also love the floors – that was one of the things that drew me to the house. I also like the one big room aspect of it.

      • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

        There is only one room in this house with carpet – and we’re fairly certain there is no hardwood under it. That part is a converted garage. The rest of the floors will be beautiful with a little bit of love!

  2. Becky July 16, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Hi Nancy,
    Looks like you have your work cut out for you. The windows look lovely. I would recommend looking into window coverings of various sorts. Hunter Douglas makes some that significantly increase the R value. What we usually do in winter is just put plastic film over them (right around the outer edge of the frame). We can see how much the plastic is keeping in on a windy day! Makes a huge difference and still lets in the light.
    For the tub you may want to look into liners. We’ve heard about them but haven’t had the need. Apparently they go right overtop of the existing tub, giving it a whole new look.
    Have fun!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 7:35 am #

      I was researching window coverings yesterday – there are soooo many! We’ll have to decide which one we’ll use and go for it.

      As for the tub – I’m not sure I want that thing left in my house in any way, shape, or form!

  3. Rain July 16, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    Congratulations on your new home (in spite of its overwhelming issues)!! I have no doubt that you and your family will be up to the task, and will have it efficient, cozy and just the way you like it in no time at all. Best of luck to you!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 7:33 am #

      I do think it’ll be cozy and home soon – just not quite sure how to get to that point!

  4. Birgitte July 16, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    I urge you, before you do anything, go to http://www.retrorenovation.com

    There are all sorts of resources there for renovating older houses, and Pam, who runs the site, is super helpful if you write her directly as well. You won’t regret it!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks! I will check it out for sure!

  5. Grand Canyon Harry July 16, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    As far as the brick mortar goes: get precision non-shrink grout – neat stuff and fairly easy to work with with practice. They make a grout bag that resembles a BIG cake decorating frosting bag for forcing the pancake batter consistency grout into the cracks. Dig out the old but DON’T remove the brick if possiblde. That’s opening up a box of Pandoras if you know what I mean. Wire brush any grout that gets on the brick face ASAP or it will be permanent. Good luck!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      Great info! We figured he would have to remove those bricks and replace them.

      • Grand Canyon Harry July 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

        Damaged or nearly gone bricks should be replaced. The issue here is: are the bricks structural or cosmetic in nature. I have seen a whole wall of bricks collapse when one of the “keystone” bricks were removed.

  6. Stephanie July 16, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Congrats Nancy & Family! I am looking forward to keeping up with your new adventure!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      Thanks! This will be a steep learning curve, but we’re looking forward to it!

  7. Lois July 16, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    See if it’s possible to turn the tub the other direction…across the wall where the sink & toilet are now. We did that in a house we lived in and the bathroom instantly felt twice as big!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 8:19 am #

      We thought about that – will take some measurements and see if it’ll fit. We think the bathroom is too narrow, but it might work.

      • Dawn July 20, 2011 at 12:09 am #

        Well, since you’re going to rip the old tub out anyway, you could just get a slightly smaller tub that would fit OR you could put in a walk in shower on that end instead, if you don’t mind not having a tub. 🙂

        • Nancy July 20, 2011 at 9:38 am #

          We’ve thought about that for sure. We’ll have to check in to all the options and go from there.

  8. Jaynessa July 16, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Nancy, it looks like a lovely little home. I have a suggestion for your windows, straight from my father’s creation in my childhood home. We too had large inefficient windows. What Daddy did was to put strips of magnet all around the window, then he cut plexiglass to the right size, applied the other half of the magnet strip and voila! Window insulation that kept the heat out in the summer (not every window was covered in the summer just the ones with the most sun exposure), and the heat in in the winter (every window was covered in the winter). Best part is that the coverings are removable and with curtains on the windows you don’t even notice the plexiglass.

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      Brilliant suggestion! Thanks!

    • Grand Canyon Harry July 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      This concept works IF the frames are metal. If they are alumimum (non-ferrous) magnets won’t work. Also plexiglas tends to warp with direct sunlight.

      • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

        I think they all have wood frames.

  9. Jason @ Travel Junkies July 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Congratulations on the new house! It looks like a nice open layout. As for the windows, just get new ones. The technology on windows has really advanced. It can be spendy, but will add value to the house, and save you money in the end. Plus, there are usually tax credits available for energy efficient windows. We had ours replaced with double paned argon gas filled windows a couple of years ago and it was the best thing we had ever done. Not only is it more energy efficient, but it really cuts down on noise. And for quick cost estimating, take the total number of windows in the house and multiply by $500 to get you around the ballpark.

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Thanks! We’re not too concerned about the small windows in the bedrooms – those are fairly easy to replace. It’s the great big ones in the living room that will be tough – not sure what we’ll do with those. Replacing them is sure to be very, very spendy, but may be our best bet in the long term – we’ll have to check out all the options and go from there.

  10. Dee67p July 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    Consider the pellet fuel stoves with thermostat b/c you can seriously heat a home economically. On the window issue, you might consider the multipaned bow window so you can see left and right down the street. The front patio cover may not last much longer too. Just enough to do outside before the winter hits in Boise!

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

      I thought about the multipaneled windows that stick out, but there isn’t enough space on the little walkway outside – of course, that could be changed eventually. And yeah – that patio cover is pretty darn rickety!

  11. Alice Ricard July 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Three words…I like it….I think you will get this home started and before you know it you will love it. Great layout just some bumps in the road but will be so worth it when finished…great backyard…

    • Nancy July 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

      I agree! I think it’s a lovely little home and will be beautiful with a little bit of TLC.

  12. Barb Chamberlain July 17, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Just keep thinking of the “after” pictures you’ll post and you’ll make it! I’m with you on the “one big room” concept–our whole family pretty much lives in our combined kitchen/dining area.

    Another vote for the energy-efficient windows. You have plenty to work on, obviously, but those will pay back.

    Check out the book Natural Remodeling. My friend Kelly Lerner, a Spokane architect, is one of the co-authors. You’ll get lots of great ideas: http://www.naturalremodeling.com/

    The key question: Do you have plenty of bike parking space? 😀



    • Nancy July 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Bike parking space is DEFINITELY lacking in this house -that’s it’s biggest downfall. For now we’ll park them next to the big sliding glass door, but we’ll work on building some kind of parking lot on the back patio. It’s already covered out there, so we’ll just need to build a big fence to lock them in.

  13. Angie Dilmore July 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Cute place! You’ll enjoy making it your own. All that brown . . . someone must have told them “neutral” colors sell. Haha.

    • Nancy July 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

      Yeah – that brown is kind of strange. I like brown, but I think they took it a bit too far.

  14. cheryl carnahan July 18, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    WOW, you really like jumping in with both feet. My only suggestion is find a knowlegable guy at the local Home depot/Lowes and take it one item at a time. Good luck and remember -fun adventure.

    • Nancy July 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      We’ve got a good friend who is an architect and builder – he’ll help us out a lot!

  15. Colleen July 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    You have your hands full with that house, Nancy. I hope you enjoy this adventure – I love redecorating and fixing up houses.

    For the windows: to put off the cost of replacing them (which is the best thing, in the end), you can put low-e film on them (look at Lowe’s), or put up room darkening shades or insulated curtains. Think layers.

    I’ve seen a lot of articles about painting cabinets – check out BHG.com for lots of ideas. It’s time consuming, but cheaper than replacing them.

    I wonder if the brown paint in the tub covers up some chips. You may want to look into Bath Fitters (they put a new plastic liner over your old tub – cheaper than replacing the tub entirely). Find a really good primer to cover that brown.

    Remember to check out the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, too. You might find some treasures there.

    • Nancy July 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      I just came home from the Habitat Re-Store! I’m not sure exactly what we are going to need, but I wandered around to get an idea of what’s there. They do have some good stuff!

  16. Yvette July 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Your open living room space reminds me of a funny thing you’d appreciate. See my parents are selling my childhood home right now, and one family who visited it said no on the grounds that they have two year old twins and the plan is “too open” for raising them.

    I don’t know if the fact that I have NO CLUE what that means or the fact that I’m a half of a twin set who grew up there is funnier. 🙂

    • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      Huh?? How can something be “too open” for kids? If anything, I would like it would be better for little kids as you can see them no matter where they are! Some people…

      • Yvette July 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

        I agree, I’ve mentioned this to a few people and no one’s figured out what it means yet! We reckon she has some deluded idea that she can shut her kids in a room and they’ll stay put or something. 😉

  17. Marie July 19, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Just some suggestions based on a recent garbage disposal/kitchen faucet replacement, installing a backyard sprinkler system, etc. There are a ton of videos that show people how to do something on Youtube. You’ll need to see a variety as each one emphasizes a different angle. There are also DIY web sites where you can get a variety of feedback on questions from other DIYers and contractors who hang out there.

    I found people at the local hardware store (not Home Depot/Lowes) to be more helpful and knowledgeable about home repairs. There is also enough competition from the larger stores so that prices are similar these days.

    Buy the best quality tools you can. Having the right tool for the job can make a hugh difference in the amount of time and quality of the job.

    Finally, anyone to can maintain bikes on the road the way you and John can are sure to succeed in whatever you set your mind to. Plus the boys are old enough to be a great help in the labor needed to get some of this done.

    • Nancy July 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

      Thanks for the tips! The electrician is coming tomorrow – once the power is on we’ll be able to get started for real!

  18. Dave July 19, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Good Luck. When doing up old houses always work on the maxim that ” it takes three times as long and costs twice as much” as you expected. But its always worth it in the end.

    • Nancy July 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      ARRGGHHHH!!! Don’t tell me that!

  19. Jared | Home Renovation October 5, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Congrats on getting the house first of all. That can be a task in itself.

    Even if you plan on doing all or most of the renovating, I would definitely advise getting some professional help. Even if it’s just a consultation of sorts that might help steer you in the right direction and possibly prevent a future disaster.

    • Nancy October 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      @Jared | Home Renovation,
      Thanks Jared! We’ve had quite a few people come over and give us suggestions. This is a whole new ballgame for sure!

  20. Juliana Kline December 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! You’ll enjoy making it your own. We too had large inefficient windows. The technology on windows has really advanced.

    • Nancy December 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      @Juliana Kline,
      We’ll be searching for windows next summer. Right now, we’re trying to manage through this winter with these old ones. It’s amazing how much heat is lost through these things.

      • Jeff Pearson December 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

        I have 19 energy efficient windows (different sizes) that you might be interested in. They came out of a house that was torn down. I will be posting them on craigslist in the next couple of days. If interested, send me a message. These are windows that would sell for 200-300 dollars. I will sell them for half of that, maybe less, depending on size. I have left my email.

  21. Francis Conley March 9, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    This is a whole new ballgame for sure! The technology on windows has really advanced.

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