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Labor Day Weekend

We took the term “Labor” way too literally and worked on the house throughout the 3-day weekend.

Saturday: We load up the car with everything we need to stay in the house for the long weekend. Set up an air mattress in the dining room.

Sleeping in the dining room

I check out the walls – Hugh was wrong about the texture, it did match the rest of the wall. Big relief! Hugh became so confident in his wall repair abilities that he decides that another 3 cracks in the wall that didn’t look so bad before really need to be fixed now. So the wall repair continues another day.

Not sure what we were thinking, but when we primed the wall in the guest room earlier in the week, we didn’t think to prime the crown molding too (amateurs). But then we noticed some peeling paint. That’s when our first WWMHD moment occured. So Saturday we decided to “do it right” and sand the crown molding, prime & paint it. But then the sanding turned into scraping the paint off in the sections near the bathroom & window where we were able to peel sections of it off ourselves. For extra coverage we did 2 coats of the primer in the scraped sections. It dried pretty fast so I was able to get both coats of paint on the crown molding pretty quickly.

That eventing we start to paint the guest room. Hope this looks good on the walls… 

We find that we have very different painting techniques so you can totally tell where each of us painted – his sections are much darker than mine. And mine are a lot splotchier too, which is not the professional look I was going for. We do our best to even everything out. Hugh tries to make me feel better by telling me the 2nd coat will fix everything. I’m not so sure. Why did I think I could do this if I can’t even paint a room?

Sunday: We’re finally ready to start priming our bedroom – can’t wait to see how the repaired walls look once we paint them! I’m still traumatized from the first coat of paint in the other room so I let Hugh do the entire 2nd coat while I prime the other room. Hugh proudly comes in to tell me he’s done. It looks great!

This may be a bit dark for some people, but we really love how the color turned out. The plan is to balance the “Red Red Wine” (or as I often call it, “Bordello Red”) with the light wood flooring and furniture and white bedding, curtains, etc. Now I can’t wait to see what it will look like when we move everything in.

Meanwhile, I learned from our experience in the guest room to prime the crown molding at the same time as the wall since we now know we’ll end up painting the molding anyway. Makes things a lot faster so I finished priming one room while Hugh painting the other. I somehow manage to stay up late to finish a 2nd coat of paint on the crown molding so that we can tape it and start painting the color in our room the next day.

Monday: Not sure I can take another day of laboring but we press ahead. The crown molding is dry so I get back up on the ladder to tape it up. Our rooms seem to grow larger with each lap I drag that ladder around.  Hugh gets the color up as I do the taping. I’m still traumatized from my first coat in the other bedroom and he did such a good job evening out the 2nd coat that I let him do most of the painting. But somehow I end up back on the ladder again doing the edging at the top. How did that happen? We step back & the 1st coat looks fantastic! Hugh’s way with a roller had something to do with it, but I think part of it was the paint. The strange thing is both of the rooms used Behr paint with an eggshell finish so you would think they would come out the same. Could the colors have had anything to do with the difference?

I’ll reveal the other paint color in the next post, but you can get a hint from what’s going on in the new utility sink we installed earlier in the week.

laundry utility sink

Putting the new sink to use. Even the old one is helping out.

Two sets of friends come over in the afternoon to see the house. We’re glad to have an excuse to stop working and show them around.

We have plans to paint the 2nd coat of color But my wonderful friend Julia not only brought us a carload of boxes for our move (guess we should get packing), she also brought over a 6 pack of beer too. So we decide to have just 1 each. And then Hugh decides to take a little nap. I plan to check email but then my eyes start to close too – maybe a quick rest will be good. Next thing we know 2 hours have passed. I’m trying to convince myself to get up and get back to work. But then Hugh brilliantly reasons that it will take us forever to paint another coat in our state of exhaustion so we should just call it a night and head back to San Francisco. We’ll come back to do it when we’re actually awake. I can’t argue with that logic.

I was actually glad to have to go back on work on Tuesday so that I could relax a little.



There’s a new saying in my life that is making it increasingly difficult to get things done quickly: What would Mike Holmes do? Or WWMHD?

For those of you who don’t know who Mike Holmes is, you obviously don’t spend most of your spare time watching HGTV. I, on the other hand, have gone from obsessively watching the shows about house hunting to obsessively watching the shows about home renovations.

But even before I cared about the home reno shows, I was obsessed with Holmes on Homes. It was mainly because he did such amazing work and really hit home how costly it could be trying to cut corners and save a few dollars with home renovations. And it was also partly because I have a thing for Canadians. I now have a huge crush on Mike Holmes.

So to get back to WWMHD. Every time Hugh or I want to quickly finish up a task, the other person will often ask if that’s what Mike would do. Of course the answer is ‘no.’ Which leads to more work. And I know that it will mean that it will last a lot longer and look a lot better, but all of this work is HARD. And I’m TIRED. But I’m ashamed that Mike would be disappointed at me so I try to do it the right way in the end.

P.S. – anyone know where I can get a pair of brown overalls in Hugh’s size?

scraping paint from crown molding

Mike would insist on scraping the old peeling paint off

removing vinyl tiles

And would want us to remove the vinyl that was under the carpet before installing wood floors


It begins….

I meant to get this going before the renovation began, but we’ve been a little busy with the actual renovations. So I’ll take a few posts to catch up and then will try to stay more up-to-date.

We closed on the house on 8/31. The plan is to move out of our apartment in San Francisco by 9/30. Before moving in, we want to get the 2 bedrooms done so that we can move in all of the furniture without having to move it in & out later. To do that, we need to refinish the existing hardwood floor in one and rip out the carpet in the other and install hardwood floors. We also need to paint both rooms. And if we’re painting walls and installing new floors, we might as well repaint the baseboards & crown molding as well.

Here’s what happened in the first few days. I’m not going to describe every trip to Home Depot, but it’s not far off to assume that each day included a trip there.

Tuesday 8/31: Picked up the keys – we’re homeowners!!!! Brought in a bunch of floor samples to try to match the new floor in our bedroom & hallway to the existing wood floors in the other rooms. Hugh called me 2 minutes after I was scheduled to meet our realtor to get the keys to see if his favorite sample (ie, the cheapest) matched. Of course it didn’t. Found that our floor was usually called something like Oak Caramel, Honey Oak or Butterscotch – yum!

Wednesday: Installed the new utility sink in the laundry room. There was already a regular bathroom vanity there, which was useless for trying to wash out paint brushes. But it was easy to take out and the existing hookups made it quick to hook up the new one. So glad we have this – not sure how we would be able to do any of our projects without it unless we got paint all over the kitchen sink, which is not a look I’m going for.

Then Hugh went about “fixing” the cracks in the walls of our bedroom. An 83 year-old lath & plaster wall is not the easiest to repair. We quickly had a number of rather large holes in the wall where the large cracks used to be. I started preparing myself to have to rip out all of the plaster and put up drywall, which wouldn’t be done by the time we needed to move in. But Hugh found some great how-to’s on YouTube and was confident he could do it. We’d know in the next few days if he was right.

repairing cracks in lathe & plaster walls

This isn't looking good

I had picked out 3 color samples for each of the 2 bedrooms and painted swatches of each on the walls. Miraculously, we were completely in agreement about the shades we prefered for each room. Too easy!

Thursday: More fixing of the cracks/holes. There’s hope for our walls after all. Painting started as we primed the walls of the guest room/office.

Repairing cracks in plaster walls

The gaping holes are gone!

Watch out - I'm using power tools now!

Friday: I was a slacker and took the night off but Hugh went to the house to try to finish the wall repair so we’d be able to paint our bedroom over the weekend. To make the walls more complicated, they’re textured. So he needed to match the texture of the repairs to the current wall. He found a spray-on texture from Home Depot that looked like it would work. But when he came home on Friday night, he was totally bummed out saying that it didn’t match at all. We hoped we’d find something better at Home Depot the next day (please don’t make us start all over with drywall!).

So on a down note we tried to get some rest before the 3-day weekend of non-stop renovation projects started.


Just gotta take that first step

With all of the home renovation projects in our future, I finally have something blog-worthy to write about. I thought it could be a great way to chronicle our renovation adventures and keep everyone informed of the progress we’re making turning our new house into our long-term home. Maybe it will be a way to motivate us to keep going when we start slacking off and getting too comfortable - can’t have this blog out there where I’m supposed to write about our progress when we’re not making any progress. And I’m sure there will be disasters and hiccups that everyone will find amusing (hopefully I will too, at least when I can look back at them).

So in my usual fashion I thought about this a lot when we started looking at homes. And then when we found our house and I realized how many projects there were going to be, I thought about it even more. Eventually I started making lists of possible domain names - I’m totally into lists as a way to procrastinate actually doing the work that the list is for (my packing lists are great and really help as I finally motivate myself to put stuff in a suitcase an hour before I have to leave). Then the domain list was pushed aside by the actual house project list, project supply/tool list and packing list. 

But then we got the keys to the house. And started on our renovation the next day (details in the next post). Finally I realized that if I didn’t get this blog thing started soon, we’d be all done. Which doesn’t make for interesting reading. So I bought the domain.

And tried to figure out the perfect design, structure, logo, etc for this little blog. Surprisingly, I couldn’t make everything perfect in the few hours I had before we left to spend the long weekend in the new house taking “Labor Day” way too literally. And then the next few nights after work we were still recovering from the work we did over the weekend so I didn’t have the energy to work on this thing.

Now it’s Friday night (don’t I live a glamorous life?) and we’ll be headed back to the house for another renovation weekend. We move at the end of the month so all of our free time will be dedicated to fixing up the house or packing up our apartment. I don’t think that making my blog pretty & perfect makes it to the top of the priority list.

But I still want to chronicle our progress. So I’m just going to put this out there, otherwise I’ll never get started. It’ll be a work in progress. Get the basics done. Come to terms with the fact that it won’t be perfect on launch day. Improve it over time.

As we renovate the house, I’ll work on renovating this site too. Wonder which one will be done first?

Our new house

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