getting the house ready to sell

I redid the kitchen last fall.

I just remodeled the bathroom.

The living parts of the house are fairly tidy (empty).  The storage areas (porch, basement, loft, garage) are not.  They have lots of stuff, and they aren’t very well organized.

We’re having a yard sale next Saturday (the 17th), which will go a long way towards clearing those parts out.  My goal is to either sell or pack everything that’s currently in storage by next Saturday.

There’s a small list of other things to do around the house: paint both stairways (the walls, not the stairs), hang two cabinet doors in the kitchen, install crown molding in the bathroom, take down photos, fill holes & touch-up paint.

I had a realtor come over today to look at the house.  I gave him our list of things to do, and we walked through the house.  He asked me if this was going to be a “spring sale.”

“Next spring?!” I asked, incredulous.


“Um, we’re moving in a month.  I want to get the house on the market ASAP so we can put an offer on the house I love in East Hartford.”

“Well,” he said, “this is a long list…”


So that was sort of a bummer.  It’s possible that he was thinking that Alan and I both work full time, and would only have evenings and weekends in which to work.  Alan’s dissertation defense is tomorrow (!!!), and hopefully he’ll be home more after that. [I know I said that when he turned in his dissertation, and he was home more.  But he still worked 60-ish hours a week, which doesn’t leave tons of time for projects.  After defending tomorrow, he has to make the changes his committee suggests, and he wants to write another paper for publication.]

If we’re both home during the day, and working on the house, I don’t see why we can’t get it done in a couple of weeks.  There will be heavy lifting clearing the storage areas, sorting our stuff, lots of painting, lots of cleaning… But we can do it, right?

I’m kind of bewildered right now.  Every day we don’t list our house is another day that someone else will make an offer on the East Hartford house.  I’m making progress, but my injury has slowed me down significantly.  I had hoped that we could list the house, and then keep working on it.


For the next 24 hours, I will focus on Alan’s dissertation defense.  Then we’ll revisit home improvement and listing the house.  It’ll be okay. :)




our house the day we got married; now


Do you think we should paint the shutters white and put them back up?  I didn’t think so, but these pictures have me leaning towards “yes.”


So, we got the plaster and lathe down for all of the bathroom except the shower surround (so we can keep showering while working on the main part of the bathroom).  I installed cement board on the bottom half of the wall around the main part of the bathroom.

Working with cement board is interesting.  First of all, it’s heavy.  The sheets are 3’x5′ and weigh something like 60 pounds.  Second, you can’t cut it the same way you cut drywall.  Instead of simply scoring with a utility knife, you have to use a carbide cutter, and you have to score it a bunch of times on each side.  The accounts I read online suggested scoring it six times on each side, but I figured they were burly handymen  so I score it between 10 and 12 times on each side.  And that means you have to measure carefully, so the scoring will line up.  And then you lean on it with all your weight and hope that it breaks at the score line, and not somewhere else.

But, I did it.  I did it myself.

Then I started tiling.  We are using white subway tile, which is fairly inexpensive from most hardware stores.  Plus most subway tile is “self-spacing,” that is, it has tiny little ridges on all four sides that act as spacers.  So instead of putting in plastic spacers, you can just snug each tile up to the one next to it and go!

Here’s how I tile:

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Bathroom Before

In preparation for our big move this summer (to Hartford!) we are getting the house ready to sell.  Renovating the bathroom is the last big project to start.  Once we’ve started on the bathroom, we’ll just have projects to finish.

Here are some before pictures of the bathroom.  It has a terrible acrylic shower surround that is brittle and cracking.  Alan removed two of the walls already years ago to run some electrical wires, and to replace a window.  We’ve lived with those studs for quite a while.

There used to be a full-length window in the bathroom, which feels a little exposed.  So before we resided the house, Alan replaced the window with a shorter, tip-out window.  Not only is the window higher, the glass is textured, so it feels much more private.

click through for pictures

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Kitchen Before & After

We have a lovely house: hardwood floors, arched opening between the living room and dining room, classic styling, original gumwood trim.  But the kitchen and bathroom are severely lacking.  They look like they belong in an icky summer camp, not a lovely 1930 house.

chaos; crowded cabinets (cat)

more crowded cabinets

dark walls, dingy cabinets

Beyond being icky, the kitchen is extremely inefficient.  It’s a U-shaped kitchen, and the corners are all blind.  For both the upper and lower cabinets by the sink, the previous owners installed long cabinets with tiny openings.  I can’t even reach the back of all of the corner cabinets—they’re 27” cabinets with 9” openings!  Here is a crude, not-to-scale illustration of the upper cabinets:

As you can see below, you can really only use the part of the cabinet that’s right behind the opening—the rest is wasted:

opening/blind corner

It’s even worse on the bottom:

Shortly after we moved in, I designed an Ikea kitchen on their website.  It’s amazing: carousels in all the corners, pull out drawers in the lower cabinets, a floor-to-ceiling pantry next to the fridge (I’d switch the fridge and the oven)!  And it’s fairly affordable, especially since I prefer butcher block countertops.  We’ve been planning on doing a full renovation: tear down the plaster & lathe, put up drywall, replace the uneven vinyl floor, move appliances, install the Ikea kitchen.  But we’re looking at the end of graduate school, and the likelihood of moving, and well, it just didn’t look like it was going to happen.

Nevertheless, I hate the kitchen.  I love to cook, which makes the icky inefficiency all the more frustrating.  When we were flying back from Utah two weeks ago, I told Alan that I wanted to redo the kitchen, and that I would be in charge of the project and do most of it myself.  We agreed on a budget of $1000 and two weeks, so it would be done before I started classes again.

My plans were:

-Tear out the upper cabinets, replace with open shelving

-Sell the portable dishwasher (we’ve never used it) and replace with a kitchen cart

-Paint the walls green and the cabinets white

I ended up:

-Tearing out the cabinets and putting up shelving on one side, reinstalling one on the other for closed storage

-Hanging slim rails (wanted this, got this)

-Planning on buying a sideboard, but ended up with a kitchen cart (the sideboard was out of stock)

-Tearing out the old hood and Installing an over-the-range microwave

-Painting the upper walls white, upper cabinets white, lower walls green, lower cabinets gray

I took the lead on this project, and did all of the painting, removal of cabinet doors, hanging shelves and rails, and reorganization myself.  My mom drove to Ikea with me (the Toronto Ikea is closest to us), which was super helpful.  My dad installed boards on the wall—screwed into studs—on which I hung the metal shelves and rails.  Alan took down the old hood and installed the microwave, including running a new outlet into the cabinet.  Alan also helped me reinstall the cabinet doors, which is a two person job.

Without further ado, some before-and-afters!

open metal shelves

rails for organization

clean color palate

more efficient use of space

We had so little storage before that I had to keep a lot of things on the counter.  One of my main priorities was to get things up off the counter.  That’s why I installed the spice shelves (repurposed bathroom shelves) and the rails around the sink.

spice shelves

I especially love the bamboo dish rack.  Here it is after cooking breakfast this morning:

And when I put the dishes away, I can just hang it back up!

As you could probably tell from the photos, we’re not quite done.

Yet to do:

-Trim the window by the pots & pans: about a year ago Alan took out a full sized window, and replaced it with a shorter one so that I could run a countertop along that wall.  We need to cut down the old trim, and it’s a project that always seems to be on the bottom of the list (below residing the house, which we’re still working on).

-Make doors for the last cabinet: when we took the doors off the old cabinets, I decided to throw them away, certain we’d never reuse the cabinets.  Famous last words, eh?  I also need to cut some slim slices of wood to fill in the gaps around that cabinet.

-Touch up all the paint: wall and cabinet

-Sand down and repaint the Ikea island.  I thought sanding would be enough, but I need to put a coat of bonding primer on.  The paint that’s on is currently peeling off—oops.

But for now, it’s good—good enough for me to focus on school, which starts tomorrow (!).  I’ll work on the last few jobs in evenings and on weekends.  I am so, so happy with my new kitchen!

Did you find a typo in the post?  Let me know here.

changing the color-scheme of the house

About two years ago, Alan and I hosted a work “party.”  Many of our church friends and family came, and we got a *ton* of work done in one day.  One of my favorite parts of that day was the painting.  In one day, my friends painted the entire inside of our house.  I had picked out a limited color palate, since our house is only about 1000 square feet.  The whole house is tones of warm gold/beige, warm olive green, and muted lagoon-blue.  And I love it.

But the outside of the house on the other hand…

siding before

I describe it one of two ways:

1. It’s like the previous owners went to Home Depot, and found picked two gallons of paint at random from the “poorly-mixed” section, and haphazardly painted the window trim.

2. It’s a bad lipstick red, and a foundation make-up beige.

I don’t like it.

Fortunately for me, the white siding on the house was breaking off, so Alan acquiesced to re-siding the house.  (Yay!).   I got to choose the siding color, and we went with “stratus,” a mid-toned warm gray.  I chose a Martha Stewart color, Picket Fence, for the trim (and shutters eventually), and a nice yellow for the front door.

It’s taking some time to do the re-siding (I’ll do a whole post on the project soon).  But I’m thrilled with the way the new color scheme is turning out.

Here is a picture from this morning:

porch before

partially painted porch

You can see the new gray siding, and the yellow door.  I hoped to get the entire porch painted today, but had trouble wrangling the ladder.   I only got painted as far as I could reach standing between the bushes and the porch:

I also painted the column on the right gray, which sets off the white of the porch even more.  I’m thrilled to get rid of those horrible colors!

Here’s a tight shot of just the front door:

gray siding, yellow door

Most everything is in need of another coat (or two), but I’m beyond excited with the new color scheme.  Hopefully all the foundation/lipstick will be replaced with gray, yellow and white in another two weeks or so!




Did you find a typo in the post?  Let me know here.