Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Life Happening (Page 1 of 9)

What’s in Store for the Ranch House in 2018

Hi, family and friends! I hope your holiday break is treating you well. We are soaking up the peaceful winter nights at home with music, hot pot dinner, and sparkling drinks. Last night, we baked dozens of cookies for our close neighbors, hoping to deliver some holiday joy and catch up with them.

Looking back, 2017 is undoubtedly our best year yet. Leaving our jobs and moving to Colorado was scary, but everything worked out better than we expected. Living in our mountain rental for a few months while searching for a nest made us realize how much we love mountain living. And after buying our first house together, we dived into non-stop renovations and learned a lot about construction and ourselves. We are grateful to celebrate the first holiday season in our ranch house – it feels so good to be exactly where you want to be.

But we think it is safe to say that the best is yet to come. We have so much planned for the ranch house in 2018, and these projects are incredibly fun! What we did in 2017 focused mostly on essential fixes – roof, patio, foundation, drainageelectrical, HVAC, water heater, washer and dryer. We also got our garden shed and garage in working order. In 2018, we plan to shift gear to make the living space truly ours. That means changing floor plans, assigning function to each room, furniture DIY, new paint and adding lighting and new accessories. We hope to optimize our ranch for the exact needs of our two people + two dogs family, and bring our style into it.

Below is a list for our 2018 renovation goals. We will be picking projects from the list to do, depending on weather, material availability, and our mood and priority. It will be fun to see how much we complete off this list 365 days from now!

1. The Insulation

Colorado winter is cold. We only have R-19 insulation in our attic, which is far from the suggested R49 value. We’ve been working on preparing our attic for blow-in insulation, which will happen during the first week of 2018.

While we are beefing up the attic insulation, we will be insulating the shared wall between our unheated garage and the house as well. Our garage has only R13 insulation on the two exterior walls, but nothing on the ceiling or the door. It results in a great deal of heat loss from the house. Because the roof trusses are framed with 2″ x 4″ lumber, there is really no good way of insulating the garage ceiling. So we decided to insulate the shared wall instead. We will be tackling this huge insulation effort in a few days, DIY-style!

2. Slav’s Office

This house offers a big upgrade from our past rentals – Slav has his own office now! However, except removing the carpet and moving in his desk, we have not done anything more to this room. Even worse, this office has been used as a dump ground for books, small electronics, and off-season clothes. As our first interior project of 2018, we will freshen up the office with wall-to-wall library shelves and a new corner desk for Slav. This guy deserves a room to call his own!

3. The Basement Guest Suite

Many of you may know that we are using only half of our house’s square footage right now. It is our intention to live small and simple. However, we do have plan to use the hidden half of our house – as a guest suite! Our basement is exactly the same size as the main floor and almost the same floor plan. We plan to remove the stingy carpet, add a kitchenette, and completely finish it as a two-bedroom apartment with its own entrance. We will use it as a guest suite for our friends and family, maybe short-term rental in between. It gives us a great opportunity to create as well as to experiment with new styles which we hesitate to try in our own living space. It will expose us to new tasks such as plumbing, windows and doors, and kitchen building. We will be applying these skills to main floor remodeling down the road.

4. The Fence

The last thing we’d like to complete in 2018 is to replace the chain link fencing with wood fences. This task has been on our mind since we moved in. However, with many more urgent and essential fixes in the way, replacing fully functional fencing does not rise to the top of our priority list. We’d like to tackle the fence project when next spring comes around, which will dramatically improve our curb appeal and add privacy.

Here you have it, our renovation wishlist for 2018. Every subject on this list will take considerable amount of effort, money and time. We hope to cross three, if not all four of them off our list – starting from insulation! We retrofitted rafter vents into our attic today, which rocks a 4:12 pitch roof and is filled with loose fiberglass insulation. Let me tell you, not my favorite renovation task. But it means that we can finally blow all these cellulose into the attic that has been sitting in our garage!

First Christmas at Ranch and the Six-Month Tour!

Hi friends! In a couple days, we would have moved into our ranch for six months! I would not say “time flies” because we really packed these six months with renovations and DIYs. But I am so glad we did what we have done for the house. I recently talked to a neighbor who has been watching our renovation from her windows. When our roofer put down the first row of roof shingles, she was so happy with the color we picked out and let out a big sigh of relief! Haha, I did not know that we are running a real-time renovation show here! Although we were not renovating for anyone else but ourselves, getting thumbs-up from our neighbors is surely a nice thing and very encouraging.

I made a really quick tour to show you what the ranch looks like at its six-month mark, including our humble Christmas decor. I am beyond excited about the first holiday season in our ranch, and it is just as exciting to look back at how much we have accomplished since June. So if you are free the next 8 minutes, click on the tour and let me walk (and talk) you through our little ranch!

For those of you who could not watch the videos, you can get a pretty good idea of our journey from the before-and-after photos below.

The curb appeal and front entry


Lots has happened since the first week after we moved in. We have since –

Replaced our leaky, 20 year-old roof (here, here, here, and here)
Installed new gutter
Painted the trims, soffit and fascia
Demo-ed the front porch and patio
Replaced the front storm door, painted the front door, and dressed up the front entries with decorative quarter round
Corrected the drainage issues by demoing the flower bed and laying down drainage rocks
Replaced rusty window wells
Cleaned up exterior wires and patched all the cracks and nail holes


This is our front door today, a far cry from the front entry we inherited.


The living room did not change much after we ripped off the wall-to-wall carpet and set up a dining table under the big picture window. We have been slowly adding plants to our home, and hung a cow art collection which really brings color into the living space.


We still do not have a sofa (oops), but we are content with just two armchairs and do not feel the need for anything bigger yet. You can usually find Roxie on one of the arm chairs and Charlie on the dog bed in front of Slav’s vinyl collection.


Christmas Decor and new LED lights


We got our Christmas decor up this past week. Like the past years, we celebrate Christmas with a humble pre-lit tree in our living room, an artificial wreath on the front door, and minimal decor dotted in each room.



The cute salt and pepper shaker:


For the exterior, we ordered all brand-new LED string lights and wrapped them around the two trees in the front yard (this one) and our holiday wreath (this one). They do cost more, but I expect them to last longer. Since this LED string light can switch from the christmassy tri-colors to warm white color, we also plan to use them between the holiday seasons.


The pine tree in the front yard


The tree outside of Slav’s office


From 5pm to midnight, our house looks like this from the street:


Our view from the dinner table:


The bed, bath, and beyond


Our bedroom has not changed since we ripped off the carpet and first set it up. The main floor bath got a good scrub with all new caulking, but the total overhaul is still yet to happen. We are over-analyzers and it usually takes us a long time to commit to a final design. So the master suite plan will be simmering for months to come. However, we did develop a solid plan for Slav’s office, the second (and bigger) bedroom on the main floor. We plan to tackle the office as soon as the new year ball drops – so stay toned, friends!

The kitchen

The room in which we did start making changes is the kitchen. We removed the cabinets over the fridge soon after we moved in, replaced all the old caulking, and recently relocated and modified the sideboard.


The old cabinets are still rocking on the other side of the kitchen, and believe or not, we are currently using half of these cabinet (some of them are just too gross to us). Since these cabinets will not be reused in the new kitchen, we will be play with them to get some ideas for the best layout for the future kitchen. It will be a fun project to fiddle with with some eggnog latte this Christmas.


The garage


Our garage is easily my favorite place in the house – the other close contender is the garden shed we completed overhauled (links below). I found myself visiting the garage for no obvious reason, but to admire how organized and clean it is. Can you blame me when this is the before? Does anyone else do it? Please let me know that I am not the only one crazy about a garage.



In the garage, we have –

Added more outlets to the workbench wall
Resurfaced the end wall
Created a paint storage
DIY-ed a ski rack and adding a mud-area
Replaced the weather stripping on garage door and dressed it up with decorative quarter rounds
Put up pegboards and tool organization 
Decided to demo the old garage ceiling




The yard

Here are two short videos showing you the side and back yard. They are a couple minutes each.

This yard is certainly a big factor that sold us on the house. And we are glad that we made the right decision. Roxie and Charlie spent most of their awaking hours in the yard, running, playing, chasing squirrels, and sunbathing. Slav replaced the old storm door with a new one and added a doggy door, and I set up an automatic water station for the pups at the back. Keeping our pups content is an important priority for us. Do you know that up to 30% of millennials purchase proprieties for their pets? I can totally relate.

When it is too hot outside, you can find Roxie and Charlie lounging behind the shed. Oh the shed, it is probably the most finished in the house, because it is rebuilt with 99% new material. We demo-ed it to the studs, rebuilt the walls back up, painted it, trimmed around, organized garden tools inside, and added finishing touches to it after the roof replacement and extension. We also added compost bins to the back of the shed (here and here).


The biggest project we have done to the backyard is replacing the old back patio (here, here, here, and here). Along with the back patio build, we replaced the old window wells and laid down drainage rocks. We also updated backyard lighting here and there.


The utility

Before we bought the ranch, I did not know how much the hidden cost of a property can be – utility upgrades, insulation, landscaping, all costs lots of $$ that we were not really prepared for. The reason that you have not seem many new furniture and finished on the main floor, is that we have spent every single penny on the new electrical panel, more outlets, a brand new furnace and central cooling system, the tankless water heater, a set of washer and dryer, which led to the expansion of our utility room in the basement. Along with the back patio and a new roof, we have pumped over $20000 into the ranch house in cash. But we knew it is well worth the warmth, comfort, and security we are enjoying in our little ranch. And the effort we put in to this house will be rewarded. When money is tight, we balance these big expenses with small upgrades here and there. But our love and attention for the ranch has never worn off a bit.

Here you have it, our six-month house tour and our first Christmas season in the ranch. We’ve been sipping eggnog under the tree and talk about our plans for the ranch house in 2018, which we will share with you on the blog soon. I hope you enjoy a peaceful and happy holiday at the comfort of your own home.  And thank you so much for supporting us during 2017!

How We Bought Our First House – Convincing the Bank to Buy Our House

Welcome back! You are reading the 6th and the last post of our “how we bought our ranch house” series. To recap, we got pre-qualified during the first week, started looking at houses and even put our first offer down during the second week. After failing a bidding war, we are lucky to find our ranch and put an offer on it during the our 3rd week of house-hunting. After some inspection and negotiation, we were successfully under contract in week five!

Week five and six – Appraisal and loan application – 5.22-6.1

Now both the seller and we were locked into the contract, whether this deal would work through is depending on if we could get our loan approved.

As our broker promised, the same day we put down an offer (in both offers), she sent the realtors in both parties our pre-qualification letter. And the day we were both locked in, she started to prepare our loan application.

We switched from talking to our realtor on the phone, to emailing back and forth with our broker. In addition to the loan application, our broker also, along with our realtor, took care of the paperwork with the title company. We did drop off an earnest check, as a deposit for the contract, as soon as we locked the offer. And the appraisal was ordered through our broker immediately.

This is what happened during the fifth week:

  1. Dropping off an earnest check for $2000 (a deposit of our contract and will be used towards our down payment in the end)
  2. Ordered appraisal ($750) for the ranch
  3. Appraiser came out on Wednesday and looked at the house (usually within a week but this guy acts fast! No complains there!)
  4. Appraisal report sent to bank and our broker. Pass!
  5. We got a pre-approval notice from the bank and our broker

The appraiser is ordered by the bank and paid by us, but he/she (in this case it was a “he”) is an independent party in the whole process. He is supposed to inspect the house (similar to an inspector, so we knew what he would find already), do the comps like our realtor did (so we knew what the result will be too), and produce an honest and non-biased report to the bank to say “this house is worth $xxx”. He shall also determine if the house is safe to live in, which means if we had a roof that is giving in, we would have to fix it before moving.

The house appraised for $320K, which was very fair. According to Kerry, our realtor, appraisers usually report conservatively, a practice adopted after the last housing crash. That means our $310K house (or $315K + $5K concession, depending how you look at it), is DEFINITELY worth $320K and possibly more, AS IS TODAY.

The appraisal process could break a deal even though both the seller and the buyer want to follow through, because IT IS THE BANK WHO BUYS THE HOUSE, not you. Let us say that a house is worth $300K, and you love it so much that you are willing to pay $350K for it. The problem is that you have only $40K down payment and needed the bank to give you a $310K loan. The appraiser came in and said it is not worth $350K, but $300K, which is lower than the amount of the loan you need for the house. At this point, since the bank would not give you a penny more than $300K, you are $10K short and cannot buy it.

This is the general concept and the real calculations is a bit more complicated with closing costs. Buy you get the idea. Unless you have CASH, even you are able to get a $350K loan for a $350K house, you cannot get a $350K loan for a house that is only worth $300K. So if you are on a seller’s market and need to overpay, you’d better have more down payment.

We got officially approved on 6/1, the beginning of the 6th week since we started the whole process. Based on an online estimate, homebuyers usually spend 30-60 days shopping and up to 60 days from contract to close. For first time home buyers, this process is usually longer. We consider ourselves very lucky. For us, from putting down our offer on 5/10, to getting everything cleared, it only took three weeks! Needless to say that we daydreamed the whole long weekend about the ranch, and we might have bought a few electrical tools. 😊

The rest of the week six and the week seven – Waiting.

We originally planned to close on 6/9, which would give us a few days to do some initial work on the house before moving in on the 15th. But it did not work with everyone’s schedule. We closed on 13th and immediately moved in without even a chance to clean the house. Needless to say that it was painful to wait the last two weeks, but we do need to give the seller’s family time to move out.  The family lived there for 20 years, I think all of their five children were born in this house. Judging on how well the house was maintained, I believe they care about this ranch a lot. Yes there is an old roof, but it is not leaking and the supporting trellises in the attic are in excellent shape. Yes there is a small dent on the garage slab, but the foundation is almost perfect – better than many younger houses we have seen. Yes there is an outdated kitchen, but from the awards and trophies on the wall, you can tell that the children are such good students and they are so loved.

They even have a small dog.


I have no doubt that Slav will make this house a wonderful home for our family. And Roxie and Charlie will enjoy the yard as much as this small dog does. We will love and protect this house as this family did for the last two decades. We wish them the best!


Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén