Terrific Broth

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

Category: Live Green (Page 2 of 7)

A Living Place Update – Ranch House Main Floor Tour

Hi friends! Welcome back to our ranch house tours!

Yesterday I’ve shown you our yard and the exterior of the house. Today, I’d like to walk you through the main floor of our ranch:

As you can see, the main floor consists of a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. It is connected to the garage with a door in the kitchen (you can see the floor plan here).

1. The living room

The “1” in the above floor plan is our living room. Since move-in, we have torn off the dirty carpet, brought a dining table, a pair of dining chairs, and added record storage. Slav set up a tech center at the corner for his desktop server and routers and stuff, and I put up some window curtains for privacy.

The green rug is an older IKEA one we brought from North Carolina. It is really cheap – I think it is about $30 now – and easy to replace, but we decided to bring it with us, for our pups’ sake. This rug used to be next to the floor-to-ceiling windows in our NC apartment so our dogs spent lots of time laying and playing on it. It was the zone for patting, grooming, tugging, and eating tons of delicious treats. The smell of this rug must encode so many good memories and so many people they cared about. It smells like home. During the packing and unpacking (we moved twice in three months), this rug became the sanctuary in this big rocking world for our pups. You can always find them chilling on it.

We have not gotten a sofa yet – I want to do something fun with the sofa but I feel that something too modern is not gonna speak to the house well – so we wait. At the mean time, we have gotten two recliners and a nice sideboard! Cannot pass these beautiful trims.

Our immediate plan for the living room is to finish the floors. Down the road, we would like to move the computer stuff into the garage (where our internet cable came in the house), and build some book storage against the garage wall. We have so many books that 1/3 of the Slav’s office is filled with them now. So we need to spread them out a bit.

2. The kitchen

Oh, the kitchen. Among the greasy cabinet, the moldy grout, the old appliances, and the dirty flooring, I do not know which part of the kitchen we hate the most! We cleaned up quite a bit in here to get it up and running, but it is about all I can say with this place.


We have already took our hammer here and removed some cabinets (which did not improve the look at all), and we started to get really curious what is behind the soffits. But hold on! We do not have the budget to do anything to it (except demo, I guess), so we might have to come up with some temporary beautification here.


3. Our bedroom

Our bedroom is the first room we set up after moving in. Having a clean and comfortable place to sleep really made renovation easier. We got a really comfortable mattress from Costco a year ago and have been enjoying it a lot. And our new storage bed is steady as a rock. We actually rotated our bed 90 degrees so we can get more cool air from our floor vent, but the room is still like the day we set it up – simple and calming.

As you can see, we have a really small closet here. We have fair amount of clothing living in colder climate, so this small closet only fits our three-season clothes. All of winter coats, snow gear, and Slav’s formal shirts are kept in the closet in the office, which is directly next to the bedroom closet. The plan is to reverse that closet to the bedroom to make a big closet, with the help of some kind of storage system like the PAX.

4. Slav’s office


The room we have the clearest vision for, is Slav’s office. I knew what I was gonna do to this room as soon as I saw it for the first time. It is 14′ by 10′, a pretty good size, and we will open it to the living room with a pair of french doors – something like this.

We also want to build library shelves here for all the National Geographic we brought from a recent estate sale. Since we plan to close off the closet to the bedroom, the old closet wall becomes the perfect candidate for displaying these beautiful books:

— The closet currently houses all of Slav’s formal clothing, our winter coats, and travel gears. We will reverse it to facing the bedroom to make space for a whole wall of library bookshelves here —

It will be a fun project to remodel this room for sure. Hopefully we can get to it this winter. Opening it up to the living room will open up our living space so much – like you have another living room on the left side when you walk into the door! But we will still be able to close it off with french doors/pocket doors if Slav needs some privacy.

5. The main floor bathroom

Same as the kitchen, our main floor bath definitely can use some re-caulk. I am gonna save you from the pictures of old aluminum windows and moldy silicone for now. Our plan for it is to refresh the caulk and sealant in the bath, and potentially add more storage. Down the road, it will be nice to completely renovate this room, including getting rid of the bathtub (no one takes bath in our family), stealing some space from the hallway to fit a two sinks, and upgrading the toilet.

Here you have it, our main floor living space. It is merely 850 sqft but perfect for two of us. We think that it will be really lovely once we open the office to the living room, and renovate the kitchen and the bathroom. One goal we have for the main floor is to keep it simple and minimal. To be honest, we were a bit surprised that how well we fit in this small space – we have not even used the entire basement yet!

Ranch House Tour – Our Yard

Ladies and gentlemen, it is house tour time!

Since moving in mid-June, we have been working very hard on our ranch. It has been 7 weeks today! I am happy to report that we had just reached a sweet spot yesterday, where all the major eyesores of the house were gotten rid of, and our main living area was cleaned up. That means we can sleep and cook in a clean house like a normal family, instead of just creating more dust and more chaos each day. I am sure that the pups appreciate it! Charlie and Roxie were really not fans of loud noises and sharp tools.

Our timing could not be better – I will be starting a new full-time job tomorrow, and Slav is picking up the pace of his business. For the next month and half, we will focus 95% of the energy on our work – the work actually brings in money rather than burning holes in our pockets! We also cannot wait to experience our neighborhood – shop at our neighborhood farmer’s market, start doing yoga again (for me), subscribe to local newspapers, and have Sunday brunches. You know, like actually live in our home, not just working on it.

But do not get me wrong, the projects are still happening. There has been so much we’ve done and I’ve still not told you yet! To be clear, I am not holding any information back intentionally, it is just that we’ve done so much and so quickly, and this one-person blog could not keep up.

Now the ranch house no longer offends people’s eyes, I think it will be fun to shoot some video tours and show you what it looks like now. This is the “after” to the “destructive” part of our renovations, but a real “before” to any of the “constructive” renovations we will be doing. I will show you our yard and exterior of the house today, our main floor living space tomorrow, and our basement and garage through the rest of the week. I will also share with you our plans for each space. So get cozy, grab a cup of coffee, and read along – it will be a fun week!

Without further ado, this is our back yard:

I made a mistake around 1:15 in this video calling the chain link fence “east side”, it is actually facing west (the front of our house). You can see our site plan (and floor plan) here:

Ranch Site Plan

The back patio has changed since I made the site plan. Here is what the site looks like now:

Ranch Site_2017 Summer

Since move-in, we have

  1. trimmed the dead trees and random bushes and gotten rid of weeds;
  2. power-washed the back fence;
  3. gottten rid of the satellite dish on the roof;
  4. installed a new back storm door with a doggy door on it;
  5. Installed new electrical panel at the back and raised the electrical pole on the roof;
  6. demo-ed the old patio and the metal awning;
  7. replaced an old window well; and
  8. built a new concrete patio and brought in a new grill and patio seating.

Slav also started to refresh the shed we inherited, which was badly rotten and used as a construction trash dump:


And this is the backyard now:



Yesterday, after the video was filmed, I spent 12 hours weeding in the backyard and probably got rid of 1/4 of the ground coverage there:


See all the weeds on along the fence? All gone!


The northern side of the yard were taken over  by little tree sprouts:


And it gets really bad near the shed:


After 12 hours of work:



It was not cool to see bare dirt, but not all the green plants are good and some of them just had to go.

Roxie does not seem to care about the dirt – this girl just needs her sunbath:


Besides finishing shed, our plan for the back yard this year is to replace the chain link fence. Here is our foreseeable backyard to-do list:

1. Mowing and weeding the yard to maintain the sod we have;
2. Renovating the garden shed;
3. Replacing the chain link fence;
4. Fixing the wooden fence on northern neighbor’s side so we can take off the chain link fence there;
5. Starting composting;
6. Fixing faucet leaks;
7. Grading along the back of the house;
8. Finding an outdoor sectional and a fire pit for the patio;
9. Landscaping and gardening next spring.

We have also done a lot to the front of the house and front yard. Shortly after we moved in, we trimmed the pine tree so it stopped scraping the roof, weeded the yard, and got rid of a problematic flower bed.  More recently, we improved our curb appeal by cleaning up our porch, taking off the metal awning and demoing the old patio. Just last week, we refreshed our front entrance, which really made a difference of our curb appeal! And here is what the front of the house look like today:

I totally choked on words towards the end of this video, because we really did not have a clear plan for side and front yard. We knew that we would like to bring in evergreen shrubs – arborvitae and red berry holly would be lovely. I would also love to have climbing roses on trellis as well.

After the fence is complete, the side yard next to the garage will be enclosed into the backyard. We will put in a big gate in the front and potentially make a side patio next to the garage for Slav to park his trailer. We also tossed around the idea of a trellis roof for growing grape vines:


The northern side of the yard slopes down significantly to our neighbor’s driveway. It would be nice to plant a line of arborvitae along our property line to add some height.


This side of the foundation are exposed due to the yard slope, providing an opportunity to carve out a private entrance to the basement suite or installing egress windows:


We constantly walk around this tree at the corner and you can already see our footprints on the lawn. It is a natural choice to build a stepping stone path here:


We love holly trees and the red berries they put out in winter. It would be nice to have them as a low hedge along the sidewalk.


As far as flower goes, I love the simplicity and elegance of an English garden. One thing Slav and I both want is climbing roses on window trellis and potentially above the garage doors. It will soften the long straight lines of the ranch as well as bringing some colors to the front yard.

The whole landscaping thing is really new to me. Fortunately, Slav’s mom has a magical green thumb and our neighbors all have lovely landscaping and free plants to offer. If you guys have good ideas and suggestions, help me out!

Here you have it, our yard tour and garden to-do list. Come back tomorrow for our main floor living space!

What Is In Store For The Ranch House

We have moved in the ranch for a month today! One one hand, I feel that time flies so fast. On the other hand, I felt so settled in as if this has been my home for a long time. I am starting a full time job on August 1st, so we have 3 more weeks to get some essential upgrades done on the house.

By essential upgrades, I am not just talking about the light fixtures and paint colors – I am talking about leaky roof, old electrical wiring, and plumbing kind of thing. These are the things that our inspector pointed out before we bought the house. They are big jobs that mostly have to be done by contractors, and we would like to address them before any interior renovation happens. Not only these project will be the most costly, but also they will shape how we use the house and consequently give us a better idea on how to upgrade the interior.

Here is a list of the essential upgrades we should do. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in – it will be a long list!

1. Replacing the Roof

Ranch House - 3

Our roof is on buying time right now. It is almost 20 years old, with lots of hail damage and missing shingles. This roof is constructed with T-lock shingles, which has been discontinued since 2005. Therefore, repairing is not an option. Colorado gets lots of rain and snow in winter. So we plan to replace the whole roof before October.

As we are replacing the roof, we will be replacing some old vent and their covers as well. We do not watch TV, so the satellite dish will go. The previous family wired telephone and satellite dish into EVERY SINGLE ROOM, which created a bunch of holes on the exterior wall and left black wires everywhere. We cannot wait to take all these wires down!


To keep the roof in a good shape, we were advised to trim the pine tree in our front yard so it does not scrape the roof, which we have already done. The pine tree drops tons of needles and pine cones into the front gutter, so we will be getting gutter protector to reduce the cleaning work load as well.

2. Grading around the foundation

Among all the houses we have seen during our house search, the most prevalent problem was the foundation cracks. Denver area has very expandable clay soil, which pushes the foundation inward and causing cracks and uneven floors.

Our foundation is in a pretty decent shape for its age and we do not have much water issues being on a hill. We only have minor corner cracks that needs to be sealed:



Above is the corner that we have the worst foundation crack. And it is probably because of the flower bed right against the house.


Contrary to popular beliefs, lawn edging and gravel along the foundation actually make things worse, because they retain water near the foundation and direct water to sip down right along the foundation. The right thing to do is to encourage water flow away from the foundation as much as possible. The image below illustrates a few inexpensive ways to protect the foundation:

We have short downspout and some leaky water pipes near the foundation. So these will be fixed immediately.



We plan to

1. Remove the front flower bed.

2. Extend the downspout.

3. Fix plumbing leaks.

4. Grade soil around to house (as shown below).

3. Minor foundation repair + mud-jacking the corner of garage slab

Related to the water issue, one corner of the garage has sunk and causes a crack on the concrete slab. it also broke the seal of the garage door, which can let rodents, bugs and water in. We plan to mud-jack the corner soon and repair the seal on the garage door.

In addition, we need to mud-jack up or replace our front and back porch. Due to the soil movement, they have sunk down near the foundation and slops towards the house.


4. Aligning/replacing the sewage pipe


Because of the clay soil and its movement over time, many Denver homes has sewage pipe movement underground. It causes offset on the connections for old piping, and invites tree roots to come in. Our sewer pipe is no exception. What is in store for the sewage is high pressure cleaning (to cut off tree roots in the pipe), and realignment for an offset under our front yard.

5. Upgrading the electrical panel

Our current electrical box is original and is no longer up to code. It does provide 150 AMP, which is sufficient for house of our size. But there is no more place to add any new lines. Aside from the panel itself, there is no main ground wire to speak for! We would like to upgrade electrical panel to code, and potentially upgrade it to 200 AMP. So all the outlets will have proper grounding. We also need to switch the outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen with GFCI and AFCI ones.

When we are at it, we will ask the electrician to put in an outlet outside at the back. Our tools are mostly electrical, and not having any outdoor outlets means that we have to thread the power cable though windows or doors. It will also be nice to have an outlet in the shed, so we do not need to connect three 50-ft power cables to do anything at the back of the property!

6. Adding a central AC

Most of the old houses in Denver do not have central AC. Unfortunately, global warming causes summer to be so much hotter here, and all the sudden everyone is installing central AC or swamp coolers. We plan to install AC in July, and replace our 17-year-old furnace as well.

7. Radon Mitigation

Before moving to Colorado, I did not know anything about radon.  Apparently this is a common problem in Colorado. So if you are buying a house here, your realtor/inspector should recommend a radon test as a safety measure. Our radon emission test failed miserably – we have something like 10 times more concentrated radon emission over the safety level. The good thing is that this is not really poisonous and harmful in short term. And it is not expensive to fix.

The way to fix this problem is called radon mitigation, which is simply drilling a hole in the concrete slab in the basement, which directs the emission outside of the house via a roof vent.

Radon mitigation is not difficult – it costs less than $1000 and can be done in one afternoon. We plan to get it done, maybe not immediately, because we need to pick a place for the pipes to go in.

The to-do list

In summary, here is a list for the essential upgrades to bring the house to a good shape:

1. Replace the roof and gutters; trim the tree branches over the roof.
2. Remove the flower bed; mud-jack/replace front and back patio; grading the soil around the house.
3. Seal the corner foundation cracks; level the corner of the garage pad; install new weather strip around the garage door.
4. Inspect/fix all the exposed plumbing; high pressure cleaning/realign/replace the sewer line from our house to the street.
5. Upgrade electrical panel; adding proper ground wire; adding an outdoor outlet; bring power to the shed  (all in progress).
6. Add central AC and replace the old furnace (in progress); upgrade the old water heater with a tankless heater.
7. Radon mitigation.

Most of the tasks above have to be hired out. By city code, we cannot complete them ourselves. We will tackle some other major fixes ourselves, such as fence, the garden shed, and the doors. Completing these upgrades will make the ranch look instantly fresher.




here is a short list of the things we intent to finish this month:

a. Tear off the old carpet in the main floor.
b. Power-wash/fix the old wooden fence; replace the chain link fence with wooden fence; stain/paint them.
c. Replacing all exterior doors and seal them well with new weather strips (in progress).
d. Demo/rebuild the garden shed (in progress).
e. Paint all the interior doors white (in progress).

Spoiler alert: we just finished power-washing the fence! I will come back in a couple days to show you how it went. if you have a power washer, it is really cheap to do, but it will make the backyard look so much better!

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