Terrific Broth

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

Category: Live Green (Page 2 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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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Christmas Decor and new LED lights

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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.

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The cute salt and pepper shaker:

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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.

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The pine tree in the front yard

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The tree outside of Slav’s office

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

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Our view from the dinner table:

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The bed, bath, and beyond

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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.

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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.

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The garage

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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!

Getting Into the Slav Zone – Ranch House Garage Tour

Welcome to the last tour to our ranch house! I should have asked Slav to write this last post, since garage is totally his zone. He was the one who requested two-car garages, and he is totally the master mind behind how we are gonna use it.

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Without further ado, here is our garage:

Our garage is a little less than 18.5′ x 21.5′, a “compact” two-car garage. Since it is not over-sized, we decided that we would not use it as storage from the beginning. here are the plans we have for the garage:

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A workshop and shelter for both cars

We want to be able to park both cars here – Denver gets snow and ice storms in winter and hail in spring, and we want to be able to protect our cars against bad weather. Slav also wants to be able to maintain our cars here, which means having plenty of space around a car when it is parked in the garage. Because of its size, there is not a lot of room on each side when we park two cars inside at the same time (you can see from the video how little space we have on each side of the garage door). That means that we cannot set up deep work benches or store bulky items on the side of the garage.

Limited by the width, the only space for a work bench in this garage is at the back. When we got our electrical work done, we asked our electrician to put in a series of outlets along the back wall:

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We already had a chest freezer, which was settled in the corner of the garage. We then taped the floor to determine the size of the work bench:

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The future work bench will be 3′ deep and 40″ tall, and run between the freezer and the garage door area. It will look something like this:

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You can see the outlets right above the bench, the garage door to its left and the freezer to its right. The cylinder next to the freezer is Slav’s winter tires, and the rectangle block indicates the bench seating we inherited.

All the tools and the Shop-Vac will be stored underneath the work bench. For small tool storage, Slav got some pegboards from Habitat for Humanity for only $8 a pop (the small one is only $3)! They will be mounted above the workbench and rest of the wall will be covered by drywall.

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A garage for work, not storage

The second plan we have for the garage is not to use as a storage. but rather delicate it to car work and DIYs. All of gardening stuff including our lawnmowers will be stored in the backyard shed, and we will try not to accumulate clothing or decor more than we can display.

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Aside from the work bench and Slav’s tools, we plan to mount a couple narrow shelving along the right wall, directly under the garage door track. All our paint cans will be organized on it. In this way they will not longer occupy floor space, and it will be easier for us to see what color of the paint we have. When we need to paint something, we just need to put some drop clothes down on the floor and it will become a paint corner.

Create a functional mudroom for winter

The third important function of this garage, aside from parking two cars and tool/paint storage, is to serve as a mudroom. In winter, we will be driving in with snow gears with lots of dirt under our shoes, and we need an area to unload wet gears and muddy boots before entering the house. To use the least space to gain the most function, we mounted our shoes on the wall next to the door going into the kitchen, and put down a big outdoor mat in front of the step.

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The wall space under the garage door track on the left will be dedicated to snowboards and skies.

Insulation and ceiling

As I told you in the video, the garage is mostly (but poorly) insulated on two sides, but not on the door nor the wall facing the kitchen. We will add insulation into the kitchen wall to make the house cooling in the summer, and patch the missing insulation on the back wall. We will also add some light insulation panels on the garage door and see how much it would help. The goal is to insulate the garage in the way that it can be comfortable with the help of a space heater in winter and a window AC in summer, without breaking our bank.

The last big project we would like to do is to vault the ceiling of the garage. Currently, there is no insulation above the garage ceiling. The current ceiling is just random sizes of dry wall taped together, which is weak and ready to fall on our heads. The lighting situation here is also terrible – all tube lighting with wires interconnected because they did not want to pay for installing light sockets on the ceiling! When the inspector came in to see the electrical work, he gave us a green light to take down ceiling in the garage because “it only makes it safer”, especially if we clean up the electrical system and install new lighting here. We think having a tall ceiling will make this compact-sized garage feel a lot bigger! It will be such a cool place for Slav to work on the cars and for me to DIY.

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There you have it, our garage tour and plans. We need to take down the broken ceiling/attic ladder, add new sub-roof and insulation in between, add new lighting for the garage, put up pegboard/drywall the back wall, build a work bench for Slav, hang shelves on the right side for paint can storage, and hangers on the left wall for our winter gears. There are plenty work to do but getting the garage in good shape is something we both very excited about!

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