Terrific Broth

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

Category: Small Upgrade (Page 2 of 2)

The Small Project Continues

Hi friend! Happy Monday! We had another busy weekend here in the ranch house. We got a fire pit off Craigslist and picked up some free firewood in the area. Loading, splitting, and stacking firewood took a lot of time! Slav definitely got his workout in this weekend.

I, on the other hand, am recovering from the first week from work. Not working for 5 months really made a difference on my energy level, and driving 45-minute each way has taken a lot out of me. My did manage to take the Basic Life Support (BLS) and got certified! The BLS classes at my work are offered by American Heart Associations (AHA) and teach people how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use automated external defibrillator (AED) on adults, children, and even infants. I hope that I would never have chance to use my training – because that would mean someone is in trouble – but if there is an unfortunate situation, I could potentially save someone’s life!

Without my help, Slav still did plenty of updates on the ranch house. Some are big and some are small. I adore small updates, which could really make our life easier (I’ve shared you some before here). So I am excited to share the second round of small updates with you today!

1. Upgrade the backdoor lighting

Since we moved in, we have improved the function of the back entrance a lot by installing a new storm door. Demoing the old patio and metal covers and building a new concrete patio certainly helped too. However, the porch light next to the back door was till this giant stadium lighting:

It is 600W (!) and lights up not only ours, but also our neighbors’ backyards.

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Because of its blinding power, we tried very hard not to use it. Slav finally could not take it anymore and bought this light from the Habitat for Humanity:

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It can be mounted in three ways. We decided to honor the wall mount tradition. Since it was never used, all we needed to do was to install a LED light bulb (also from habitat for Humanity, for only $1.50 a pop!).

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And this was what it looked like 20 minutes later:

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Easier on the eyes, right?

2. Moving Dog leashes to the garage

As I told you before, our kitchen is a high high high traffic zone. From basement to the main floor, from garage to the living space, going out of the back door… to get anywhere, you would have to pass the kitchen. So it quickly became a messy drop-off zone. To keep the kitchen neat, I decided to find everything a designated place. That means shoes off in the garage, keys and wallets goes to the front entry, etc. This week, we moved the dog leases out of the kitchen to the garage. Our kitcken immediately looked cleaner, from this:

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to this:

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The leashes are now hanging on two hooks next to the garage-kitchen door , on the garage side:

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I picked up these two lovely hooks from IKEA last time we stopped by:

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I wanted these hooks years ago when they first came to the market, and finally had an excuse to get them! Yay!

3. Hang the closet door in Slav’s office

When we first moved in, we took all the main floor carpet out. And we removed the closet doors in the bedrooms to make things easier:

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After we removed the carpet, we did not bother to put back the closet doors. In our bedroom, we hung a pair of IKEA curtains instead of the doors:

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But in Slav’s office, it looked like this for quiet a few weeks:

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The closet is organized, but it still made the room look busy. So we decided to add the doors back on:

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As you could see, I painted them white to match the wall color. Eventually we will reverse the closet to face the bedroom and dry wall this side, so I wanted to create a feeling that there is not a closet from the get-go. Now when we walk into the room, our eyes no longer land on the clothing in the closet, but more focus on the desk and the computer. I hope it will help Slav to be more focused when he works here.

4. Switching out all the baseboard vents and grilles

We have 6 baseboard vents and two return grilles on the main floor, and they all looked like this:

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Two baseboard vents

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Return Grilles

Since we were in the process of installing a central AC, we replaced all the old metal vents and grilles with these plastic ones from Lowe’s:

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Slav spent a couple hours switching them out. The old metal ones were rusted and some screws were stuck. So it took some force to wrestle the old vent covers off. There was also a lot of dust tucked in these vents! So Slav vacuumed them all out. It made me feel so good knowing that we are no longer breathing these dust!

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New vent in the bathroom

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New vent in the kitchen

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New return grilles in the living room

The crisp and bright white vents and grilles certainly made the floor look a lot worse. LOL. That is the story when you renovating an old house, anything new just makes the old stuff next to it 100 times worse! I am not bothered by the floor as much as Slav is, but we definitely want to refinish all the floor on the main level soon. More furniture we have here, more difficult the refinishing would be. So before we start knocking down walls or work on any build-ins, we will have to work on the floor first!

Here you go, four recent small updates! We are discovering small stuff to do everyday and I will come back to tell you more when we have a few done. Don’t you just love these small upgrades? Have you done any lately in your home?

 

Small Project, Big Impact

Roof, fence, patio, sewage…the ranch renovation list continues. Demo work and big projects are dusty and they take days to weeks to complete. Doing big projects one after another inevitably made a big dent on our patience and comfort. One day we got up and just craved some easy projects – the ones take half an hour to complete but can greatly improve the look of a room.

Here are the four things we did in two hours for some instant gratification:

1. Replacing the stove drip pans

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This is our kitchen right now. It was dark, and foot traffic from garage and backyard keeps it dusty. The choppy layout does not make things any better – I dislike it so much that I’ve not started cooking yet! Since we are not gonna tackle the kitchen anytime soon, we HAVE TO improve it a little bit, at least to the level that I can stand cooking in this room.

So one morning, while I was sipped on my morning tea, I asked myself – what is the one thing I could change to get the biggest bang for the buck?

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The drip pans! It was foil-protected, which I hate. But as soon as I started peeling off the foil, I realized why – the drip pans were all terribly rusted.

A 10-min drive to Lowe’s fixed it immediately:

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I started cooking Chinese food now!

2. Fixing broken window screens

Our window situation is a big mess. We have new vinyl window in the living room and basement bedrooms, but most of the main floor rooms have old aluminum windows. Quite a few window screens were missing on the old windows, and some were torn on the new windows:

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There are not nearly as many bugs here as in NC, but there are still flies and mosquitoes. While door-hunting in the Habitat for Humanity, we picked up a few screens to put up on the old windows. We could finally open the bathroom windows now!

Unfortunately, for the basement window shown above, there was nothing that fits. So we picked up a much larger one for the material.

Front, our broken screen panel; back, the $5 old screen we bought.

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The frame of our broken panel was still in a good shape. What’s broken was the seal strip.

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We bought a screen that used the same seal strip:

Left: our broken screen; right, new screen

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I started by using a fork to pry the broken seal strip out of its channel, which freed the broken screen.

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Then I used the fork to take the intact seal strip and screen off the panel we bought, and fit them into our small window frame:

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Last, trim off excess screen.

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Taadaa!

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Opening all the windows invites fresh and cool air into the rooms – I do not feel the need of air conditioner at all. Cannot speak the same for Slav though.

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3. Taking the satellite dish off our roof

The is the current state of our back porch. See the eye sore in this picture?

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Which one? You may ask. Well, I am gonna ask you to please ignore the porch itself, and the low hanging telephone wire, and the camping chairs and plastic cooler, and the paint-peeling backdoor. Bring your eye up to the roof…

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The satellite dish! The previous family living here wired telephone and satellite into EVERY ROOM. which made many holes on the exterior walls and there are black wires EVERYWHERE.

Slav pays close attention to anything tech and this satellite dish really bothered him. So he took a ladder and his drill to it, while I was working on the window screens:

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He first took down the wires held to the roof soffit, then freed the satellite dish on the roof:

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Gone! It took him like 15 minutes (due to rusty screws).

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Better, right? OK, I’d admit that as soon as Slav climbed down from the ladder, he said, “now the porch cover is a real eye sore”. Without the satellite dish, every other eye sore just grew much bigger. Well, one thing at a time.

4. No more carpet on the stairs!

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If there is a bigger crime than carpet over hardwood floor, it must be carpet over stairs.

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Even worse, in our case, this is the only set of stairs going to the basement, where the laundry room is. It is also right next to the backdoor and the garage door. Let me tell you, it is impossible to keep it clean!

I intentionally looked away during the whole first month we lived here, which was very hard for me! It helps that I do not go down basement except doing laundry. But lately, with warmer weather, I started sensing a pee smell brewing near the backdoor. And after sniffing around (gross, I know), I narrowed down to the stairs! I suspect that the small dog used to live in this house used this stair as a wee-wee pad.

So on this small project day, I got on it:

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The carpet were installed in small sections so they were really easy to pull off. After gaining some experience from pulling off the main floor carpet, the process went pretty fast:

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The underlayment was not even continuous, making things much easier. It took me about 5 minutes to pull them off and to expose the staples and tack strips:

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Doesn’t it already look better?

I took the staples out while Slav worked on the tack strips. Within an hour, the stairs went from dirty carpet to this:

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Some TSP solution made it instantly one shade lighter:

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The stringers are in white color, whereas the risers and treads were painted yellow. Just like everything else in this house, the paint job shows zero craftsmanship.

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We plan to paint the thread a darker color and the risers white, AFTER we find a way to keep the dogs off these stairs. The dogs each picked a bedroom downstairs to sleep (yes there are very spoiled), so they are the real users of the stairs. Charlie comes up from his nap every a few hours to beg for treats. And Roxie, OMG. This girl absolutely adores stairs – she runs up and down every ten minutes! She runs down to check on Charlie, she runs up to check on what we are building/cutting/demoing, she runs up to the backdoor to keep an eye on squirrels, and she runs back down again to let Charlie know about the squirrels… Could I train dogs to use only one half of the stairs? What do you think?

Here they are, our four small upgrades in two hours. As you can see, we are still at the demo phase – Nothing new is coming in yet, Everything we have done is to take things down! And let me tell you, the next one to go will be some thing big and ugly, something made in metal. Care to take a guess?

How We Bought Our First House – Inspection and Negotiation

Hi friends! This is the 4th post documenting the process of buying our ranch. We spent the first week getting our broker and realtor lined up, and the second week touring houses. By the end of the 3rd week, we were under contract with our ranch.

Week four (5.12-5.20) – Inspection and re-negotiation

We have our offer accepted on Wednesday and immediately scheduled our inspection on Friday. We wanted to know the condition of the ranch before our offer objection date, which was the following Thursday (on week four). The objection date was the last chance for us to walk away, while the seller was locked in the contract from the time he accepted the offer.

Due to the age of the house, we ordered a general inspection, a radon test, a separate sewer inspection, and a separate roof inspection. The last two services are provided by professionals who can also fix the potential problems.

By Tuesday on week four, all the reports were in and we had a pretty good grasp on the condition of the ranch. Besides a couple minor “health and safety” issues, including a broken attic ladder and high radon concentration (normal for Colorado), things needed upgrade are all due to the age of the house. In another words, replacing/repairing all these should be our responsibility down the line anyway. It will cost about $20K, so when the ranch is all upgraded, it will be $335K ($315K purchase price + $20K upgrade).

Does it worth it? Now it is time to for the “comps”. “Comps” means “comparison”, which is something realtors and appraisers do in order to figure out how much a house is really worth. It is based on all the houses similar to this ranch that were recently sold in the same neighborhood. It will tell you if you are overpaying after upgrades, and how much equity you can get out of if you decide to go with it. It turned out that most of the updated ranches in our neighborhood worth well above $350K, which means we are not overpaying by purchasing it at $315K and make $20K upgrade.

However, if similar houses in the neighborhood were sold for $320K after upgrades, we will be overpaying this house for $15K after the upgrade. Then even we would like to proceed, the bank will likely not to give a loan to us more than the house’s real value (remember, it is the bank buying this house, not us).

Knowing that, we stayed in the contract. We did try to negotiate more though – it is a lot of work after all. One way to get some money off is to ask the seller to fix things. For example, the roof of this ranch was damaged due to a recent hail storm, and if the seller family can use their insurance to change the roof, it will save us $5000 easily. The house insurance usually comes with a couple thousand deductibles, and even we pay the seller’s $2000 deductible, we would still get a $7000 new roof, which will save us $5000. Unfortunately, the seller does not have a home insurance (!), so this option is off.

Another way is to get the seller to lower the price even more, or ask them to cover the closing cost. The latter is more valuable because it leaves cash in our hands, and it is what the seller agreed on.

After re-negotiation, we refreshed the contract on Thursday. Now we are getting this house for technically $310K.  The next step is to get our loan officially proved.

(To be continued…)

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This is the 5th post in our “how we bought our ranch house” series. You can find the rest of the story here:

Week one – Got pre-qualified by a broker, aka “know what we could afford”

Week two – Finding a Realtor and Learning What We Want

Week two – Our First Offer and the Bidding War

Week three – Putting Offer on Our Ranch

Week five and six – Convincing the Bank to Buy Our House

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