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!