Taking the house my mom grew up in, the farm my grandparents shared for over fifty years and making it a home for us to grow old in.

The Little House: When a remodel timeline meets with reality

On April 10th I got up and, for the the first time in a VERY long time, I did not put on my “nice” clothes and head to my day job. Instead, I dug out my “work” clothes (torn up and stained jeans etc.) and, after a cup of coffee, I didn’t even have to get in my car to go to “work” that day, I just walked over to The Little House to begin the remodel. To quote my last post about this (to bring you up to speed on the place): “On the lot beside us this little place (all of 500 square feet) has gone through many “renovations” since my Grandpa built it. It was built for my Grandpa’s dad and then it also housed my Grandma’s dad for awhile. Way back then it didn’t have running water and was as simple as you can imagine: just a 300 square foot box with a dirt floor basement beneath it. Literally decades later my dad and brother dug a septic, a well and added a bathroom, a closet and a bedroom, insulated it, sheet rocked it and gave it new siding and shingles and added a little kitchen. They also poured concrete in the basement and carpeted the floor down there to increase the living space.

A veggie garden with railroad ties, some mystery seeds, new flower boxes and a new remodel project called the little house!

There is really only one thing you need to know about my dad to completely understand the state of this place: He doesn’t care what anything looks like, he doesn’t like paying bills, cleaning is not his strong suit and the man apparently believes that Everything can be fixed with spray foam. EVERY. THING. Hence: eight inches of foam board glued to the walls and even over a couple of the windows and absolutely everything is still covered in cat hair from a cat that’s been gone for many years. So, the state of this place is really beyond “bachelor pad” and moving into just plain GROSS. I had nearly a month to figure out my plan and timeline and get everything ordered and purchased that I could to prep a head of time. In my last post I talked about my organization, my exact plan and timeline and how I hoped everything would go. Of course, reality is always a much different beast but I am excited to report that, at least in this case, reality gave me a remodel timeline that went far better then I could have ever hoped for.

A remodel checklist and timeline, getting organized and getting everything before I start the work.

This was my ten day timeline I had posted initially side by side with what actually happened:

Sunday plan: Nothing.
Sunday reality: Because my husband is a total wonderful sweet heart of a man he gave me his time in the morning to help me demo the house so we: Uninstalled the kitchen sink/counter, upper kitchen cabinet, bathroom sink/counter, bathroom mirror, toilet and all of the lights. My mom and her boyfriend came over to help haul away trash and we took down all of the foam board and removed all of the outlet face plates too. One thing that did not make me a happy camper was that we also accidentally BROKE the water lines for the bathroom and kitchen sink as if we meant to do that. (Older PVC and CPVC gets really brittle with age and when I say we broke it I really meant that all we did was tug on it and SNAP. Fortunately we’re not on city water and I had already turned the well off at the electrical panel so we didn’t flood the house.) SOOOO now I had plumbing to fix and now that I had a closer look at everything I also knew I needed to fix both of the sink drains, move a furnace vent AND move the oven outlet. I had some more time that day (I encouraged my husband to go fishing because he deserved a treat after taking the toilet out…) so I went ahead and installed the new recessed light above the shower and put in a new outlet in the kitchen.

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems
When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Monday plan: Uninstall the kitchen sink/counter, upper kitchen cabinet, bathroom sink/counter, bathroom mirror and all of the lights. Take down all of the foam board, remove all of the outlet face plates and start taping/mudding the walls.
Monday reality: First thing I did was go over to the house and make the most detailed list I could of what I needed to fix the water and drain lines before heading to town. I spent an hour at our local hardware store came back to the house and (by some kind of miracle) fixed all of it without having to go the hardware store a second time… One benefit that came out of having to redo the water lines was that now I could actually put them in the bathroom wall where they belonged instead of just run willy nilly out in the open like some kind of horrible design statement. I then put forty pounds of sheet rock mud on the destroyed walls and realized that I probably had at least twenty more pounds to go… oh my poor hands and wrists… More mud was added to my next hardware store list. At some point (long ago) this house was professionally sheet rocked (hard to believe but it turned out to be true) and though the glue from the foam board destroyed the walls I had little to NO taping to do just A LOT of filling.

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Tuesday plan: Finish taping and mudding the walls and install a new recessed light above the shower in the bathroom.
Tuesday reality: Finish taping and mudding the walls, move the stove outlet and the furnace vent not to mention fix a few of the walls in the bathroom now that all of the water lines are fixed and then get them taped and another twenty pounds of mud on the walls. With all that mud trying to dry it was literally a tropical jungle in there so I cranked the heat because everything was taking SO long to dry… SO much moisture… Unfortunately it was still too chilly out to open the windows so I just cooked while I worked like a Thanksgiving ham because I HAD to have that place dry enough to prime by the next afternoon.

Wednesday plan: Cover the plumbing in the bathroom with a soffit. Cover all of the ceilings with foam ceiling tiles.
Wednesday reality: I painted the front door and then fixed and painted its brick molding and trim and then I tackled the inside sills of all of the windows that were totally covered with spray foam and caulk. I’m all for insulation etc. but seriously, it doesn’t have to be SO ugly! the entire house.

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Thursday plan: Prime walls of the entire house and paint the front door and fix/paint the brick molding and trim.
Thursday reality: My cousin Rachel volunteered on her day off to come and help me! I had prepared for this by getting the house primed yesterday so she and I tackled painting the whole place and finished in just a couple of hours. It was only noon at that point so we looked around for something else to do: We put up the entire ceiling in the main room with the foam ceiling tiles! Mom brought pizza and beer for us at lunch and we managed to finish the entire ceiling by 5! This was a totally unexpectedly productive day, I knew we would have the house painted quick (it is tiny) but I had no experience working with the foam ceiling tiles. (The only break we took was a run into town for more caulk to “glue” them up with.)

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems
Friday plan: Install all three of the new overhead light fixtures and paint second coat in the entire house.
Friday reality: I tackled the carpet and the linoleum in the “addition” that is: the bedroom/hall/bathroom that is on a cement slab. After yesterday on the ladder putting up the ceiling tiles I was hurting and more then looking forward to working on the floor… that is, until I got there and remembered that there is nothing good about working on concrete. This was one of my worst days of work over there, the carpet came out like a dream – afterward I just had to go around with a hammer and screw driver to snap all of the carpet tack up, the linoleum in the bathroom however was a different story… It was hell. That linoleum that was pealing and curling up in a dozen different places, looking like crap, like it was just going to rip right up without a problem… That bathroom is only about 50 square feet but with a hammer and a sheet rock knife it took me three hours to get the majority of the linoleum off of it *shudders* I hurt so bad by the end of that day because, of course, once I finally got all that up I couldn’t quit then (oh no of course not) I had to lay all of the new linoleum tile too. And I did. And I went home and made myself a VERY strong drink and then laid flat out on our hardwood floor for an hour so my poor back could cry, and cry it did.

(It was good that it was Friday because I needed a break after that.)

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Sunday plan: Nothing.
Sunday reality: My mom and her boyfriend ripped the rest of the carpet out of the house revealing that it was NOT tacked down with carpet strips (like everyone would expect…) but instead it was glued down – covering those beautiful sixty year old tongue and groove floors with the thickest stickiest nastiness…. ugh!!!! AND also revealing some seriously ugly floor patches that I now need to replace and fix. I walked in there, looked at it on Sunday and walked out, I would worry about it on Monday.

Monday plan: Rip up all of the carpet and vinyl flooring and get a good look at the horror that is going to be the wood floor in the main room, tackle whatever needs to be done and (hopefully) do first coat of paint on it.
Monday reality: I installed all of the lights throughout the house because I just didn’t want to face the wood floor yet and because I was excited to have some light in there. I also finished replacing any of the outlets that needed replacing and putting on all of the new face plates. At that point (about halfway through the day) I DID look at the floor and then the rest of my foam ceiling tiles arrived so I had another excuse to put the floor off another day. I covered the bathroom ceiling with the same ceiling tiles we put up in the main room and did not have a single tile extra, PHEW!

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Tuesday plan: Install the vinyl floor tile in the bathroom, hall and bedroom and paint second coat on the wood floor in the main room.
Tuesday reality: I laid out all forty 1x4s into the house and put a coat of poly acrylic on them so I didn’t have to do it after I put them up, then I hauled my air compressor, brad nailer and miter saw over to the house. At that point I had no choice, I sat down on the floor, looked it up on google and spent two hours throwing everything I had at the carpet glue on the wood floor. I tried absolutely everything in my arsenal, 40 grit sand paper by hand and with my orbital sander, mineral spirits, good old fashioned muscle and this is what I realized: I didn’t have time to even attempt to remove it all. So, I started trimming out the house and then at around 4 that afternoon I literally said “F*ck it!” and I just went ahead and primed the floors on the my way out the door, seriously, how bad could it be?

Wednesday plan: Build the upper kitchen cabinets and install all of the lower cabinets as well at the vanity and mirror/light in the bathroom. Stain all of the cabinets and do first coat of poly on all of them and first coat of poly on the wood floor.
Wednesday reality: Build the upper kitchen cabinets and keep trimming the house, caulk around the inside of all of the windows and paint all of the sills again. Paint the bathroom door. Do first coat of paint on the main wood floor on my way out and decide that it actually looks pretty good… maybe miracles do happen from time to time…

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

Thursday plan: Build the kitchen counter tops, stain them and then install the kitchen sink. Do first coat of poly on the counters, second coat on the cabinets and then second coat of poly on the main wood floor.
Thursday reality: I painted last coat on the bathroom door and started building the soffit around the plumbing and the shelf unit to cover up the ugliness that is the well, the well pump and the water heater in the bathroom, this takes all day and I managed to get it ALMOST all complete. SO much wood and SO much in and out of the house to my miter saw, SO many cuts. I did second coat of paint on the main wood floor on my way out.

Friday plan: Do second coat of poly on the counter tops and use leftover ceiling tile to create a backsplash behind the kitchen sink. Trim out the entire house.
Friday reality: I got the awesome news that my cousin is coming to help me again! Before she gets there I finally complete all of the trim, soffits in the bathroom etc. She brings bleach and CLR for the shower and I just cover it in spray and let is soak. GROSS. I put up a barn wood backsplash in the kitchen while she does yet another coat of paint on the inside trim of all of the windows and second coat of paint on the front door. Off and on I scrub the shower and try not to breathe in the fumes throughout the day – this was not a job just vinegar could have handled. We then put up the kitchen cabinet doors together, hauled the majority of my tools home and did first coat of poly on the floors on our way out AND had enough time to have ourselves a very deserved alcoholic beverage while sitting with out feet up for an hour!

Phew!

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

SO, what happened to the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity? They’re on back order 🙁 🙁 🙁 Initially we had every single expectation to purchase the bathroom vanity and the lower kitchen cabinets from a thrift store and then we went looking and found NOTHING. LITERALLY. NOTHING. I was at a total loss. In the month leading up to this we got everything we could from our local thrift stores and salvage depots etc. but as far as cabinets go we never found anything we could make work. This made me pretty unhappy but this isn’t my house and I wasn’t the one making any of these purchases. So, my mom chose to order cabinets from Menards and get exactly what she wanted out of their stock cabinet selection; they’re really nice and I don’t blame her at all but my $2,000 budget totally exploded.

The 24″ bathroom vanity, the 36″ kitchen sink cabinet and the rest of the cabinets making up the lower portion of the kitchen came to over $900 *total horror – chin hits desk*

I will be the first to say though (as someone who built my entire kitchen from scratch) that cabinets, whether they’re stock or custom, are worth every single penny you pay for them. These cabinets are going to be nice and I don’t think my mom will ever regret them.

So, besides still needing to install the bathroom vanity and the lower kitchen cabinets all that’s left is two coats of poly acrylic on the main wood floor and the base trim around that floor once it is done. Otherwise I actually managed to hold pretty good to my timeline and my plan. If I had had the lower cabinets I believe I would have been able to squeeze them into the timeline but, as it was, I wasn’t near so stressed when I started: knowing full well I wouldn’t have the cabinets. So, I had a little more time to spend in the house just touching up etc. which is a truly wonderful thing to have during a remodel.

I can’t wait to show you guys the complete house! Next post will be all about the styrofoam ceiling tile (they are SO cool!) and how easy it was to put it up and BOOM: total transformation. After that though we’re coming up on the full on before and after and, honestly, it is hard to believe its the same house (especially that bathroom *shudders*). It was a lot of work but it was also great to get a “break” from my desk job and exercise some of the experience I got from renovating our house. This was fun because it was such a small project, it was literally a “doable” size that meant that every single day I was there I was literally seeing MASSIVE improvements and change. On top of that it wasn’t intended to ever be “perfect” this is still a guest house and I was able to be creative without worrying so much about my below average wood working skills.

My takeaway from this project is the same I’ve taken away from every remodel and renovation I have ever participated in: Have a plan before you begin anything – you should feel confident before you start even the smallest of projects. Yes, those water lines breaking ticked me off but I wasn’t at all worried about my ability to fix them. (Sharkbite fittings are life savers.) The one absolute truth I fall on again and again and again is that: EVERYTHING IS FIXABLE.

The other big takeaway is a little help from some friends can sure make a job go a lot faster!

Putting up stryrofoam ceiling tiles was EASY. However, if I had been alone, the scope of the job would have been huge. Just having my cousin there to put the caulk on the tile and hand it to me as opposed to my having to go down the ladder, caulk the tile, go back up the ladder, put the tile on the ceiling, go down the ladder, move the ladder, get another tile, caulk the tile, go back up the ladder, put it on the ceiling…. I honestly don’t even want to think about it, I am SO relieved she was there to help me with that that day.

The demo of the house would have been a really big job for little ole’ me. For my husband however it was more like a rocking fun time and with my mom and her boyfriend’s help what would have been an ENTIRE day for me turned into only a couple of hours of work.

And that’s the thing to remember: If you know help is coming plan projects for that day for when they can be the most help. Oftentimes those places when another set of hands can be the most helpful to you are not always what you think: just because a project scares you or seems really difficult doesn’t always mean someone else can help at all. Good things to keep in mind for in the future!

When a remodel plan meets reality during the little house renovation and remodeling, diy, do it yourself, how to organize and work through problems

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38 Comments

  1. May 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    PHew! I was worn out just reading about it!! So who is going to move in when it’s finished? And of course, I can’t wait to see the after pics.

    • May 16, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks Susan, it was a fun little remodel!

  2. May 16, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Looking forward to the before and after photos! Good work!

  3. May 17, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Wow, you are really focused and organized. I am looking forward to seeing the house when it is done.

  4. May 17, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Great when a plan works out so well. Great tutorial. Looking forward to the next post on the guest house.
    Joy

  5. May 17, 2017 at 5:23 am

    This is not a fun “little” remodel. Again this week you astound me with the projects you take on. The house looks better already. I really look forward to seeing the progress on it.

    Have a good week.

    • May 17, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks Leanna! lol sometimes I do think I might be crazy but it sure was nice to get out from behind a desk for awhile!

  6. May 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I’m feeling overwhelmed because we are having new flooring laid in the dining room! This read has been a much needed giver of perspective!

    • May 17, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      I just always repeat to myself over and over again, “Everything is fixable – this too shall pass.” lol it helps in ANY remodel situation! Thanks for coming by Michele 🙂

  7. May 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Happy that in the frustrations you have found valuable “take aways” to be thankful for. 🙂

  8. JaneEllen Jones
    May 18, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    I am so amazed at what you can do, incredible, you are certainly to be applauded. You have done such an awesome job and I can hardly wait to see the after reveal. Wow girl. Must have so much energy, keep trying to remember when I was young and could do much in one day/week. Whomever gets to stay in that guest house will be very lucky comfy guest. Take a breather, you sure do deserve one.
    Until the reveal, have great weekend

    • May 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you JaneEllen, it was great to get out from behind a desk for a couple of weeks!

  9. May 19, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Wow!!! That’s a lot of work!! Can’t wait to see it finished.

  10. May 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    It is really a tough task to get done. You did a great job, waiting for the final outcome.

  11. Jann Olson
    May 20, 2017 at 1:29 am

    A lot of work, but it is going to be so cute! Fun to see your imagination come to life. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  12. Sue
    May 21, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    You just blow me away with your skills, energy, vision, work ethic, and design sense… I can’t wait to see the finished project! This is really a great little place and you are doing a fabulous job… (I was exhausted by the time I got to the end of the article though… )

    And as for who will be living there when it is done, How about ME ME ME ME!!!!! Hahaha.

    Keep up the good work… you make me want to go renovate an entire Neighborhood~~~~~

    • May 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks so much Sue, it is always so great to hear from you!! I was exhausted writing the article lol just trying to remember what happened each day etc. It really went by so fast! I have the countertops to finish this week and that will be the post coming out on Monday, then I will finally be able to take pictures of the finished house!

  13. Ann in UK
    May 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Really impressed with honesty of your account as well as your achievement

  14. lora
    May 21, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Really Really Really admire the skills you have! Honestly, I would so love to be able to say I fixed the plumbing and could mud walls. You go girl!

    • May 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Lora thanks so much! Plumbing used to be the absolute bane of my existence but (as they say) practice makes perfect and I finally now have the tools and a few other jobs under my belt that I don’t dread it so much!

  15. Marlene Stephenson
    May 22, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Well you have done quite a lot and it looks really nice. I know you make your mom proud.

  16. May 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    You are tenacious, good job on staying on track. I love how you worded it. Reality takes so much longer then we think!

  17. May 24, 2017 at 12:37 am

    I look forward to seeing how it turns out! I work on the, “Everything is fixable” principle too!

  18. May 24, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Wow, you’ve got me sitting on the edge of my seat, Tarah–can’t wait to see the final product 🙂 Thanks for linking up with us at Vintage Charm–

  19. May 25, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Hats off to you this is a major undertaking! Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story, have a great week and a Happy Holiday.

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Iris Nacole
Making a shoe rack and closet storage out an old ladder

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