Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Starting A New House Renovation & Ending In Disaster

We had some renters move out a few weeks ago, a wonderful couple who've been there 7 years. The 1963 ranch they were in hadn't been updated in at least a decade, though, so John and I are tackling a whole house refresh and renovation.

Because the renters had big dogs, all of the trim looked like this:

It's sticky, so won't vacuum up. An easy way to clean fuzzy trim like this is to grab a cheap plastic broom, wet the bristles in the sink, and scrub. Saves time and your back.

Here's the trim after cleaning:

And then after painting:

Ahhh. See, if I have to paint trim, I want it to be super dirty so I get this kind of result. 
(Wall paint is still to come. Always paint the trim first!)

I never knew a fridge could have this many nooks and crannies, y'all. I had to use a toothbrush. I kept quitting and coming back, so this was a 3-day clean. Oof.

Here's a look at the kitchen:

We installed these IKEA cabinets 10 years ago, and let me sing their praises for a sec, because dang. This kitchen has taken some serious abuse - grease splatters and spills galore - but after a quick wipe down the cabinets look brand new. The renters didn't use drawer liners or contact paper, but every stain wiped off like nothing. Just... wow. We've always loved IKEA cabinetry (and have installed it in at least half a dozen kitchens), but it's nice to see it holding up to the Rental test.

See how the side of the fridge is scuffed up? That's after scrubbing, so what's left are permanent marks.

This was so fun to do. The epoxy paint is thin but pools beautifully to fill dings and scratches, and it has a tiny brush so you can dab it only where needed. Some of the darker scuffs needed two coats, but it dries in minutes, so still doable in one go. (I used this Rustoleum paint.)

Aren't Before and Afters fun? Let's do another one. 
Here's the petri dish of a front door:

This is the original wooden front door - it weighs a ton - and the glass screen door in front was trapping all the Florida moisture inside, which made it and the trim perpetually mildewy. Yech.

After a thorough bleaching and scrub down, John sprayed on fresh new paint, and look how pretty:

We also removed the old screen door to prevent the mildew from coming back, which makes the house look so much better from the curb. Just have to finish patching and painting that trim.

Oh hey, and if you like that black door...

Then how about a whole house of them?

Yep, we're going BOLD with this reno, y'all. We're switching from the warm beige and brushed silver accents to a cooler gray with black accents. We... may regret it? But honestly the white doors were half black with scuffs and dirt anyway, and I really think this will look amazing with the wall paint we chose. (Technically the doors are an off-black, more charcoal, which isn't quite as cold and stark as true black.)

Also how do you like John's murder room setup in the garage, eh? This is one of the extremely rare circumstances where we recommend a paint sprayer. (The only other time is for painting cabinetry.) John plastic'd off all the walls and floor, then drilled paint sticks into the top of each door to hold them away from the walls while they dry. Totally worth the hassle of the sprayer for the speed and perfect finish; no brush strokes or drips, yessss.

I intended to replace this chandelier, but John got to looking at it, and you know how we love a challenge...

 So I scrubbed off the dust, John fixed the arms, and we took it home and strung it up on a 2X4 stretched between 2 ladders:

This set up is perfect for painting lights; really lets you get into all the hard to reach areas.

And LOOK how beautiful this finish turned out:

We used this Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2X in flat black, only $4 at Home Depot. It seriously looks like a baked-on powder coat. Color me impressed!

One more:

Both bathrooms don't have exhaust fans (another item on John's to-do list) so all the fixtures are pretty rusty.

Gobsmacked how much rust came off with a scratchy scrubbing pad! I could almost re-install this as-is, but we're going with all black accents, so...

OoooOOOOOooh. Shaxay.

After all these successes it's high time we get to the big disaster, though, don't you think? Here comes the lead-up:

Dumping the water after only half of one room:


Thankfully there's only carpet in 2 bedrooms and the rest of the house is tile, because sweet mercy.

Here's the Before in one of those rooms:

And the same room After:

Not too bad!

But back to the disaster.

Because I went over the carpets several times to get the stains out, they were pretty soaked from cleaning. So to help them dry out, we left the A/C cranked over night.

The next day - which was yesterday - I was back in the house painting still MORE trim, when I noticed something odd in the largest bedroom.

::insert ominous foreshadowing here::

There were small splatters of water on the floor, almost like I'd walked through a puddle and had dripped in a few spots. Except I hadn't.

I mentioned the oddity to John, who immediately - and as it turned out, correctly - jumped to the worst possible conclusion. He hastily toweled off the wet spots on the floor, and as I walked across the area again, we watched those same small puddles reappear over the cracks in the laminate floor:


Yep, our floor was leaking UP.

That's bad, y'all. Real bad. Disaster bad.

Within two minutes we found the source of our calamity: the A/C unit - housed in a closet right outside the master bedroom door, and perhaps driven to its limit by being cranked overnight - had suffered some sort of blockage and overflowed the drip pan. The water then flooded out into the master bedroom and closet, under the floorboards.

The good new is this particular flooring is plastic water-proof laminate, so it's not destroyed. In fact we bought it for exactly this reason, though at the time we were safeguarding against dog pee, not flooding air conditioners, ha.

The other good news is the laminate is installed over the original Terrazzo, which is also waterproof. So nothing structural other than a little trim has gotten wet or runs any risk of mold.

That's where the good news ends, though, because we still have a broken A/C and John had to spend last night ripping up & toweling off a whole lot of flooring:

Womp Womp. Our to-do list on this reno keeps getting longer, y'all. Good thing we like projects. 
::weak smile::

Once the floor and laminate is completely dry (we have a giant de-humidifier going) John will be re-installing the floor. We numbered all the laminate pieces with blue tape as he pulled them up, so that should go relatively quick:

Air conditioning repair, on the other hand, is one of the few things we *don't* try to do ourselves, so we have someone coming out tomorrow. Fingers crossed it's a quick fix and not too painful, since it's 95 degrees here and we want to get back to work!

We still have loads to do: ceilings, closets, replacing a toilet or two, all new bath fixtures, and on and on. We're saving painting the walls for last, because that's the most fun. :) I can't wait to show y'all how it turns out, though I'm slightly terrified. Gosh I hope it looks good. These grays and blacks are outside my comfort zone, and we're really depending on them to cool the floor tile throughout the house to a better neutral! (It looks sickly pink now, but once we paint the walls and switch to cooler light bulbs, it should look much better.)

Which reminds me:

Have we tested different grout cleaners and geeked out over the winner? Yes, yes we have.

Stay tuned!


P.S. Speaking of winners, let's announce a whole BUNCH. First, from my last post's art roundup:

The winner of the Droid print set is Amanda (with the blog Amidala)
The winner of the Tiki print set is Hayley
And the winner of the Potter print set is Lu L.

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing address so I can ship those out!

And finally, last month's Squeeegineer winners are Sara S. & Laura K.! Congrats, you two, and please check your inboxes for a message from John so you can choose your prizes.


  1. I love how you keep it real and show gritty details.

    1. Oh yeah, ALL the grit! :p I'm hoping it will make the finished "After"s that much more impressive, ha.

  2. Would... y'all like to come visit someone who lives near your parents in Williamsburg and help us reno? (Just kidding)

  3. Love the progress pics and your tips. Good luck to you both!

  4. You have no idea how tickled I am every time I see you guys use a product (in this case spray paint) that I'm already using. It makes me feel like I chose wisely :).

  5. Do y'all have a scaffold? I'm sure you do (and it's probably shown up in some of your pictures), but if you don't, I HIGHLY recommend investing in one. (See what I did there? "Highly?" "Scaffold?" Sorry.) I'm short, with anxiety and bad knees, so being able to focus on the painting and not constantly worry about falling off a ladder? Well worth the $150 I paid a dozen years ago.

    1. We do! We have a baker's scaffold, which is super handy for high-up work. (You can see me using it in the post where I paint a compass rose on a friend's ceiling.) This house only has 8 foot ceilings, though, so we don't need it here.

  6. My go to grout cleaning tool is a grout eraser. I bought a bunch from a boat supply place online and it’s the only thing that cleaned up our kitchen grout. It made this eraser dust-just like you get if you use a pencil eraser. But the grout is impeccable! Backbreaking work though.

  7. Have you seen those almost ground level weeding benches with wheels? I feel like it might be a good investment with all the trim work you're doing. :) I can't wait to see the end results - especially the doors!

  8. I eagerly await your grout cleaning video as ours badly needs help.

  9. I can’t wait to see those doors up!

    I’m sorry about the AC, silver lining it was you and not the next renters who broke it.

  10. The skills you two have for this kind of work is amazing! I wish I had half the skills/energy you guys have for some projects!
    The condensate could have been plugged and overflowed the drain pan in the AC. Did you make sure that the filters are clean? Lack of airflow can cause also the coil to ice up and then when it thaws...big mess! I'm not a technician, and especially not one in Florida. Now I'm curious to know what it was (apparently being nerdy comes in all forms).

    1. Hi Melissa! The A/C drain pipe was clogged, so it backed up and overflowed the drain pan like you said. The deep irony is there IS a water overflow sensor to shut down the unit when that happens... dangling to the side not installed. (You have to laugh at this point, right?)

      What I found fascinating was how our A/C pro fixed the clog: he literally hooked up a Shop-Vac to the drain end outside and switched it on, which sucked out whatever the clog was. I'm all, WE COULD HAVE DONE THAT. Ha! Ah well, this is how we learn, right?

  11. I’m an old lady now (early 40’s) and ready to geek out with you about your grout winner! 🤣 Thanks in advance!

  12. To clean my grout I just sprayed peroxide on it, let that sit for a minute, and attacked it with a scrub brush on my power drill, lol.

  13. Goodness CityKitty! You are NOT an old lady! In your early 40's-you are still a youngster.

  14. I was about to throw away a wall-mounted make-up mirror that was rusty, and not the same finish as my new house, now I will try to paint it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Wow! I love seeing the big difference you can make with small changes. <3

  16. Sorry you had a hiccup, but I'm glad your painting adventures have gone well. May I ask why you paint the trim first? I'd be inclined to do it last in case there were any drips, so I'd love to hear why it's best to do it in the opposite order.

    Sadly I'm looking forward to your grout cleaning info. My bathroom is in desperate need.

    Andrea in MO

    1. Hi Andrea! We paint trim first for 2 reasons: 1) you can get trim paint on the walls that way, so you only have to cut the bottom edge. Overpainting onto the walls makes sure you get the full caulk line filled in with paint, and it goes MUCH faster. (Cutting in both the wall and floor side of trim is much harder - and taping takes too long and risks pulling off the fresh paint.)

      2) It's easier to cut in wall paint against trim than the other way around. The wall paint is on a flat surface, as opposed to the rounded edges of the trim & caulking, so getting that nice straight line is much easier coming at it from the wall side.

      As for drips, if you spot them within a few minutes they wipe off easily with a wet cloth, so no biggie there.

      Hope that helps!

    2. I knew there was a good reason! Thanks for taking the time to explain.

      Andrea in MO

  17. This is great stuff to read! It's super satisfying to see the before and afters of cleaning, etc!
    I have a question, though - is it normal for renters not to deep clean before they leave? Or in this case, did you tell them they didn't have to? Whenever we've moved out of anywhere, my husband has always stressed over the cleaning, usually leaving it FAR cleaner than it was when we moved into a place, because he's terrified of not getting the security deposit back. We scrub the fridge. We clean the carpets. We scrub the baseboards. And I understand not touching up paint on the fridge or anything like that, but I'm just a little surprised at some "basic" cleaning that you're doing that I thought the renters would have done (like clean the fridge, etc).

    1. Hi Sarah! Heh, no, this is NOT normal. All I can say is John is the Hufflepuffiest landlord to ever roam the earth, and that we liked our renters a lot. That said, we DID keep back the pet deposit (which was about a third of the security deposit) to help pay for some of the extra work - and going forward we'll have a much more specific lease when it comes to cleaning. 'Cuz I'm with you: I remember living in fear every time we moved, and stress-cleaning 'til dawn! Ha!


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>