Five months ago we bought a fixer-upper. During the “height of Covid” we closed on our first house at a folding table in our front lawn while our older kids watched TV inside. It was a posh way to buy a house: rent it for two years and then buy it. No packing boxes, hanging curtains or getting used to a new neighborhood.
The months leading up to buying the house were stressful: the negotiations, having to come up with a plan B in case it didn’t work out and helping the kids manage their expectations. Two of our kids have summer birthdays and they kept asking, “Will I have my birthday party in this house?” “Will we have to move again?” We figured out our then four year old daughter had already lived in four houses. No wonder she was concerned about where she was going to celebrate her birthday. But, yea!, we didn’t have to move and we got to buy a beautiful home that we’re making ours.
One of the unique aspects of buying this house is that while we were renting it, the previous owners kept one of the upstairs bedrooms as a storage unit and we didn’t have access to it. So, there was “the other room” just waiting to be discovered and renovated once we bought the house.
Dave and I don’t sit still very often. If you are familiar with Strengths Finder, I am an activator and achiever and he is an achiever and has discipline. We were made for a fixer-upper. I mean, Chip and Joanna Gaines were our faithful companions in France. Fixer-Upper is the only show we own every episode of every season. They discipled us into thinking we can “scrape the ceilings, add can lights and freshen up the paint” all in a weekend. Yes we can!
It took nine days instead of two and Dave’s feet were totally shot afterwards, but we did it. We renovated the three upstairs bedrooms. We scraped the popcorn ceiling, painted the ceilings, the walls, installed new light fixtures and had new carpet installed. My friends Trisha and Sarah came and helped paint the walls and ceilings late into the night (or next morning). We learned a lot along the way. Here are a few things we learned.
- It is worth doing things right
- Even if you think you are doing things right, there are things that you aren’t doing right
- Little changes make a big difference
- Hire help when you can and if you can’t YouTube is full of free advice
It is worth doing things right
I hate when people say this. I’m an activator. Let’s get it done now. Not tomorrow, not when the paint dries not when the sunrises. But, that bite me in the bum and make for a not so great finished product. Examples of this are:
-Wash the walls before painting them. The room that had been used as a storage unit by the previous owners was a great example. The walls were very dusty and had pet hair on them. It was important to wipe them down before painting. I did not wipe down the walls of the room that has the shower upstairs and my paint smeared. Who knew that soap scum builds up on the walls and it needs to be degreased?? My paint didn’t stick well in the bathroom but it sure did in the bedroom.
-Priming is a pain but… worth it when painting over dark accent walls. We had two dark blue accent walls we painted over and I primed them both. The extra step helped the color be more uniform.
-Buy nice paint and not the oops cans for $9, unless you’re painting a closet. There was a very kind lady at one of the hardware stores that will remain unnamed, who would get returned cans of paint, tint it “Repose Gray” and then call to let me know she had a can for me to pick up. Amazing! Instead of paying $36 a can, I was paying $9. What could be better than that? Raise your hand if you can think of 6 problems with “such a deal.” First, she couldn’t match the color exactly, so when I ran out of a can, I couldn’t just pick up the next can and keep going. Next, I couldn’t go back and do touch ups. Well, I did and now you can see the splotches of different shades of “repose gray” that I used. Also, down the road when I need to patch holes, I don’t know what I’ll do. Lastly, I now have several cans of of several shades of repose gray sitting in our garage taking up valuable real estate, in case I need to some for touch ups.
For the thrifty-hearted like myself that would have a hard time passing up such a kind offer and opportunity to buy $9 gallons of paint that are almost the right shade, here are two ideas. One, use the paint in the closets. It is amazing how much paint a closet can consume. You probably won’t need to touch up a closet down the road and if you do, who cares if the color is slightly off. Two, you can buy an empty five gallon bucket and pour all the different shades of repose gray into the bucket and make your own cocktail to last the winter, or as long as it takes you to exhaust your love of said color. It would be easy to take a sample of your cocktail and have it color matched down the road. I also have another friend who goes to a paint store downtown Orlando that retints paint in large quantities and resells it at a cheaper price. So basically you still get the good price but you get in a larger quantity. But for an activator like me, I couldn’t pause and go down there and buy 5 gallons of repose gray. How could I have known how much I would love that color?
Well, I’ll have to come back to my other lessons learned while renovating the kids’ bedrooms in nine days. My bébé is waking and the sun will be rising soon.