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infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 11:41 a.m.

So I've owned this house for a couple years now.  A charming 3 (well, 2.5) story colonial farmhouse just on the edge of Baltimore city limits sitting on 0.38 acres.  I bought it for a steal and it's structurally sound but essentially everything needs updating.  It's all wallpaper, drop ceilings installed under cracked plaster ceilings, 2 prong outlets, etc.  My wife and I are planning on moving down to South Florida ASAP to be near family and get my car on Sebring and I thought a build thread on here might help motivate me to work a bit more quickly.  I'm usually a bit short on energy after working a 9 hour day and then going home and painting or whatever.  I went through my cell phone and grabbed a bunch of pictures (wish I had more) and I'll catch everything up to now.  About a month ago we started working on this house for reals for real.  My budget is small so I'm quite literally renovating this house on a challenge budget.  So we'll start this with a picture of the house the day I bought it, August 2016

The old aluminum siding could stand a paint job but it's fine for now.  You can just barely see on the bottom right hand side of the photo my old 2001 Dodge Caravan that I painted white with red hot rod flames.  That was a $50 Rustoleum job.  That van was great.  And then here's the living room.  Wallpaper and drop ceilings including.  Oh, and a fake mantle.  There was never a fireplace there, just some stairs.  But we'll get to that in about two years.

And the yellow kitchen.

Like I said, structurally sound, but ugly.  Door on the left goes down into the basement.  Door on the right goes into the summer kitchen, which is kinda neat.  It had a stove and everything.

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 11:50 a.m.

Fast forward a month or so.  I hate the color yellow on houses.  I have always loved red kitchens and/or dining rooms, so the first thing I did was paint the kitchen a beautiful bold red.

Not long after this I painted the bottom cabinets black as well, because of course I have to have everything black and red.  It looked better than the busted up old oak cabinets, but it definitely didn't look great.  Fortunately there's not really much photo evidence in existence of those cabinets.  

Not a lot happened for months.  At this time I was planning on fixing this house up and staying here and making Baltimore my home.  I was focusing more on my new band, Ashes of Mankind, and my new Mustang instead of my house.  I painted the living room - over the wallpaper, because I'm a dumbass - but wasn't happy with the color.  I wanted a light silvery gray and wound up with more of a warm greige, which I hated.  So I bought another gray and went in the opposite direction and wound up with a medium blueish gray, which made the living room dark.  Okay let's just stop painting the living room for a while, it's getting expensive.  Instead I focused on buying guitars and wine.  

Oh, and here's the tub.  Just a tub, no shower.  Shortly after I got the house I installed one of those crappy loops above the tub that holds two shower curtains, which I hate.  It took me a long time to really do anything to the bathroom.  And showing its age, my house is indeed 5 bedrooms and 1 small bathroom.

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:00 p.m.

Around this time (mid 2017ish) I started dating the woman I eventually married, and around that time I decided to work on the summer kitchen.  It very quickly morphed into "that room I throw all my excess E36 M3" and I wasn't very happy with that, or its linoleum floors.  I was scratching my head what to do with it and at the time I was a bartender, so I thought hey why not build a bar in there!  So I started.  Lots of windows, lots of light in this room.  But no heat or A/C so it's pretty much a fair weather room only.

Yikes.  I had forgotten how unappealing that room was.  Complete in this picture is a BMW straight 6 valve cover turned into a clock, a 6 gallon carboy for fermenting my own beer, and a million LED lightbulbs in plastic bags, because around this time I changed every bulb in my house to LED and just bought them bulk.  So about $60 in lumber and $40 in paint later and the room started to change.

My cat Sarlacc is chilling in the window on the right.  I later stained the lower boards on the bar black and got some cheap floorboards from Ollie's for about $100 total and now it has (engineered) wood floors that look a million times better.  I'll have to get an updated picture one of these days.

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:23 p.m.

Fast forward a touch and it's December 2017 and I somehow convinced this woman to marry me.  We just had a little courthouse wedding and didn't tell anyone.  10 months later we had a ceremony at our house and broke the news to everyone.  Here we are at the courthouse though.  It was like 17 degrees outside.

So fast forward about 10 months to October 2018 and we hadn't really done anything to the house at all.  We moved some furniture around and complained a bit and I did some work in the basement (no pictures unfortunately.)  Around that time we realized that we wanted to eventually have a kid (I agreed to 0.5 kids, she wants a whole one) and living in Baltimore city means we have E36M3 schools, E36M3 property taxes, E36M3 roads, E36M3 crime rates (in the past few years Baltimore has been nationally rated #1 in murder, violent crime, and bad drivers) although it has an amazing arts and music scene.  And a killer craft beer/pub scene.  But those aren't enough.  We visited my parents down in Sebring, FL and really had a great time.  Went down to Key West with them and really really had a great time.  And we decided let's get the hell out of Baltimore.  It's overpriced and dangerous.  Let's move to Florida!  Initially we were going to move to Tampa but after a lot of thought we decided we'll just  move down to Sebring.  I have a lot of family there and it's a good spot for racing.  

So with the move in mind, we had to start actually working on this house.  So let's get started!  The day after we came back from our honeymoon I grabbed a crowbar.  Remember that wall in my living room with a fake mantle?  It was build immediately after the house was completed, to block off these beautiful wooden stairs and sort of separate the living room from the rest of the house, almost like to create two separate living spaces.  So that wall had to go.

Here's how it started.

Then after some work with the crowbar.  And the plaster on the ceiling was cracked and falling in a few areas so I decided to just rip out the ceiling as well:

Getting there.  You can see there's something being hidden by this wall:

And here we are with that stupid wall removed!  And most of the ceiling.  Pretty crappy picture but you get the point.  I managed to get some insulation on sale at home depot and stuffed that up in there - so this ceiling was officially the first part of the house to have insulation, yay!  And my cat Sarlacc walking by.

Yeah, that's some old knob and tube wiring.  Like I said, the house has never been updated.  It has, shall we say, "quirks"

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:31 p.m.

So far at that point I'd spent around 1-200 total on the pub, $100 on paint and supplies for the kitchen, and $50 on enough insulation to do the ceiling in the living room.  So keeping things cheap was working out well.  We didn't do much during the winter other than be cold.  It's not a drafty house, but without insulation it doesn't hold heat long, and we're still on heating oil which gets expensive.  So we just turned the thermostat down and dealt with it.  Oh and then totaled her civic.

So now we're at springtime with the weather finally getting warmer.  So we did what you're supposed to do, which is get some rats as pets.  We named them Peanut Butter (aft) and Jelly (fore).

And then we got back to work on the house, after generally putting it off for too long.  I started working extra hours though so time got scarce.  But we decided to start going after the wallpaper that covered almost every room.  We started in the stairwell

I had never removed wallpaper before at that point.  Now, I would like to find who invented wallpaper so I can go back in time and punch them.  My studio is on the left with a few guitars hanging and an SM7 on a stand for vocals.  I love these big wooden stairs!  And the pushbutton lightswitches are neat, but also kind of a fire hazard so those need to go.


infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:37 p.m.

We painted and redid the bathroom (mostly) but I don't have pictures yet.  We're almost done so I'm waiting until we're done so I can pull out my DSLR and take some real photos of it.  We also started on the kitchen.  Remember the grungy old cabinets and red walls?  Well, I read that Zillow did some analysis and found that light blue kitchens on average sold for about $5 grand more.  So time for a new color.  So there's $50.  And a new counter.  I wish I could afford granite or marble or something of that nature but I can't.  Fortunately Formica is geting pretty nice these days.  $120 for the counter.  I had to remove some extra pipes going up the corner, which is why there's no paint there.  Long story.  We also are going to install new wall cabinets next.  Once we find them on FB Marketplace for the right price.  We also painted the cabinets white.  The kitchen is so much brighter now!

Oh and then I had to fix some rotting pipes back in the wall.  This was a nightmare.

And the old red chipped door:

Got repainted navy blue (bad lighting in the picture)

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:40 p.m.

Which brings us up to today.  We have a beautiful pedestal sink we scored for $50 on FB Marketplace that we'll try to do this afternoon.  Then hopefully in a paycheck or so I'll grab some tile and tile around the shower area and make it an actual shower(!).  After that we just need new wall cabinets in the kitchen, a new fridge, refinish the floors, and finish drywalling the ceiling in the living room.  We don't own a truck or have any friends with full size trucks so we have to wait and save up and rent a uhaul pickup for a day and use that to buy/transport drywall and take old stuff to the dump.  It costs a bit so we try to wait until we really need it.  Soon we get to start on the bedrooms.

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 12:44 p.m.

Also not included in the pictures: I replaced a majority of the electrical outlets with 3 prong outlets and grounded them.  Added two new circuits in the basement so there's electricity down there as well, and two lights in the basement ceiling.  My french drain exited on the east side of the basement and ran about 100' down the side of the property adjacent to the street, where it then exited.  Over the years roots had grown into the pipes and clogged them, so one night we had really bad rain and I woke up to a foot of water in my basement.  I lost a few grand in guitar amps and equipment that night.  It sucked.  I dug up the last 40' of terra cotta pipe and replaced it with PVC.  Still need a little work finishing that but it drains nicely now and the basement stays bone dry.  Built a new workbench in the shed out back, complete with an outlet, some small speakers and a phone charger wired up to it.  And planted a tomato/basil/pepper garden.  Also last week we did some landscaping and planted two rose bushes and two mums, with mulch around.  I need to save up and buy a really tall ladder and some paint so I can do the exterior.  I was thinking a very light gray with white trim/windows.

trucke SuperDork
9/16/19 12:46 p.m.

I admire your resolve!  Keep at it!

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 1:04 p.m.

Thanks, I definitely will!  We really want to move so every day after work we're trying to do something.  It just has to wait on money, basically.  But hopefully today I can install the new bathroom sink, and then I'll try to snap an updated photo of the bathroom.  Night and day differences, for $100 so far.  Once I finish the bathroom it'll probably come out to $200-250 total.  You can do things super cheap if you just get nice used stuff - and this house is a century old so older looking stuff fits it better anyways.  

nedc Reader
9/16/19 1:39 p.m.

That old house has a lot of charm so I wouldn't 'modernize' it too much. Also, are you just doing a reno to make it more sellable so you can move to Florida...or to live in? Anyway, looking good so far.

infinitenexus Reader
9/16/19 2:21 p.m.
nedc said:

That old house has a lot of charm so I wouldn't 'modernize' it too much. Also, are you just doing a reno to make it more sellable so you can move to Florida...or to live in? Anyway, looking good so far.

Everyone that comes into the house remarks on how much charm it has.  It really is a neat house.  I'm just fixing it up so I can sell it and move.  So I'm basing my color selections on some research I've done on which colors sell for the most money.  I definitely don't want to modernize it, style-wise.  I'm trying to keep the old farmhouse look/feel with some modern touches, like better outlets and lights, etc.  The hard part is going to be a dryer.  It doesn't currently have one, which I know hurts resell value a good bit. All I have is a standard 120V outlet there so I can either try to find a 120V dryer, which they do exist, or learn to wire up a 240V outlet somewhere.  

Vigo MegaDork
9/16/19 4:46 p.m.

Just wire up a new circuit. It's 3 or 4 wires, a bunch of screws, and a 4" holesaw to make a spot for a drier.  

When i read the thread title my urge to snark was intense, but after reading I actually have a lot of faith in this whole effort! One of the things that's funny about being a person who works on both houses and cars is the extent to which you realize that houses are a hot mess of sticks and nails that are a complete quality disaster compared to factory-built stuff like cars, and the only sane approach to improving them is to artfully disguise that which sucks so that the occupant doesn't notice it's crap. You can't go after making every wall flat and every corner square after the fact or you might as well knock it down and start over. Scope creep and perfectionism will ruin you when working on a house, especially when you're trying to make money. With that in mind i think you're approaching this with a healthy mindset. laugh

9/16/19 4:55 p.m.

Skeptical at first, but when the staircase came out of hiding, I became a convert.



9/16/19 5:10 p.m.

I like that in your wedding pic you look like a classy european vampire.

Good luck on the old house- these things are pains in the ass, far beyond what a car can be like. BTW, did you know that a mix of fabric softener and water will help remove wallpaper? Mix 50/50 in a spray bottle, soak the wall and wait 10 minutes before taking a paint scraper to it. The stuff eats the glue underneath.

brad131a4 Reader
9/16/19 11:20 p.m.

Please say you removed the knob and tube before you insulated. It's not rated to be covered by insulation as the insulation that is on it, if it's still intact is over 80 years old. Hopefully when you bought the house it had a  panel upgrade. If not that might be a good thing to add to the improvement list. Dryer is just a 10/3 with ground.  

infinitenexus Reader
9/17/19 6:42 a.m.

I have changed over the wiring that I've come across.  Still some more to do there but about half of the house has had the wiring updated.  The insulation in the ceiling is brand new though.  The breaker box is more modern, probably from the 80s or so.  It's not one of the old Federal Pacific ones either.  And thanks everyone for the tip on adding a 240 socket.  I would really like to do that, as having a dryer would help sell the house and just be really convenient.


Mostly I'm just trying to repaint everything, update what I can, get it all looking nice and fingers crossed it'll improve the looks of this house enough to bump up the value a good bit.  I bought it for a very low price so I think I can do it.  


We didn't get anything done last night as SWMBO just came down with tonsillitis so we just relaxed.  I think today I'll try to install the pedestal sink.  That thing is heavy though.  It's gotta be close to 100 pounds.

BA5 Reader
9/17/19 7:19 a.m.

I'm digging this.  As someone who enjoys working on their own house, I've never thought to try doing it on a challenge budget.  I try to keep costs under control, but to do it to your level is quite admirable! 

infinitenexus Reader
9/17/19 9:43 a.m.

The challenge budget thing is something I kinda realized just recently.  Baltimore being an expensive place and me making a few financial mistakes resulting in some debts, I dont have much spare cash so it was a shoestring budget anyways.  But recently I realized that we're probably going to finish this house for around a challenge budget.  Which is kinda neat.  If my wife is feeling a little better today, then I'll install the new bathroom sink and update with some pictures.  It's the prettiest $50 sink ever.

infinitenexus Reader
9/19/19 11:26 a.m.

Haven't been able to do much the past couple days, with a sick wife.  Also forgot to mention that when we went shopping for a light blue for the bathroom, we went to Lowe's and started picking out a color.  Then on a whim I remembered they have that rack of mistakes, wrong color mixes, etc that are marked down.  Turns out they had interior semigloss light blue, a gallon for $9.  The color is great, also.  I'll try to snap a photo today.  I also picked up another $9 gallon of greige for my studio.  And the other day we planted some flowers, a border, and mulched around the front corner.  The plant in the back is a hydrangea that immediately died, not sure why.  So the next day we replaced it with another rose bush.  There's another small planting area on the other side of the front porch and I used the remainder of the mulch there, around two rhododendrons.

Those rocks along the front edge of my porch are from a cross-country road trip I took a few years ago.  I drove from Baltimore, down the coast of California, and back.  I collected neat rocks from across the country on my way, and now three years later I'm wondering what I'm going to do with two dozen head-sized rocks.  Probably throw them in the woods or something.  Also fun story - you'll note a Little Ceasar's Pizza box on the chair on the porch.  My wife used the app and ordered a pizza with pepperoni on everything and mushrooms on half.  She goes to pick up the pizza and gets mushrooms on half and pepperoni on half.  So she calls them to explain the mistake, turns around and goes back to get a new pizza.  She figures she didn't have to check it so she grabbed the new one and came home.  She opens it up...  And it's pepperoni on half, mushrooms on half.  So she goes back again, and on the third try they FINALLY get it right.  Mostly.  Then she gets pepperoni on everything and mushrooms on like a quarter of it.  And she picked half of the mushrooms off anyways, haha.

Today I have to finish mowing the lawn.  I found a tiny leak under the sink so I have to deal with that again, which I'm not happy about.  If I have time I want to try to get that new sink installed.  I hate having a build thread and not posting updates.

infinitenexus Reader
9/20/19 11:09 a.m.

Last night I finally installed the new bathroom sink.  It was fairly straightforward, just needed a new p trap and some braided supply lines to replace the original hard ones.  So here's our before shot, and you can see the nice blue I got for $9 for the bathroom, as well as the crappy original sink on the right.  Paint behind the shower curtain area is half done because that area is going to be tiled soon.  You can also see the stupid knee wall at the head of the tub, and the shower pipe/circular curtain holder crap I installed as a temp a while ago, so we could shower instead of bathe.  I'm going to remove the knee wall and build a proper wall all the way to the ceiling so I can install proper new plumbing and a shower head and a real shower curtain rod.  The convenience factor will increase but added that narrow wall will make the bathroom feel smaller, which sucks because it's already a small bathroom.

The old sink was hanging on the wall via a big metal lip screwed into the wall.  Removed that and managed to unscrew the original water supply pipes.  And yeah there was some old crud that dripped the past month or so, so we have some rust stains on the baseboard that I'll have to take care of.  Proper gasket has been purchased so now all gunk will go down the drain where it belongs.

The wall was cleaned up and painted, and new sink installed.  Tonight I'll bolt it down to the floor/wall, in this photo it's just sitting there.  But it's a huge upgrade.  Not bad for $50.  Also you can see our new medicine cabinet, which was $20 from facebook marketplace.  Some $0.99 white paint on the frame made it look as good as new.

Also I weighed this new sink and it was 80.4 pounds.  Heavy stuff.

infinitenexus Reader
9/20/19 11:13 a.m.

So we're having an interesting problem - all the plants that we plant up front just die.  All the flowers we planted the other day, they're already wilting pretty noticably.  We water them gently every morning, they get good morning sunshine, not too much.  We planted a hydrangea that died the day we planted it.  I'd rather these plants not die.  Maybe the soil is garbage or something?  Maybe there's not enough direct sun?  It's annoying and I'd like to fix it before it turns expensive.  On the positive side, our tomato plants are producing a ton of tomatoes and last night I got to make an awesome thick chunky sauce, with lots of garlic and basil.  Good stuff.  Plans for tonight are securly fastening the sink to the wall/floor and trying to finish painting the faces of the cabinets so I can install those and make the kitchen look some semblance of partially complete.  This weekend, who knows.  We may go ahead and remove those old 1950s steel cabinets from the wall and paint back there, just to make some progress.  Those effers are ugly.  And heavy.  

9/20/19 2:30 p.m.

I'd make a run to a garden center and check for an acid tester for your soil. God knows what the prior owners have been dumping out into it.

infinitenexus Reader
9/20/19 3:04 p.m.

Good call.  I know it's not in the sunniest location (north facing side of the house) but I feel like things just have no chance up front here.  I'll try to pick that up today or this weekend.

Shadeux Reader
9/20/19 3:10 p.m.

Awesome! You reno, I'll read! Subscribed!

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