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A Quick Turnaround on the Garage Apartment

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We are lucky enough to own a home with a garage apartment in Huntsville, Texas. The house is in a good location near Sam Houston State University and Huntsville’s cute downtown Our home is on a pretty corner lot. The one bedroom garage apartment door faces the backyard and has a sidewalk and deck off the doorway that provides privacy and a feeling of living more in the country than the city. My daughter in law says it feels like a treehouse and I agree!

The first of August we got notice that our awesome tenants in the garage apartment would be moving out due to graduating and getting a job in downtown Houston. We were bummed and a little nervous because ideally we like to switch tenants over the summer before August 1 for college students. Our tenants went above and beyond to move out by August 15th and to find us another tenant that we totally approve of and are thrilled to welcome. They move in September 1st.

Since our last tenants were there almost 3 years we knew we had some sprucing up and maintenance before the next move in. The guest house we have been working on recently is on a short hold while we get things taken care of at the garage apartment. Bummer.

I am a worry wart so I made a list about 5:30 one morning when I couldn’t sleep.

We had some leveling to do because a center beam in the garage settled, a little rot around the stairs that needs to be addressed, and some stabilization of the steps by connecting the steps to the garage wall. It is an ongoing struggle with exterior upkeep. Huntsville is pretty hot and humid along with being amazingly rainy, the back yard is in the shade almost all the time, the trees drop leaves everywhere, and well, the building is 71 years old. The original garage floor was dirt which wasn’t uncommon in 1950. At some point concrete without any reinforcement was poured and it made the garage doors so low that only a sports car would fit in there.

Leveling the center joist involves two bottle jacks, wood, and metal shims. You literally jack the post on the right up until you can add shims into the permanent post on the left. We had it professionally done five years ago and this is just maintenance. The exterior walls need to be leveled the next time but we weren’t ready to disconnect all the support beams and lift them this time. It would have taken us several days we don’t have.
Mr. Math wants everyone to know he added strapping to the post to attach it to the joist and keep the metal shims in place. I just didn’t get that picture.

We also touched up paint on the exterior. I am so grossed out every time we switch tenants with the front door that I was positive it wouldn’t be white again. I decided on red- Behr dark crimson to be specific.

This is a picture of the apartment from five years ago when I was mad the painters didn’t paint the trim. I didn’t take a close up picture of the door so imagine a grimy smudged door.

The change is dramatic. I like dramatic.

We also switched from the exterior wall paint on the deck outside apartment to porch paint. I am actually shocked we got five years out of the porch being sprayed with exterior wall paint. We are going with Behr Slate Gray on the wood decked porch. It will provide a nice contrast to the blue paint. Mr. Math spent half a day power washing, nailing in popped nails, and scraping 6 by 6 the deck and stairs to get us ready.

During the hard freeze we got in Texas last winter a pipe burst in the bathroom and thanks to the Texas power grid issue, we went way more than 24 hours in the very low teens with no electricity. All the pipes are exposed in the garage below. Of course we fixed the burst pipe but knew we had damage to fix on the inside this summer. The water from the burst pipe seeped into a crack in the grout then froze under the tiles. The concrete backer board under the tile absorbed enough water that it swelled and burst in places causing four tiles to need to be replaced. We expected hardwood floor damage but weren’t aware of the bathroom issues. Four of the avocado green tiles in the bathroom had to come out. Surprise, surprise, we couldn’t find new green tiles. So, this quick reno involves four new beige tiles. I don’t love it but the bathroom is part of our long term plan and will be totally renovated down the road to allow for stackable washer and dryer and for the bathtub ceiling area to be raised.

The original to 1950 pine flooring is one of my favorite things about the garage apartment along with a super cute phone niche and the original trim and doors complete with crystal door knobs. The floor took a hit during the freeze with water covering the entire floor. There are also some pretty deep scratches from a tenant who lived there when we purchased the property’s two huge dogs that have to be addressed. This time around we will be patch staining and re-polyurethaning the floors. I really wanted to sand and strip but it will involve sanding, stripping, using wood filler, and probably replacing a couple of boards. The exterior walls of the house needs to be leveled before we tackle that. Since we have a two week turnaround, the poly needs to have time to harden before moving in furniture, it will have to wait.

We also cleaned the walls, windows, appliances, did interior touch up paint, cleaned inside the cabinets and will be having all the plumbing redone next week to the kitchen and bathroom. Hopefully the Pex piping will not be as prone to freezing.

We are almost there. The list is nearly complete.

Beside the plumber coming Thursday we need to add new solar lights along the gate sidewalk, exterior cleaning and new silicone to the tub, replacing 2 mini blinds, and a smoke detector, we will be done.

Owning and maintaining our own rental is hard work. It isn’t for someone who doesn’t mind getting theirs hands dirty and backs sore but it is a great investment opportunity.

We love hearing from you,

Karen

New Flooring

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Mr. Math and I joke that our motto is: We don’t do easy at our house. Getting new flooring was no exception to that statement. After only five years the flooring we put in was failing. Part of the problem was ours because we didn’t have the floor leveled prior to installing and our ice maker leaked on the kitchen floor for about a week while we were gone and the drain line in the laundry backed up several time before we could get the problem resolved but a quick check online told us that we weren’t the only ones having problems with the product we used. Whatever the issue, the floor had to go. When Mr. Math and I talked about what we both wanted, here was our list:

  • Waterproof
  • More rigid flooring
  • Flooring leveled first
  • Mr. Math DID NOT want to do it ourselves again.

We selected NuCore from Floor and Decor for all of the house except the mudroom, laundry, kitchen, and baths and are in love with the look and feel of the floor. Even though NuCore has a lifetime guarantee, my last experience made me a little skittish. All the rooms that have plumbing along with the room where muddy and/or wet shoes and clothes land got an outdoor slate-look porcelain tile. It was important to me to find something that made the new flooring and the gray kitchen countertop make sense. We will be putting the flooring on an odd little step we have going into the house too soon.

NuCore Driftwood Oak

The flooring going in.

The not easy part for us was moving everything on the floor out of the house. We literally boxed up, packed up and moved out anything that touched the floor and moved into our rv with a dog and cat. The other not easy part of the process was that I unexpectedly returned to work 2 1/2 days a week just as the process started an oh, we had four day of rain out of the six days our furniture was displaced all over our property including on the front porch and carport under tarps. It was terrible.

Mr. Math sort of got his wish about not doing the physical work… sort of. We did have the floor leveled, and 90% of the flooring installed. We had awesome friends who helped us get the old flooring up and saved us a ton of money. Mr. Math hired a young man and recruited neighbors to help him move the furniture out and flooring into the house. He had to unload 78 boxes of NuCore and 25 boxes of tile. He also had to redo a few areas we weren’t thrilled with how the installers did the work, and had to install all the shoe moulding and caulking. He spent several days on his knees but the results were amazing. We ordered a new washer and dryer but are waiting on the part to connect the dryer to propane gas so that room is a mess still and you can see the mess from the kitchen and mudroom. Those pictures will be added once we settle in.

We are so grateful that we got the flooring finished before all that is going on. We are in a beautiful home, not trapped in a rv for an extended time.

I hope you are all healthy and taking this time to spend with your family.

Karen

The Flooring Reveal

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I do believe we have discovered the perfect flooring for our hard-working, very active house.  It is durable, water-resistant, doesn’t take any special equipment, and it floats over the slab so it allows for movement.

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We purchased Tranquility brand Rustic Reclaimed Oak click and lock vinyl planks from Lumber Liquidators and I am so happy that we did.  The cost for vinyl plank flooring was less than $2.00 a square foot.

rustic reclaimed oak flooring

This picture was taken in the sunshine so you could get an idea how realistic the pattern is.

We have purchased the quarter round shoe molding but it was a very busy weekend and it did not get installed.  Bummer.

I just couldn’t wait to show you the floor.  My buddy, The Social Planner, also clued me in to this amazing microfiber mop/ duster thing from O’Cedar.  It is a must have for this type flooring.

Make sure to get an extra cover.  They go right in the washing machine and come out spotless every time.

O’Cedar Dual Action Microfiber 

So, minus the shoe molding, here is my beautiful floor.

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The coffee bar goes here.  It will look amazing with this flooring.

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In this picture ( of my beautiful whitewashed fireplace) you can see the shoe molding we had out to see how it looks.

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Full disclosure here- the awesome olive bucket is not mine.  I am babysitting it for a friend who is building a home.

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The hallway is so pretty!

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Do you notice I painted the coffee table?  It looked too dark against the floor.  I love it now.

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The room is coming together.   I love the floor in this space.

Thank you for joining us on this journey to reimagine this ranch home.

Blessings,

Karen

How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring

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Oh my goodness!  I love our vinyl plank flooring.  I never, ever, ever thought I would want a vinyl floor.  Growing up, this is what a vinyl floor looked like:

It came on a roll, was glued down, and tore pretty easily.

The luxury vinyl plank flooring we purchased from Lumber Liquidators, is a click and lock flooring, that is thick and floats on top of the subfloor.  We bought a variety called Rustic Reclaimed Oak.  The flooring was $1.56 per square foot.  The link is HERE

The photo below is from super close on the floor..  It looks so realistic that Mr. Math and I both thought that there were tears in the the planks.  It was just the wood look.  It fooled us from right on top of it.  The planks are textured also so they really feel more like wood than you would expect.
We started with a concrete slab.  Yep.  We have been living with this floor for 6 weeks.

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Here are the tools that we used, plus a measuring tape.

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Those black things are knee pads.  They are a MUST!  The rubber mallet helped convince some of the difficult pieces to go into place.

The flooring comes in pretty small boxes but wow are they heavy.  Like 40 lbs each heavy times 30 boxes.

Keeping it real for you, there was a definite learning curve.  There are some tricks that I will share with you at the end that hopefully you will not have to figure out like we did.

The first step is to measure the floor and figure out how many whole rows you will have.  We were lucky.  Our floor did not need the first or last row trimmed down to make it work.

The next step is to lay out the first row so you can get started.

Then click and lock.  The hard part of clicking and locking is the corner where the two connect.

on the last plank you have to cut it to fit.  Cutting is a breeze.  Razor knife and straight edge are all that it takes to cut.

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As soon as you score the plank, snap and it comes apart.

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It is tough to get the first three rows in.  The best way to connect the planks is while on the planks and pulling toward the wall.  That is impossible on the first three rows.  These three rows took 30 minutes of work to get clicked together.

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Learning to cut around the little wall and the fireplace took us some time but Mr. Math did a great job.  It looks perfect.  This is as far as we got on day one.  I was a little discouraged.  I thought we were going to be working on the floor for weeks.

Day two was a much improved day for the floor.  Less yelling, more flooring down.

That was my feet walking on the planks so they did not come loose when Mr. Math was bending and twisting.  That is the trick.  One person has to stand on the seam where the planks connect end to end while the other person is clicking the long side.  Mr. Math was shocked when he found out I video taped him while standing on the flooring.  1 minute, 27 seconds to get 12 linear feet totally finished.

We were cooking with hot grease.  Even with a 12:00 football game, we got the flooring in the main room of the house almost finished.  We stopped because we are going to have to think about the hallway.  The wall is not straight so we need to figure out how we are going to solve the problem.  Honestly, I predict that it is going to take us several weekends to finish the whole house.  We have to move appliances in the kitchen and laundry room before installing.  We will have to remove the toilet to  finish the bathrooms, and we have the hallway to contend with.


 Putting in the flooring wasn’t as easy as I hoped but it wasn’t as hard as I feared.  Here is what we learned from our experience.

  1. The first three rows are hardest.  Don’t give up. When you can get on the floor and pull rather than push it gets easier.
  2. Getting the corner in is tricky. Mr. Math says make sure the whole thing is on top of the tongue.
  3. This is a two person job. One to click and lock.  One to stand on the board as it locks to keep it in place.
  4. Make sure the floor is level.  We used  a dry leveler mix and poured it on low spots.   
  5. Have extra razors for the razor cutter.

We have very little wasted flooring.  We are going to end up with enough extra flooring to put it in my craft room.  Woo Hoo.

I love the look.

We have already had several folks come look and they are all impressed.  I think I won a couple of folks over.

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