Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Thrifty Remodeling, Our Home Before and After
I was sorting through some old photos when I came across a few of our home taken shortly after we had moved. That was seven years ago, not that long ago, but somehow it seems like an eternity, so much has changed. The house looks so different, and so do we...a few more pounds, a few more gray hairs! Ds was only a toddler, and I was still working full time. The house was great, but the kitchen and den were very dark and dated. Both the front and backyards were neglected. We are pretty frugal do-it-yourselfers, so we did much of the work ourselves with some help from a local carpenter and painter.
The kitchen was fairly easy to update. We had a long row of cabinets along one side of the wall, and a cubby hole area across from that where there was a refrigerator, a few cabinets, and a small counter area. We took the refrigerator out of the cubby, pulled all the cabinets out, and turned it into a kitchen office space with lots of nice storage purchased from IKEA.
We moved the refrigerator to the end of the counter on the other side of the room. The cabinets were in good shape, but were very dark with heavy door knocker 70's style handles. We took all the hardware off the doors, and then sanded and painted the cabinets and doors with a white oil based paint. We replaced the hardware with a modern brushed silver. The countertop was removed and replaced with a laminate. The most expensive piece of the entire job was the countertop which came to around $800.00 installed. We kept the sink, and added a new faucet set, and light fixtures. We also took down the wallpaper and painted all the walls white. It really brightened up the entire room. We spent under $2,000 for the total kitchen remodel(not including the floors). The painter painted the kitchen, dinette area and brick fireplace at the other end of the kitchen, and den(off the end of the kitchen) white for us - lots of wood trim which he painted with oil based paint. We painted the cabinets, and reattached the doors and hardware. We really hate painting, so we used a painter for the big jobs. We also reinstalled the sink ourselves, installed a new faucet set, new lighting and IKEA shelving.
We replaced the floors with laminate which was rather expensive because we used a contractor to lay it down. It was a huge job; too much for us. The laminate flooring also extends into a dinette area, and the hall to the front door. I really love it, and I'm glad we spent the money on the floors rather than a nice countertop. The laminate is very easy to clean, and seems to be wearing well.
Off the kitchen/dinette area is an addition which was also very dark and dated. The paneling was painted white, and dh made these wall to wall utilitarian playroom shelves with sliding toy drawers lined with drop cloth. The curtains, which are wall to wall are also drop cloth artistically draped, and poufed over some unseen wire. This is the children's playroom, so it doesn't have to look fancy. Our formal living room has the good stuff. My mom says when the drapes are closed that it feels like they are in a Bedouin tent! The curtains even hang behind the shelves where there is a window, and seem to keep the room warmer in the winter.
The next challenge was the neglected landscaping. It was overgrown, and the front lawn was mostly crab grass and bald spots. We don't like using chemicals on the lawn, so for years we've used a mulching mower which has negated the need for chemicals. We've got a very healthy lawn with all the natural compost of grass, sticks and leaves. I widened the beds in the front using free mulch dropped off by a friendly local tree company, and added evergreen bushes, Azaleas, and a Japanese Cherry Tree which is still too little to see. I purchased my plants inexpensively from ebay and the National Arbor Day Foundation . We fertilize from time to time with free large bags of used coffee grounds from Starbucks. I saved money by purchasing smaller bushes...I just have to wait longer for them to fill out the beds, and look nice. That picture of the front yard is from 2004. The bushes have really gotten much bigger. I'll have to add another picture in the Spring.
The backyard had spotty grass with lots of tree roots popping up everywhere. It took a few years, but we kept using the composting mower, and eventually the soil has gotten more healthy. We have quite a few oak trees, so getting anything to grow in heavy shade was tricky. We ended up making lots of mulch beds among the trees, and planting shade perennials. We used free concrete pieces from a neighbor's driveway demolition as a border, and the mulch was free from the tree company. The previous owner had a lot of perennials which needed dividing, so I got more use out of plants that were already there. I compost directly into the back beds with kitchen scraps(non-protein), and yard debris, turning it under the mulch. It's very fertile back there...lots of wonderful worms and black crumbly compost.
Dappled shade is a blessing in the summer!
In 2003, the giant backyard deck was rotting out, and too expensive to repair and maintain, so we tore it out. It came with the house when we purchased it, and was probably about 15 years old. In place of a deck, we decided to make a path from the front driveway around to the back, ending with a large patio area. The least expensive way was to fill it in with gravel dust. My neighbors both had their driveways torn up, so we asked to take the concrete rocks for the path and patio. We used these large pieces to line the perimeter in the backyard(recycled brick in front yard), and to hold in the gravel. We also put down weed mat under the gravel dust, and rolled it up the inside of the concrete rock border. After we filled in the area with the dust, we trimmed back any weed mat that was showing. This was very inexpensive, and it's still holding up nicely. We had a little erosion near one gutter, but it stopped after we filled in the area with a few bags of inexpensive gravel.