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before & after: vinyl tile

You really see the benefits of being a good steward when you go to sell your house. I’m talking a cold, hard cash reward for making it nicer than it was when you bought it.

Our first house in NC was built in 1960, and a lot of it was still dated (wallpaper, old linoleum, and other “vintage features”). It also really just needed some TLC and cleaning, since it was unoccupied for about a year before we bought it.

Before we moved in, we ripped up the old, gross, and sticky carpet (I do NOT want to know why it was sticky) and refinished the beautiful old hardwoods hiding underneath. If you ever have this opportunity in an older home, I recommend it, as long as the hardwoods don’t have too many major/deep stains. When we went to sell the home, the real estate agent we worked with said the hardwoods were probably the one thing we did that added the most value. Score!

But, the other half of the house still had these awesome mismatched floors (the puppy makes it bearable–get it? His name is Bear!):

Well, before we put the house on the market in the fall of 2013, we just knew we had to update those bad boys. As with all home improvement projects, we wondered why we didn’t do them a long time ago so we could enjoy them.

Since our floors were kind of uneven (consequence of an old house), we decided to go with a vinyl tile, since they are flexible and forgiving, and also easy to cut. BUT, when they are in, they look almost exactly like real tile! It’s sort of a nifty new invention–you still use grout between them. Plus, did I mention they are very affordable?

So, we began our tiling adventure. It took a long time to do approximately half our little house, but we made it!

The bathroom, half way done, and already so much better. Goodbye, 70s “stone floor” linoleum!
photo 1

Phil placing tiles in the dining area:
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Phil trapped in the kitchen! Did I mention he is amazing and cleaned years of mysterious stickiness off the floor from under the fridge before we put in the tile?
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After putting in the tile and grouting it, we finished up with new white quarter-round trim and new silver-tone transition strips to the hardwood floors.

As you can see, it was a much needed update! I’m confident this vinyl tile, costing us some hundreds, helped us get thousands more when we sold the house. A little hard work really paid off!

Have you done last minute improvements before selling a house?


before & after: front shrub bed

Here’s the long front shrub bed in front of our house when we moved in. Nothing really going on with it except some liriope and mulch. Thankfully, there weren’t any ugly things to remove (I know removing shrubs with deep roots is quite a task), so it was a blank canvas!

So, what better to plant than pretty flowering bushes? I especially like landscaping that serves a double purpose, like flowers you can cut and bring inside or herbs that are pretty but also useful. I’ve been wanting to plant rose bushes here for a couple months now but with the well and all the other things we’ve had come up, I’ve been patient :).

We went to Home Depot and Lowe’s this afternoon finally to look for some plants. It happens to be our 3-month-iversary, so it was neat timing because Phil got me some flowers that will keep on giving! We found great deals–we got a blueberry bush at Home Depot for $7 that looked really healthy (score!), and then at Lowe’s we got 2 red long-stemmed rose bushes for $8.50 each (50% off!), a pink camellia bush for $10, and a gardenia for $6. We could have spent a lot more had we bought all these a month ago, so it was really great that we waited. Here’s the updated shrub bed:

Ignore the ugly orange well permit sign on our door. They are pretty small now but in a couple of years they will all grow up to be beautiful. On the far left, the spindly little stick bush is the blueberry plant, then a rose, then the camellia, then another rose, then the gardenia. Turns out I got about two dozen red roses for our 3-month mark :), and many more to come.

before & after: 10-minute kitchen improvements

I had a few spare minutes yesterday, so I finally took down the 80s over-the-sink radio/clock/tape deck that has been in our kitchen since we moved in. We enjoyed it while unpacking since the speakers still sounded pretty good for radio, but it was an eyesore, and unnecessary since we have a iPod speaker thing and it plays radio too. And I think the only tapes I have are Alanis Morrisette, Amy Grant, and the Beach Boys.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in:


Gotta love the dangling cords. The thing was screwed into some boards and then up into the cabinet. The man who lived here before us rigged a lot of things “his own” way for his family 🙂


Much better! And when I was poking around under the cabinet, I found a paper towel holder folded up underneath that I’d never noticed before. Now our paper towel roll has a home! And we can enjoy our less anachronistic music player.


Not a huge project, but I felt productive.

before & after: our hardwood floors

When we first bought our house, it had these old mauve/beige carpets throughout the living room, hall, and bedrooms. It wasn’t so bad looking, but to my horror, when we first hung out in our newly purchased home and had a glass of wine to celebrate, I walked around with my shoes off and my feet got sticky.


We had already found out that there were old hardwoods underneath from 1960 when the house was built. And the sticky feet made me extra glad we decided to rip up the carpets and get the hardwoods sanded and refinished before moving in. We were praying we could afford to do it that way instead of after we moved a bunch of furniture in, and thankfully we were able to do so!


I naively thought that ripping up the carpets would be easy. My wonderful husband (then fiance) ripped up all the carpet himself in an afternoon, BUT then came the hard part–getting up all the tack strips and carpet staples/tacks that were everywhere! They had had carpet at least twice, so there were lots of fun staples that were very difficult to get up. Thankfully two of our best friends helped us with that process… I’m not sure what we would have done without them! (Especially since we did not have the right tools at all to get up the tack strips and Tim was really smart and brought the right tool with him.)

old hardwoodsHere are the old hardwoods in one bedroom. Tape and all.

sanding hardwoodsWe did hire a sanding and refinishing company. We weren’t ready to try to do that ourselves. They did a great job. It was around $2.10 a square foot–probably cheaper than installing new carpet!

Ahhh, much better!!! The old wood had a lot of character and color, the sanding guy said. This was just with a natural finish polyurethane–no stain! Here’s the living room with one or two coats on.

Ta-da! Done! Then we got to move in with newly redone hardwoods (so much easier than trying to move all of our furniture out to do it later). Here’s a view to the kitchen’s linoleum… likely one of the next victims in our remodeling :).

So, there you have it. From old gross sticky mauve carpet, to gleaming fresh hardwoods with 50 years of character built in. I’m really blessed we stewarded what we had and it was so cool to find the treasure under our old carpet that only needed a little TLC.