Getting Close

Monday started off great this week, we got another house under contract and opened escrow. (More on that later.) We’ve been getting a lot of sign calls on this house though and thought we were getting an offer but the lady who had been coming by during the rehab backed out because she bought something else. This week I put all the Frigidaire appliances in that I bought at Lowe’s. I used a stainless steel high-end digital dishwasher with the buttons on top, a 6-burner gas stove, professional series microwave/convection oven and side-by-side fridge with water and ice in the door. I also put on all the cabinet handles and installed the lazy susans in the corner base cabinets. The kitchen looks killer and is now complete! Additionally, we passed the electrical final inspection on Tuesday. All I am missing is the final on the HVAC, which should happen this week.

Craftsman Bungalow Kitchen Staging

I also put down a pallet and a half of sod in the front yard and laid out the flowerbeds, using white limestone chop rock as a border. The front porch was concrete and very cracked and uneven as you could see from previous pictures. The area by the front door is what I concentrate on the most when it comes to attention to detail. Buyers make up their mind if they like the house as they stand there while the agent fumbles with the lockbox trying to get in. I always make sure that as you look around while standing there, you can’t see any flaws. This is why I decided to build a wood front porch cap over the existing concrete slab porch. I shot down some treated studs and laid long leaf pine tongue and groove, which is historically correct for this house. After a light sanding I used oil based stain and then came back with Cabot’s satin Spar oil base varnish in 2 coats. The finished hardwood porch looks incredible and once I add the final touch by hanging the swing our curb appeal will be done.

My wife and I worked on the bathroom all day Saturday. We hung the mirror, towel bar, tp holder, did some touch up painting and installed the tub faucet and a cool rain showerhead. The bathroom is almost finished as well now, just a few punch list items left.

The rear of the house is almost done minus some general lawn clean up which I’ll do this week. I stained the deck today with a Redwood Tone oil base to protect it from the elements. I usually take Sunday off but since we are in the home stretch I decided to knock off one big item from our to-do list this morning but don’t worry, I still made it home in time to barbeque some hot wings and go for a swim in the pool. My self-imposed deadline is Friday to have the house done and get it in MLS for the weekend. I still have a big punch list of small stuff but should be able to get it all done this week.


Well, we changed colors again. On paint day my wife and I both actually started to second guess our choice and we put up another 5 color samples. The neighbors had all left their votes in chalk on the sidewalk over the weekend, not making our decision any easier. Picking colors should be the fun part and you would think it gets easier with every house but to the contrary it’s actually quite stressful. The wrong color can counteract all that hard work you’ve done while the perfect tone can accent the home’s features and get those buyers out of their car. We are really happy with our choice, the home looks incredible now, it’s a classy and elegant version of a traditional historic colorway. The base color is Behr Restful in satin, Trim is Behr Turtle Dove in semi-gloss and the screen color is Behr Thorny Branch. We found a cool carriage lamp at Home Depot in satin black for only $39.00 as well as an outdoor ceiling fan for the front porch. I really wanted to get some artsy house numbers; we found these at Restoration Hardware. They were a little on the pricey side at $10.00 each, but well worth the extra expense for this important detail.

Restoring and re-stretching the original wooden screens will be an integral part of our remodel. We even found reproduction screen hangers available from Stanley. These authentically preserved features are what buyers seek in this neighborhood. Another neighbor came by from the next block over; she had heard of our remodel and was searching for the original parlor door that separates the kitchen from the dining room. Since we opened up our kitchen wall for the breakfast bar I had no use for it and was glad to see that it made it back into another local historic home.

With the curb appeal starting to come along I decided to break one of my cardinal rules and put the For Sale sign up. I made a rider that states “Coming Soon” so any lurkers driving the area will know it’s almost ready and will be for sale. I usually don’t like any potential buyers to see my product until all the tiny details are finished but we’ll try it this time and see how it goes. To retail buyers, small unfinished details can be big issues but it would be nice to find a buyer without having to put the house in MLS and pay 3%, thus saving us over $6,000. We probably have another 2 weeks tying up a lot of loose ends and after everything is done we’ll put it in the computer.

The White House

After a full week (with 2 helpers) of scraping, stripping, grinding, sanding, caulking and filling, the house is almost ready to paint. First we ground all the peeling areas then I sprayed it with Kilz2 latex primer to make all small cracks and holes easy to see. There were thousands of tiny holes to be filled from the siding that I pulled off. All this prep is necessary to give a great final product as the paint job can only come out as good as what’s under it. These Craftsman style homes in our neighborhood are all 3-color paint schemes; we are choosing a green base, cream trim with brick red accents. I’ve been known to change colors along the way but this is what we’ve decided on after spending Saturday afternoon and $110.00 on paint samples. We tried 11 different colors including shades of blue, yellow, beige and green. You never know how it’s going to look until you get a sample up as they always dry darker. For real estate investing purposes, normally green wouldn’t be a safe bet however this neighborhood and style of home makes it possible. This will be the second project this year we’ll have painted green, contrary to the preaching of most real estate gurus. Since the last green house sold in 2 days maybe we can continue the good luck pattern with this one! Get ready to see this gem in full color for the next blog update.

Bubba’s Big Deck

I decided to tackle the deck project this week instead of starting exterior painting. It will, after all, make it easier to prep and paint the rear of the house. The deck is quite large measuring 20’ x 16’ with stair access from the driveway as well as the backyard. I used pressure treated lumber and screws as apposed to a nail gun. One more day and I should be able to finish the balusters, lattice skirt and handrails making it a 4-day project. For the cost of the deck at around $1,000 in materials, This added a tremendous value to the house due to today’s indoor/outdoor living lifestyle. On Friday I had another visit from the 2 ladies again, they loved the sidelites and the deck. The potential buyer’s agent proclaimed that this house was not “lipstick on a pig” meaning that we didn’t just go in and cover up all the bad stuff with cosmetics. After all, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. After seeing the hardwood floor refinish job and asking what the exterior colors were going to be they then asked if I would accept an offer now for the house and if I could be finished by the end of this month. I don’t get emotional about a sale anymore, if they write an offer fine. If not, that’s fine too. I am confident that it’s going to turn out great and sell quickly; being in San Antonio, Texas, which is rated #2 for Recession Proof Cities by

The Time Capsule

Yesterday a neighbor offered me some original sidelites (glass side window panels) for the front door, which he had recycled from a house on the next block. I was really excited to get them as my house was missing them and had been filled in with wood. When I was putting them in today I discovered something of a time capsule. Stenciled inside the wall of the house near the front door was what appeared to be shipping labels from Fort Snelling, Minnesota to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Additionally it clearly states the name of the original owner of the house, which is Lt. Col. W.J. Henry. I am not sure if the house was shipped in panels or if the wall was made from a crate which some of his belongings arrived in. In any case it was pretty cool to pull out a piece of wood that hadn’t been touched since 1920 and see who the original owner was. I think I’ll permanently affix them somewhere in the attic to assure they stay with the house for future owners.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Rain, rain, go away! Arrrgh! While the floors were getting sanded today I had my stucco guys re-doing the fireplace. Now the inside is just about complete and I am ready to start prepping the outside for paint, but wouldn’t you know that it has been raining for 4 days. The rain actually washed half of the first brown coat of stucco away yesterday so upon finishing today we covered it in plastic. Once the floors are stained and sealed I can install the kitchen appliances. When the weather cooperates, I’ll start painting the exterior, I can’t wait to pick some fun colors for this eclectic neighborhood. As you can see I’ve started outside by replacing a lot of the damaged wood trim to get ready. Besides the exterior paint, my last big project is building the rear deck. I’ve already got the design done and it will measure 20 x 16 and have two access points with stairs down to the backyard and driveway. I thought that the giant deck was an important feature for that indoor/outdoor lifestyle that’s so important to today’s buyer.

Two local Realtors stopped by today, one of them is a really nice guy who actually represented the buyers on our last rehab “The Craigslist House”. He is very active in Mahncke Park and was impressed with what we’ve done. We talked for a while and he wants to bring some clients through before we put it in MLS. We are still totally on budget and excited to get it finished. I also have been negotiating a potential deal that’s very close to this project, it’s amazing how you can discover hidden treasures once you are working on your flip and start networking with the neighbors.

Gettin’ there


The interior is nearing completion. I finished the trim carpentry this week, hanging doors for the pantry and laundry & putting in the kitchen baseboards to match the existing ones. Inside the kitchen pantry I made some custom shelves as well. The baseboards are 1 x 8 pine with a shoe molding. All the original trims had to be sanded and primed with oil base, as they were originally oil-based paint. If you’ve ever tried to paint oil based trim in an old house with latex, you know how it will just peel right off. I like the Zinnser oil based primer product better than Kilz. It’s extremely difficult to work with, you have to slop it on, move fast smoothing it out and don’t go back over old work. All that’s left now are all the windows and casements which are extremely flaky, this is going to take a lot of prep work this week to smooth them out and get them in primer. I just passed the 8-week mark for this project, looks like about 1-2 more weeks and the inside will be done. I’m still on track with the budget however I’m expecting to go a little over on landscaping and the rear deck. I’m not too worried though as the neighborhood comps are showing that my original sales target price was conservative a bit so I’ll list now for $19,000 higher than initially planned.

4 days later, tile done

A 4-day tile project ate up my week! I’ve done my fair share of tile jobs but never all the bathroom walls; it was like doing one giant shower. I used a white ceramic 3×5 subway tile pattern changing to diagonal 4” at the top and separated by a sage green glass liner. The tile job seemed to go on forever. I also mixed in a few green glass accent tiles in the octagon white ceramic floor pattern. The sage green glass accent ties into the kitchen color while the original 1920 bathroom pedestal sink matches the farmhouse kitchen sink. You just couldn’t have gone into this bathroom with the typical travertine and had it flow right. I haven’t used white ceramic on a remodel in a long time; while it’s not the common choice these days, for this project it really captured the period feel we are after. I’ll set the toilet and original pedestal sink in on Monday and it will all be done. The bathroom is really cool; it reminds me of a grandma’s house but in an updated, fresh way. Ah, to feel those octagon tiles on your bare feet after getting out of the Jacuzzi tub.

We’ve had a group of ladies stop by the house twice now. They noticed the rehab in progress and came up and knocked last week. One lady seems really into what we are doing, it would be nice to have someone interested before it’s finished but my philosophy is not to show your product or advertise it until its 100% complete so I am not that anxious to impress them. I know another investor that starts the rehab and then lines up his buyers and lets them make changes along the way. IMO, working with buyers nitpicking colors and changing things isn’t worth the drama. That’s why I am not a general contractor! I would rather use my own creativity, build a unique product, and then throw it out there into the marketplace. After all, that’s why I enjoy doing this anyway.

Cool iPort Docking Station

We reached some important milestones this week. The A/C is on, big deal in this 98 degree Texas heat! I finished all the cabinets as well as installed the granite slab countertops. I get the pre-bullnosed 8’ slabs fabricated in China and cut the dog-ears myself to seam them. This is the best way to go for rehabbers because it’s very cost effective and highly desirable for resale. We wanted to go dark to give some contrast to the white cabinets so I picked Uba Tuba green. I dropped in a farmhouse style kitchen sink that’s very popular right now and furthermore mimics the original kitchen but in an updated version. All the light fixtures and ceiling fans are up now and we are waiting for both the electrical and HVAC final inspections this week.

We broke out the big guns this week and unleashed our secret weapon – it’s an iPort in-wall dock for your iPod or iPhone. Flush-mounted in the wall just inside the front door, this device allows you to play your favorite music through the whole house surround sound system. You can also send images directly to your flat screen TV. My pre-wire included HDMI and an 110v outlet above the fireplace for easy TV installation. The iPort is connected using a cat5 wire from the dock location to your media center (on this house I selected a closet). You can also dock your iPhone, as it will charge either device. Studies have shown that buyers today are looking for smart wiring and tech goodies. This neighborhood attracts young, hip first time buyers so chances are good that they will be iPod savvy. I felt the minimal cost of $200 for adding this cool feature was a good investment for this house.

Sage Green Kitchen!

We got the A/C roughed in this week, it has all new ducts and we relocated the furnace up into the attic. After a couple of tries we also nailed down the paint color for the kitchen. It’s a Benjamin Moore color called Spring Valley but we went to Home Depot and had them match it in Behr because we would never pay $50 for a gallon of paint. As we said before, we really want to do something different with this house since it’s a 1920s bungalow. By using green in the kitchen it gives it a more authentic 20’s feel and the color turned out exactly as we’d hoped. We went with the white cabinets that have some glass front doors and fluted lines. We got most of the upper cabinets hung on the wall and started on the lowers as you can see in the picture, it’s starting to look really cool. Keep in mind that we’re going to refinish the original long leaf pine floors in the kitchen. We’re thinking of using black granite on the countertops and stainless appliances. White appliances would probably look really good and more period-correct but most buyers today are still looking for stainless.

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Spa Tub Install

This week I spent a lot of time sanding and mudding to get the drywall ready for texture. After taping the baseboards and door casings off yesterday I sprayed a light pattern of orange peel texture with my hopper on the entire interior of the house, walls and ceiling. We’re ready tomorrow to go in there and spray a good coat of primer on everything and then spray the ceilings only with flat white ceiling paint. I’ll use a brush and roller for all the rest of the interior walls a little later in the project.

I also put a lot of work into the bathroom this week. I started out by putting in a new plywood subfloor and a toilet ring. I also framed out a box for the new jetted tub. This tub requires a designated 110 circuit so we pulled a wire from under the house into the tub box. Code calls for a GFI protection but you don’t want to use a receptacle underneath the tub where the motor plugs in becuase if it trips you won’t be able to get in there to reset it. We’ll obtain our protection from a GFCI breaker on the panel instead. I had to go under the house to remove the old lead drum trap and change the system over to PVC with a P-trap.

After tying in the plumbing I mixed up 2 bags of mortar and dumped it into the tub box as a big blob.  I then dropped in the tub and while doing so I pushed down gently and it squeezed the mortar bed out to a perfect thickness to fill the gap between the bottom of the tub and the subfloor.  This is really important so when you’re standing in the tub and using it as a shower the bottom won’t flex and all the weight of the water and the person isn’t supported by the outer rim of the tub.  This is the correct way to install a jetted tub as per the manufacturer’s instructions. I’ve seen other people use spray foam as a fill but it doesn’t provide as much support.  I dropped in the tub unit and used hardibacker for the surround as well as the floor. For the walls in the bathroom I used blueboard tile backer since these aren’t in direct wet areas. Now the bathroom is completely ready for tile.


Some Tape and Float Action

We passed our electrical rough-in inspection on Tuesday.  My helper Nacho and I started right away hanging the drywall and we finished the tape and float on Friday. You can really start to see how the new kitchen is going to look and it’s exciting. All the “old house smells” are now gone as the walls are all sealed up. Additionally, I put in a new back door on the kitchen and a new subfloor in the bath. My A/C guy is coming Tuesday to start running all the ductwork and install the furnace in the attic for new central air conditioning.  I originally planned to place the compressor on the side of the house so I had the electrician run the power there, but after pulling the permit we were advised that since we are in a historic neighborhood we couldn’t have the equipment visable from the street so I decided to put it in the backyard. Another neighbor stopped by today to tell me how happy she was to see someone finally doing something with this old house.

More Dead Raccoons

This week we roughed in all the plumbing as we had to relocate supply and drainage for the kitchen sink and the new washer & dryer location. One nice thing about pier & beam homes is that it’s relatively simple to relocate appliances because there’s more room underneath the house to crawl around and move any lines. On Friday and Saturday we handled the roof. It was a 2 day project because we had to tear off 2 layers which included the original cedar shake shingle below. We found one more dead raccoon when we took off the old roof bringing the count to 5! After redecking the roof with plywood I chose a 30-year dimensional shingle in the color Estate Grey. It’s always good to do the roof before you start any of your drywall repair, that way you won’t have any surprises on your new tape and float job after a rain. You’ll notice from the photo below that I also retrimmed the windows. The electrical inspection is set for Tuesday so once that’s clear we can start hanging the drywall.

The Siding Experience

We had a good first week. Outside I trimmed up the landscaping so you can actually see the house now and also removed all the asbestos siding to expose the original waterfall siding. Inside we took care of all the demo which included a complete kitchen and bath gut as well as a makeshift rear addition that was on the back of the house. We filled up a dumpster and a half with all of that. Upon tearing out the kitchen cabinets we discovered what the horrible smell was that we had originally thought might be a dead rat in the wall…there were dead raccoons above the cabinets as well as in the attic. After the demo we tackled the foundation. Since there was a previous foundation job done on the house which included 45 concrete piers we only had to use steel shims to lift it 2″ max in some areas.

KitchenAll the framing also went really smoothly. As planned, we opened up the kitchen to the dining room and the dining room to the living room with two dramatic arches. Inside the kitchen we firred out a wall to accomodate a stacked washer & dryer as well as a food pantry. We also closed up the 2nd front door to the house and installed a pull-down attic ladder. Additionally, the electrical is now all roughed in including flat-screen, surround sound and cat-5 wiring throughout.

My Swedish Friend

After taking exact measurements of the kitchen space and window locations, I went to my Swedish friend’s website to get an easy look in 3-D at how my kitchen would look. We were able to play around with different configurations until we got the best use of our space. Since cabinet boxes come in standard sizes this tool is a good way to lay out your options whether you end up buying the cabinets from there or not.