The Great Door Debacle: In Which Aaron and Lexi Prove Themselves to be NOOBS

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343 West / Interior

Our house came with these terrible wood veneer doors that really just made the entire thing look dated.

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Remember when our bedroom was blue and had carpet?! Look at those ugly doors!

We figured that changing out the doors in our house would be one of the easiest and least expensive changes we could make that would make a major difference in the overall look of things. Home Depot had a sale on some of their doors and we special ordered these great Craftsman style slabs and got a steal of a deal while doing it. Things were progressing nicely and after the major success of our floor we felt doors would be a piece of cake. When we ordered the doors there was an option to get them pre-hung but we figured that we would just install them into the existing door frames which would save us both effort and money.

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Beautiful new doors!

Well, the doors came in and after picking them up we quickly realized that we had a problem. All of our existing ghetto veneer doors had their hinges hung at random different heights, and none of the door knobs were at the same height either, which meant that our standard made doors were not going to fit in the skeewhompus frames we already had—the door jamb would need to be replaced.

Only mildly phased, we went back to Home Depot to order the door frames we had earlier turned down, only to be told that you can only get an assembled door frame if you get a door in it. We were then pointed to aisle 6 where they had “door frame kits” for sale. These so-called “kits” were a package of three boards wrapped together in plastic. Very helpful.

But, taking this minor setback in stride we took our plastic-wrapped wood home and decided that it would be no problem. A few additional steps had been added: we needed to measure our doors, cut the frames to the right height leaving enough space around the door for clearance, rout out a place for the hinges on the frame, paint the frame, nail it together, and then level and nail it into the doorway. Cake right?

Unsurprisingly, these few simple steps took us a long time to complete, during which time we also didn’t complete our trim, because you obviously need door frames before you can put trim around a door. Currently, we still do not have trim.

Well, after very careful measuring and some calculations, we finally got the boards cut to size. Then, using our new and very exciting paint sprayer (SO COOL!) they got a very professional looking paint job. After keeping bugs out of the wet paint for a few hours, we carefully measured and marked where we would need to rout out the space for the hinges. We borrowed a router from our neighbor and worked our way through cutting each board.

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Careful, careful measuring

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Sick paint sprayer

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Painting those boards like a pro

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Routed out spaced for the hinges.

Things were finally looking pretty good. The frames were pretty much complete, (with a spanking paint job) so now all we had to do was assemble them, install them levelly into the doorway, and then attach the door. We watched a bunch of youtube videos (titled How to install a door in 15 minutes or less, which is such a joke.) and set off to put these things in. We decided to start with our closet because, if it had some minor mistakes it would be the least noticeable .

We figured out the nail gun. Assembled the frame. Made sure it was level and plumb by using shims and trimming the drywall, and nailed the thing in there. We screwed the hinges on the door and brought it up to be attached to the frame. And. then. this. happened.

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So much for careful measuring.

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Moving In and Light Switches

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343 West / Interior

Moving is among the best, and also the worst experiences I’ve ever faced. On the one hand, we get to move into a new place! A better place! A place that belongs to us! On the other hand, you do have to actually move all your stuff and then your landlords charge you $50 because you need 20 minutes extra to finish cleaning out your fridge so you can check out, and then they don’t give you any of your $300 deposit back because, I dunno, they need to clean the carpet in the bedroom or patch a few nail holes in the walls. Good riddance foul Slum Lords of Provo!

But I diverge. There was a period of about five years during college when everything I owned would fit into my little car. I’m pretty sure everything Aaron owned would have fit into his backpack, but then we got married and all our stuff must have gotten together and had babies because we now have so. much. stuff.  You don’t ever feel like you have that much until you have to relocate everything and then you realize that your furniture and nice dishes, and all that childhood memorabilia your parents give you every time you see them (I know I still have some boxes in the garage, Mom) has added up and there are now several truck loads of stuff that belongs to you just waiting to be carried somewhere new.

Moving is, however, the most efficient way to discover which of your possessions you love and which you could live without. Where previously you might have thought, but I really like those shoes! I know I’m going to wear them again sometime! They cost a fortune! When you see the seventy pounds of shoes at your feet and think about boxing them up, carrying that box down three flights of stairs, putting it into a truck, carrying it into a new place and then unpacking it and finding it a new home, you discover very quickly the things you really care about. There was even a time when we decided to just leave our couch behind because the prospect of moving that behemoth monster around the twisting staircase (we almost dropped it over the rail when we moved in) was far worse than inviting all our company to sit on the floor in our living room for the next few years. It was really only through the extreme persuasion of my siblings that this would not be a good idea socially, that Aaron was willing to give it a try. It took five people to get the job done. Five.

Anyway, we got moved in. Right after we officially changed our place of residence, Aaron left on a work trip to the Philippines for a few weeks so the “construction” type work got put on hold because trim and new doors is not something I can do myself. Instead I set to unpacking our stuff and doing a few other small projects.

One of these was changing out all our light switches. We tossed all the old beige plates when we painted and got new white ones, but the switches themselves were bandaid beige still and looked weird with the new white plates. This was a bit of an intimidating task because, I mean, it’s electrical work! I spent about an hour Googling how to do it and made my sister come over to my house in case I accidentally electrocuted myself I wouldn’t just be left to die alone, but then I actually did it and found it was cake. Turn off the power, unscrew the old switch, remove the two wires, put the wires on the new switch, screw it in.

I was so proud of myself for doing this I wanted to write a post about it exclusively, but then decided changing light switches isn’t an interesting enough topic to write an entire post on. Hence the four paragraphs about moving. (because that’s so much more interesting…?)

I’m a regular old Bob the Builder.

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The old and new switches in the new plate.

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Unscrewing the old switch from a very dusty box. (Used the vacuum to make sure there were no spiders hiding in there.)

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Remove the wires from the screws on the side of the switch.

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White switches and plates!

Painting, painting, painting

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343 West / Interior

When people asked what color I wanted to paint the walls and I told them white, I got a lot of weird looks.  “Now you have the chance, why don’t you do something cool?” “Won’t that make it just look like a rental?”

The answer is no. Contrary to popular belief, rentals are not white. They are beige. Awful, bandaid beige. I have dreamed of having white walls for years. I think they’re beautiful, fresh, and modern. I love how bright they are, and how they look when you have big windows (which we have). I love white walls.

In pursuit of the perfect white we set out for the paint section of Home Depot and picked out about eight different white paint chips to compare. Aaron was like, “I just don’t care, they’re all white” which stressed me out because I felt like surely there was some art to choosing the right color white. Aren’t there a million Pinterest posts clogging up your feed about all the best colors of white paint? What if I picked a bad one?! Then I realized that was crazy so we just kept it simple and got the color of white that comes in the bucket. No color mixing required. We bought a five gallon tub and set on our merry way home.

Surprisingly, I haven’t really ever painted walls before. I grew up in a 110 year-old victorian house with adobe walls, so most of my wall experience has dealt with wallpaper—removing 12 layers of paper with nothing but a steamer and a putty knife followed by measuring, cutting and pasting up a new layer. Compared to the wallpaper, painting was a breeze though it did take a little longer than I expected which was a bit stressful because of our timeline.

By the time we finally closed on our house I had exactly one week before I had to go back to teaching full time, and exactly two weeks before we had to move out of our apartment. We jumped right on doing the floors, but by the time they were finished, the school year had started and we had less time to work on painting and moving. We recruited Aaron’s friends Dan and Greg to come and help us out which was awesome because it made the entire process go faster. Painting is one of those things you don’t think will take very long, but it’s just time consuming.

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After our experience with sanding paint off the floors, we spent an eternity taping off every bit of our freshly refinished work. We didn’t want a drop of paint to ever touch that floor again!

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Dan and Greg were life savers!

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I think the white walls make the color of the floor look all the more beautiful. We still need to paint the kitchen and bathroom, but we thought that would be doable after we moved everything in. Next, we need to put on all the trim!

Refinishing the Floors Part III: Dust and Polyurethane

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343 West / Projects

After days of sanding we finally got all of the paint off the floor and the scrapes were looking as good as they were going to get, so we decided it was time to move forward.

While we were researching this process I had in my mind two steps that were going to go down—sanding, and putting down the poly. I was sorely mistaken, however, because dust removal is no joke and deserves to be a step all of its own. I wrote earlier that the dust was rather underwhelming in its terror, but while it wasn’t flying around choking me to death, it was quietly settling on everything. Particularly the floors that now needed to be coated in polyurethane.

From what we had heard, vacuuming was our best option to get this stuff off the floor. We even rented a vacuum but soon discovered that all it did was suck up the dust in a small track and leave all the dust everywhere else. So then we tried a method of sweeping up the dust then vacuuming up the pile and that worked kind of but not great. So we alternated the sweeping and the vacuuming until we got smart and bought some tack clothes. If you don’t know what they are, they’re these cheesecloths covered in beeswax so they are sticky. You rub them all over the floor and they pick up the dust beautifully! We tack clothed everything, then left for the night so the dust could settle before doing it again in the morning before we put down the sealant. We went through about a million packs of those guys but they’re cheap and, most importantly, our floors were dust free!

After the dust eradication we poured the poly into a paint tray and got ready. To spread the sealer around you get pieces of lambswool that attach to a wooden block. You screw a broom handle into this and basically just mop the floor with the grain. We were mildly terrified about this step because people tell you horror stories about screwing it up and then being stuck with it forever, but really, this was by far the easiest thing we had done since starting the whole process. You just mop the floor. You do have to be careful to not leave a edge too long or it will dry and leave a line, but we worked quickly and it wasn’t a problem. After the floor dried for a few hours we lightly sanded it, tack clothed, and repeated the process twice again.

And now our floors look beautiful.

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Refinishing the Floors Part II: Sanding

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343 West / Interior

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Before we started this project I envisioned the floors getting sanded and looking like they were brand new again, but after hours and hours of sanding I came to the realization that this was not going to be the case. Wood floors can be sanded down and reborn in many ways, but there is a point, that if passed, they will never look new again. Our floors probably passed this point ten years ago. No matter how much I sanded, and how low of a grit I got, there were just some things that were not going to go away.

The wear doesn’t look gross though. The wood is smooth, and the satin poly we put down made them shine beautifully so that the remaining scrapes form quite an endearing patina really. They are more honest than if they looked brand new and I like that.

Before we got started with this sanding phase, I didn’t really know what to expect. Based on what I had read Online I pictured myself surrounded in a cloud of dust that would cover my entire house like a sandstorm. I pulled out the goggles. I got the expensive sanding mask. We spent hours taping off every inch of things that we didn’t want dust to destroy.

In actuality, yes, there was some dust. I would even say there was quite a lot of dust by the end of the day, but it wasn’t flying around like a storm and it wasn’t piling up like sand in the corners, it just kind of sneakily settled on the windowsills and took forever to get completely off the floor before we put down the poly. Yes it was a good idea to tape off the outlets and rooms we weren’t sanding in, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.

We used one of those large square sanders that moves in a random orbit pattern which we rented at Home Depot for a day. A lot of people will tell you to get the round buffer ones, but go for the square one. It doesn’t leave the swirly lines on your floor. We were advised to start off with 80 grit sandpaper, so we loaded up on that and the progressively finer grits and took our sander home. Aaron had to go to work that day so we kind of figured out how the machine worked and then he left and I started sanding away.

I started out in our bedroom by going over each section slowly and the finish came off like I was just vacuuming it up. I was getting all excited thinking this was going to be way easier than anticipated, but unfortunately, the remnants of 20 year old finish were the least of that floor’s problems. That stuff would come up if you scraped it with your fingernail but I quickly realized I needed a lower grit of sandpaper because the 80 was doing essentially nothing for the scrapes. Unfortunately, paint does not come off like it’s being vacuumed up. Neither do deep scratches. Or hair dye for that matter. I drove back to Home Depot and bought some 60 grit to get started instead because I felt it would be more effective.

I decided to just go over the floor like normal and then figure out what would need more attention later. Most of the paint splotches came off with the sander except a few of the larger spots, but the paint around the edges of the room where the trim hadn’t been taped off when it was painted was too close to the wall for the machine to get at. I decided to finish up all the machine parts and then go back with the hand sander later.

I spent all day sanding with the machine. When I got to the second bedroom I had to take another trip to Home Depot to get the 35 grit paper. It was basically like sanding your floor down with gravel, but that’s what it took to even make a dent in that back room. The area with hair dye was particularly time consuming and there are still some pretty serious gouges near the closet, but, you do what you can and as I mentioned earlier, it gives it a authentic patina.

I finished up the heavy grit around five when Aaron got back from work. He took over the machine because my arms felt a little like jello after all day of using that thing. He finished up the finer grits pretty quickly and then we got down with the hand sanders and sanded until our forearms were going to crumble. Getting the paint off from around the edges of the walls was the worst. It was very, very slow going and we worked on it the rest of the evening and all of the next day.

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A pile of sawdust swept to the center of the living room, which has been machine sanded.

Refinishing the Floors Part I: Prepping

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343 West / Interior

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Before we even signed the contract we knew the first thing we would have to redo would be the wood floors.

The lady we bought the house from is highly allergic to the polyurethane used to seal hardwood floors and can’t be around a floor that has been refinished for several weeks after the work is done. Because of this, floors in our house haven’t been refinished in more than 20 years. Over time as the sealant wore off, the floors became more and more damaged. Add in the lack of care they received and you get something like what you see below. Fortunately, the seller included $2,000 to have the floors refinished as part of the contract because she was unable to have it done herself. After some research we decided that rather than pay someone else to do the floors, we would do it ourselves, and then use the leftover money to make further improvements like getting new moulding. We had heard that refinishing floors is quite a precise science and difficult to do well, but after talking to my uncle who had done it several times successfully, we decided to give it a go anyway.

The front room was a high traffic area and the floor started to turn a greyish black color where it was most heavily used.

Living room floor before

Living room floor in process

The second bedroom was a disaster. There were large, deep scrapes covering floor where furniture had been dragged around, paint was splattered everywhere, and right in the middle of the room was a huge dark puddle where hair dye had been spilt. It was a mess.

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Our original plan was to also pull up the vinyl tiles in the kitchen and redo the wood floors in there at the same time, but before we closed we learned some unfortunate history from the seller. Beneath the vinyl tiles is a layer of orange and green linoleum that had been glued down to the wood sometime during the 70s. A previous owner had tried to get it off, failed, then tried to cover the remaining bits that wouldn’t come off with a newer beige linoleum, but it wouldn’t stick correctly because the partially torn off flooring was flaking and creating bumps. So, they decided to take about a hundred screws and screw the bumpy bits down before covering it with more beige linoleum. This was quite sad news. I was sure that with enough elbow grease we could get the old linoleum and glue off, but that many screw holes drilled into the floor presented quite a problem. We were worried that after pulling up all the coverings we would find a floor that was so damaged it had to be replaced, which, was not something we were prepared to do. So for now we are leaving the floor as it is and will wait until we re-do the entire kitchen to tackle that project.

The larger of the two bedrooms was covered in carpet and the very first night we got the keys to our house we went over and ripped it out. Aaron cleaned carpets for several summers during high school which gave him an honest look at what carpet really is—disgusting. If someone else has lived with it, or an animal has lived with it, it’s just plain gross. This carpet met both of those criteria and we wanted it out. The blue shag had protected the floor from scratches, and though the wood had almost no finish left it was in quite good shape. We did find a collection of paint splatters, though not as bad as in the other bedroom, but the most troubling thing were all of the staples that had been used to keep the carpet padding down.

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After removing the carpet we were left with bits of carpet pad clinging to heavy duty staples in the floor.

We spent the rest of the evening pulling these staples out one by one with pliers and removing the tack strips from around the edges of the room.

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After removing every trace of the carpet we turned our attention to the baseboards. Aaron used a crowbar and a putty knife and pried them off piece by piece. We had tested for lead paint and found what we thought might be a trace of it, so we decided to be safe and wear lead paint masks while doing this step.

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We wanted to replace the baseboards and door trim with something a little wider and a bit more modern looking anyway, but we also needed to remove it to better sand the floors down. When the baseboards had last been painted it looked as though the floors had not been taped off, because all the way around the room there was a line of paint just in front of where the baseboards had been. This will require quite a bit of hand sanding later.

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The baseboard removed, and the line of paint on the floors from a lack of painters tape.

 

The Official Before Photos

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343 West / before

I never understood why the before photos are always so terrible when you read Before and After posts. They have bad lighting, things aren’t staged well, the resolution is poor.

I always thought it was to try and bias the audience to think the after was that much more amazing, but I realize now that the before photos are terrible because at that point you really just don’t care about taking before photos. It’s late at night, you waited so long to get into the house, all you can think of is how you need to rip that carpet out right now, and you decide you’ll just worry about pictures to impress your friends after you’ve made it beautiful.

So really, what I’m saying here is you should count yourself lucky you even get these blurred, weird angle, low light photographs. Maybe it will make you think I’m all the more amazing when we come to a final result.

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This is our bedroom looking in from the hallway. The doorway you can see there is the closet.

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This closet is HUGE. My lens wasn’t wide enough to capture the entire thing but this is the back end of it after you walk in a few steps.

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This is the same bedroom, viewed from the closet doorway. The white closed door is another smaller closet. The left wooden door opens to the hallway, and the right wooden door opens to the laundry/utility room. We have plans to eventually seal that doorway off.

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This is the laundry/utility room. That open door goes to the bedroom.

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This is the view of the laundry room standing next to the doorway to the bedroom. That grey door opens to the driveway on the side of the house. If you turn left before the door it opens into the kitchen.

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As you come around that corner here is your view of the kitchen.

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Here is a view of the kitchen from the other end.

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Then we have the second, slightly smaller bedroom.

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All the floors in this house were in bad shape, but this room was by far the worst. Yikes!

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Here is our purple bathroom.

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Another view of the bathroom. That cupboard is behind the door.

Hallway

This is the little hallway as seen from the door of our bedroom. The door on the left is the bathroom, the one straight ahead is the 2nd bedroom, the one to the right is the living room.

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Here is the front room, from the doorway in the hall.

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The front room floors are in quite bad shape as well. There is almost no finish left because they are all so worn.

As you can see there is quite a bit of work ahead of us, we’re excited and optimistic about the whole thing, and going through the process to make this our own. This first thing on our list is sanding down and refinishing the floors.

Leaving The Ugli Behind

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343 West / Exterior

OurFirstHouse

Well, we’ve done it. We told the rental market to suck it and bought ourselves a house. Goodbye landlords, goodbye tossing our money down the drain each month, goodbye ridiculous rental rules.

When we first started thinking about buying a house it seemed crazy. No way we’re old enough to own a house! But, as we started to scan the market, we realized that a house payment would be about the same as our monthly rent right now. Then we learned about the Provo City Home Purchase Plus Program, which would cover all of the downpayment and closing costs and we decided to commit. Buying a house in the Provo Pioneer neighborhoods is no easy feat, most houses are under contract within two days of being listed, but we lucked out and landed the perfect house for us. The process was long and stressful but we’ve (finally) closed and we can’t wait to get started turning this house into our home.

Prepare yourselves, because the Puglisis are official homeowners now and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.