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Home Renovations

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We haven’t posted lately, because we’ve been swamped working on the house. We moved into a “starter home” – a 1345 sq ft property built in 1987 on a 1/4 acre lot in the suburbs of Austin, a few years ago. We mainly chose it due to price and the proximity to where I worked at the time. It wasn’t our dream home, but was nice enough, our rent was going up, and we wanted a place to call our own. Fast forward a bit, and we started looking for other houses. The problem is that all the houses in this area we are interested in run at least $350K. A year ago that was $300K. The prices keep going up. With the RV, the truck payments, and everything else, it’s hard to justify (and possibly even get) that sort of mortgage. And we simply don’t want to spend that much. We investigated moving out of the Austin area, and found a handful of places we liked that were less expensive, but none that we felt were right. Ultimately, we decided to invest the savings we had for a down payment into the home we have, and make the most of it.

We started off our renovations by painting the entire house, floor to ceiling. We actually did the bedrooms a few months back, and did the rest of the house in the past few weeks. When we did the bedrooms, we also tore up the original tile and carpet and laid down new bamboo floors in the main areas and high end carpet in the bedrooms. We chose a dark grey for the bedrooms, and a light grey of the same tone for the rest of the house. We painted all the ceilings and baseboards bright white. We then stained all the brick (fireplace, backsplash, etc) with watered down white paint and a few drops of grey.

After we painted, we replaced all the door knobs with matching nickel and replaced all the light fixtures with new, matching ones. We added a new chandelier over the kitchen table and replaced all the window treatments, again with matching ones. We painted all the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms white and added hardware (nickel in the kitchen, rubbed bronze in the bathroom). We’re going for a country chic theme throughout the house, with a semi-industrial kitchen feel. I’ll post photos later, but we think it has turned out very nice. After addressing the house itself, we replaced lampshades, wall hangings, and other decorations to complement the new color scheme and tie the rooms together.

After taking care of the house, we moved onto the garage. When we ordered the paint for the house, they gave us one gallon of the wrong color. It turned out to be a dark blue, and I decided to throw it on the garage walls rather than deal with a return. After painting the walls, I installed a GarageTrac flooring system, ordered a new welding table, TIG welder and welding cart, bench grinder, drill press, bench sander, bench grinder, band saw, generator, proper jack, and a bunch of other little knick-knacks needed to flesh out my tool selection. One of the major reasons I wanted a different piece of property was so that I could have my dream workshop. I’m now cramming that dream workshop into a two car garage. For storage and organization, which is a huge issue, I ordered a NewAge Pro 3.0 cabinet set that will take up an entire wall, and part of another, and am still waiting for it to arrive.

About this time our garage fridge began to die, with horrid compressor noise and we decided we needed to replace it. We’ve repaired it a few times and by this point considered it untrustworthy. We buy things in bulk, prepare and freeze them, and use the garage fridge to save excess produce from our garden. We opted to upgrade the fridge inside the house, and move the fridge from the kitchen to the garage. It was an unexpected item in our budget, but the upgraded fridge in the house is extremely nice and the stainless fridge we moved into the garage looks much better than the grimy white one it replaced. I even ran a water line to it from the water softener for ice and water dispensing.

After getting to a stopping point on the garage (waiting on the arrival of the cabinets) we moved to the back yard. Another huge reason we were looking at moving was so that we could have a proper garden. We’re big into healthy food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and knowing where our food comes from. Last year we built a large garden and grew a lot of our own food. This year we’re substantially expanding it and going to produce through the winter. We started by ordering all the seeds we wanted for our garden, and adjusting the selection based on what we learned last year. Then we ordered a 10′ x 16′ green house to place on the opposite side of the yard. We ordered 4×4 posts to frame in under the green house as a foundation, and will be ordering a yard and a half of pea gravel to fill in the foundation 3″ deep over weed cloth. The posts will stick out 2′ to the side facing the yard, and be framed in again for a slightly raised flower bed. The green house we ordered has 2′ x 16′ shelves running down both walls, and we ordered lots of the plastic pots they sell plants in at nurseries to grow in. We’ll be ordering a couple yards of soil to to use for planting when we order the pea gravel.

In addition to our normal planting, we are doing a lot of fruit this year. Last year we didn’t do much. This year, we ordered grapes, blackberries, and raspberries, which we will be planting along one of our fence lines on 4×8 lattice boards. We’re considering growing them in large pots, so that when winter comes we can trim them back to the bases and bring them inside the greenhouse for overwintering. We also ordered mature semi-dwarf (15′) Fuji and Pink Lady apple trees, that are 6-7′ tall and should produce in the first year, as well as a mature triple-grafted semi-dwarf tree that produces plums, peaches, and nectarines and should produce in the first year. We also ordered pairs of small pomegranate and fig trees. Those will all be put directly in the ground. For smaller potted trees, we ordered banana and pineapple (though not technically a tree). Inside the greenhouse we will be doing lettuces, overflow vegetables, and starting seeds. In winter it will become the primary garden for anything that can’t winter outside in our zone.

Since we do spend a lot of time away from home, especially during the summer, we’re automating watering with water timers, drip systems, and auto irrigators.

We have a charcoal (Egg-style, Acorn Kamado Kooker) grill that we used to use a lot, but at some point stopped because it is both wasteful and a pain to start for every little meal. If we want to grill out five to seven days a week during the summer, it just isn’t feasible. We decided to pick up a propane grill and set it on patio stones, on a place that grass doesn’t like to grow just off our back porch. We’ll be able to use it a lot more than the charcoal ones. We’ve had several cheaper grills in the past, and they always seem to rust out within a few years, even with covers and care. For the cost of replacing a couple of those, I found a closeout stainless steel Weber Genesis that should stand up to the test of time. They’re ending that series and replacing it with the Genesis II, which is made in China, so if you are looking for an American made Weber this is a great time to get one (if you can find one). Either way, the propane grill should see a lot more use than the charcoal one it is replacing.

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