We did a thing…

Well, technically MAYBE I did more of a thing, but my hubby was included in this decision as it may go down as a really bad decision OR it may possibly be a pretty good decision.. only time will tell!

So we bought a house, now it is not a pretty, cute or historic looking house but it has some other positive attributes like; it is in a very good location, in walking distance to my daughter’s college (ODU) and tons of restaurants, bars nightlife etc. So the draw for this really not so very awesome house was, location, location, location… plus it has a great sized yard.

Our plan was to buy it, renovate it and rent it back to our daughter and her friends. If your kids are renting while in school now you probably know how much they/you pay in rent, when we did the math we found that we could not only save our daughter some money but also make a little ourselves in the end as well.. sounds great right?! We could have MAYBE/POSSIBLY done a little structural work, slapped some paint on it and called it a day, but the more we (ok me), thought about it the greater the scope became.

So here I am 6 months into this journey and just starting to share this with you… Why you ask? Well because I was TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of writing this any sooner, I just had no energy, time or desire to take any time away from the project to write the post, but I think I can start now as we seem to be VERY close to the finish line…

I’m only going to share with you the before photos of the interior at this time, for safety and security reasons I will not share the exterior until we are complete… don’t worry you are not missing any great beauty!

A few stats on the house: It’s located in Norfolk, Virginia, it was built in 1888 (!!), it is 1,600 sq. ft, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and resides on 3 city lots (!). The man we purchased it from had lived there since the early 1970’s and it appears that he had not done too much to it since that time.

So here it sits, a wonderful time capsule to 1970’s curtains, wallpaper & tile..

Not too bad right? Those curtains were custom made and when made ( a long, long time ago) must’ve been very expensive, they’re pretty incredible. The floor is an inexpensive laminate wood look, but not too bad. The ceiling has a popcorn finish and the walls has a scallop texture to them, still not too bad…

This is the back bedroom, which is right next to the living room. The ceiling is that drop ceiling tile, so no not tin unfortunately, you will see this ceiling installed in almost all of the other rooms as well.

This is the small “hall” with the back bedroom to the left, the HVAC closet and main bath to the right and the kitchen straight ahead. What you don’t / can’t see here is the feeling of rotted and sloping floors, which was almost a “no go” for us.

So the kitchen REALLY wasn’t that bad, my first apartment was only slightly better looking, but certainly not as big. The cupboards were old, but could easily be painted, the appliances were in good shape so from a quick glance it looks like a little wallpaper removal and paint would do the trick… That is until you get close to the cabinets and you can feel the softness of the floor, something was very, very wrong…

This is the main bath, again a little paint, new inexpensive flooring, no problem! Nope, don’t get too close to the vanity or toilet or you might fall through that floor, OMG what is happening!

We put the question of the soft floors aside and move to the front bedroom, just off the living room. It is the smallest of the 3, but really a little paint, wallpaper removal and replace the flooring and call it a day! No flooring issues here thank goodness!!

I called (and will continue to call) this room the Dressing Room. It is located right off of the living room, but you need to pass through it to get to the Master Bedroom. So even though the realtor was trying to convince me that this could be used as a bedroom there was no way it was going to ever be one. Again, lather, rinse, repeat with the walls & floors, but did find a small soft spot in here too.. hmm…

This is the Master Bedroom, it is an addition from MAYBE the 1990’s. It has real hardwood flooring, a small bathroom and closet in it. This room was probably in the best shape, it needed some repair to the drywall tape in some areas and a new coat of paint, but other than that was ready to go!

The Master bath was small, but functional and appeared to be in good shape even if it wasn’t cosmetically ideal. So new vanity, toilet, flooring and paint should do the trick or so I thought…

This is the mudroom, which is located just off of the kitchen and allows access to the back deck and yard. It is a good sized room, but had some sort of issues with the washer draining into the sink, but overall looked like just cosmetic work warranted.

I wanted to show you one last interior shot, the attic… it is hard to tell the scale here but the top of the ceiling was about 25ft or so high. I mean it is HUGE and there wasn’t one contractor that came through that wasn’t in awe of it.. now mind you they also thought I should add a second floor in here but THAT change was certainly not in the budget…

Also, it may be hard to see, but you can see where the original ceilings below were 10ft high as you can see some of the original ledger board and plaster and lathe on the walls in the attic to the left. It appears that the ceilings were LOWERED to 8ft to save costs on heating bills (so I was lead to believe) probably in the 1970’s. There is no plaster or lathe left in the house except for in the attic, everything has been drywalled.

So we have torn up a BUNCH of shit…. and I mean a BUNCH! Like my husband has a full time job, but I’m retired so this is my full time job, for months I was demoing by myself during the week and my husband would help on the weekends. Every so often our youngest daughter would come help and sometimes bring help too, but overall the majority was done by me and it was NOT fun. Looking back on it now I’m pretty sure I was crazy to take this on and my husband probably should have committed me or at a minimum stopped me “somehow”, but I was/am determined so this is where I am…

Yep, that’s me, tearing out a closet.. (REDRUM) do you see all of my safety gear? I didn’t run into any asbestos and I tested for lead and didn’t find any where I tested, but you can never be too careful. I also bought a jobsite air scrubber to help maintain air cleanliness as well as you can never be too cautious.

So in the end the “slap some paint on it, remove wallpaper” original idea went out the window. This house became almost a full gut job that included moving rooms around, fixing/moving plumbing (more on that later), tearing out a 133 year old brick chimney, running additional electricity and moving the HVAC to the attic.

I will post about the demo phase next, but I will tell you I am so happy with how everything is progressing, fingers crossed to be done by August.

PS This kind of work is no joke, I will be turning 50 at the end of August and I was feeling pretty wore out after those long demo days. This is more work than I have ever done, and I am proud of myself, but I am not going to lie, some days I just feel like crying and staying in bed and it takes everything I have to get motivated. I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for me, as I did this to myself, I just wanted to put it out there that for others to consider before they embark on a similar path… it has been both mentally and physically challenging…

As always thanks for stopping by… sorry for the SUPER long post!


  1. I’ve been tempted to do something like this, but I can see how hard it would be, as my age is about the same as yours! It’s easier if you have a companion on a regular basis, I’d bet. Kudos to you for a job well done!


    1. Thanks so much for your comment! It is hard to admit that my body cannot handle certain things the same way it could in my 30’s! Having said that I never took on this level of work in my 30’s so just MAYBE it would have been just as hard! Either way it is a challenge that I am working through…


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