No Clue Where to Start

Jane RaffertyAugust 29, 2010

My husband and I bought a 50 year old ranch house that needed some (a lot?) of work. He decided living with mom was a better option and is no longer in the picture. I have a minor/moderate handicap and not a lot of strength or stamina. I also don't have a lot of money.

I do have a home with an interior that needs painting, some cracks at the corners, one with only about a half an inch to work in to fix it. The woodwork is stained, but has had pain slopped onto it and parts are badly marked up, some even deeply scratched. The floors are bare wood - unfinished. It's a pretty dismal place to live. :(

Every time I start to work on it I get overwhelmed and quit. I literally don't know where to start. I could also use some ideas of how to figure out what I want to do. I've never owned a home before and find I'm clueless about how to choose what to do with the walls and woodwork. I alternate between refinishing the woodwork and just painting it. I love the honey pine color but don't know if I physically can do the refinishing and hiring someone is out for at least a year. I don't think I can paint until I figure out the woodwork - which puts me in a loop of indecision.

Does anyone know of any examples of normal homes that are posted? All I can find are the fancy homes with ideas I can't hope to do.



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When you bought the house, was there an inspection of the mechanicals, roof, foundation, etc? If all of those elements are in good shape, then you can concentrate on the cosmetics such as painting or refinishing. If you have similar homes in your neighborhood, you might get ideas from your neighbors. Might be a good way to introduce yourself to them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 10:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do you live in a city with a high school that has a building/construction program? Those programs sometimes need/can use real situations as teaching tools.

Or, programs like Christmas in October. This organization(and others like it) use volunteer labor to do needed repairs on client homes. The necessary supplies are home owner furnished or donated. Sometimes, lumberyards know of programs or people who do work with folks who need a bit of help.

Solving the trim problem is first. However, if the floors are wood, fixing those will require the trim to be removed. Removing the trim makes painting/repairing walls easier as well.

Removing the trim can and often does result in breaking some of it. It is possible to take off without breaking if the person doing the work is experienced in doing so. And, getting the experience often only takes minutes when using the correct tools and techniques.

It may be better in the long run to just replace the trim than to 'fix' it.

One way to save money when replacing the trim is to do the finishing yourself. Another is to buy the trim at a real lumber yard and not a home improvement store. A third would be to remove the old, buy enough new to replace the broken/damaged trim, finish the new as close to the old as possible and use the old to do completer rooms or large spaces(living/dining/halls) and the new for bedrooms/closets/etc. That lessens any color differences and lowers the overall costs.

I did that very thing on the 1965 built house in which we now live. It still had the original matched woodwork-----doors/trim/cabinets.

Fixing the floors will probably be beyond your abilities.

Painting may also not a DIY project, if your energy/stamina is very problematic. Takes a lot of shoulder/arm repetative movement. However, if you used latex paint, you could do one wall a day, or one wall morning and another afternoon. You could do all the cutting in and the rolling on later. Or vice versa.

I used to help folks do that kind of repair/renovating myself. I found it very enjoyable. I'd bet there are lots of folks who might also feel the same way. Look for retired groups. Might even find a barter situation if you have skills/time to use.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 1:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Patching, painting and a couple new light fixtures can do wonders to turn "dismal" into something more upbeat. You can do the patching and sanding yourself, since there's plenty of room for trial and error. If you're doing it yourself, pick only a room or two and focus on those.

As for the flooring, I would work directly with an installer when you can afford one. They can also help with touching up the trim, so don't worry about it for now.

Same for the bathrooms. Get them clean, maybe some paint, caulk, a new light fixture, new toilet set and you're on your way.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 8:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I meant to say toilet "seat".

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 8:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Jane Rafferty

Thanks for the responses. :)

Structurally the house is in good shape. I just had a new roof put on, so that's out of the way. The interior is depressing, the wall haven't been painted in years and the people that did it slopped it onto the baseboards and trim. I guess they never heard of masking tape.

What I intend to do with the floors is just to have them sanded and finished. They aren't in great shape, with multiple small gaps between the boards, but the color is a pleasant barn-wood which I like better than any of the vinyl flooring I've looked at. The idea is to make the serviceable, withstand multiple dogs and waterproof. I'm not looking for haute decor.

Will the baseboards have to come off for it to be sanded, or can I leave them up and sand them later to remove damage from the floor finisher?

My problem with replacing the trim is that there is a lot of it, I can't afford it and I can't figure out out to replace it myself with the miter corners I need. Also the inside of the door frame would have to be replaced or refinished. My problem with planning is that there is so much and with absolutely no experience I don't know where to start even assessing what needs to be done. It quickly becomes overwhelming. I've seen books and web sites that say how to fix this or that, but nothing that says you need to start HERE. What would you do first?


    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I live in an 1850's house, and it always needs something. I also diy everything except electrical rough-in and plumbing. But as I was contemplating the kitchen renovation, I realized that it alone was going to accutely affect 2 other rooms, and of course add a daily coating of dust to every square inch. So, I took the time to really do up my master bedroom as a refuge; I had TV and computer in there, too. It put me back a year, but having an escape pod from the chaos was worth it.
Research will be the most valuable time you spend. Hang around here and ask a lot of q's.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 5:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maybe it's not part of the equation, but whose name(s) is/are on the deed/mortgage? You and he buy a home and he leaves and moves in with mommy? And you have a handicap, short on stamina and limited funds. "Some cracks", might indicate foundation problems. What's the condition of the electrical service, plumbing, and HVAC? Don't mean to rain on your parade.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I echo what homebound said about doing one or two rooms at a time.

My husband and I have renovated and sold two houses and are now on our third. We do almost all of the work ourselves including; electrical; plumbing, drywall, painting, tiling etc.

If I think about all the work the whole house needs I get overwhelmed. I concentrate on one room at a time, and when it's done move on to another.

We usually do the bathroom first (essential for overnight stays). Then the kitchen so you have a decent place for cooking/eating. Then living areas, then bedrooms, then basement, then landscaping.

I also don't have as much energy has I used to. I find it's best to work on projects for a few hours at a time, then take a break.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Jane Rafferty

My name will be on the mortgage soon. He's signing the house to me as part of the divorce. He has a mild mental illness that he has managed to turn into a full-time occupation. I'm mystified why a grown man would rather live at home, but his mother is very enabling and I guess it would be nice to have a full-time servant.

The house did settle at some point and was shored up. The inspector (who has a good rep) assured me that it is now in good condition. The furnace is about 8 years old and is a heat exchanger that runs on oil. It is in good shape. AC is window units. The wiring is old, but ok. It needs to be updated to grounded outlets, I only have a few of those that were apparently put in for the AC. The problems appear to be mostly cosmetic now that the roof has been replaced.

My kitchen is fine. I still have the original appliances in harvest gold and will nurse them until they die permanently. The fridge is huge and the stove with two ovens is so well insulated I can bake in the summer and not heat up the house. The cabinets need help but they work fine and the one that my little dog chewed makes me smile because she endured 13 years having litter after litter in a puppymill and chew was the first thing she did after getting her awful rotted teeth fixed. :) She's gone now but she left her mark on my heart and on my cabinets. LOL

I will do some more research. Thanks for all the responses.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 8:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why not just paint the trim in the house white? A lot of new houses are like that, and you should be able to paint the trim white without taking the trim off. It will help to hide some of the scratches and dings in the wood work.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 2:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pick one room and make it your own. If the kitchen is okay for now, I'd probably pick the living room or the bedroom. Paint the walls and paint the trim, for now. If you have to strip the old paint to refinish the trim down the road, one more coat isn't going to hurt anything. Get some color on the walls and try to find something cheerful.

This is your chance to make the home your own. Any color, any style, it's all up to you. Have fun and take your time. Money isn't as important as a plan and maybe a painting party. Have some friends over and let them help. It doesn't have to be perfect. There's a point where getting comfortable in your house is more important that perfection.

As for the cabinet...I know exactly what you mean. My dining table has claw marks from where my kitty used to scratch it. He had a tough time, too, when he was young, so I remember how happy he was hiding under the tablecloth and scraching my garage sale find. The table cloth still hides the scratches, but I wouldn't sand them out for anything. He was a real sweetie :)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 2:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You did not mention how long you have lived in the house. Maybe you need to live in it for awhile and let the house "talk" to you so you will know what to do. Due to lack of finances, I lived in my 2 bedroom 1.5 bath house with a horrible kitchen for 22 years before remodeling. By the time I remodeled, I REALLY knew what I wanted!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 8:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Jane,

If your house feels "dismal" inside, and you don't know when you'll have the money to do what you really want to do, you could be miserable for years! I say buy some paint in a color you like, and get started. Paint can transform a room quickly for relatively little money. and once it's done, you will be so glad you did.

For me, spending a lot of time refinishing old woodwork in a ranch house wouldn't be worth the aggravation. When you get your floors finished you can have the woodwork replaced. If I were you, I would consider painting it for now or maybe refreshing the stain. No big refinishing project for me.

My DIL has convinced me that although it's a pain to prime first, the final paint finish turns out much nicer with primer than without it.

With cooler weather coming, it's a great time to paint. You'll have good ventilation while you're working.

Good luck with whatever project you decide to tackle.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 11:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nikoleta, I absolutely agree about primer! My partner finally convinced me to start using primer and the coat of paint ends up being so much smoother, durable, and professional looking. Definitely prime!!!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 12:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Christy Bell

My sister just went through, and is still going through, something very similar. She divorced and moved into an older home that needed lots of TLC. Her first mistake was to go after the whole house and start striping woodwork to restain. After all that, she was exhausted and decided to paint the woodwork anyway because the wood look made the house seem too dark and dismal.

I'd say paint the woodwork and take one room at a time. Unless you live in an old style craftsman bungalow or someplace that there was an effort into putting quality wood in for trim work, then I wouldn't bother stripping and restaining.

Take one room and focus on that. Make it your own. This house won't change overnight. Most people take years to redo their homes. We moved into a 1978 home that had all original fixtures, kitchen, baths, and carpet. Before we moved in we replaced the carpet and painted the whole house. That was it. After 4 years we remodeled the kitchen... but it was so important to know what we wanted after living there awhile. For instance we had a wood stove that was used to heat the house in the winter. Our first instinct was to remove it, but after living here a few years we realized we really wanted that stove and it saved us a lot of $$$! There is a period of adjustment that has to happen and acceptance of the situation. Breaking a job into manageable steps is key - and any house can become a place you love to be.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 11:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Primer is amazing stuff, isn't it, Krycek? I couldn't believe the difference in the finish. I had convinced myself that priming was an unnecessary use of time and money that couldn't possibly be worth the trouble. But once I actually tried it, wow! What a difference.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, Jane

Congrats on having a house of your own. If you have the energy to cook, you might be able to do some of the cosmetic repairs yourself. I have scoliosis and mild CP, but I have done various projects around our 72 year old house.

If you need to wait to do the floors, get rugs at yard sales to cover them. Hardwood floors are nice, but pets can scratch them or have "accidents" that stain them. It might not be worth it to get them refinished if you have pets.

Like the others said, start with one room. Read up on fixing cracks. Get the proper mesh and a small tub of joint compound. Add a little tiny bit of water to the joint compound and stir -- maybe do this in a separate container, a little at a time if you tire easily. Make a batch just for the one repair and wait to do another. Start with the cracks (if any) that you can reach sitting down. Keep on trying (I won't go into details because there is plenty of info on the web and the forums). Just wanted to let you know that if you keep trying, eventually it will become easier. The goal is to get the joint compound on smoothly so you don't have to do a lot of sanding.

If you have any respiratory problems, make sure you have a good face mask on when sanding to smooth the joint compound. There is a "sponge" sander that does not create as much dust because you wet it before sanding. Once all the cracks are fixed in the room, prime and paint. Go to your closet for a reminder of your favorite colors and use your favorite for the whole room or at least an accent wall. Good brushes are expensive but worth it. You want an angle brush for corners and edges.

Goof-off or a similar product may help get the drips off the baseboards.

I'm glad your kitchen is functional. That helps a lot. My house has some of the original cupboards. They were painted a pea-soup green and I painted them all white. Replaced the handles and they looked totally different.

Sorry if I rambled. I can totally relate to your situation. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 7:30PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Small bath remodel - problem tub size
I could use some advice. We decided it is high time...
4" or 5" rounded newell posts--where to order?
Is there such a thing as a 4" or 5" round...
Questions about attic & insulation
1980's era house. Blown in FG insulation which at this...
Pocket door questions
I am considering a butler's pantry/scullery addition...
adding a room, relocating stairs, relocating kitchen
My husband and I are planning on adding a one story...
Sponsored Products
Loren Polished Nickel Finish Three Light Pendant with White Linen Shade
$229.99 | Bellacor
Spheres Teapot/Infuser - Large - Nick Munro
$155.00 | HORNE
Altered State Galactic Multicolored Rug (4' x 6')
California Outdoor Concepts 1/4 in. Copper Reflective Fire Glass - 882-10
$79.99 | Hayneedle
Modus Modera 2 Piece Panel Bedroom Set in Chocolate Brown
Beyond Stores
Moonrays Posts Solar Powered Outdoor Color-Changing Purple LED Flower Stake
$29.99 | Home Depot
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™