Outdoor Progress

We have been experiencing some unseasonably warm days here in Buffalo and we’ve been trying to take full advantage in order to get some of the exterior work done before the inevitable snow tundra rolls our way.  If you remember from the day one shots, here’s a look at the back patio/sunroom:

Notice anything wrong with that picture? Okay, admittedly there are about a hundred things off-putting in that picture, but let’s focus on just one for now: the 3-inch thick moss covering the roof! It was everywhere. We thought for sure we needed a new roof and had budgeted about $8,000 for that cost. BUT, when we had our roofer come out (Irwin Roofing for any locals out there), he said the roof was actually in good shape and wouldn’t need to be replaced for another 6-7 years. Phew. And he said he could scrape off all the moss and clean the gutters (no small feat considering there were mini trees growing in them) for $300. Sold!


It took four guys maybe an hour or two to scrape off all that moss so we’re glad we didn’t try to tackle it ourselves.  Looks a lot better, right? Notice anything else different?

If you guessed less trees, then you’d be a winner! The reason the roof was covered in moss was because the trees were basically resting on the house (just scroll back up to the first picture and you’ll see what I mean).  The backyard had three massive trees–one was too close to the house and essentially growing on it and the other ones were in dire need of a good haircut. I wish I had a good before picture but I don’t. But here’s a roof close-up that shows just how much moss there was and how little light was getting to the roof because of all those tree limbs. 

So we got some tree guys out to give us estimates–we weren’t sure exactly what we wanted to do (Mr. Bunches loves grass so he was in favor of just taking all three trees down, but two of them were so massive that I knew that would be too expensive and likely unnecessary). Guess who was right? I don’t even need to answer that. Well, the first quote to take down all three trees came in at $4,000! Way too high. And then the same company said they would cut down one tree and trim the other two for $2,000. Better, but not great. So we called the same company we used when we moved into our house (or back then it was probably better described as the house enveloped by a forest, see here). Bob’s Tree Service said they would cut down the one and trim the rest for $975. Again, sold!

Within a day or two, they brought their rig and got to work. Took three guys about 5-6 hours and they hauled everything away. It was a big job.  The smaller tree in the middle was the one we were removing. 

And then the after:

So much better.  We basically just raised the canopy of the two huge trees and got rid of the one. That little bush-looking thing in the middle of the photo is actually a bunch of weeds around the stump of the tree we removed. 

We also got our own hands dirty outside. I attempted to clean up the front and side yards and made some progress, albeit this is by no means a remarkable transformation:

It looks a little different even now since we took advantage of the end-of-season landscape sale at Home Depot and picked up a bunch of perennials at 50% off.  I’ll try to update this post with a picture of those soon. With the weather probably getting colder any day now, there likely won’t be much additional exterior progress until the spring but that’s okay. We have our hands full with the interior anyways. 

Up next, guess which room this is . . .


Kitchen Demo: Part One

As promised, it’s time to share the progress of our kitchen renovation. As soon as we stepped in the house for the first time, we knew this kitchen would have to be a complete gut job. 

It’s still hard for me to stomach that someone actually lived here with the ceiling in that condition. I actually think it’s crazy. The good news, though, is that whatever caused that to happen to the ceiling appears to have been repaired. We went over there one day during a massive rainstorm and not a drop of water was coming through, so I think we’re good. Although we’re still planning to have our roofer come over to check it out. 

We got an estimate to demo the kitchen and bathroom and put up new drywall–it was $2,500. And since we only got one estimate, we have no idea if that was high or low. Either way, Mr. Bunches figured he could at least tackle some of the demo himself.  We knew the cabinets, floors, wall tiles, drywall, and soffits would all be coming out. But we also knew we wanted to tear down the wall between the kitchen and dining/living room.  Open concept is the name of the game these days, so we might as well go for it, right?

Here’s how that wall looked once we got someone to haul out the stove and fridge (read more about that here):


And here’s what it looked like once Mr. B got started on the demo:

He’s really doing an awesome job (I think). He wrestled up all of the floor tiles and then started chiseling off each of the large wall tiles (each one weighs about 10 pounds and we think they’re made of glass?). So basically, it’s been no small feat to get so much done.  And then as if it wasn’t hard enough, the walls are actually drywall covered in a 1/2″ layer of plaster. Awesome, right?  He’s also being extra careful to avoid electrical stuff.  Here’s how that wall looks today (that’s a pocket door on the left):

In addition to working on that one wall, he’s also been tackling the rest of the kitchen. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of one corner; Mr. B has removed the metal cabinets and the bulk of the tile (except the tiles on the soffits). 

And just to show you another example of before and after, here’s the view of the kitchen entrance from the garage/side door as it was a few days after we closed:

And here it is now:

We still have a long way to go in there but we’re making progress. Oh, and if you’re wondering whether that wall we’re planning to remove is load-bearing, the good news is that we don’t think so. We’re not engineers or anything, but the wall doesn’t sit on top of either of the I-Beams in the basement and the beams in the roof are all running parallel to that wall. So I’m pretty sure we’re good to go with taking it down. 

We took a little break from the internal demo work over the past few days to get some stuff accomplished on the exterior (the weather has been unseasonably warm so we wanted to take full advantage). Progress pics of that coming next week . . . 

What’s Hiding Under That Carpet?!

If you guessed hardwood floors, well, no such luck. Womp, womp. We definitely thought there would be hardwoods under all that carpet given the era of the house, but we were wrong. The only thing under those carpets was a decimated carpet pad and a subfloor. 


The carpet pad had turned to dust. Literally. Apparently that’s what happens after 60+ years?!


But despite the fact that it was a stinky, messy, and quite frankly gag-worthy job, Mr. Bunches managed to rip out all the flooring in the house in just over a day. By himself!  As he said, “I’m a man! I bet Andi [Bachelorette Season 167] would be all over me.”  I just let him have that one. 

Here are a few more in-progress shots of my man being a man.

I really have to give him a ton of credit, though. He has been getting after it and the progress he’s made is impressive.  Here’s a side-by-side of the cozy sunroom: from the day we first got inside to how it looked on Day 4. 

And here’s a close-up of what that carpet looked like when Mr. B pulled it up:

I don’t even want to know what all that stuff was. Again, you should all be thankful that they haven’t invented smell-a-net yet. I’m pretty sure that the chihuahua used that red carpet as his own pet pad. I’m just thankful that it’s all out of the house. Oh, and I’m thankful that the subfloors are in good shape.  (Given that it’s November now, I figured I should start practicing my thanks.)

Now we’ve got to start prepping the floors, which basically means removing all the nails and staples leftover from the carpet. The prep work is key to making sure that the installation of our new floors goes well. Oh, and since most installers will charge anywhere from $1.50-$2.00/foot for prep work, it’s also a way that we can save ourselves at least $1,500. 

Since my man was able to get so much done in only a couple days, he decided to start on the kitchen demo. Up next? Our progress in removing all. that. tile.  Ugh. 

Even though we’re excited to get a lot done, we’re trying to keep a good balance of house-stuff and the much more important family-stuff. And so we took a break this weekend to enjoy Halloween and our two Disney-themed kiddos. Queen Elsa and Olaf. Love them. 


Come and Get It!

The person that lived in our new property left quite a bit of, uh, stuff. (That’s the G-rated word I’ll use to describe it anyways.) And while there really wasn’t that much (it wasn’t like an episode of Hoarders or anything), there were quite a few appliances left behind and our backs ached just thinking about how we were going to get them out of the house.  Lucky for us there are people all over craigslist willing to take scrap metal off your hands for free. So in one day we managed to get 7 major appliances removed from our house.  And we didn’t have to lift a finger. 

They also took all kinds of random bits and pieces–rusted out fans, pipes, metal chairs, etc. Basically anything with some metal in it. And we were happy to give. 

But even though we had the big stuff removed for free, there was still quite a bit of other junk. Dirty, dusty, and in some cases moldy, junk. So in the interest of time (and our health), we hired a clean up crew to empty out the basement (that’s where most of the stuff was–the previous owners actually removed almost everything on the main floor). 

It wasn’t exactly cheap, but considering that they emptied the basement (including demoing some walls, power washing the walls and floors, and hauling away everything) AND they did it one day, it was totally worth it.  I actually thought we might have been able to do it ourselves, but when I saw the haul after only a few hours of them working, I knew we made the right decision. 

Even though everything in there was basically garbage, we did salvage a few things . . . I love old milk bottles and this one was in great shape.



And there was a set of 8 vintage Golden Harvest drinking jars in perfect condition. 


Not bad, right? And those were all stored in the basement which, believe it or not, was actually the cleanest part of the house.  

It’s so nice to at least be able to start with a (relatively) clean slate . . . 

The cleanup crew will return to take their blowers and dehumidifiers. And then we’ve got to get a new hot water heater and a boiler in before the Buffalo winter really gets going. Did I mention before that the previous owner took the boiler out? Sigh. That’s the risk with a foreclosure though, right?

Up next: what we’ve accomplished upstairs in less than a week!

Move Over Tarek and Christina!

What do Mr. Bunches and I have in common with HGTV’s Tarek and Christina?  


  1. We both have an adorable little girl and a baby boy;
  2. We both have hit TV shows (ours stars Mr. Bunches and airs nightly on Idiot Nation TV–check with your local cable provider to subscribe); and
  3. We both have a Real Estate Empire!!

Okay, so two out of three of those might be slight exaggerations.  But only slight.  The big news is that we just bought a house and we’ve begun the flip process!! So fun, right? 

It’s a 2-bedroom, 1-bath brick ranch built in the 1950s and located in our neighborhood. We bought the house at the Erie County Property Tax Auction, so we bought it without having any idea what the inside of it looked like. But we knew the value of homes in the neighborhood and we did lots of drive-bys before the auction, and we felt like it was a great buy. Risky of course, but without risk, there’s no reward, right?!

We’re planning to share lots of renovation details here and hopefully get some of your opinions along the way. But for now, how about some before shots . . . 

The entryway/living/dining room:
The kitchen, with just some slight ceiling issues:

The sunroom off the kitchen:

Bedroom #1:



Bedroom #2:



Back patio:

So just a bit of work to do ;). The real shame is that the Internet doesn’t have the ability to transmit smells, because that’s where you’d really get the feel of this house. So since there’s no smell-a-net yet, I’ll give you a recipe so that you can create the smell at home:


  • 1 chihuahua
  • 2 doves
  • Carpet from the 1950s
  • Closed-off rooms 

Combine all ingredients. Let simmer for ~5 years. Make sure animals only go to the bathroom indoors. Enjoy. 

Stay tuned . . . We’ve already accomplished a lot in only a week so far. Updates soon!

Project 5: Refinishing Furniture with Minwax Polyshades

When we first moved into our home, the nursery looked like this: Before_House_Shot_0052 We then turned the room into a guest room, by basically adding a bed and some paint.  But let’s be honest–as any of our guests can attest to, the room was never really finished.  Sorry guests! So when we decided to turn this room into the nursery, we started with this:

And while I like the functionality of the built-ins and someday when the kids are older, it will be nice to have the desks and whatnot, I currently can’t stand the way they look.  The woods are all different shades!

And while we’re being honest, it’s not even really all wood. The countertop is actually a laminate, and the rest are all veneers. So, what was I to do? I could rip it out, but then we’d have a flooring issue since these are original to the house and so there are no wood floors underneath. I could paint it all, but that would take forever and remember: I was preggo at the time I tackled this project; I could sand and stain it all to try and match the laminate, but again: preggo and not interested in a ton of work. So what did I decide? To do a sort of mix: paint the shelves and trim, and then use a cheater method to stain the cabinets and drawers to match the countertop.  First up, priming and painting the shelves and trim (I used Kilz latex primer and Sherwin Williams Pro Classic color-matched to Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White).


Once the first coat of paint was on, then I caulked around all the edges. Then did the final coat of paint.  The next step was tackling the drawers and doors. I didn’t feel like sanding them down so that I could stain and seal them. Just too much work. So I decided to take yet another page out of the Young House Love handbook and try Minwax Polyshades.  Remember when YHL used this method to do their new kitchen’s lower cabinets?

My goal was to have the cabinets match the color of the laminate top. So I took some pics of the top with my phone and headed off to Lowe’s.


There, I picked up some steel wool (per the directions on the Minwax can) and a can of Minwax Polyshades in Tudor, Satin finish (the same as YHL since it actually seemed that color would be a close match).   Once home, I then took all the hardware off the cabinets and drawers and used the steel wool all over everything. Then wiped it all down with a damp cloth.  I don’t have any pictures of these steps. Sorry. I then applied my first coat of the Polyshades. I bought a new paintbrush for this since it’s oil-based and I planned to just throw away the brush when I was done.  I found that this stuff goes on extremely sticky and it’s hard to get it to not show brush strokes. Even with a light hand. And even harder to get an even coat.  So be warned–it probably worked so well for YHL because they made their cabinets super dark. I’m not so sure this would look particularly good in a lighter color.  I started by doing the insides of the cabinet doors, just so I could get the hang of it before tackling parts that would actually be showing.  And I did get better at applying it. It took me only about 15 minutes to do the insides of the cabinets and all 12 drawer fronts (to allow for drying, my plan was to tackle the insides of the cabinets first and let those completely dry before moving on to the outside of the cabinets).  This stuff also royally stinks, so make sure you’ve got adequate ventilation.  Well, after one coat (and one day of drying time since dry and wet did look different), I found that the color was all wrong. The laminate top had way more red in it and the Tudor was definitely more of a chocolate brown.  Here’s a shot of one of the inside of the doors after one coat of Tudor:


And here’s another phone shot of the laminate top (this time it looks totally different than before, right? Dang iPhone):


See how it’s way more red? So I headed to Home Depot this time, where I discovered that HD carried an entirely different set of colors of Polyshades than Lowe’s. Not sure what that’s all about. But I ended up buying American Chestnut:  

My plan at that point (since I already had one coat done in the Tudor) was to just do my final coat in the American Chestnut. I figured that the blend of the two would be a close-enough match to the laminate top.  Following the instructions, I then rubbed my first coat down with more steel wool, and wiped it all down to remove any dust.  I then proceeded with applying the chestnut. I found the key was to get a decent amount in the brush, and apply it over the whole piece quickly. Then immediately go back and do long brush strokes with the grain from end to end. However, even with my technique perfected, I still found that the Polyshades went on smoother in some places than others. Here’s a pic of two drawers as an example:


I finished the drawers first since they only had one side. I decided to keep the original hardware since the size was pretty unique and I couldn’t find a replacement I liked. Plus, being the lazy preggo woman that I was, I didn’t feel like going with a different size and then having to patch the old holes and drill new ones. Plus, brass is making a comeback these days, right?


  From a distance, I think it looks pretty good and is a vast improvement over where it started.


But close-up, well, let’s just say it’s not the best. It didn’t come out nearly as well as Mini B’s dresser.



So if you want to use this on an heirloom or quality piece of furniture, then my advice? Don’t. Instead, take the time to actually sand it down and apply stain. Even if it is just veneer.  But, if it’s a piece you don’t really care about, and/or you’re looking for a quick fix, then this is the ticket. Although, while the application of the product goes quickly, with drying time it is still a multi-day affair.

And so this is where the nursery stood when Baby B made his debut:


Now that he’s been around for two months, it’s probably about time that I get on finishing this room already.  Stay tuned . . .

Step It Up

I haven’t blogged in about 10 million years.  Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.  So here’s a quickie–a little update I did that took two naps to complete, so about 4 hours for a regular person (that’s just for the vinyl sticker application; the rest of the steps were slowly completed over the past three years).  First, where we started when we bought the house:


And where we are today, after stripping the carpet, painting the doors and trim, painting the stairwell and upstairs landing, and adding some chevron-tastic details:


Big difference, huh?  The chevrons aren’t painted on (I don’t have that kind of patience or time these days, and I also didn’t want something that would take a lot of effort to remove if I didn’t like it); instead, they’re vinyl stickers from here.  Yep, Pot & Kettle Studios made them custom to fit my risers, and they were super easy to install.  And when I’m sick of them, they’ll be super easy to peel off.


Here’s a shot of them in black from their etsy shop:


So there you have it–proof that we’re still alive and still making some changes around here . . .




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