Tag Archives: renovations

Bewildered By Tiny House Nation


My husband and I have been watching an episode or two of Tiny House Nation in the evening before bed. The show is a lot of fun to watch. The reason is Hubby Dearest and I downsized and lived in a travel trailer for five years while we journeyed all over North America so that part is familiar. We also purchased a small house in a small town. Our house is 480 square feet so it is also a Tiny House depending on how one defines such things. We see much that is familiar on the show and we get some neat ideas for life in our own home. Still, I just don’t get these Tiny Houses.


Sitting in a shower/shelter during a tornado warned storm in Alabama. Tiny Houses and Recreational Vehicles are unsafe in severe weather.

At the end of each show the proud new owners of the Tiny House get their custom designed Tiny House. As someone who has quite literally driven all over the USA in a travel trailer pulled by a pickup, I look at these houses and think, “No Way!” These Tiny Houses with all that custom woodwork, metal framing, appliances and everything else must weight a lot more than a travel trailer. Plus they are tall and that front flat and high peak is anything but aerodynamic. Between the weight and the lack of aerodynamics, it’s going to cost a fortune in fuel to go anywhere. Assuming of course it doesn’t just fall apart bouncing around on the highway or get the top chopped off going under a low underpass or tree. And all those custom modifications? When the new owners arrive the Tiny House is decorated with potted trees, and lawn furniture, a huge deck and stuff like flower pots on the window sills. You cannot go down the road with window sill pots because you have to be under that 8 foot limit for the highway. Who wanted to be taking all that inside every time you move? It’s just not practical. The only driving I can see with a Tiny House is to drive it to the nearest spot you plan to park it at and not move it again. And that will only work if you find someone to insure the thing.


I just can’t see a Tiny House Nation tiny house competing with these guys on the highway.

The next puzzle I have it where do they end up parking it? In a few cases they are obviously parked in RV parks which is great for places like Florida. However, I have lived for months at a time in privately owned RV parks and they just aren’t that great. The space between plots is often so small you can touch your fingers on your trailer and the one next door. The fees are usually not much less than renting a studio apartment. Plus my experience has been there is no place with more rules and regulations than an RV park. So the idea of wide open spaces and freedom is just not there. We hated most of the private RV parks we stayed at. National Parks and State/Provincial Parks, which generally do have the space and freedom from silly little rules, have limits on the length of stay. Typically the limits are about 14 days. The other problem with parks is that unless you are in the south, most are not open year around. Where do you go in winter? Parking your Tiny House on private land is a possibility but you need to find that private land and you need to be in a place where local codes let you park and live in a house on wheels. Such places are few and far between.


Exceptionally nice parking spot in a Army Corp of Engineers campground in Alabama. Most private campgrounds have much smaller lots of each camper and most don’t let you hang your laundry among a whole lot of other rules. The more expensive the campground, the more rules.


This is the view of a typical private campground type spacing between parked rigs. In fact this park was actually on the more generous size. We have seen much smaller spacing. The fire in the background is a controlled burn by the campground owner. It’s his/her land and she/he can do what he/she likes without your permission. If you don’t like it, you are free to leave.

I also wondered about cost. They never bring up the money on that show. I had to go on line to find out. I was astonished to discover these deluxe Tiny Homes start at $100,000. That’s totally nuts! You can buy the very best top of the line recreational vehicle for life on the road. If you look in the right places you can also find small houses in rural communities in need of TLC for less than $100,000. These older small homes are grandfathered in so they can be under the minimum square footage most local codes require. Plus, if you buy a house on a piece of land, you no longer have to worry about your landlord because you own the land. We have our tiny stick house and there is a big driveway to park our travel trailer for when we go traveling.

Our tiny house is 480 square feet. It has a full unfinished basement, a double lot with garden space and mature trees, a garage bigger than our house, and plenty of room for our travel trailer.

Watching the Tiny Nation I have concluded that Tiny Houses are really cute, creative and wonderful masterpieces of fun building. They are also totally impractical. If you want to travel around North America, consider saving your money and buying a good travel trailer or fifth wheel designed for the open road. $100,000 buys an awful lot of recreational vehicle. If you really want to live in a custom Tiny House, consider buying an old house and fixing it up or go for a neighbourhood where rules are changing to accommodate smaller Granny suites or garden suites whatever the name is for a tiny house and put it on a foundation instead of on wheels. The tiny house on wheels as shown on Tiny House Nation is a combination of the worst aspects of living in a recreational vehicle and living in a stick house with few of the benefits of either. That being said, I still just love watching that show.

Our tiny 480 square foot house, was built in 1960. We even added a heavily reinforced basement tornado shelter, just in case.






New Storm Doors

In our continuing effort to make our little house on the prairie into a snug warm place for us in winter and a cool welcoming place is summer we recently installed two new storm doors. Inner doors are always solid and often steel with insulation to keep out the cold winter. The storm door is the outer door that faces the elements.


Old screen door that was falling apart due to water seeping into the underlying particle board, freezing and expanding in the winter. Some of the plastic parts also broke in the cold as harsh prairie temperatures makes many plastics brittle.

We call them screen doors because they include screens so that in summer you can leave the heavy protective inner door open and let the breeze through the house while keeping insects out. We also call them storm doors because another function is to keep the wind during winter from hitting the inner door. This dramatically increases the insulation value of the inner door. For those of you from southern climates a screen door is normally a light flimsy thing, often made with pretty wood work and scrolls. Such a door would never make it through our cold winters. Snow would get in behind the screen and pile up and prevent the door from opening or closing properly. The wood would freeze and swell. Particle board is commonly used in construction of outer doors but it just can’t take our winters. Water gets in and freezes and expands and turns particle board into fragile misshapen crummy stuff in short order. The weight of snow can also break flimsy doors. Storm doors need to be sturdy and made from materials impervious to extreme cold, extreme heat and both wet and dry conditions.

I wanted was something with as much openness are possible to let lots of light and air in. When we were in the south we were drawn to the pretty white screen doors with decorative scroll work and lots of openness. I also liked the feel of the security doors we saw all over during a trip to Mexico. These doors open the whole doorway while providing security.


Both doors are entirely impractical for our harsh climate but I was pleasantly surprised to find a perfect storm door for my tastes. It was light and open for summer with windows the entire length and a drop down screen. It was made in Canada with no flimsy particle board to get wet and fall apart. These doors were aluminum and steel and tempered glass construction perfect for our harsh Canadian climate.


The doors are made by AluminArt. One of the nice things about their doors is they have a wonderful warranty. If you mess up on the installation they will repair or replace the door or the part. That made it even more attractive. We haven’t installed a storm door before so we that helped us to decide. One thing I really liked was the dual closure system. There are pump closers on top and bottom. This makes the door quiet and yet feels so secure. You can’t slam this door. They came with underside door sweepers so that there is a nice flap to keep the wind out on the underside where the door meets the house. In addition there is a nice steel kick plate to protect the bottom of the white painted aluminum. I added my own additional layer of weather stripping and we rescued the chain back up from the old doors.


We found these doors when we were out looking for flooring. We didn’t buy them right away. Our lack of unlimited wealth means we have to stick to a budget. The budget meant the doors would have to wait. It was a good thing we did wait. After we had finished the flooring, we were in the same store to pick up some hinges and we went to admire our future doors again. We found out they where on sale for 20% off. It was also no tax days. Good and Services Tax (7%) and Provincial Sales Tax (8%) always add a substantial chunk to any purchase. This “no tax day” sale saved us a total of 35%. There’s budgets and then there are time to break out the credit card and go for it. This was one of those times.


With the screen down half the door is screen.

Installing the doors went more smoothly than I expected. I watched a couple of videos on youtube first and then I carefully read the detailed Aluminart instructions.  I was fortunate in that in spite of the poor quality of the preexisting doors, the previous owner had done a great job of installing them. Everything was all square, plomb and right. We simply had to remove the old hardware and supports and put the new ones in their place. It was not hard work. It was just tedious and demanded attention to detail. I took out a lot of screws and and put a lot of screws back in. Up down, in out, lots of drilling, lots of muscle. It took me about 12 hours to get the entire thing done. If I made my living that way I expect I could get it down to two hours per door. I sincerely hope I never have to!


Door had dual latches so even though our dog knows how to open the upper latch she can’t open the lower one.

With the doors open we can see out to both our decks and have a lovely view of our yard. We were delighted how much more light the house has in it now.


Our dog and cat seem to really like the doors. They can see out anytime they want to.

One more step to making our little house our perfectly lovely home. I still need to do some painting around the disturbed trim. I have some touchups to do. I have the stuff…. well do you ever get everything right in a house?

No one associated with Aluminart or the retail store I purchased these doors from gave me anything of any sort for saying these nice things about the doors in my blog.

New Flooring – Luck and the Prepared Mind.


Our lives have been in turmoil for the last week. A big truck pulled up and delivered 23 boxes of brand spanking new vinyl plank flooring and we have been installing it. It’s not hard to do but it requires moving everything and laying the flooring and then putting everything back. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s step back to how I chose what we eventually started laying.

You can see in this picture the original old flooring in this house. It is 9″ vinyl squares. They were installed when the house was built circa 1960 and fortunately  there has not been anything installed over that. I say fortunately because in other homes I have had to tear out stuff like avocado green shag rug from the 1970s or eleven layers just plain crap. Our original idea was to tear up the old tiles. They were cracking and coming off in pieces anyway.  However, we learned that 9″ tiles often contain asbestos and have to be removed by a hazardous material team at great cost. I went on line and found an exact match to our tiles on a searchable database and the database says our tiles don’t have asbestos. My assurances didn’t matter to installers. 9″ tiles must be removed as if they do have asbestos and they just ain’t doing it, lady.

We then began researching alternatives. It had to be something that could go over the old tiles. I am mildly asthmatic and need to avoid carpeting. The old floor was always cold so I wanted warmth. We also needed something that can handle dog traffic, hair and dog nails. Thinking longer term into our old age, we also needed whatever we finally got to be sturdy, not slippery, for diminishing sense of balance. Above all we needed easy to clean and maintain. I also wanted a certain look.

I am trying to do my home in primitive cottage style, charming but not particularly  fussy about chic, because chic changes. Remember the soft peach and cream walls of the 1980s in every new home? And then there was the old style wall paper. (How many layers of that have I stripped off?) Anyone recall “the feature wall”, fake wood panelling, or mirrored tiles? These days plain greys and blacks seems to be all the rage. The problem with fashion is it changes. I have moved into houses where I can tell when it was last painted just by the colour scheme. I wanted an ageless look that was all mine. I picked colours I loved and to hell with what was fashionable. So the house is bright sunny yellow outside and many shades of teal inside. It’s bold and beautiful it’s all mine. I love it that way.

We looked at many options for flooring. Everyone recommended some type of plank flooring. Slap it on right over the tiles and forget it. We looked very seriously at plywood flooring cut into 8″ planks and overlaid with multiple layers of urethane. That method is cheap and easy to fix if you mar the floor and I loved the look. However, I could not see me, with my wheezy lungs, being able to handle and spread 6-10 layers of urethane or living within a mile of the house during the long drying process.

I was very hesitant about commercial layered stuff. A few years ago I bought bamboo flooring and spent hours putting it down only to have it mark up within days. It was a terrible disappointment. I went into hardware stores and checked out many of the flooring available and they all failed what I call the thumb nail test. I would hold the flooring in my hand and then use my very sharp hard thumb nail to try to scratch it. If I could make a mark on the flooring with my nail, it was too fragile for our lifestyle. Everything I looked at flunked the thumb nail test. I ruled out vinyl plank flooring because of that. However, I have been recently blessed a potential son-in-law who renovates homes. I was discussing the thumb nail test and he told me there is vinyl plank flooring that is a lot tougher. The stuff I had been looking at was ‘residential grade’. I wanted ‘commercial grade’. It was like a lightbulb went off. Now I had a solution with a name on it. I began researching vinyl plank flooring sticking only to commercial grade. I soon found some that passed the thumb nail test. Not only that. I took out my truck key and (while the grouchy saleswoman was not looking) tried to scratch some of the stuff with the key and failed. I was delighted and I decided my potential son-in-law was a lot smarter than I had originally thought. (Okay I need to say that was a joke. No guy lacking brains lasts long enough with my girl  for me to actually meet him, much less enjoy a serious discussion about flooring.) Without his expert input at just the right time, I would have never have figured it out.

Now I was ready to really shop. Every chance we had I stopped into places that had flooring and bypassed the ‘residential grade’ they put up front on display and asked to see ‘commercial grade’ instead. I also shopped on line at all the major chains and I got a good handle on typical per square foot cost and what kinds of colours and styles I could expect to find. All of this research paid off because I stumbled on our flooring purely by accident on a trip for something entirely unrelated. It was the precise type of commercial grade vinyl plank flooring, in a style almost the same colour as what I wanted and exactly what my husband wanted. I hemmed and hawed and acted disinterested but eventually I had my deal. Best of all, instead of the $7/square foot original price, it was end of the batch, stuck in the rear, dusty old leftover, discontinued stuff that had not moved. They were very happy to get it out of their way and make room for new stuff that would sell. I was happy to pay $2/square foot no matter how disinterested I acted. I took the 23 boxes. I think I got it at cost. I didn’t argue about the delivery charge. I whipped out my credit card and paid in full on the spot before someone changed their mind.

Sometimes you get lucky. Luck tends to happen most often when you are prepared and ready to grab it. To have such things happen you need to do the background research on the problem. You need to consult with a few experts to get ideas and avoid silly mistakes or wasting effort reinventing the wheel. As Louis Pasteur said at a lecture at University of Lille in 1854.

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.

Or “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

And that goes for everything from embryonic differentiation waves to finding just the right flooring at a really good price.

And since that day the truck pulled up, we have had our lives in turmoil. We had to undercut the trim on the door frames. We also had to remove all the doors and cut a half inch off the bottom. We had to fill the holes in the old vinyl tile flooring with quick drying cement. The flooring is interlocking lift, place, click stuff. It often goes in easily but other times the stuff sticks and then you have to bang and smack and cuss a bit to get it right. And of course the edges never come out perfectly even and you have to cut the stuff around doors and vents and anything else coming up out of the flooring.

There are other frustrations. We moved the fridge to lay the flooring and discovered that even though we bought that fridge just last year there is about 400 years worth of detritus packed in dog hair underneath. (EEWW!!). When we moved my desk we discovered a broken drawer than needs repair. When we moved my chair we discovered we needed to put pads on to protect the new flooring because I didn’t care about the old tile but even commercial grade can’t take bare metal scraping. Tools for the job are strew everywhere. Meanwhile there is still the need to prepare food and eat, wash dirty dishes and laundry still piles up.

The puppy loves the chaos because when we are down on our knees, we are easy targets for puppy kisses and getting hugs and pats. Nothing is more fun that snatching that tool we are using and taking off with it. She’s knows she’s too cute to get into any real trouble. The cat does not appreciate renovations so he’s in huff and is trying to both get even with us and restore order by clearing off the counters and other surfaces for us before we are ready. It is amazing how much a bowl shoved off the fridge and falling on your head can hurt. Since that experience I have been making sure to never leave a hammer up high. And then there is stubbed toes. Nothing is where you expect it to be so my husband can’t go anywhere without muttering imprecations. However, it is almost finished. It looks lovely. And soon, after I repaint and replace the baseboards, we can return our lives back to semblance of normalcy or at least as normal as my home can ever be. (I hope!)

Renovations Continue

When we got our little house on the prairie we knew there would be a lot of work to make this house our home. The work is ongoing. I have discovered I have some unrealistic expectations about how much effort goes into interior painting. In addition to the paint job, I had a bunch of other work planned. Specifically each room in our house had only one plug and the kitchen was missing some essentials. One plug per room may have been enough back in 1960 when this house was built but it is totally inadequate today. Also every light fixture in our house was simply a plain white wall mount with a bare naked bulb. I’m not big on spending money on home decor but that bare bulb is not acceptable. I needed to put in a new double sink and a stove hood to make life better. Fumes from cooking were bothering my asthmatic lungs. I wanted some new handles on the cupboards. This was a want not a need. Call me OCD if you like but I want all the handles on my kitchen cupboards to match.

The stove hood is in and functional, complete with exterior exit for smoke. It is really nice to have. Yesterday I was making apple pie and juice spilled and started burning and the fan sucked it all outside instead of making me wheeze.

And then there was our new puppy and her need for a front fenced area. This took quite a bit of energy and money. She has also eaten up a lot of potential work hours with her need for attention. Who can do fix-it stuff when a darling puppy wants to play?

Another major cuss addition was this new double sink with a faucet with sprayer. We also installed a separate tap with drinking water that does not go through the water softener. This ate up a good two weeks of fix-it time. I also put in some water proof backsplash where there had been peeling paint I had temporarily covered with white shelf liner. Life is so much nicer with a proper kitchen sink you can get wet.

Another lifestyle irritant is there was no plug in the bathroom and I had to use an extension cord to blow my hair dry. That is problem fixed. The one light was the bare bulb look was too far from the bathroom mirror to be of any use. I now have a nice new fixture above the mirror with its own light switch and a proper GFC plug. The old bare bulb light has a new fixture. It still needs paint but we now have light.

When you start painting you also start noticing stuff that needs upgrading. I painted around every doorknob and I was face to face with old ugly. After considered options we upgraded to new doorknobs with the neat new push/push open and close. This was between want and need. We could have made do, but the doorknobs were not fully functional. Plus push pull doorknobs will be nice as we age. They are already really nice! And, of course the old curtains did not match the new paint and so new curtains and rods were in order. I would have classified that as want not need except that the new curtains are all themoregulating material to cut down on drafts, and heat moving in during summer or out during winter. Because it is my own place and I don’t care what anyone thinks of my taste I also got lace and bows and cute little white birds on the curtain rods.

In the midst of my repainting the interior, the last of the two new windows arrived. That actually worked out well because the men installed the windows and I finished and painted around them and saved some labor. Replacing those 1960 era single pane farm windows with properly sealed double pane windows has made a dramatic difference in drafts already. We can now open the windows and have drafts when we want them and close windows and get rid of drafts when we don’t want them. The cost of the windows will eventually be recouped in heating costs, if we live that long.


I have concluded that interior painting takes about ten times longer than exterior painting and it generates many more jobs and a lot of extra expense. We are determined to not go into debt fixing up this old house. This summer we kind of blew our budget and so we were frugal through September and we need to live frugally through October to help balance our budget again. The other thing about painting the interior is that you can’t just walk away and leave it until tomorrow. Everything in your living space is in an uproar. When you pause to cook dinner you have to go find where you stowed every single item while the cupboards were drying. I spent more time doing that than actually painting. As my husband says, quoting his old mentor the meteorite scientist Ed Anders, about “when you are estimating how long it will take to do something, multiple by ten and then change units.” That goes for the money end too.

Credit where credit is due. I am the main fixer upper in our family but hubby dearest cheerfully took on any chore I asked him to. That included anything that required being taller, or stronger or jobs that need three or four hands. I also assigned him the traditional male stuff still required by our sexist society, like dealing with tradesmen and sales people in hardware stores. He was very handy for keeping clerks out of my way while I quickly filled my basket with what I needed. (hardware store clerks always go for the men first.) He was also the master of finding help if they happened to not be around when I did need them. Best of all, since he’s partially colour blind, he has been delighted with all my colour choices.

I can’t say I was raised to be a fixit type. I am self taught. When I take on a project I first decide what I want. Then I research all kinds of ways to do it. I use youtube a lot. I just love it when people put up a how-to video. There are some really great videos out there that explain all kinds of stuff like how to add a plug or change a light fixture. Pin interest, Google, blogs and social media are also a great resource. I have also had my work checked by an electrician in the family and plumber who is a friend. The last thing I want to do is cause a fire or a flood. Occasionally, there are a few clerks in the hardware stores who actually know what they are doing and they have been a huge help to me. I have gotten to know some of the good ones at my favourite stores and I always ask them how they would do it first. The good ones have introduced me to better products like shark bite plumbing parts. These work fabulously well and mean excellent seals without soldering. I would not have known about them if the clerk at Ace Hardware hadn’t told me. I often start thinking about what I want to do and spend much more time researching it than the time I actually spent doing it, once I have decided how. I have tried to leave grateful comments and add explanations on blogs whenever I find I have learned something useful the next person doing the job might need.

Once I know how and what I want, I start looking for the stuff I need to do it. I use Amazon a lot but not exclusively. Living in rural area, Amazon saves me trips into the city and have mostly things at comparable or lower prices. Home Hardware has a great website and I can order anything and have it delivered locally to the nearby store. They have beaten Amazon on price and quality many times and get a lot of my business. Ace hardware nearby with the really knowledgable people gets a lot of my business too. I have also used second hand stuff where I could. Second hand stores and garage sales are especially good for picking up tools. Certain things simply can’t be done by us and those are best left to a professional. Installing windows is one of those things. Finally I have been blessed by wonderfully skilled neighbours who are willing to share their knowledge and tools, like the tractor with auger we needed for the puppy’s new fence.



One final note. I am a procrastinator by nature. I also have this constant voice in my head from my childhood when I got called lazy and useless a lot. The result is I can usually think of something better to do than fixing things. To keep myself motivated and organized, I spent a couple of hours making lists of the many jobs that need to be done. Each one is one simple thing that would take 1-2 hours to do. I also include maintenance stuff because even though you are busy with painting or plumbing jobs, you still need to keep up on those occasional jobs like vacuuming the truck, cleaning the travel trailer fridge, or washing its exterior.  I cut up the list into individuals papers to go into a job jar. Every morning I take one slip out of the job jar to do that day. If I don’t feel like doing what I picked, I put it back and pick another one. If I am feeling ambitious, I will do more than one. The process has been a way to organize myself, and it is very satisfying to take a slip and crumple it up and throw it out when the job is done.

My original plan was to paint the interior of the house this summer and put in new flooring. I was overly ambitious. We got one half of the interior painted and we have done many small things to make our house into our home. The other half of the house’s interior will have to wait until next year. The new flooring will go in after that, hopefully that will be next year as well. Finishing should be much cheaper because I already have most of the materials. I get discouraged when I think about how much we have left to do. I feel better when I think about all we have done. It really helps to looks at a “before” and after pictures.


All The Windows Are Done!


Yesterday was a banner day at our little house on the prairie. We got the last of the old windows ripped out and we now have all new ones. When we moved into the house it had all the old original windows from when the house was built circa 1960. We had to change one window right away.


There was only one spot in the house where we could get a halfway decent cellphone signal. That was near the west window.  You can see why my daughter soon felt her allergies kick into overdrive. This old window on the west side was rotting and full of black mould. We hired a local fellow to come in, rip the old window out and tear out all the crud and rot and install a nice new window.

We wanted to do all the old windows but there was no way we could afford to do it all at once unless we were willing to go into debt. One issue was that the windows could not be replaced by any standard window because the house’s window space was 5 3/4″ not 6″ wide and of nonstandard lengths and widths. So each replacement window had to be custom made.Our provincial power utility has a mechanism whereby you can borrow from them and pay back on your power bill. The problem is they only allow triple pane super high efficency windows and they charge 8% interest which at today’s rates seemed very high. We debated the double pane versus triple pane question. We have lived with both types in our house in our past. Triple pane is the most energy efficient but it comes at a much higher cost than double pane with only a small gain in efficiency. To recover that extra gain in energy savings going from double to triple pane, we would have to live to be about 200 in this small house. Double pane is just as draft free and comfortable feeling when the north wind blows, which is what is really important. Plus there are inspections required before and after with the utility plan and it all just seemed like too much hassle. When we bought the house we promised ourselves we would not create debt fixing it. And so each month I put aside a bit of money into a “window fund” instead and that fund slowly grew.

That first summer we bought some old fashioned screen things that would expand to fit the space and we forced the windows in the bedrooms open and closed with a rubber hammer and many cuss words. The front was just beyond movement even with all of hubby dearest’s strength so we gave up. When I repainted the exterior, I simply sealed in the old window’s storm fronts with calking and painted over everything. We added that thin shrinkable film stuff on the inside to improve the very marginal protection those old sash style single pane windows offered. Since we were away in winter we didn’t have to suffer but we did have to pay the cost of heating the a house with leaky old windows.

By the following spring our window fund had grown enough money to purchase three more windows and have them installed. Fortunately none of these had any rot so we could wait without endangering our health. Three new windows went in and life was instantly much easier in our old house.


We still had the two biggest windows left. One was in the front room and one was over the kitchen sink. Both windows were impossibly dirty and scratched up and just plain awful. And so we continued our window fund and I increased the monthly deposits after getting an estimate on what two double windows would cost. After much debate we decided to simply get a nice solid picture style window in the front living room space. It had to have a centre post though because of the structural needs of the house so it would be two larger windows in one frame with a post. With the door on one side and another window on the west wall, this north facing window was not required for circulation. Hubby dearest likes to have an open window with lots of natural light where he works. He already had air circulating past him from door to small window and installing a window that could open and close would reduce the light because the window would have to be smaller. The light aspect was more important to him. By going with the double windows that don’t open we saved almost 1/3 on the cost. I did insist on having a window that could opened in the kitchen and who cares about the cost of that!

Today, the last two windows went in! Oh joy, I have a nice kitchen window that opens over the sink. We have a big beautiful picture window in our living area behind Hubby Dearest’s desk.

We have two steps left. When we first moved into this old house I knew we would changing all our windows and repainting eventually but we needed window covering now. I went into the Sear’s clearance catalogue and mail ordered clearance mini blinds and pretty but light very cheap clearance valances for all the windows. After the new window went into our bedroom last year I replaced that mini blind and valance with a proper thermal, light darkening curtain set. This means in June when the sun rises at 4:00am, the room stays dark until I actually get up. I now had to choose proper new curtains for our new windows in the front room. I wanted them to be thermal room darkening as well. This should help compensate for the fact that our new windows are double pane not triple over night and during winter when we are not here. They are on order.

My last step is to convert the window fund to new doors fund. Our screen doors are hanging on by lots of calking and bolts and fussing, along with a few prayers. The old wood doors are almost as bad as those old fashioned windows for energy loss. In the meantime, they have been sanded and repainted while I sanded and painted the interior doors and they look quite good now.


I can’t begin to say how pleased I am to have all the old single pane sash windows almost out of my life. I did keep the old glass frames to use in my garden as spring cold frames so they will still be around but I won’t have to swing a rubber hammer to get some fresh air. I couldn’t help but do a little happy dance while admiring the new look in front. Our puppy Misty was happy to join me and turn it into a cuddle/wrestle session. Life is good!

My kitchen cupboard renovation.


Sometimes I need to go back to old pictures to see how much progress I’ve made because it gets depressing to think about how much work this little house has needed. When we first bought it I could see immediately it was all cosmetic stuff. Everything about the house was solid. What it needed was all “easy” stuff. Paint, new windows, a better kitchen sink. Working our way to getting all the easy stuff for the third summer is getting exasperating.


So I stand back and look at the house today and think, well we have come a long way! The exterior is all repainted. The wooden decks were all given a coating of waterproofing stuff. The vegetable garden was rescued. This summer we built a nice little fence outside to create a doggy space. The garden is coming along so nicely. Tending the flower beds is cheap and gives such immediate rewards. If I only look at the outside, the house feels entirely and comfortably mine.

This summer we began tackling the inside. The kitchen is in so many ways the heart of the home. I really wanted my own kitchen space made over the way I like and want it. And so that is where I began the inside.

I went through a whole lot of internal debate about whether or not to raise the counter and whether or not it might just be better to tear out these old cabinets and buy new ones. It certainly would have been easier! (I think.) In the end we simply upgraded the old ones. We did this for three reasons. One, it is much cheaper to repair and repaint old cupboards than to buy all new ones. Two, these old plywood cupboards are far sturdier than anything you buy on the market today short of custom designed solid oak cabinets made the old fashioned way. That would likely cost more than the whole house even if you could find a real old fashioned craftsman to drive to Alonsa to do it. My drawers even have dove tails on the ends! How often do you see those these days? If you have ever lived with pressboard cupboards that start falling apart by the time they are five years old, you know exactly how nice solid plywood can be. These cupboards are as old as I am and they are still working perfectly. Third, call me old fashioned but I really felt the handmade plywood cabinets were integral to the character of this little farmhouse. That went for the lovely old fashioned counter top. I simply don’t like the granite that is so popular these days. Ripping the old cupboards and countertop out and putting in new modern cupboards and counters just would not feel “right”. I was going to raise the countertop but then one of the older residents pointed out that lower cupboards are easier as you age and need a walker or to sit while doing dishes. Since we are hoping this home will be our last until we go into the ground, we need to think of things like that.


The single most irritating thing about the kitchen was one medium size sink. I like having two sinks. Call me crazy, but a kitchen isn’t right to me without two sinks. Since it is a small kitchen, it took some time to find the right double sink that fit but Home Hardware had it. Now I have a medium sink that is the same size as the one I had before and smaller sink on the side to dump things in when I do dishes and all those other times it is great to have two sinks instead of one.

We added a spray tap that pulls out (what a great new fangled gadget that is!) and a second small faucet for drinking water. We have the most delicious well water you can imagine but it is as hard as anything and so we have a water softener in our basement. But who wants to drink that stuff? For a while we were going outside and getting drinking water from the outside tap which does not go through the water softener. This was fine in summer although I did get some weird looks going out in the morning in my nightgown to get water for my morning coffee. Last fall I then installed a basement tap that allowed us to get drinking water without going outside. It also allows us to drain the system of water before we left for the winter. That was a huge improvement for morning water runs, especially for November when we had snow on the ground. Now we have the deluxe model with a separate tap right in the kitchen.

The other addition was a much needed stove hood. Our house is small and so if you burn something or fry something the fumes fill the entire house really quickly. We also have humidity issues so a way to quickly clear the air is very handy. The new hood (again compliments of Home Hardware) turned out to be a really big job because I had to wire it in. We soon found the charcoal filter was inadequate and we needed a vent to the outside. The precise vent was hard to fine but Amazon provided what I needed to install an exterior vent. Both jobs were successful but many cuss efforts. I also discovered that not everything in my lovely handmade plywoods cupboards was perfectly square so we added “trim” to the “must have” list.

Kitchen Prep

The kitchen in our small house also has few cupboard spaces and unfortunately two perfect good cupboards were inaccessible because one of the previous three owners painted those old fashioned sliders shut. Fortunately, the application of a little superior male intellect from hubby dearest and some more plywood and a trip to RONA for just the right hinges meant the old impossible doors could be replaced with new ones that actually open and close with a touch. We made new doors for that inaccessible set of cupboards over the stove and now I have two new lovely additional cupboards on top.


We decided to keep all the original hinges. They are sturdy and working just fine. Plus at an average cost of $5/hinge that was $180 we could use elsewhere. We did opt for all new matching handles. If you look at the picture where I am installing the sink, you can see how we had three different kinds of handles. I found these lovelies on sale very cheaply ($1.50 each) from Amazon. The ones I really wanted with lovely twinned ivy leaves and acorns were $70 each and they were just not lovely enough for that much money. What a difference a coat of paint and all new handles makes! (Thank you hubby dearest for cheerfully joining me in the effort of repainting and being ready to jump in anytime I needed another pair of hands or some brute strength.)

The four drawers turned out to be the biggest nuisance. Drawers have multiple surfaces which means many more sessions of doing a coat, then waiting then applying a coat, over and over again. The different handles meant that I also had to fill the original holes with wood putty and make new holes and then sand. That resulted in almost as many cusses as stove hood installation required.


I have ordered new curtains in a pretty green and blue plaid to unify the teals and greens. We have a couple of men coming in maybe some time this week (depending on how much time ranching takes up first) to install the last two new windows we need, including the one in the kitchen. (I am hoping for more rain!) And I have to replace the yucky old yellowing electric outlets and face plates with fresh new white ones and then repaint the walls. The walls I am doing in “Alpine Air” the fanciful name for a near to white lightest possible teal.

Our original plan for this summer was repaint the entire interior of the house and install new flooring. I know kitchens are the biggest fussiest job there is but I am beginning to think just getting the kitchen done might be enough for this year. I don’t have an after picture yet because we aren’t at “after” yet. I still have lots of touch ups and clean ups. I can say, the cupboards are done!

“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”