I looked around our house through the eyes of a prospective buyer and was shocked at how dowdy it appeared – and, dare I say it, even little grossed out at the state of the flooring. The lounge carpet was the original, 30 year old nylon weave with essence of dog, and the vinyl, also the same age, was so tired of being there that it had curled up at the edges and collected dust and dead insects underneath.
Like I said, I was grossed out. And, intrepid reader, you can expect to be too, occasionally, as we take you on our journey. We won’t pull any punches in our documenting; we’re going to take you on the ride as if you were with us, to experience the Good, the Bad and the Fuggly. Tired flooring definitely falls into the Fuggly category.
“Oh my god Baz, this is worse than I thought,” I was peering cautiously into a kitchen cupboard, noting the furry edge where the laminate had begun to deteriorate. “It’s going to take us years to get ready for sale! How did we let it get into this state?” ... “Poor house,” I added quietly as a heartfelt apology to our home.
“No spare time and no spare money,” Baz stated the blooming obvious. “But you’re right. This is a bigger job than I reckoned. The credit card’s going to get hammered.”
“So I guess there’s our incentive to do this as fast as possible, so we can pay off the debt before the interest gets stupidly high.”
“And hopefully sell the house.”
“We will sell the house.”
Baz isolated himself in his office for a couple of hours typing up a 2-page Master To Do List, while I distracted myself from the mental weight of what was ahead. I went out into the garden and began to imagine what we could do with the outside to give the house an immediate Wow factor. I had a mental list of the advice Dan Clarke our real estate agent had generously provided on his first meeting with us, so began with his points.
After I’d wandered around the outside, I made my way inside the house, checking out all the rooms, mentally putting together a colour palette that was bright, neutral and would work throughout the whole home, inside and out. I eventually ran with low-sheen Vivid White paint for the majority of inside walls as well as all gloss work, with an occasional accent wall in ‘Pipe Clay’. Flooring would be a soft grey-brown wood effect in vinyl, keeping the original carpets in the bedroom, as on closer inspection we realised they were hardly worn.
The kitchen cupboards looked as if they’d been in a fight with Gordon Ramsay and lost. They’d have to go. We went with fresh white cupboard doors and surrounds, and then Baz painted the bench tops with a laminate paint.
A word on laminate paint. A big word.
We used White Knight kitchen laminate product because we could colour the paint any shade we wanted, and I wanted it to tie in with the flooring. I’d done heaps of research on the two different laminate paints available from Bunnings (hardware warehouse) and read the comments in various online reviews and also taken suggestion from two friends who had used both products. All advice pointed to using the Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformation kit, but this only comes in limited colours, none of which fitted the bill. Of course. So after much deliberation, and ignoring a knotted anxious feeling in my gut, colour choice won out and I went with White Knight.
Baz chose (did he have a choice?) to paint the bench top. All I can say now is, “I’m so sorry Baz, I hadn’t realised it would be such a mongrel of a job”.
I then had to watch as he laboured on this job over a week – between drying times. After a very dodgy start with the primer drying at lightning speed, Baz had to sand it back several times. The three coats of oil based colour paint went on well though, so we began to think that the outcome would be okay. Which was almost the case.
Until he used the White Knight recommended protective coat.
This also dried at breakneck speed and despite Baz using the recommended roller, the finish was awful. It was patchy and showed signs of lifting in some areas. At this point, I do want to reinforce the fact that Barry is a fastidious worker, and I’ve witnessed his painting before. The protective coat outcome was not a result of shoddy work on Barry’s part.
So what did we do? We sat looking at the end result for a few days, feeling gutted, contemplating how long any kind of fix job would take. And wondering what we’d end up with if we did try and fix it.
Friends came and went, and most said it was “fine” and “after all, it is an old house”. But we just hated it. We’d expected the beautiful finish promised by the manufacturer. And what we saw was anything but.
However it was Barry’s call, as he would be the one to fix it. He’d taken this on as His Project now and was personally tied in with the result. This was his Nemesis and he wasn’t going to be beaten.
It took Baz 5 hours to sand
Eventually, Barry said “f***k it” and drove to Bunnings to get the necessary advice, sanding equipment and a second lot of coloured paint. Bunnings kindly gave him some free rollers to compensate for the issue.
It took Baz five hours to sand the protective top layer off. And then another few days to re-paint three layers of the glossy surface. What a hero!
How was the finished result?
We ended up with an amazing bench top, which now beautifully sits on top of the clean white units that sport new brushed stainless steel handles and stainless steel effect kick boards. Along with the fresh vinyl ‘wood’ flooring, the kitchen looked as if it had stepped off a page from House & Home magazine.
The great outdoors
Outside I chose a dark blue-grey on the concrete front patio slab and followed through with that on the wooden garden borders as well as the steel garden gate. The blue-grey picked out little dark patches in the house bricks and also the grey bitumen of our long driveway. To bring all of the outside colours together and also pull in the rain forest, I chose 1” rich red cedar bark chips for the rain forest paths from Savage Landscape Supplies, around the two herb borders on the back patio, and around the grey paver path linking front and back gardens.
We also decided to have the roof repainted, as it looked more like dusty corrugated iron, than fresh green. Thanks to Steve Gastaldin from Painters First for the great job he did on that.
Finishing touches included a new grey border at the front of the property, wooden mailbox and house number ‘stands’ on either side of the drive entrance, cedar colour mulch to the side of the garage, fresh herbs in the rings surrounding the grey water and septic tanks, and rain forest plants in the front border and in a nice new planter by the front entrance.
Painting up a storm
Dan the Man our agent had suggested we hang few, yet bright paintings for accenting walls. We already had one large painting of Santorini that I’d painted when we got the awesome red Ikea lounge suite, so I only had one painting to craft for the master bedroom. I chose a turtle and after a few hours with brush and paints, Mr Turtle hung on the wall looking rather tranquil. Bathroom accents that we brought into the master bedroom included aqua and beige towels and a few large shells.
But what about getting down and dirty?
Of course, a project this large doesn’t come together over night, and it requires more than a magic wand waved at it! It requires getting dirty and down to business.
Barry and I put in hours over countless weekends and evenings sanding, painting and cleaning, but we were not without help. We are both extremely grateful for friends who lent their equipment and time, including our neighbours Judy and also Hugh. Thanks too to Sandy for helping me organise the pantry while I had an unexpected meltdown at the enormity of our sea change. A big shout out to our son Luke and his friends who spent a day weeding, demolishing the old chicken shed and pruning the garden. The after party was something Baz and I still smile about – and let’s not talk about the Blue Smurfs!
But the project would have taken way longer than the three and a half months if we hadn’t been helped by Gordon, Barry’s dive buddy who shared his expert advice, assistance and tools on many of the bigger projects.
However, I’d like to nominate Barry as Major Hero of the House Project for his efforts with the kitchen bench top. If he hadn’t held to Quality, and undertaken the arduous task of sanding and repainting an already difficult job, I really don’t think our house would have fetched the price it did in the sale.
You see, the house is open plan, and the kitchen is one of the main features of the space. And as Dan says, people don’t notice all of the perfect details in a house inspection, but if there’s one flaw, they not only notice that, but they also start looking for other imperfections. Barry’s attention to detail and holding himself to a high standard meant that when prospective buyers came to view our home, what they saw was a gleaming example of a house well kept. We had looked after the bricks and mortar of the house while we’d lived there, and the last few month's work gave the house the finishing touches it deserved.
We gave Dan the best presented home that we could, and he used his skills to negotiate a good price and quick completion.
What a great team! And what a fantastic result!
But now we were on a countdown.
We had 35 days to downsize 20 years of our lives into four suitcases and two cabin bags.