ONE YEAR here in the middle of the Evergreen State! That’s bonkers.
Before you say I’m crazy for putting money/work/time/effort into this house, hear me out.
One year ago, Griffin checked out a farming job that came with a free house to live in. We drove an hour and a half to the middle of nowhere to the “interview”, which really wasn’t an interview if you ask this business graduate. It was requested that I come as well to see what I thought about the free house since I’d be living there too… I know it seemed strange to me as well! But I came along.
G pulled up to the shop, jumped out and greeted his potential new employer. They went inside and Griffin got a tour of the place, then they both got in the truck and we drove up the road to see the house. All in all, it took about 20 minutes and at the end of it Griffin was informed that it was all his if he wanted it. There was someone else checking out the situation as well, so we had to make a quick decision as it was basically first come first serve.
We would live in the house rent-free for a couple reasons. I’d guess one of them is so Griffin can be super close to work since he’d be working long summer hours, but also it’s surrounded with ground G would be working, and we were informed we could fix it up as much as we wanted and Griffin’s boss would pay for anything we wanted to do. Another reason it was free- basically free help making home improvements! That’s not saying we were being taken advantage of by ANY means, there have been many occasions that work was slow so Griffin was paid his regular salary to work on our house for a while, which he’d have been doing anyway.
As a little bonus there are essentially no bills to pay. The entire year went by without having an electric meter hooked up and water is free, so we kept our composure during the so-called interview, and within a couple minutes of driving home we were 100% sure this was a good move for us. We had both quit our jobs in Spokane when this fell in our laps so we truly had nothing to lose LOL.
We had a list of projects right off the bat.
Let’s just say the condition of the home shortly before we moved in was disastrous. As soon as we moved in, there were big plans between Griffin and his boss to tackle some projects. If I remember correctly, the first one was the living room window… Permanently completely open to the outside world, stuffed with a blanket and spray foam to keep the yellowjackets out, which was failing to be effective at this point.
We also tore down the weathered old deck and were supposed to rebuild it, but instead suggested a privacy fence around the area and a patio. Griffin’s boss liked this idea too and gave us all the posts, boards, and cement to build the fence and volunteered his own time to help build it. Here’s before and afters of this project….
This is a great one for renters, so you get the most out of your outdoor entertaining/chilling area. I don’t think any landlord would mind you bringing in some pebbles or mulch. Not necessarily budget-friendly, we did the patio area with all new stuff from Home Depot. The stepping stones are actually odd counter top samples we got for a couple bucks each. They get slick in the winter, but in the winter we don’t spend any time in this area, so it worked out pretty well!
Ok…. now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure there were two projects before these ones… hahaha. Yeah, I’m sure! It’s all coming back to me now. First we removed all the junk and trash from all around the outside of the house. This took multiple men, trucks, a tractor and a couple days of work. It was a mess. Part of me is glad I don’t really have pictures. Garbage was stacked to the second level of the house on one side.
Then a bunch of guys came over and hauled all the trash out from the basement, which is also the garage, and organized what was left.
Ok, back to the fence. No wait…. BEFORE the fence, we cleared all the trash out of the back yard and hauled about 3 inches of dirt in. Are you following? LOL
Then we planted grass, built a fire pit next to the waterfall, and cleared space for a garden, hauled in fresh sand for the driveway, tore up ugly bushes from the flower beds out front, and painted the garage doors.
How does this help you? I definitely don’t expect this to be helpful to you at this point, but hopefully you can skip all this because you already have grass and are trash-free.
Moving on to the inside of the house, which will hopefully be super helpful to you!
I’m not even going to try to do this in any kind of order of operation. I’ll just go by room, and give you before and afters. Let’s start with the first room you walk in to, the laundry/mud room.
This is where we really kind of stopped asking for project funds and Griffin started working a lot so we had to slow down what we could tackle. This is the room the dogs spend the most time in so it’s basically always dirty and not really worthy of making fancy… So here’s what we did:
- Added a fresh coat of paint ($10)
- Took down the junky trim and couldn’t figure out how to piece it back together so kept it down haha (free)
- Painted the ugly ceiling tiles white ($10)
- Cleaned the windows as much as possible (free)
- Cleaned and organized the cabinets (free)
- Built a doggo bunk bed (free with scrap wood from pallets)
- Thoroughly cleaned the floor (free)
- Painted the front door (just until we can replace it) ($6)
- Replaced outlet covers (free-they were already in the house)
We got our supplies at a store in Spokane for discount building supplies. Basically they go in to projects with canceled contracts or whatever and get all the building supplies super cheap and sell it super cheap in return. Completely legal LOL.
We got paint for about $12 a gallon, and all the little miscellaneous fixer-upper utensils were only a couple bucks each or we borrowed, such as paint rollers and trays. I highly recommend only doing the projects you can supply via a discount store, because the last thing you want is to spend $40 on a gallon of Home Depot paint for a house you won’t live in very long. It truly just comes down to getting creative and looking at what tiny projects can be DIY’d or done on the cheap. For the bigger projects definitely swap supplies with friends/family or shop bargain stores! Also, look at what often overlooked aspects can make a huge impact. For us it was the outlet covers, the ceiling paint truly brightened the room and made it look clean, and simply cleaning the windows from the inside out helps more than you’d imagine.
Next stop, the kitchen!
A while before we moved in, Griffin’s boss came in and painted the entire house and redid the floors with fresh linoleum and carpet, which everyone tells us made a huge difference… apparently it was flat out disgusting before we got here! This room was just pretty dang gross though, even when we moved in. We did quite a bit of work to it and I’d say we’ll still make floorboards, trim, replace the sink, and I dream of tearing out the wall that separates the living room and kitchen, but that might just be too much work for this old place… Kind of undecided on that one! Lol
- First, a funny story. The sink pipes exploded on me one day while draining it. So Griffin replaced some of that and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what was done because I was supposed to be paying attention and for the most part I understood, but I couldn’t relay the information to you to save my life. ($40ish?)
- The yellow counter tops had to go. I didn’t have the funds or the patience to replace them, so we did the trusty old granite spray paint and shiny sealant. Super cheap and hella effective! (~$30)
- We had to scrub the sink multiple times to get all the crap off of it and make it look semi-new again. (free) Barkeeper’s Friend helps sooooooooo much and is apparently cruelty-free and vegan according to Peta!
- Took down all the cabinet doors and cleaned grease off of them and then power washed to get their weathered look, sanded and then stained them with stain from the discount store, a cheap foam brush, and old rags we had laying around. (power washer was borrowed and stain was about $5)
- Painted the cabinets white inside and grey outside (free- paint leftover from laundry room)
- Cleaned the window as much as possible (all the windows are way too old, and dirty on the inside part we can’t access) (free)
- Built floating shelves that match the cabinets (A couple dollars with scrap wood, leftover stain, and brackets from Ikea)
- Replaced the dining area light fixture ($8 from a thrift store)
- Put on cabinet doors that were missing (still missing one) and tightened them up so they’d open properly (free)
K… Onto the living room:
- Replaced broken window (free- funded by home owner and touched-up with leftover laundry room paint)
- Cleaned windows and sills as much as humanely possible, but as mentioned before they’re super outdated and the grime is on the inside. (free)
- Added light covers to the lights on the ceiling fan (free-they were already in the house, just snapped em back on)
Really, not a whole lot needed done in here, and we don’t have a lot to do in here. We don’t spend hardly any time in this room and we don’t have any furniture for it. Eventually I might like to get a floor cushion couch and I’m currently working on a desk to put in here, other than that I’d say screw it. LOL
From the living room, you walk into a hallway connecting the two bedrooms and bathroom. In the bedrooms all we did was clean up a little I believe, which leads me to the bathroom…
- Painted the ceilings and cabinets gold, then painted them white again a couple months later lol ($10)
- Painted the walls glossy ocean blue ($10)
- Cleaned the tub, like a lot a lot a lot a lot. Hello, Barkeeper’s Friend. (free)
- Added map doornobs (from Hob Lob) and spray painted the rest of the existing nobs gold, also found a cool matching nob in a junk drawer and put it on a cabinet with only one door (Couple bucks)
- Cleaned cabinets inside and out (free)
- Cleaned and painted medicine cabinet (free with leftover paint)
- Painted light fixture (free with leftover paint)
- Spray painted all nobs, handles, toilet paper roll holder, and towel rods gold ($3 with paint from discount store)
The tub and toilet were brand new and the sink was in pretty good condition, just a little dirty.
After writing this post it really doesn’t seem like we’ve done too much, given we’ve had a year to do it, but looking at it I can tell how big of an impact the small changes we made had on the overall vibe of the house.
Hopefully this inspires you somewhat, especially if you’re living in a rental or temporary home! There’s so many things aside from decor you can use to make a house feel warm and comfortable. If you’re like me you’ll change your mind a few times on things too, so this whole “budget-friendly” thing is super helpful to not waste money if you go back on an idea.