In November of 2012, our rental house was empty and not in any condition to be rented.  The last tenant had done a lot of work on it, but had not completed renovations.  He had completely replaced the water pipes and drains (we paid for the materials, but he did the work without charge).  He put new floors in the bathroom and laundry and had knocked out the wall between the dining room and kitchen, but had not finished any of the projects he started.  The task before us was overwhelming, so we called in a real estate agent to see if we could sell it as-is.  We were told that the house wasn't worth the amount we owed as it was.  We didn't have the money for repairs, so we we had to consider letting the house go back.  December 1 we made what we thought would be our last payment.  I wasn't sleeping well at night, thinking that we were becoming part of our country's problems - shifting our financial responsibility to everyone else. When $400 materialized, I decided to fix the house to rent or sell, doing the work myself. Following are before and after pictures of my progress, and the story of how good people come to the aid of others.
My first task was an exposed wire on the threshold between the kitchen and dining area.  My nephew, an electrician, came over one Saturday evening after class and crawled under the house to install a junction box.  Then he rewired the area around the dishwasher and repositioned some electrical outlets.  He even showed me how to move other boxes.  

With the wiring done, my next chore was the floor.  Friends and relatives offered advise and even left over flooring.  One told me about a new method of paper bag flooring and offered help getting it started.  It was labor intensive, but the results were amazing.

The next issue was the exposed studs between the dining and kitchen areas.  I purchased 3 sheets of 1/2" sheetrock, cut them and screwed them into place.  I had assistance with the two largest pieces, but did the rest on my own.  I mudded, sanded and painted them.  Trim boards were $1 a foot, so I scouted around and found some 8 ft 1 x 3 furring strips for $2 each.  I stained and coated them with polyurethane. Things were beginning to look better. 

The next issue was the pass-through between the family room and the downstairs bedroom.  I moved the boards back and cut a panel to tack over the space.  Then I mudded and painted.  Walah!  The bedroom was now privatized.

On to the bathroom.  It was functional and some improvements (lights, mirror and lavatory) had been made, but the walls were not finished.  I pulled down some old fiberglass siding and replaced it with 1/4" sheetrock.  Getting the pieces in that small area was difficult, but I managed.  I replaced the paper holder and shelf unit over the toilet and then put some more 1x3 furring strips at the top.  Once I painted them, they looked pretty good.  I still need to make a cover for those pipes beside the sink.

I'd like to clear up any ideas that this was as simple as it sounds.  This took me about 3 weeks.  Granted, I'm no carpenter, but everything I did seemed to get complicated.  

During the last week of renovation, my work was interrupted frequently by people wanting to see the house.  Now instead of facing foreclosure, I'm preparing to have a rental contract signed.  All this for under $400.


by Linda Rigsbee
Woodwork HOMERenovationBook Trailer

After all this work, the person who rented the house wouldn't pay or move out, so we went into foreclosure. The house was damaged so badly that it had to be re-plumbed, repainted and major work done on it. 
This experience inspired my fiction book "Kayla, The Landlord Slayer"
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