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We Bought Our First House!

It’s been a while since I updated you on our house search, but as you most certainly discovered from the title, the bank accepted our counter on the foreclosure (previous info was mentioned in, “Our House Search Soon Over?“)!

It has been a whirlwind of a month so far. We had closing on August 2 and have been working on the house every night since. As you can tell by the photo (sorry for the blur..I’ll have to work on my picture-taking skills I guess), we are attempting to remove multiple layers of wallpaper. And, if you look carefully, you’ll see that even the squares in the front door have been wallpapered! The previous owners must have really loved that stuff…

Last night was Day 7 of wallpaper removal, but we are basically done (as you can see in the photo with the old composite door)! Now we just need to make sure all the glue is removed, rip off the baseboards, and begin painting! 🙂

After all the painting is completed (which will take at least 3 days I assume), then it will be time to “discover the floors”.

We know the living room and dining room have solid hardwood, but the rest of the house is sort of a mystery! The upstairs is completely carpeted, but we can see that at least one room has hardwood underneath. We suspect the rest do, but until we get done with painting, we’d like to keep them covered and protected (and the ugly carpet is accomplishing this task perfectly!). We also suspect that the kitchen, half-bath, and entry are hardwood, but they are covered by an ugly linoleum right now. We’ll definitely tear into this soon as well!

If the whole house is the original (from the 1940s) hardwood, we would be overjoyed! We’ll just have to wait and see, but don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. The next task is going to be refinishing the floors. My wife and I both like the dark hardwood look, and then we’ll accent it with light colored, mostly neutral, walls. It’s going to look amazing!

Then, after the floors are done, we’ll replace a couple of vanities in the bathroom, put some appliances in the kitchen, and I think we’re basically done (there are plenty of other things to touch up, but they aren’t essential)!

It all sounds so easy, but it will take us a couple more weeks at least.

Now that I’ve given you the breakdown of our house project, I’d like to ask what you think about us restaining/refinishing the floors ourselves? Do you think that this is a task we can do ourselves? Or should we be seeking the help of professionals?

Ideally, I’d like to save a few bucks and do the work ourselves (we have plenty of helpers), but I don’t want it to look like garbage either. Please tell me straight – is it going to be an impossible task?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Hi Derek:

    I’ve been married to a builder for nearly 30 years. Having seen both sides of refinished floors (the ones done by professionals and the ones done by “DIY’ers”),I would recommend you shop around carefully for a professional who can refinish the floors. A professional will know how to bring out the timeless best in those beautiful old hardwood floors.

    Find the local homebuilders association in your area who could make recommendations for a floor refinishing professional. Be sure to ask for references for any names that you are given so that you can check out their work. As you hone in on one or two, also check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that you are dealing with a solid company and not some ‘fly by night’ entity.

    If you are REALLY convinced that DIY-ing is the way you want to go; then check out this website:

    It’s a great read about a young couple who is fixing up their second home. You could probably even e-mail them to ask them for recommendations regarding the best way to tackle this floor refinishing project.

    I really enjoy following your blog!


    • Thanks for the tips Kim! This is REALLY helpful! I’ll definitely check out the links that you provided.

  2. I do a ton of home improvements myself (new toilets? no problem! drywall mudding and sanding, sure! build a shed, why not?!). But when it comes to our floors I will hire someone.

    The sanders for floors are a bit finicky. If you mess up you can gouge your floor or strip too much off some spots and too little off others. Then there is the saw dust. You’ll need 1 – 2 people to constantly be sweeping and shoveling this stuff up and carting it out.

    Lastly, time of year – it is SWEATY HOT work. You can’t have central air on or the dust becomes a dust storm.

    I think we’ll let the professionals handle the 100 yr old floors in our house.

    • Hmmm. I was really hoping for a DIY project, but you have a pretty convincing argument against it. I think I’ll at least get an estimate at this point. Thanks Sustainable PF!

  3. Wow. Congratulations, but it sounds like a lot of work. I don’t envy that aspect right now. As for the hardwood question, I have no clue what is involved so can’t really offer any guidance. Either way, enjoy the new house.

    • Thanks cashflowmantra! The work is actually kind of fun, because I can envision what the house will look like once it’s done! I love it!

  4. You guys sound a lot like my wife and I when we bought our first home. We stripped walls of wallpaper (rent a steamer! ), painted just about everything, and did a whole bunch more. We pulled the carpet in our living room and refinished the hardwood that was underneath. I’ve refinished a few others as well. It’s tedious, and easy to mess up, but well worth the effort. Be sure to rent a pro sander. One thing to look out for on older floors is that they used to cover them with wax and if you don’t strip that first, it’ll gum up the sanding discs and make a mess. I forget what we used to strip the wax, but it was a nasty cleaner. Might be worth a quick question to a contractor or someone that will know what’s going on with that.

    Congratulations, and Good Luck!

    • Yep, that’s us. We’re ripping wallpaper, painting, redoing floors, pulling out vanities, mirrors, lights, etc etc…. Thanks for the heads up on the wax! I would not have thought of that.

  5. Congrats you two. This is awesome. You remind me of when I bought my first house. I ripped up all of the carpet, refinished the hardwood floors, painted every room, and got new appliances. It is a lot of work but it is worth it in the end. Note- never use wallpaper. I am sure you have come to this realization after ripping it off the wall. Paint instead. It easy and cheap to change through time and way less work.
    Best of luck with everything. Very happy for you.

    • That’s us exactly! We actually just ordered our appliances yesterday – they are going to be beautiful! 🙂

      Haha! We are definitely not using wallpaper ever again! We both hate it, and wouldn’t want to mess with taking it off in the future.

      • you can paint a pattern if you want it – I have seen like a glaze on top of paint – you can purchase different paint rollers with designs on them….don’t ya love browsing Home Depot and Lowes and whatever other store you have?

  6. Congrats on the house purchase! For the floor, I think you could probably do it yourself, but you’d have to rent some tools.

    • Hi Jeff! Thanks for the comment. I really am torn between the DIY or hiring someone… there’s good points for both. I’m going to price out a few companies and we’ll see what we decide!

  7. Oh I am so excited for you.
    We did a lot of work ourselves too. I love fixing things around the house. We ripped up carpet, tore down wallpaper, gutted a bathroom, (we had help professionally with the rebuilding of said bathroom) installed carpet, lighting fixtures, faucets, tile. And I loved every minute of it. I actually did most of the work, since I am the one at home for most of the day.
    If you have even a little bit of passion for DIY, I would at least try that first. I know it’s not for everyone, but you might get hooked.

    • I think we might do all of the above too! I am loving it so far, but I just fear that I’m going to screw something up. Let’s hope that our new house is invincible.

  8. I did many of the things you are doing with our first house. It was probably one of the best things I accomplished. It is a lot of work, but worth it. The outcome is a direct result of your skills and efforts. Good luck.

    • I think it will be pretty cool to look back and say, “Yep, I did that!” 🙂

      • the first time!

  9. Congratulations on your house! I can’t wait for when we buy your first home. I secretly hope we buy the one we’re in now. Our landlord wants to sell, we just don’t have the down payment saved up. We’d do a lot of work ourselves with help from our parents (we’re all DIYers). As for the hardwood floors, I highly recommend getting a professional. It sounds like a challenge, but it’s so ridiculously easy to mess up. The first few times you’ll say “eh, we can put a rug here” but after the 7th time you’ll get frustrated. Or you can DIY but absolutely take your time. Like, snail pace. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the advice 20andengaged! I just priced out the job and it would run us nearly $6,000 to get it done professionally! I’m not so sure it’s worth that. I think that just sealed it….we’ll be doing it ourselves….

      Good luck on getting your house! That’s exciting! Save save save, and then you’ll have a house! 🙂

  10. Nice work Derek! As far the hardwood floors, hire a professional to do that. Trust me on that one. I used to remodel residential houses and with subcontractors, they do that for a living. Plus, you’ll get a warranty for the work. Good luck!

    • I didn’t realize how expensive it would be for professionals to come in. I just got an estimate of $6,000! Are you sure I can’t just do it myself?….

      • write the check!

  11. Yay!! How fun! I don’t have any DIY tips but sounds like you are getting lots of good advice. Make sure to keep us posted with pleny of pics!

    Good luck!

    • I’ll work on taking more pics! I’ll do that tonight in fact, before we get too far with anything. Right now, everything is in disarray… so we can only improve it at this point! 🙂

  12. Great work Derek! There’s an untold feeling about finally owning something of your own!

    • I certainly have that feeling! As we continue to work on the house, I can see it shaping into the place we envisioned all along! It’s going to be awesome!

  13. Congrats! That’s great, buying your first place. What a feeling.

    My recommendation is to be careful with DIY vs hiring a professional. Even though DIY might save you money (if you do it right), a professional will (should?) be more likely to do it right since that’s what they do for a living. And they’ll save you time, which shouldn’t be underestimated.

    I’d go with a pro for the floors.

    • Thanks for the advice Squirrelers. I am getting another estimate for the floors today. Hopefully it’s a little more reasonable than the last one…

  14. Congrats! I helped my mom remove old wallpaper from her house a while back and it was SO much fun, haha. We were lucky it came off pretty easily and after we painted the walls it looked awesome! -Sydney

    • Wow, you WERE pretty lucky to have that wallpaper come off easily. Ours was certainly not so easy…. But, I think we’ll soon be ready to paint! 🙂

  15. Good luck! I know it will all be worth it in the end. 🙂

    • I’m sure it will! Plus, we have a ton of great help from our family. 🙂

  16. Congrats! The housing market may stay at the bottom for another few years, but at least you’ve bought at rock bottom prices!

    • I hope so! Either way, I’m only going to pay $5,000 worth of interest on this house because we’re paying it off early. Most people would pay at least $50,000, even if they paid their house off in 15 years!

  17. wow! It is so nice to have new house.. Congratulation for you! just have fun doing it.. it will make you less tired.. hope to see some pictures.. it will be great if it is finish..

    • Since it’s our very first house (we’ve always rented in the past), it has been very exciting! My wife took a bunch of photos with our good camera, so I’ll have to ask her to send some my way. Maybe I’ll include some in my Sunday post. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  18. Congratulations on moving into your house, Derek. It looks like you two have been going to town on that house. I’m guessing all of your rooms have hardwood floors. I can’t give advice on refinishing floors, we though about doing it ourselves once in a rental and decided it was too much work and we didn’t know what we were doing! Good luck with whatever you decide!

    • Thanks for the comments Little House! We have been tearing the house apart (to rebuild it of course)!! It’s fun to see everything take shape. I really can’t wait to paint!!! This might happen this weekend? The date keeps getting pushed back of course…. 😉

  19. Congrats Derek! Sounds really exciting, are you able to do the work yourself or do you have to hire it all out?

    • It IS exciting! We are doing most of the work ourselves – wallpaper removal, painting, applying new baseboards, ripping out and replacing a few vanities and light fixtures. The only thing that’s questionable is the floors. We are seeing if we can find a good price to get it done professionally…. crossed fingers!

  20. Hi Derek,
    What an exciting time for you, congratulations! I can imagine the satisfaction of having your own. That’s also my goal but I’m still years away from achieving that so for the meantime I’m just collecting data and photos of what I would like my house to be.
    I’ll also go with the pros regarding the refinishing of your floors just to be on the safe side but whatever you decide I hope it well turn out well.
    Good luck and have a nice day!

    • Thanks for commenting Theresa! I think you’ll get your house sooner than you think. If you still have debts, get rid of them! Then you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can save up for a house.

      As for the floors, we just got another quote and it looks like it’s going to be much less than $5,000. I think it’ll be more like $3,000. I’m starting to lean toward having a professional do it now….. we’ll see.

  21. My kids call me “Mr fix-it” because I try to fix as many things as I can. But you need to also weigh the personal cost of trying to do a big job like refinishing floors. Can you learn how to do it? Sure. Can you learn how to do it well enough the first time so that you’ll be happy with something you’ll see every day, like floors? That’s the key to doing it yourself or hiring a pro. Good luck, and congrats!

    • That is my fear. This will be my first attempt, and I really have no idea what I’m doing at this point… I could learn I’m sure, but do I really want my test piece to be in my very own house? Probably not… We’ll see how cheap this most recent quote is…

      • be there and watch them….and learn for next time!

        • Good point.

  22. Woah there’s a lot of comments already so I’m sure I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If it’s all wood floors I would hire someone to do them.

    My little house is from the 30’s and has an original pine floor + stair set in it. I refinished the stairs myself which was possibly the worst and hardest reno project I’ve ever tackled (I’ve done a little of drywall/painting/exterior shingling/baseboard/window trim/wall framing/refinish furniture etc.) but those stairs… yuck! In the end I chose to lay down laminate over the pine floor and leave them intact for future owner(s) I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of essentially moving out for a few weeks.

    You could also choose to have a pro come in to sand everything and then stain and refinish yourself. I found that the stripping and sanding was the most tedious, messy and easiest to screw up. Putting on the finish isn’t all that hard.

    • Very helpful Andrea! The entire house is hardwood. Probably 1200 square feet or so + the stairs, so it’s a BIG job. I really don’t want to try to tackle this job ourselves and then mess it up…. these floors should be beautiful like they were 70 years ago! I’m leaning more and more toward having the professionals do it, as long as it’s for the right price.

      • oh yes get the professionals, for sometimes the floors cannot be sanded any more – and need to be replaced they know all that stuff – do not aggraviate yourselves you have enough to do with all the other stuff! Congrats! and I sure hope your plan to pay off early works out on time! remember 8 months of emergency cash first!

        • Thanks for dropping by Diane! Haven’t seen your comments for a while. We have decided to go with the professionals. He’ll cost some bucks, but it’s going to look great! And, yes, the emergency fund is important. We’ll have to stock up again pretty soon. With the additional income from this website, it’s just getting easier and easier! 🙂

  23. When I finished my hardwood floors, it wasn’t too hard! If you rent a sander at a home improvement store, rent the one that has three sanding bits on the bottom (random orbital sanders) rather than one big sanding disc (drum sander). This way, you’ll have much less of a chance of ruining/gouging the floor. The other tip, which I got from a professional, is to use marine sealer (you know, the stuff they use on the wooden accents of boats). It brings out the beauty and shine and protects, but you have to use about four coats. Well worth it, though! Good luck and congrats!

    • Thanks for the tips Christa! I’ll be sure to read your comment over again if I decide to do the work myself!

  24. Congrats on getting the new house! I think you will have fun fixing everything up. I really like projects like that. Thanks for letting us share in the excitement!

    • The projects have been really fun so far! The only issue so far is time! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get everything done before our move-in date at the end of the month.

  25. oh there is this stuff to sprinkle on the floor and sweep up the dust – like you will probably have to sand your walls also – wear a mask – I think you purchase that stuff in the paint dept – it comes in a box about 18 inches high by 12 inches wide. I forgot the name but good stuff….inside it is in a plastic bag becuase it is a bit moist for allowing the dust to stick to it.

    • Thanks for the tips Diane! 🙂

  26. I have no tips because the last house we remodeled was done by professionals. However, I wanted to say congratulations on becoming a homeowner!

    • Just so everyone knows, we did decide to go with the professional floor refinisher! It’s going to cost us a bit of money, but I think it will be totally worth it! He can work during the day while I’m at my regular job, and it will only take him a week to finish the project, whereas it would have taken me and my family several weeks (probably more like a month!).

      He has already started work and the floors are looking amazing! I’m so glad I made the decision to hire a professional, especially when he started talking about “water popping” the floor…. I had no clue what he was talking about and am now convinced that I made the right move. 🙂

      Thanks for the congrats Kay Lynn! It is still super exciting and doesn’t yet feel like my house!

  27. That is good to hear about your first home purchase and the floors. I definitely think you made the right decision with having a professional refinish them. Around here it costs about $2.00 to $2.50/square foot, but I’m sure labor varies a lot by area. Not to mention the staircase would definitely be extra. Good luck with it and I hope it turns out wonderful! Its nice to have the pride to do some of the work yourself like you have as well.

    We have been going through a similar situation with an old farmhouse we bought. It’s been about a year and a half now and I think I’ve got everything done…but I’m sure my wife will come up with some more items on the honey do list eventually!

    • Thanks Jay! The first estimate was $4.50 per sq. ft., which was a little pricy, but we found a guy that would do it for $2.95 per sq. ft., which was much more reasonable. We decided to have him do it (rather than DIY it) and it’s working out great!

  28. Congratulations, but it sounds like a lot of work. I have no tips because the last house we remodeled was done by professionals.

    • It has been a lot of work! It is actually still in progress, and we haven’t worked on it much lately, but we definitely have had a lot of fun with all of the work! 🙂

  29. However, I wanted to say congratulations on becoming a homeowner! and I sure hope your plan to pay off early works out on time! I refinished the stairs myself which was possibly the worst and hardest reno project I’ve ever tackled (I’ve done a little of drywall/painting/exterior shingling/baseboard/window trim/wall framing/refinish furniture etc.) but those stairs… yuck!

    • We are already making the extra payments and I’m super excited!

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