Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Plan

Our "plan" for the cottage has gone back and forth from day one.  First we had these grand plans about all we were going to accomplish.  Then reality hit, and we realized just how much needed to be done and just how far our money was going to go (not as far as we hoped).

Here is a list of all the things were eventually hoping to do, in no particular order.  I'll talk a bit about each one, and in my next post I'll show you the plan for the new floorplan, and what we've decided to tackle first in our renovations.
  1. Foundation repair
  2. Landscape work (some of which is grading to keep water out of crawlspace)
  3. New (smaller) bathroom
  4. Full kitchen renovation (including removing post/beam)
  5. Add laundry space
  6. New shed
  7. New dock with larger platform
  8. Boat lift
  9. Tree removal/trimming
  10. Alter deck to better suit our use
  11. Paint sunroom 
  12. Modify gas fireplace mantel
  13. Add wardrobe/nightstands to master
  14. Add clothes storage upstairs
  15. Make the house navy - duh!
  16. Add dormer (currently in architectural plans)
This is just a running list in my mind....I may be missing some things, but that's most of the big stuff.  

I'll run through the list - hopefully quickly - now, to give you a better idea of WHY we want to change some of these items.

1)  Foundation repair

The cottage definitely has a spot where it slopes down to the middle.  We obviously knew there was structural issues.  One contractor that came out best described the cottage as someone's weekend project years ago, and that obviously some things needed to be repaired to make it more structurally sound.  After multiple contractor bids AND having a structural engineer come out, we had suggestions from adding piers under the existing beam to adding a full second beam.  We've come to the conclusion, with the help of the structural engineer, that a second beam is not needed (less money - yay!) but instead we just need to properly shore up the existing beam.  We are adding three piers under that beam, then bringing the house up 1/3 of the way every two weeks for six weeks, thus finishing the foundation repair.  It's expected that we could see the house come up 2-4" after all is said and done.

2)  Landscape work

We need quite a bit of landscape work, mostly to keep water from getting under the crawlspace.  We figured if we had them out there with the equipment, we might as well also have them add a beach space for the kids. 

3)  New (smaller) bathroom

The bathroom in this place is huge - basically a 10'x12' space.  As a result, with one small vanity, a toilet and a tub/shower, there is just a TON of wasted space inside.  The idea is to drastically reduce the footprint of the bathroom, making space for a mudroom/laundry area.  

4)  Full kitchen renovation

The kitchen is original to the space.  While totally livable, there are things that need changed for our needs.  First off, there is virtually no counter space.  The area left of the sink gets used for drying dishes.  The area left of the (old - now replaced) range holds a small microwave.  The area under the cabinets next to the doorway (behind the post in the picture above) holds jugged water and other snacks/etc.  So I'm most often working at the table, which isn't the correct height, obviously.  Our plan has always been (very hopefully, but not convinced we could do it) to somehow remove the post, or at least move it a bit and add a second for balance, and position them at the corners of a new kitchen island.  The idea was to also move the sink to the island and reconfigure the cabinets on the wall a bit.  We could also use a larger fridge, and a larger pantry area.  Currently we really only have food in the upper cabinet behind the post above, but a floor to ceiling pantry there would far better suit our needs.

5)  Add laundry space

Same as #3 above.  We'd likely do a stacked washer dryer as we have in our space at home.  We completed this renovation this past spring and I absolutely love it!

6) New shed

We have a number of items that need stored properly and we will likely need a new shed to fit it all.  Bonus points to make it match the house (once it's navy ;-) ).  Not a high priority item at this time.

7) New dock with larger platform

We would like to upgrade to a wider, longer dock with a platform spot at the end rather than just the dock.  We lose the sun early due to being east-facing, and the platform extends the time in the sun.  It's also very difficult for three children to fish off a 3' wide dock while casting, snagging hooks on one another, etc.  Ask me how I know. ;-)  Originally we thought we might tackle more outdoor items, such as this, first, but the quotes are rather high and we are turning our attention inside yet again.

8) Boat lift

We actually purchased a used lift right after purchasing the home.  We never installed it this year because after weld repair, there was so little season left it didn't make any sense to pay to have it installed, only to pay again a month or so later to have it taken out.  It is currently sitting and waiting to be used next year.

9) Tree removal/trimming

We have a number of very large, very old trees on our property and neighboring property that we love, but needed some TLC.  The large tree road-side is visibly showing a split down the main trunk and one of it's large branches is hanging directly over our neighbor's house.  We have actually had this work done already, and we are VERY glad we had the tree removed based on what we found.  More to come on that.

10) Alter deck to better suit our use

This really just means removing some of the front panels they put on the front of the deck. It just doesn't make any sense, in our opinion, to have a home lake-side, and then put on deck on the front and completely close it in.  We'd like to have lakefront access directly off the front of the dock.  This should be an easy DIY fix that we'll likely tackle this fall or next spring.

11) Paint sunroom

The room is all currently brown paneling. After paining the paneling in the master Derrick swore the only way we're paining this room is with a sprayer.  An easy DIY fix, but not as high on the priority list with so many other things we have planned to tackle.  I'll likely tackle this when there is a lull in things I can help with.

12) Modify gas fireplace mantel

I don't love the gas fireplace they installed, but I suppose it adds heat and we'd have to hire someone to remove it.  Seeing as how it's a small cottage with only one central heat source (furnace in the middle of the house) we may come to appreciate it, and so building out the mantel to something we prefer seems like the better option.  Not currently high on the priority list.

13) Add wardrobe/nightstands to master

Ultimately we want the home to have adequate storage so that we're not carting suitcases back and forth every weekend.  Just enough room for bathing suits, shorts, shirts, long pants and sweatshirts for cooler nights.  The master has a very small closet under the stairs, but we'd like to be able to utilize this for other storage as well, so we can't just close it off and build shelves, etc.  We also plan to hang a television facing the living room, and we'll need access to the closet side of the wall to do so.  So, plan is to purchase a PAX wardrobe unit from IKEA and install it as a built-in. Two small nightstands, or shelves and sconce lighting will finish this room.

14) Add clothes storage upstairs

One reason to have the clothes storage as well is for those periods when my mother-in-law comes to visit for 4-6 weeks every summer.  We plan on her having this room as her bedroom when she comes to stay, and we'd like her to have sufficient space for her clothes. When this happens, we'd like to have sufficient storage upstairs for clothing as well, so that we can transfer our items up there.

15) Make the house navy - duh

Obviously a cottage named The Navy Cottage needs to be navy.  We really think that with residing it, and all the trim we can add around the windows will really make a big impact to the exterior of the home.  We have big plans that also involve moving the front door, removing two windows, etc, so definitely big changes coming here...we're just not sure how quickly it will happen.

16) Add dormer - (currently in architectural plans)

One thing we also did while talking to lots of contractors was to hire an architect to draw up plans. We knew that we wanted to do a decent amount of this work as DIY, but in some circumstances it makes more sense to hire someone.  Also, we didn't want to have an "idea" of how something was ultimately going to end up, only to have done something that later needs to be changed because of plans not quite working out.  It just made more sense to us to have a plan to work off of.  We love the plans (and more on that soon) but he also tackled the upstairs and the plans include a dormer which greatly enhances the look of the cottage lakeside, in our opinion.  That said, we have zero clue when we may be able to swing an upgrade like this, so in the meantime, this is quite low on the priority list.

I'll be back soon with the new floor plan and what we plan to tackle first!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Early happenings at the Cottage

It’s been over a month since I last posted.  In that time we’ve been very busy, but also very relaxed! 

Mornings are my very favorite times on the lake.  We see the sun rise, and then I will often sip my tea on the deck overlooking the lake while reading.  We have no internet there currently, and no way to stream (keeping me on my phone far less and the kids off their iPads!) and we are loving the technology breaks.

In between all the fun and periods of relaxing, we have also been busy with small projects, removing and adding furniture, making plans and talking to contractors.  Lots of contractors. 

I’ll quickly run through a few of the updates here, but some things, like future plans and contractors, will get their own posts. 

This isn't the best picture, but the rainbow Adirondack chairs were the first thing I purchased for the cottage – even before we closed.  I swore I wouldn’t buy anything else until we closed (and I didn’t!), but I love these chairs out by the fire pit in the evenings. We’ve already had a lot of fires out there and roasted quite a few s’mores!

The first real project I did at the cottage was prime and paint the master bedroom paneling.  It was so dark, and the room so tiny, that I felt like I was in a dungeon very time I was in it.  I painted the walls with Kilz primer, and happened to have a gallon of Benjamin Moore Iced Cube Silver from a kitchen painting idea-gone-bad a few years back.  Because we already had the primer and paint, the whole thing cost me nothing more than a new roller.  

As a reminder...the bedroom when we purchased:

During priming:  

And after: 

A blowup mattress was also added - the mattress HAD to go.  (Ewww!) 

Not great photos and certainly nothing special, but lighter and brighter which I am happy with. The paint color made the ceiling look even more yellow (didn't think it was possible) and this is by no means a permanent solution, but it's nice to be able to see in there now.  At some point I'll share our plans for the entire house, including this room.

I’m totally ready to dig in to some bigger projects, but based on some current contractor bids, our renovation money may not go quite as far as we were hoping.  We still have a few more contractors (SO many contractors!) coming and giving bids, so once that process is complete I’ll do a whole post summarizing it all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Navy Cottage

We are officially closed!!  Now that she's ours, I want to show her to you.  This will be a picture-heavy post, but there is also so much to talk about. We closed on a Friday, left that day for the week at the lake with my mother-in-law, and then the following Thursday night we headed over to this place to get settled and mostly, start cleaning.  I can now say that we've cleaned top to bottom (including scrubbing down all the walls) and it was SO dirty, but I feel so much better.  We're headed back for a 3 day weekend there this weekend, but unfortunately the forecast is for rain and thunderstorms.  Still, we'll make the best of it.

Here she is, lakeside. And no, she's not navy:

And street side:

No one has been in/used the lake house for over 2 years.  They apparently had a cleaning crew (they should get their money back...seriously) come in and keep it presentable for showings, but they added this deck below literally as just a means to sell it.  Honestly - I don't like it at all...there are a lot of things we would have done differently.  But it is what it is and we'll tweak it to our needs.  For now, it's a nice place to throw the dogs when we don't want them running free (we use a baby gate at the one entrance off the deck to block it off).

This is the back lot that we included in the purchase.  It is quite large and will eventually be a nice place to park the trailer for the summer, etc.  I also have ideas of putting a play house for the kids or something up there.  

Lakefront.  Important to note that these photos were taken very early in the season this year and when we toured the home in June it already looked much different.  It had lily pads off the shore closer to the lake and some weeds and muck closer to the dock, but a good 10 feet of clear beach directly in front.  It does NOT look like that now.  It is totally overrun with weeds and pads.  While it is illegal to remove the lily pads, we are allowed to clear a 25 x 25 foot spot in front of the beach, and a path for us to get the boat in and out. We will have to do this as every time we take the boat out now, hubby has to get it out past all the weeds into open (and deep) water, and then clean out the filter, then get under the boat and remove all the weeds wrapped around the prop.  Not a feasible long-term solution.  Many of our neighbors have done the same over the years and they say it's simply a process.  We don't mind the pads away from the beach at all...we simply want a place for the kids to be able to play in front of the house, so initially that is what we're doing.  Clearing out weeds and muck.

The dock isn't long at all - only 30 feet long.  It's also only 36" wide.  We've already received a quote for a new dock - 48" wide and 50' long, with a 144" wide platform at the end of it.  We are trying to determine what we are going to do and in what order, but it's good to know what it will cost when we do decide.

This is the sunroom directly overlooking the deck.  It was added a number of years ago and we love the extra space it adds.  We've talked about adding two pull-out sofas in this room for additional sleeping space.

A view of the main area from the corner of the kitchen.  This entire area is quite small, but we don't need anything large.  It does need work, though.  More on our plans another time.

The kitchen.  Small but has everything we need (except maybe a dishwasher?).

The bathroom.  Very large (much larger than needed) but gives us room to work with things.  We need to re-work this though, because this is the only area we can add laundry to the home, and we really want to do this eventually.

The very small bedroom.  This will be the master, though it will not have a bath attached, obviously.  The bed is now gone (the mattresses were so bad) and since this isn't a room I envision us doing anything with soon, I do plan to prime and paint that paneling just to brighten up the room.

And the upstairs!  Basically one large, 23x23 room that contains three twin beds already, with room for at least 3 more twins and/or fulls.  More if you put in trundle beds.  The angle of the roofline makes it difficult to put bunks, but this offers a TON of sleeping space with plenty of room for clothes storage as well.

So there she is! We have so many plans for her, but time and money are our limiting factors (aren't they most everyone's?).  We're in the process of talking to some contractors, getting bids, etc.  We've already purchased a boat lift, but ran into a snag with that which I'll discuss in another post, so nothing major has changed so far, but I will be documenting all changes here so stay tuned! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

We have a closing date!

So, this thing is really happening!  Obviously we knew it was, but now we have a scheduled closing date and know with certainty when we will have keys and get to take possession.  The one snag is that we are actually closing two days later than the date in the contract, and it also happens to be the date that we leave for a week-long vacation at a lake house with my mother in law.

How an 8yo boy packs for a week at the lake...

We have done this lake week vacation for the past 3 years, and this year is no different.  If the timing had worked out better, we wouldn't have even rented a different lake house this year, but we really didn't know we were going to purchase (and she had booked this months ago), and even at the point that we had an accepted offer and contract there were back and forth negotiations after the inspection, as well as a very long lead time to get the appraisal done.  We were concerned that if we cancelled and something fell through, we wouldn't have a place to stay this year (although the upside would be that she would have saved quite a bit of money, only losing her deposit).  The upside is that we no longer need to rent a place, and she can come and stay for longer visits!

One "lake week" favorite activity....wake surfing!

Regardless, even though we take possession the day this vacation is starting, the house will in no way be ready for long term guests, even for a week stay.  There are certain personal items we requested to have stay with the house (beds, aluminum fishing boat, kitchen table and chairs) but for all we know, they may leave other furniture behind, and potentially items like dishes, etc.  It's common around here for lake homes to sell "turnkey" with everything you'd need to enjoy the property staying with the home.  We didn't request that because we knew we'd likely replace everything (eventually) anyway.  We certainly aren't expecting anything to stay for that reason, and so we very likely will have a home with no bedding, no dishes, no silverware, no chairs, no sofa.....you get the idea.  So, not ideal for a week-long stay at a lake house.

These weeks are some of our most favorite moments.

The closing is taking place at a title company very near the actual home, so we do plan on grabbing the keys and running down there to take stock of things (and a few measurements!) before heading back home to finish packing up and heading out.  It will be nice to know exactly what we do have, and we can being our hunt for items that we will need to survive our time there (dishes, cooking items, a grill, etc.).

One year we had the pleasure of listening to this branch slowly creak and eventually tumble to the ground.  Then it was epic bonfire time!

Our next steps are to figure out which renovations we are going to do and when, and how much we went to do now vs. over time.  We have always talked about them being done slowly and over time, but there are some things in the works which may necessitate accelerating that.  The advantage there is that it would be DONE, and we could actually go to our lake house and simply enjoy it, instead of feeling like we were constantly working on it.  So stay tuned for more on that!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The dreaded "F" word...

You know that word, right?  No...not the four letter variety.  The five letter variety.  The one that sends home buyers running for the hills.


At the beginning of the appraisal process the lender, however their process works (which we inquired about but never really did get a straight answer about), initially determined that we were in a floodplain and would require flood insurance.  Initial estimates on our property ranged from $500-650/year (from my insurance agent, but without doing any research) to $800-1200/year (from Floodsmart, the federal website that tells you everything you need to know about reading flood maps, what to do next if you find out you are in a floodplain and also offers flood insurance) and up to $2500 a year from someone else my husband quoted.

What we did know was this....at the median level of these quotes - around $1200/year - that meant an additional $100/month on our property that we just really did not want to pay.

In a lot of ways, this property is a bit of a stretch for us.  There is a lot we're not giving up to acquire this property, but there is a lot we will give up to get it.  We also know there's a lot we are getting in return.  Quality time with our children each weekend on a much slower schedule, extended visits with my mother-in-law each summer which will mean so much not only to her, but also to our children and us who miss her terribly after she moved out of state a few years ago.  It also gives us the opportunity to flex a few of our DIY muscles, which is one of our biggest hobbies.

But an additional $100 a month is a lot of money, any way you slice it.  It ramps our payment up to a level we weren't comfortable with.  Another way to think of it - that is $100 worth of fewer improvements I can make to the property each month.  So my husband had pretty much made up his mind - we were walking if the final determination was that the house was in a floodplain.

Luckily, we questioned the lender about their process, they went back to the people that made the initial determination and after reviewing everything, did ultimately decide that the home was not in a flood plain.

I'm sure it's a common scenario...I mean, it is a lake house, after all.  And we had some pretty gnarly flooding here even last summer.  The flood would have to be pretty bad to actually reach the home.  It sits on the lot in such a way that the property is in the floodplain (as any lakefront property would be) but the actual structure is not.  We have a few good feet in front of it to spare.  Granted, it's a risk and we do understand that, but we feel pretty confident in not having insurance required.

So, we press onward.  I will admit that this process has been stressful and seems like it has taken forever, but we are *so* close to being there.  We anticipate a closing in less than a week!  I can't wait to share more details about the home and some pictures as well!

Friday, July 1, 2016

I Have a Secret

I have a secret about the Navy Cottage.  It's NOT navy!  Ha!  

I'll share pictures once the deal is final, but I can assure you it is a very ugly brown color.  There are some other issues with it (well, pretty decent issues which we'll be addressing as soon as we take possession but there will be lots more on all that here I promise you!) that could result in a residing at some point.  Needless to say I have my eyes on a very navy cottage.  Think navy cement board shingles with a gray metal roof....

Here are some inspiration photos....

The above is my absolute dream style.  Below with the roof shows the complete picture as I envision it once completed.  

Obviously the focus would be lakeside, so their wouldn't be a main door there, but we hope to eventually add sliders (currently the only way into the house is on the side).  There is also currently a brand-new deck built onto the front of the house lakeside, but a fence wraps all the way around it, so you can't even step off the deck down to the water.  Another thing we hope to remedy.  But painting the fence white would tie this all in well.  I'd probably choose to stain the deck a weathered gray look.

While I love the wooden door, it is a lake cottage and I adore the idea of a fun pop of color on the main door as well.  

The boy loved the yellow while the girls, of course, loved the coral pink.  Who knows where we'll end up, but it will be a fun process!  

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lakehouse Dreamin'

For as long as I can remember, Derrick has been into "toys" of some sort.  Not overly so, but he certainly appreciated them.  He owned a motorcycle when we met, and after dating, we moved to Arizona to start a new chapter.  We were eventually married there, and after moving into our second home there lived not far from a huge lake (well, reservoir if we're being accurate).  During one visit from out of town friends, we rented a boat and enjoyed the water, and this is around the time I remember Derrick talking about getting a boat and enjoying life like that on a regular basis.

We eventually left Arizona and never did get a boat.  We moved back to the midwest and lived here a number of years and still didn't have a boat.  Then, in 2013 some life circumstances paved the way for us to finally purchase our boat.

This thing truly is Derrick's baby.  Well, his fourth baby since his other three human babies take priority.  This is our fourth summer enjoying it and we absolutely love it.  We've made lots of improvements to it and those will likely continue.  We spend weekends on it with friends, enjoy a week with grandma on a different lake each summer, and have even started the kids on learning to wake surf.  Amazing summertime memories!

One upside is that we are only 20 minutes from a local reservoir and that is where we spend most of our time.  We always appreciated the closeness to home, the fact that it was free, and that we didn't have to spend our weekends also maintaining a home.  We just pack up, pick up the boat (we can't store it here for extended periods per our HOA) and GO!

But if we were being honest, trailering everywhere isn't all it's cracked up to be either.  Having to pack each thing from scratch each time takes time, especially with three kids. Then the boat has to be cleaned after each use as well (Derrick's rule, not mine lol).  Trailering also uses more gas and takes longer to drive.   The last couple of years we've really started to explore the idea of a lake house and having a more permanent place to spend our weekends and boat time.  The idea of waking up on a Saturday, walking out to the dock and hitting the water without much prep really started to grow on us!

We looked at houses and fell in love with the second one we looked at.  I'm thrilled to say that we are under contract and past the dreaded inspection period.  I'll hold off posting any pictures of anything until it's officially ours, but we already have our wheels turning with all the amazing things we ultimately want to do to the place!  And there is something very unique about this particular navy cottage.  I'll share more hopefully soon!