A Quick Flip

Hey guys!  A few weeks ago we bought a great little townhouse near a community college – our plans are to do a quick “spruce up” and then put it on the market for sale.

The townhouse is in pretty good shape, and in a great location for people that want to be near the community college, but it needs a little love before it’s market ready.  (And when I say “a little love” I mean just paint, hardware, kitchen counters, and cleaning the carpets – no big renovations.)

The kitchen is the space that needs the most help – the cabinets and appliances are in great condition, but the paint color is questionable, the cabinets need to be painted (in person they’re terrible), the hardware needs updating, and the dated Formica counter tops have got to go.


The painters are busy over there right now, and we’re in the process of picking out counter tops.  Typically when we flip a house we need to replace counters throughout the entire house, so we buy a few slabs of material.  But in this case we just need about 18 linear feet of counter tops – not nearly enough to justify buying an entire slab.

We shopped around town a bit, hitting up a big box hardware store, Floor and Decor, and a few other places.  At the big box hardware store, the cheapest granite or quartz that we actually liked was between $45-$48 per square foot installed, and we haven’t found any remnants that we like at the fabricator’s.  Finally, at Floor and Decor, we found our likely solution – tada!!

Floor & Decor Sponsorship 021

What you’re seeing are pre-fabricated lengths of counter top, complete with backsplash – and for pretty great prices.  Typically when you buy marble, granite or quartz counters you have to buy the entire slab, even if you’re only using a portion of it.  That’s the beauty of these pre-fabricated lengths – you have basically no waste since you can just buy what you need!

I have my eye on these three contenders:

counter top options from Floor & Decorcounter top options from Floor & Decorcounter top options from Floor & Decor

From left to right: Moon White Granite; Ice White Quartz; River White Granite

They come in lengths just over 9 feet and are each around $19.50/square foot – a steal!  (Although they have a few options under $10/square foot.)

Have you guys ever bought pre-fab counters?  I think I’m on to something good here…  ;)

This post brought to you in collaboration with Floor & Decor.

Our Go-To Tile Resource

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “Where did you get that tile?”  And I LOVE IT when people ask that question because I get to look like a renovation guru when I blow their minds with the answer.

You see, lots of people think that they have to stick with boring or basic tile because anything fancy or exciting will bust their budget, or that they’ll never be able to find any cool tile because it’s all hidden away in some warehouse that can only be accessed by designers.  Nay, my friends, it ain’t so!

I’m here to tell you that there is a magical place where you can find any incredible tile your little heart desires, and that you’ll be able to afford it.  That magical place is Floor & Decor.

Ever since I discovered it 5 or 6 years ago, we’ve bought almost every single square foot of tile from F&D – and we’ve bought thousands of square feet of tile. If you click through the photos of any of our 10 flips or our 2 rentals, you can see all the tile that we’ve bought from F&D over the years.

F&D carries all of their tile in-stock, and on the few occasions that we’ve needed more than they had on hand they trucked it in from another location.  Love it.  And when we sold our truck and couldn’t pick up large loads of tile anymore, we were able to coordinate delivery through them for a small fee.  Love it even more.

But enough chitchat from me – you’re here to see the pretty tile, right?  Behold.


Inspiration photos: House and Home; Peppermint Bliss

Tiles, left to right: Bianco Carrara Basketweave; Skyfall Basketweave Maze; White and Gray Weave Marble Mosaic

modern slate

Inspiration photos: Amber Interiors; Kokkenskaberne

Tiles, left to right: Black Decorative Slate (with enhancer); Samba Black Slate (with enhancer)

art glass

Inspiration photos: Rachel Reider; Charmean Neithart Interiors

Tiles, left to right: Sky Blue Comb Glass; Chevron Cloud Stick; Twilight Mini Stick; Twilight in Fiji Bouquet

statement tile

Inspiration photos: Enviable Designs; Regan Baker Design

Tiles, left to right: Carrara White Caribbean Green Diamond; Gray Chevron; Gray and White Chevron Mix; Gray Penny

sophisticated marble

Inspiration photos: Erin Gates Design; Coastal Living Showhouse 2012

Tiles, left to right: Skyfall Basketweave Maze; Skyfall Vein Cut; Ocean Galaxy; Bianco Carrara

Gorgeous, right?  What’s your best-kept renovation secret?

This post brought to you by Floor & Decor.  All opinions are my own.

Before + After – Our 9th Flip’s Kitchen

Hey guys! It was so fun sharing the first “after” tour of our 9th flip with you before we took a little detour into house building.  Now I’d love to give you a few more peeks into this great house.  Next up . . . the kitchen!

9th Flip - Kitchen After

In truth, there was nothing “wrong” with the original kitchen – the layout was awesome, it had white cabinets, and it was a really good size. But . . . its age was starting to show, and a lot of the details were dated.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Since they layout was already working really well, we kept it basically the same, with the exception of trading out the double ovens and cook top for a freestanding range.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

I’m going to fill you in on three little tricks I used in this kitchen that always go a long way towards making any kitchen feel brighter, larger and of-this-century:

(1) removing the furrdown above the cabinets and taking the cabinets to the ceiling

(2) taking the backsplash tile to the ceiling in at least one area

(3) adding a few recessed lights

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Works like a charm!!

9th Flip - Kitchen After

This kitchen is definitely a classic “white” kitchen, with white painted cabinets, a subway tile backsplash, a last minute switcheroo to a Caesarstone countertop in Frosty Carina.  We originally planned to install carrera marble counters but the couple purchasing the home was concerned (and not without reason) about potential staining and maintenance issues down the road with such a delicate stone.  The Frosty Carina was a great alternative!

Frosty Carina Caesarstone

The image above from the Caesarstone website is a decent representation of what Frosty Carina looks like in person, although it’s reading a bit more beige onscreen than it does in real life.  It’s white with subtle gray veining and is manufactured to resemble carrera marble.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Just off the kitchen is a great little breakfast nook…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…with a built-in hutch.

Our 9th Flip - Before

With just a little tweaking (and a lot of wallpaper removal!), the breakfast nook has become the perfect place for casual family meals.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Through that little vestibule that you see in the photo above is a powder room straight ahead and the laundry room to the left (which then leads to the attached garage).  Here’s how the powder room looked before…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and here it is now.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Sorry for the sub-par photo, it’s a small, window-less room that’s really hard to photograph!

I always think it’s fun to see how completely insane things look while the “before” is becoming the “after,” so here are a few in-progress shots from the renovation.

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

Things always look worse before they look better, right?

9th Flip - Kitchen After

P.S. I wish I had better photos of this house, but since it was never listed for sale we didn’t get around to having professional photos taken.  Mistake!

Form Survey

I’m quickly realizing that not all aspects of building a house are riveting.  Or, at least, certain aspects that are riveting to me may not actually be riveting to other people.  :)

Today’s post probably falls into that category – but to Jason and me, it’s so exciting!

We got word that the form survey had been completed today – which means that a surveyor went out to the lot and put pins and flags to mark out the foundation of the spec house we’ll be building.  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Form Survey

I realize the photo really doesn’t give you a sense of what’s going on, but basically there’s a sea of stakes and orange flags that outline the entire foundation – it was super thrilling to walk the lot and get a sense of how the house will lay out.

Form Survey

Scratch that – Jason and I were super thrilled, our 3 year old was not impressed. :)

Form Survey

It’s crazy that not too long ago this clean, flat lot looked like this:


Hopefully more big changes are coming soon!

Where to Begin?

So I’ve filled you in on the back story of how we stumbled into building a spec house, and you saw how demolition of the existing house got started a few weeks ago – now it’s time to catch you up on how we spent those weeks between purchasing the lot and getting ready to build.

From the very beginning, one of our biggest goals has been to make the best use possible of this incredible lot.  Ironically, the biggest problems we encountered were the very things that make this lot so awesome – (1) it’s huge, and (2) it’s on a corner.


(our redacted survey)

Those two factors give us pretty big setbacks and two frontages (i.e., technically two front yards) – that double whammy reduces the buildable area of the property and, for awhile, caused us to spend a lot of time down “at the city,” talking to building and zoning consultants. Aren’t you jealous?

One of the issues that we’ve had with this lot are the setbacks and build lines. Setbacks are determined by the city and build lines are put into place by the original subdivision developer, but other than that they’re essentially the same thing – they are restrictions that state how much yard you have to have before you can build your house (like you have to have a 35 foot deep front yard, etc.). Make sense?

In our case, the original developer had the neighborhood platted with 40 foot front build lines and 20 foot side yard build lines. We were surprised when we got our property survey that the build lines were so restrictive, so Jason did some digging into an advance copy of the title documents and discovered that the build lines were amended in the 80s to be less restrictive and to allow homes to be built closer to the street – 30 feet in the front (instead of 40) and 10 feet on the side (instead of 20). Hurray, we were so excited!

But not so fast. The title company said that they wouldn’t insure those amended build lines (meaning that we couldn’t build on them) unless the property had been re-platted. We went down to the city and found out that, nope, the property had never been re-platted and those new build lines were nowhere to be found. So, we were back to 40 and 20 foot build lines.

Could we get the property re-platted ourselves? That was our first plan, and then we learned that it cost thousands of dollars and could take months. We were willing to spend the thousands of dollars in exchange for a larger backyard for this spec house, but we weren’t sure we could afford to lose months waiting for the property to be re-platted. Then, we spoke to another consultant who said that the process could take up to a year. A year? Heck no.

So, re-platting was out. The setbacks put in place by the city for our property are just 35 feet and 10 feet, better than the build lines originally put in place by the developer. So could we just follow those? We looked into applying for a variance, a two month process which, in theory, would allow the Board of Adjusters to consider our application and grant us a “variance” to the build lines and allow us to build on the less restrictive setbacks. That sounded like a great plan!

at the city

Then we learned that the Board of Adjusters doesn’t have the authority to change build lines – no one but the original developer can do that. Womp womp. However, the expert we were talking to said that there was another course of action we could take – we could have the property re-platted to remove the build lines, or re-platted to revise the build lines to 35 feet. While this approach could work, it had a lot of problems:

  1. our property technically has two front yards (what the heck?!?), so if we had the build lines removed or revised, they would automatically revert to 35 feet. That would be fine for our front yard, but our side yard (which, remember, is technically a front yard) would then have a more restrictive setback since the current build line is just 20 feet. That’s no good.
  2. once we had the 35 foot sideyard (i.e., frontyard) setback, we would have to apply for a variance to get it reduced to 20 feet like it is now. But what if that variance wasn’t granted and we had a 35 foot setback on the side? That would totally ruin our plans.
  3. and don’t forget that the whole replatting process could take up to a year! The expert said that best case scenario it would take 4-6 months, worst case is a year, and the average is 9 months. Then we would still have to go through the 2 month process for a variance. So, basically, we would still be dealing with this drama a year from now, when we should be selling the house.

Where are we now? After all that research and running around, we’re back to our 40 and 20 foot build lines. Luckily, we’ve worked with our architect to come up with a floor plan that will work with those build lines.

Whew!  Is your head spinning like mine?  And by the way, if you made it all the way to the end of this ridiculously long, almost entirely photo-free post, you deserve a pony.

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