Laying LVP

We had a tenant abandon a property, and he left it a mess. There was some furniture and garbage left behind. I’d love to know what tenants do that destroys the walls in less than two years. I’d say the dog never went outside based on the carpet stains, but there was a giant pile of grocery bags fulled with poop outside the back door. We hired a carpet cleaner that was available the fastest, and that was a mistake. They basically just came and put lines in the carpet. I was not happy. Not only was their effort the absolute minimum of the task on hand, we had asked for it to be “rotovacced,” and it clearly wasn’t.

Recently, we received an updated assessment from the county, which included the comps they used. We bought the house for about 86k. The comps range from 110k to 130k. The comps at the high end had no carpet and upgraded fixtures. The low end had all original things. Looking to resale value, I wanted to lay Luxury Vinyl Planks (LVP) in the living area instead of replacing the carpet. Since we were nearly a month into unexpected lost revenue, the goal was just to address the main living area that would catch your eye.

WHAT IS LVP?

LVP is vinyl flooring made up of planks instead of being one sheet. It’s a floating floor, which means you don’t glue it or nail it down to the subfloor (e.g., plywood). The boards “click” together. When you get the connection right, the board lays flat on the subfloor.

Ironically, it was hitting the market around 2015/2016, and I declined it in the house we were building. I didn’t realize that it was going to be the “go to” flooring by 2020, and that it would be in our new construction house we bought then.

INSTALLATION TIPS

First, we had to remove the tack strips and staples from the subfloor after the carpet was removed. The floor needs to be mostly level. There was one spot where two pieces of plywood were not level, and it did cause issues with keeping the pieces connected.

Start in a left-most corner of the room, on the longest wall. Our living room is nearly square (13×13.5). The deciding factor on which way to lay the floor was to eliminate cuts against a schluter edge where there’s tile in the kitchen and dining room. When you enter the house, you walk up a flight of stairs, and you see the tile edge right away. Since this was our first time installing flooring, we wanted that edge to look good. The best way to do that was to not put any cut edges against it, but to lay the planks parallel to it.

Stagger the boards and create a random pattern. You don’t want to see a pattern in the flooring (e.g., don’t lay a full board, then a half board, then a full board, to start the rows). You also want to open 3-5 boxes at a time and mix up the boards. Different boxes may have different variations in the coloring, and you don’t want a splotch of a lighter shade of flooring in one section, so it’s best to mix up the boxes.

You’ll have waste. When you plug quantities into Home Depot or Lowes, they typically ask if you want to add 10% for waste. We calculated needing 9-10 boxes, and we opened 12, with 3 full boards left. There was a mishap with one of the boxes, but that probably lost us 4-5 planks, so I think we still would have opened 12 boxes.

Lay the short edge together first. The second board lays under the connection of the first board that’s already on the floor. When you connect the long edge to the board above it, just wiggle it until it lays down flat and you see no seam. Sometimes you need to use a tapping block to get it to fit together better, but when you get the right connection, it’ll literally just fall in place.

To cut a piece to fit at the end of a row, use a utility blade along a straight edge. When you go to snap the board, hold the straight edge in place. Both Mr. ODA and I tried snapping a board without the straight edge, and the board snapped in a different place.

When needing to cut the entire length fo the board, use a circular saw or table saw. It won’t be easy to score and snap because of having less leverage. To cut small areas within a board, such as floor vents, you can use a jig saw. Cutting the board with the circular saw makes a gigantic mess. Think of it like packing material that just explodes on you. However, there is a benefit that it’s not the clingy type of material, and it does sweep up easily.

At the end of each row, cut the board about a quarter inch too short. You’ll need to fit a tool into the crevice to pull it into place. I had been cutting it to fit under the baseboards, but then you can’t get the boards connected. At the end, you add shoe molding or quarter round to cover the cuts.

COST & TIME

The flooring, shoe molding, threshold to cover the carpet to floor transition, and an installation kit cost us about $700. We picked LVP because it comes with a cork type material attached to the back of each plank, and it doesn’t require underlayment.

We picked the LVP instead of getting new carpeting because of resale and because of the cost and time associated with carpet installation. At Home Depot, if you pick in stock carpet, it’s not subject to the free install. If you spend $499 otherwise, you get free installation. We would pick a carpet that is about $1/sf, so we wouldn’t get to the $499 price for free installation.

We arrived at the property at 10:30 am. We had to remove the tack strips and staples. Mr. ODA removed all the tack strips, and I started on the staples. When I got an area clean, he started laying the planks while I kept working on the staples and sweeping. At 2 pm, I will still working on staple removal, and he took a break for a work meeting. I took over laying the boards. We finished laying the floor, installing the quarter round, and caulking the seam between the baseboard and quarter round at 6:10 pm.

There was a big learning curve on how to get the boards to click together most effectively. We could have probably eliminated an hour of work where we were trying to figure things out rather than laying the floor. I also had a big speed bump trying to get the piece at the bottom of the stairs in place (a lot of cuts and having to figure out leveling the board since it couldn’t be butted up against the bottom of the step, which wasn’t level), which was probably a 25 minute delay. With that said, my back was killing me. It’s probably a project that’s better suited to be split over multiple days as a newbie, rather than powering through 8 hours of work.

I asked Mr. ODA if he would do it again (as we both complained about how much our bodies hurt), and he said yes! We just wouldn’t be in such a rush to finish one room in one day in the future, even if it was only about 200 sf.

March Financial Update

We have been surprisingly busy around here. I’ve been juggling a few rental issues, staying on top of some billing issues, and trying to make it through a commercial loan process.

At one point, most of our loans were held by one company. That was a more simple life. Even though we’re down to 6 mortgages under our name, it’s through 5 different companies. I’m really struggling keeping up with them and getting in a groove after our most recent refinance. I’ve mis-paid things 3 times now. I’m always on top of our payments, but something just isn’t clicking right now for me. I just paid one of our mortgages due April 1 instead of changing the date to be an April pay date. At the moment, we have a buffer in our account because we’re getting to this closing next week, but we usually don’t, so hopefully I have this figured out now that I’ve made so many mistakes.

RENTAL PROPERTIES

LEASE RENEWALS

We had 3 properties process their renewals this past month. Each of them had cost increases to their lease renewal (875 to 950 effective 5/1, 850 to 900 effective 8/1, and 1025 to 1100 effective 5/1). We have another property that will have a renewal offer go out this week. Then we have 3 that will need action by the end of April because the leases expire 6/30, and one that will need action by the end of May because it expires 7/31.

MAINTENANCE

We had a tenant reach out to us that they found bugs in their bathroom tub. She sent pictures and, sure enough, they were termite swarmers. I have way too much experience with termites. I called our pest company, and they sent someone out for an inspection to confirm they were termites. Then I got a call that because we didn’t pay the annual fee to keep our warranty current for the last 3 years (we had the house treated for termites in February 2019 when we bought it because there were active termites and extensive damage by the front door that needed repaired), they could charge us $650 again. However, since we’re considered a business account, she’d be happy to let us back pay the termite warranty and they’re treat it. So I paid $294 for the treatment instead (split with a partner on this house). She also informed me that they had cut off the hot water to the kitchen sink because there was a leak. I don’t know why tenants don’t tell us these things right away! I had my plumber out there the same day, and he replaced the whole faucet. That was $378. That’s one of those charges that’s frustrating because we could have replaced the faucet on our own, but we don’t live there anymore. Oh well; it’s also a cost split with our partner, so that helps.

We had another tenant reach out saying that her kitchen sink drained slowly. She’s been with us since we bought the house and never asks for anything. She’s on top of communication and was super appreciative each time we agreed to renew her lease. We had done a huge sewer line replacement project at this house, so I was skeptical of the issue. It turns out there was a plastic fork lodged down there, but I just let it go (meaning, she’s then technically responsible for the cost). Our property manager let her know that if it happens again, she’s financially responsible, but we’ll cover the cost ($200) this time.

RENT COLLECTION

We FINALLY got the check for one of our tenants that had an approved rent relief application. They submitted an application in November to cover December, January, and February rent. By mid-December, they ended up paying December rent because they hadn’t heard (and the application expires, meaning their protection from eviction expires (not that I would have pursued eviction for this group because they’ve been great tenants for several years)). They received approval for 3 months worth of rent and 2 late fees on January 11. We received the check on March 4th. So frustrating in that process, but still better than an October approval and us getting those 3 months paid at the end of January.

We had our usual suspects not pay rent. On the one house, they didn’t tell us they weren’t paying rent for the longest time. Now, they tell us they’ll pay us on a later date. I let it go this month, but with them paying on the 23rd, that means we’re in a perpetual cycle of not getting rent on the 1st. We have a partner on this house, so I plan to address it next month if they claim another 3+ week delay in getting us the rent. On the other house, she let us know in February that she’d struggle to pay rent and she gave us random amounts throughout the month. I let her know she was still $106 short from February and that she was now in default of March’s rent, and I got no response. Then Mr. ODA had $1000 show up in his account on Friday. She still owes $371 between the two months, but at least we have the mortgage payments covered. She’s also the tenant that we plan on not renewing her lease because she’s caused issues throughout her tenure.

BUYING A NEW PROPERTY

We’re still in the process of getting through closing on a new rental property. We’re expecting to close not he 24th, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s a commercial loan, and it operates different from residential mortgage underwriting, so we’re in the dark. Communication has been next-to-nothing. We’re currently waiting on the appraisal to come back. That was our one hurdle to getting into the house. I said once the appraisal clears, then we (as the buyer) shouldn’t have any risk in getting to closing. Therefore, we were hoping to have the house painted before we close (I would do the painting), then we could refinish the floor and get the rest of the cleaning done the weekend after closing, and get it listed for rent for April 1. I suppose I wouldn’t be trying to get to the house before Friday, so I guess I can be patient and wait to see what happens with the appraisal for a few more days (even though the appraiser was on site last Tuesday, and I’ve never had it take more than a day or two to get the paperwork).

REFINANCE FOLLOW UP, STILL

We still have an issue with the mortgage that I ended up paying 3 times for the 2/1 due date. Our refinance was difficult, and the communication continued to be difficult after closing. I asked on 2/1 whether our loans had been sold yet because I was surprised I hadn’t heard. Usually, I see a note saying to pay the new company before the first payment, thereby not paying the first payment to that “first payment notice” place that comes with the closing documents. The company’s contact said to keep paying them because they hadn’t sold the loans yet. I didn’t open the attachments in his email because I assumed he was reiterating what he said in the email. Turns out, one of the loans was already sold, and I should have paid the new company. Well, I processed a paper check to go to a completely different company (started with a C, and I didn’t catch that I selected the wrong one in bill pay). Luckily, that company sent us our check back, saying they think our loan is closed with them and they can’t process the payment (thank goodness we once had a loan with the address I put in the memo line so they could clearly make a connection and say “we don’t want this!”). When I noticed my mistake on the 14th, I sent a handwritten check that I rushed to the post office at 4:55 to get post marked. In the meantime, I found out that I was able to set up an online account with the new company even though I didn’t have the loan number yet (they gave it to me over the phone). I paid the new company online to make sure I didn’t have anything on my record claiming I didn’t pay by the 15th and it was late. I figured I’d rather manage 3 payments being made than fight the credit companies to change my credit report. Well, the initial company cashed my handwritten check, but they still haven’t sent the money to the new mortgage company. They just kept telling me they have 60 days to get it to them, and I said that’s unacceptable that they’re holding my money. That was a week ago that I was told I’d get a call back, and I haven’t heard from them.

PERSONAL EXPENSES

Now that the basement is done, I had a strong urge to finish projects. There were several things that were starting but not completed. Those final punch list items always seem to take forever. I was impressed that Mr. ODA pushed to get some of the things in the basement done right away, even though they weren’t on a critical path. However, I didn’t uphold my end of the project by painting those things, so I got back to that. I mentioned several of the projects in a recent post, and I’ve done a whole lot more since that post. But all that to say, I’ve spent a lot of money in the last month. I bought a lot of supplies to finish off these open projects. I also had big purchases of cabinet hardware, a dining room table, a desk, and a wood. We haven’t done very much out of the house, so we don’t have a lot of other expenses than these projects, which means our credit cards are actually have the usual balances. We did book an AirBnB for a trip at the end of the summer with friends of ours. That was a big hit on the credit card for a week at the beach, but they reimbursed us for their half.

SUMMARY

It feels like I just keep lowering the balance in our investment accounts each month, but I went to look at February 2021 to see the total. Even though some balances have decreased, we’ve still contributed to the accounts, so overall they’re $21k higher than last year, which is encouraging. I guess I should also focus on the property values raising significantly. We’re over $500k higher than last year in our assets, and our liabilities (i.e., mortgages) are about 13k less than February 2021. We’re also still over $3M on net worth, even if we’re hovering right around that. We’ll add about $50k to our net worth by the end of the month, as long as we close on the new property on time.

DIY Projects

I took a break from writing posts to play in the nice weather we were having and then finish up some outstanding projects this weekend. Some projects are still not finished, but I felt good about the progress. Here are some things I did, which means you can do it too and save yourself some money. 🙂

SHOE STORAGE: $6

We have a mud room “welcome center” or “drop zone” in our house. Here’s a picture from the builder on what it looks like.

It’s beautiful until you realize that the purpose of these shelves is to house things like shoes, keys, outdoor things, etc. There’s no point to style them like bookshelves, and it’s hard to keep it looking organized. When we have guests, they have to see this because it’s outside the only first floor bathroom. It drives me crazy that people see it. I store all our craft supplies on the top shelves (little hands), and I ripped all that down and organized it into bins. It’s not pretty to look at, but it’s still better than the pile of things that quickly gets unorganized. The bottom shelves have shoes on them. A year ago, I asked Mr. ODA to build me an intermediate shelf in the bottom right cubby. We used scrap wood already on hand at that time. Shoes aren’t tall, and we were just throwing them in there on top of each other. Well, all this build up just to say: I finally bought contact paper and wrapped the plywood. I originally wasn’t going to bother painting it because I didn’t have the trim paint on hand. Since then, a nice worker left me a pint of it, but I still thought the contact paper would be better. It seems so small and silly, but I got the pattern to line up straight when I wrapped it on the edge, which makes me happy.

LAUNDRY ROOM: $49

Again, nearly a year ago, I took down the builder-grade wire shelf that was in the laundry room. I then patched the gigantic holes that this type of shelf requires. Here’s a builder photo of a laundry room in this floor plan to show what I mean, and where it started.

Instead of blinds in there, I frosted the bottom sash of the window with spray paint I had left over from doing a similar job in our last house ($0). Someone was getting rid of a cabinet on our neighborhood page, and I wanted it for the laundry room ($0). I bought cabinet enamel ($25), which I highly recommend over regular paint if you want a clean look. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it (I’ve used it here and on a desk I refinished, and I still have half the quart left. Here’s the one I used.

I hung this repainted cabinet last summer. Every time I walked by, I thought that a light brick wall would look so good with the color of the cabinet. I thought about it for several months and finally decided to go for it. I bought 2 rolls of peel and stick wallpaper off Amazon ($14). It did not go well. I got the idea out of my system, but I didn’t enjoy the process of hanging it. I’m curious about doing traditional wallpaper, which is easier to move around and line up, but I was disappointed that these two sheets didn’t automatically line up with each other and I had to piece them together.

In my last house, I hung a cabinet and then Mr. ODA and his brother built two shelves that I stained dark next to it. That’s still my goal here, but I haven’t done the shelves. I had already been in Home Depot for an hour, and Mr. ODA wasn’t there to talk me through the options, and HD likes to just throw all their crap in the lumber aisles to make it very difficult to navigate if you have a cart, so I gave up. But I did get chair rail ($10)! I originally wanted something really big, but I panicked and went with a smaller, more ornate option. I stained it espresso (already on hand from the last laundry room job), so you can’t really see the details in it, but at least the end of the wallpaper is covered now. It doesn’t matter how many times I am around an air compressor and nail gun; I do not enjoy that thing.

I also put the contact paper that I bought for the shoe shelf on the bottom shelf of the cabinet I refinished since paint had dripped into it and the original owner of it had drilled several holes through the bottom of it. P.S. The knobs were put on by the previous owner; one day I’ll patch the hole and realign the knobs so they’re even, ugh.

STENCILED WALL: $73

I don’t really recommend stenciling a whole wall. I’ll probably put 10 hours into the wall already by the time I’m done. Also, $73 is a lot to spend on one wall, but I’ll find more uses for the paint. That’s the upfront cost, but with leftover supplies, there will be more projects.

I wanted my daughter to have pink in her room, but nothing bright. I found this beautiful muted pink color. I wanted to do one wall this color in a satin finish, and then get the same color but in an eggshell or flat to do the stencil. While at the store, I found a different kind of paint and went for that instead; it’s a metallic paint! It’s subtle enough that it’s hard to capture all the stenciling in photographs, and it changes how you see it based on how the light hits it.

So I’ve purchased a gallon of pink paint (that has more than 2/3 left in it) ($38), this special paint (with about half of it left once I’m done) ($20), and the stencil that I had someone make for me ($15).

Halfway through the wall, I discovered an error I’d been making. I had been using a manual level to make sure the top of the stencil was level when I put it on the wall. The stencil was not cut correctly – the image on the stencil is cockeyed within the stencil, so leveling the edge of the stencil meant that everything I was painting wasn’t straight. Once I started using the laser level, I found that the level line wasn’t the same whether I used the top of the cut out part or the edge of the stencil piece. I tried to start correcting it because, while it wasn’t noticeable, I figured it’d get noticeable by the time I got to the other edge of the wall and along the ceiling. Things got messed up in a few spots where I couldn’t quite see where I was lining it up against what I had already painted.

Oh, and let’s not forget that I had the paint out, went to deal with a crisis with my son (potty training!), and my daughter seized the opportunity. She got my paint brush, dipped it in the paint, and smeared it all over the stenciled wall I had already done. Luckily, that stencil was dry, and I found her right away so the paint was wet, so it mostly just wiped off.

There are two sections I’ll need to re-paint pink and then re-stencil, and then there’s a few touch up areas where I’ll need to hit it with a small brush and fix the pink around the stencil. Once paint got caked on the stencil and created its own barrier to bleeding behind the stencil, the wall is coming out perfect. If this didn’t take absolutely forever, I’d want to go back and do the first 5 rows I did without the laser level and caked up stencil, but no thanks.. it isn’t THAT noticeable!

The [near] finished project is exactly how I pictured it, which never seems to happen for me, so I’m powering through. Here’s a close up of the wall since there are too many imperfections to share the whole thing at this point.

BASEMENT WET BAR: $53

Mr. ODA and I put up shiplap against the wet bar wall as a feature. We didn’t want to close in the room with upper cabinets (this section sits in the middle of the open basement and we didn’t want to distract from that), we didn’t want to tile the wall with a backsplash because the wall is FAR from even, and we didn’t want to leave it painted with nothing above it. Mr. ODA decided on shiplap, and he liked the charcoal color instead of the white or painting it. It really looks great, but it’s unfinished. We didn’t know how we wanted to do the final piece. So this weekend, I bought two molding types to check it out, and we still need to add that and paint/stain it. I also purchased the sink faucet finally, which should arrive tomorrow. We first thought we’d put shelves in the shiplap, but after you work so hard to make it level and shim it like crazy behind each piece, you don’t really want to immediately drill anything into the face of your pretty project. 🙂 I didn’t include the cost of the shiplap in my calculation above because that was purchased before this weekend’s goals of finishing projects, but the molding was $10 and the faucet was $43.

Speaking of finishing, this reminded me that I have to buy the cabinet pulls. We had held off installing them because the flooring people were going to come back and fix some things. There’s a protective layer on the outside of the cabinets, and I didn’t want to pull it off until they were done banging around near them (their workmanship was quite poor, so I don’t trust them). Since I wasn’t going to install them, I didn’t make it a priority to order them, but I can now. There’s more to come on the basement, since we did most of it ourselves.

DIMMER SWITCH: $11

Our son’s sleep has been an issue since birth (PSA: Buy the Taking Cara Babies course for newborns and save yourself a lot of frustration in life by getting a baby to sleep longer with less fights). We finally got into a bed time groove, but it involves him sleeping with the light on. It drove me crazy that it was so bright in there, so I removed the bulb from the overhead light and told him it was broken so he’d use the lamp. When we visited my family, he slept in a room with a dimmer switch and let the light be on the lowest dim level. I finally got around to purchasing the dimmer switch and installing it! Cut off the electric to the room at the electrical box, unscrew the old one, cut the wires, strip them to the right length (it’s on the back of the switch), insert the wires in the right places, screw it into the wall, and turn the electric back on.

SUMMARY

And that’s where I’ve been for the last week! We ordered a desk for the office and a dining room table now that all the existing furniture is where it’s meant to be with the basement finished. That’s what caused my final push to get things done. Now we have our daughter’s birthday party coming in a few weeks, and I was hoping to have almost everything completely before people are in the house! Now go do some projects you’ve been putting off too. 🙂