Our Hawaii Fixer Upper, Project 1 – The Guest Room

OK – it’s been a while since my last post. That’s because I wanted to be able to post the pictures from our first big house project from beginning to end. Since both Barbara and I work, we do most of our renovation work on the weekends (and sometimes in the evenings if we are feeling industrious).

Project #1 is the guest bedroom/sewing/craft room. We chose this because well, we are having guests coming to visit us soon (Kauai, who would’ve thought?!) Anyway, this room is your run of the mill 10.5 x 11 foot room with a closet and a small entry area to accommodate the door. When we purchased the home, the room looked OK but after all the furniture was removed we found some issues.

Here are some photos we took during our initial walkthrough of the house before we had purchased it.


You can tell that the room is pretty dark. But it didn’t look too bad on initial inspection. The walls were painted a yellow which may have faded over time. The drapes were very thick and the jalousie windows which look out on the front yard were made of wood rather than glass so they didn’t let much light through when they were not opened. There is a wall switch in the entry but it wasn’t actually wired into anything.

At our final walkthrough we were distressed to find out there was termite damage in the oak flooring (which also acts as the subfloor). We found this out when Barbara’s foot nearly went through the floor while inspecting the room.


The picture just shows the initial damage we found. Two full floorboards were pretty well eaten through and a few surrounding boards had minor damage but were still solid. If you looked through those holes you could actually see the ground under the house. No doubt the termites thought this was a great place to eat and were return customers. Until the tenting stopped the insect buffet a couple of years ago.

We brought in a termite inspector and he confirmed there was no current infestation, that it was old damage from before the house was tented back in 2014 and there were no active termites in the house (whew!)

Other problems we found included stained baseboard that we assume happened when the floor was previously refinished – the spatter looked like it could possibly have been wood stain and they hadn’t removed the baseboard when they did the refinishing work. There were many, many holes in the walls from towel bars that had been installed. The home had been used as an Air BNB for some time and the towel bars were for the guests to use. Also, a lot of other holes from pictures, previous pictures that had been moved, hooks, etc. There were also some deep gouges in the wall behind the mirror that had sat on the dresser. We also found nails that had just been pounded into the wall instead of being removed and patched. I wish I had taken more closeup photos of the walls to share with you, but I didn’t. My bad.


The staining on the baseboard/wall. :-0

At any rate, the room was certainly not what you would consider move-in ready. On the upside, it does have the vintage 3/4″ plank oak flooring and the size is pretty good for a secondary bedroom. And it is on Kauai. šŸ™‚

To begin we first moved all of the boxes and small stuff out of the room so we could get started cleaning and patching the walls – all the prep work. This has had the effect of turning the rest of the house into a storage area with everything everywhere. Fortunately I have been regularly self-medicating with copious amounts of liquor.


You can see that the baseboard was probably still original from 1979 when the house was built. Looks like it was redwood…

We also removed all the jalousie mechanisms and repaired them as most of the levers were missing or broken.



Old gecko eggs on the inside of the mechanisms. No gecko eggs were harmed in the renovation of this room.

We cleaned and repaired the jalousies and replaced the old wooden slats with glass slats that we found at the local Habitat for Humanity store. A good deal – only about $30 for 40 slats!

It really took about three weeks to get the room ready to paint. This included scrubbing the walls and ceiling, removing all nails and screws, patching all the holes and gouges and sanding all the repaired ares smooth. I take very little credit for this part because Barbara did nearly all the work. I’m more of a ‘hit it with a hammer’ kind of guy. Plus Barb’s and my idea of ‘clean enough’ may not be exactly the same (wink, wink). On my side I did do some patching and removed some butterfly anchors, replaced all the electrical outlets, terminated the electrical at the unused switch and replaced the switch itself with the wall mount for the ceiling fan remote control. And I tore out most of the old baseboard and the moulding around the door. Together we tore out the shelving and hanger rod in the closet.

Finally we were ready to paint. We decided on just a basic bright white paint for both the ceiling and walls in eggshell finish. For the window trim, baseboard and door moulding we are using basic white semi-gloss. I know it sounds like a lot of white, but we want the room light and bright and will use pops of color from decorations to liven it up. (yes, I watch HGTV too).



The wood pile outside is where my friend Jon will sleep when he comes to visit this summer. Cozy.


If you compare the first and last photo of the closet, you can really see the difference. So the painting made a HUGE difference in the look of the room.

The next step was refinishing the floor. We went back and forth between wanting to whitewash the floor and wanting to just clear coat it to preserve the vintage oak look, but with a more natural hue instead of the standard darker oil stain. The benefit of the whitewash is that it would cover up the patching job we did where the floor had been damaged by termites. It also might lend a beachy feel to the room. The drawback was that it would be a LOT of white in that room! Eventually we decided to go with a water based urethane clear coat. We were still worried about how the patch job was going to look though.

Before the start of this project we had patched the termite-damaged flooring with some old scrap oak plank we found under the house. We had never done anything like this before so were just kind of figuring it out as we went. The planks that we found still had some adhesive stuck to it – we think that when one of the bathroom floors had been re-done that they cut out some of the oak subfloor and replaced it with plywood. Anyway, at least we had some of the tongue and groove flooring – even if it was really ugly. We took the two best pieces we could find and set them aside. Then we used a jig saw to cut out the old termite damaged pieces.


The damaged area. Yes that is the ground under the house that you see!


The ‘new’ slat in all its glory.


What was left of one of the slats we removed.


What it looked like after we installed the new pieces. Yikes!

We actually got lucky with the smaller of the two pieces – it fit EXACTLY into the opening left by one of the damaged boards so it was able to slide it right in with a little bit of pressure. The longer piece was not a perfect fit and, because it was in the middle of the floor, I had to cut away the tongue from both it, and one of the boards it rested against in order to get it to fit in. We nailed it to the joist like the rest of the boards and then I went under the floor and attached a piece of scrap wood across a few of the planks under the patched area for extra strength. I probably didn’t really need to, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

So. Ugly – but patched and secure.

Now, back to the refinishing of the floor. We rented a drum sander from Home Depot and bought 80 and 120 grit sandpaper for it. At the same time we bought miter saw for the future baseboard/moulding work and an orbital sander for the edge work. Then we got down to business. Neither of us had ever run a drum sander before so it took some getting used to. Our main worry was that this floor had been sanded before and we didn’t want to go down too far. So we were trying to err on the side of caution. After some trial and error trying to figure out how best to use the sander we were finally able to get it under control and it went fairly smoothly (haha no pun intended). But sawdust EVERYWHERE! If you decide to ever do this, wear a good dust mask and be prepared to clean EVRYTHING in the vicinity of the sanded area once you are done.


Mr. Drum Sander. Sorry about the unfocused picture…


The patch job. Partially hand sanded but hadn’t been drum sanded yet.


After a couple of passes with the drum sander the patch is looking better…


You can still see the streaks after the first pass or so


Mostly finished but the edge sanding still left to do.


Just about done with the sanding. Loving how the wood looks! The patch job is on the left side – the darker plank.


Ready for the finish coating…

Time for the varnish. We decided on a water based urethane finish (Varathane). Again, we had never done this before but we knew we didn’t want to stain the floor dark again and we wanted something that wouldn’t yellow. Plus easier clean up. So water based it is! We put on 6 coats, and did a light sanding by hand after coat #2 as the wood grain had stood up a bit and needed to be smoothed. We also went with a satin finish instead of gloss as it covers imperfections a little better. We love the look, the results are below. You be the judge.


The last step for this room is the baseboard and quarter round. By this time I’m pretty much done with the effing renovation, LOL, and I’m ready to get this knocked out.


Testing the miter saw. I still have all my fingers.


Door moulding installed.


Some of the bare baseboard without the quarter round installed


The quarter round really gives the floor a much more finished look.

So we are finally in the finishing stages of the project. Barb has dyed some white cotton drapes in a gradated pattern so that it goes from a darker shade at the bottom to a lighter shade as it gets higher. the top remains white. These will look great once our curtain rods get here next week. We have also installed the Murphy Bed and it’s ready to go. Here are some of the final pictures of this project.


So, you may ask, “How much did all of this cost?” To get to this point we spent about $600 on the renovation. Probably another $200-$300 on alcohol and therapy. Mostly alcohol.

So the next part will be decorating and getting Barb’s craft area set up in the closet. I think that can wait until the next blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading this and hope you will check out the next post too.

Aloha and Mahalo for stopping by!!!!


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About akiva96

I lived in Southern California my entire life - until my wife, Barbara, and I decided to quit our jobs and move to Hawai'i in April of 2015.

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