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The 3 Year Anniversary


We are coming up on our 3 Year Anniversary of our move to Kauai. On one hand I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, but on the other hand it’s hard to imagine how much we have been through, experienced and accomplished in such a short time. Here is a short synopsis of where we have been, what we have done, what we are doing and where we are (we think!) going as we continue our life on this beautiful little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


Flashback to 2015. In March of 2015 we had just come to the island to check on our house that we had purchased about 8 months previous. Our renters had moved out and we decided to come out a month ahead of time to bring some basics – clothing etc. for when we made the real move in April. At the time we really thought this would be our retirement home and that we would just pick up work on the island for medical coverage and to pay the bills until we could skid into retirement. But things change.

We lived in this little house on Lahela Place for about a year and a half. I worked from home and Barb settled on a job at the local middle school. We were still getting settled in to Kauai life…   and then we decided we needed a just little more room than our 900 sq ft house afforded us and set out to buy some land on which to build our dream home.

Dreamer. Nothing but a dreamer

Well, we found a great lot and proceeded to go through the exercises of finding a builder and designing a home that we would love. Trouble is, the builders here were/are all very busy building homes. Just getting some of them to respond, much less bid a job was challenging. On top of that, since everyone was so busy, they were charging top dollar for building a home. We found that we would have to compromise so much on the home design that we would have to increase our budget significantly if we wanted to build the home.

Enter the fixer-upper. My own fault. I was looking at Aloha Living (Hawaiian real estate site) and saw that there was a house for sale just up the street from us that had a great view and a swimming pool to boot. Knowing better, I still told Barb… The picture looked good so we called Susie, our realtor, so we could take a look. This house is literally less than a mile from where we were already living so it was easy to just hop up and see it. At the time we still hadn’t given up on building our own home, but we were a bit discouraged so we figured we might as well take a look.

So we tour the house. We love the view and the vaulted ceilings. The home is about 600 square feet larger than our current place and has an unobstructed view of the ocean. The place looked a little rough – in need of some maintenance but not horrible. That came later, ha ha.

We submitted an offer on the house and put our house up for sale. What followed were 3-4 months of the most challenging real estate transactions I have ever been involved in. There were timing issues and back and forth negotiations with our buyers, we found out that there was termite damage to the house we were buying that had never been fixed. The inspection on the new house turned up a myriad of problems from rotten wood to non-code propane supplies to a fireplace that was wicking water into  the walls and causing wood rot. We really thought of pulling out of the deal a few times because we were so stressed and I’m sure we took a few year’s off Susie’s life too.

But finally, in December of 2017, we were in the new house and we could relax.

I’m joking. You knew I was joking, right?

The Horror…

There was no way we could relax in that house. It seemed like everything we touched or looked at that first month either broke if we looked at it sideways, or was already broken. Nothing worked correctly. The little house on Lahela seemed in great shape compared to this place. I had to travel to the mainland for work right after we moved in and Barb called to inform me that we had a mouse sharing the house with us. Unsurprising considering the state of everything. But distressing nonetheless.


Fast forward to the present.

It is a year or so later and things have changed. We have repaired or replaced much of what was wrong with the house. I have described in detail many of the improvements in previous blog posts (with lots of pictures!). The house is starting to look pretty good and we really like living here now. We still have a ton of projects ahead of us but we now have a clean, pest free house where everything works.

Here is a list off the top of my head in no particular order of fixes and improvements.

  • Replaced or repaired every screen in the house (ALL of them needed work)
  • Had propane plumbed correctly to the kitchen and laundry room and a propane tank installed.
  • Had the electric supply for the range rewired – the previous owner had run an extension cord to the plug on the counter for the range. (and was running the propane from a BBQ style propane tank)
  • Replaced the range, washer, dryer, dishwasher and microwave.
  • Removed the pony wall next to the range since the new range wouldn’t fit with it still standing. Sealed up THE GIANT HOLE we found inside where they had run a flexible hose from a BBQ type propane tank to the range. Oh and there was a mouse nest there, too. Our pal.
  • Replaced the computer board for the pool equipment that had failed.
  • Replaced the chlorine generator for the pool.
  • Replaced the pump for the pool.
  • Replaced the heater thermocouple for the spa so the heater would work.
  • Removed the garage door opener and garage door rails from the office area where the previous owner had kept them after converting the garage into an office. Repaired the wall where all that had come through.
  • Repaired termite damage in the guest room floor.
  • Refinished the guest room floor.
  • Fixed all the holes and gashes in the walls and painted the guest room walls and ceiling.
  • Replaced the old aluminum jalousie mechanisms with vinyl mechanisms in the guest room, master bedroom and breakfast nook.
  • Remodeled the bathroom – repaired the dry-rotted floor around the toilet, blew out everything else and tiled the floor and shower, and installed a new toilet, ceiling fan and vanity. Repaired the water damaged drywall near the shower and repaired the dry-rotted floor near the shower. Rewired the shower light and re-positioned the wall GFI outlet.
  • Fixed non-standard electrical wiring wherever I found it – especially in the attic.
  • Replaced all the outlets and switches in the house.
  • Refinished the floors in the Master Bedroom and painted the walls and ceiling.
  • Rerouted the cable to proper cable boxes instead of having them come up through holes in the floor. Repaired said holes.
  • Replaced all the casing/molding in the Guest Room, Master Bedroom, hallway and guest bathroom.
  • Replaced the Master Bedroom door with a barn door.
  • Constructed custom built-in cabinets and kitty litter resort spa area for the litter boxes (Master Bedroom). Nothing is too good for the cats.
  • Installed a closet organizer and louvered doors in/on Master Bedroom closet.
  • Living Room – Removed fireplace and old casement windows and installed new fixed windows and patio door in it’s place. Replaced damaged girders and beams that were rotted under the old fireplace.
  • Removed old bamboo trim from around the dining room windows and cased out the windows with modern molding/trim including window shelf.
  • Removed the old shelves in the hallway and the mirror behind them and reinstalled new shelves.
  • Painted the hallway and installed custom lighting to replace old nasty lights.
  • Installed electrical outlet and lights in the “garage” area.
  • Repaired roof structure and shingles on gazebo.
  • Cleared out a crap-load of weeds and cut down a 30 foot kukui tree.
  • Removed numerous truckloads of firewood and other crap left behind by the previous owner.

Whew! I’m tired from writing all that. I know we’ve done even more but I can’t think of all of it off the top of my head. Dammit Jim, I’m a consultant not a computer!

And……… here is the stuff we still have left (and this list will increase!)

  • Replace the pool liner (waiting on the pool liner folks right now)
  • Replace the lanai cover so we can protect the lanai deck.
  • Replace the lanai flooring with ipe wood. (Ipe wood is a tropical hardwood that is very dense and stands up to wood rot and insects. It can last 30-50 years.)
  • Remodel the kitchen – blow out a couple of walls and add an island.
  • Remodel the Master Bathroom.
  • New flooring in kitchen and breakfast nook – part of kitchen remodel.
  • Paint the office and replace the flooring.
  • remodel the laundry room.
  • Reconfigure the water heater closet to maximize storage.
  • Move the spa to the lanai when we re-do the flooring.
  • Carport or garage construction.
  • Build a workshop.
  • Clear the embankment of the riparian foliage and plant cool stuff.
  • Replace the rest of the aluminum jalousie mechanisms. (only 5 left!)
  • Refinish the rest of the oak floors – scheduled for this summer.
  • Replace a few of the ceiling fans with nicer fans.
  • Re-do the hall closets – mostly paint and replace old shelves.
  • Repair some old termite damage on the door molding leading out to the lanai.
  • Replace wood on front deck and stairs with ipe wood.
  • Replace the rain gutters with seamless gutters.
  • Replace wood slats along the bottom of the house with waterproof polyethylene slats to prevent future rot.

I’m sure more will pop up as we go along but we are getting there.

Life is but a dream, it’s never what it seems…

The house stuff has been a main focus for us this last year or so but we also continue on with fun stuff as well. I’m still in a band, One Lane Bridge, and we had the opportunity to play at the Waimea Town Celebration last month. A lot of fun and I even got to play some original music there! I’m also jamming with some other local musicians and having a great time doing it – and stretching myself musically a little bit too. Barb is getting some sewing and crafts done as time permits and we love it when we can entertain visitors  from the mainland. We still miss our San Diego friends and relatives but we are also making some new friends here too.

Well, this has been my 3 year update on our Kauai life. In conclusion we are still loving it here and are keeping very busy with our projects which are both frustrating and rewarding at the same time! I hope this post was entertaining to you and that you will check back on my next post.

Until then, Aloha!


THIS is why we bought our fixer upper.


Our Kauai Fixer Upper: Living Room, Dining Room, Hallway oh my!

It is said that a little paint makes a big difference. I don’t know who said that, but if no one else takes credit then I will. That being said, it is true that repainting can change the whole look of a home.

This post will include before and after pictures of various improvements that we have made to our Kauai Fixer Upper since my last post in November, 2017.

The Master Bedroom Cabinets – finally finished!

It felt like it took forever because we are novices when it comes to building cabinet doors but I think it was worth it.

Here is the before picture of the area where we installed the cabinets


Yeah we thought the same thing. Vanity gotta go!

I had posted our construction of the new shelves in an earlier blog. Here are some of the steps in the construction of the doors for those shelves – and a picture of the final product.


The cabinet frame. No MDF here, just solid wood.


Drilling the pocket holes in my fabulous cabinet shop.


The paint goes on – this was tedious…


Test fitting the top row.


We used a router to makes recesses for the bamboo sheets. (They are leaning up against our barn door that was still in its wrapping)


Add a few knobs and…voila! The finished product 🙂

So now the cats have a nice private enclosure to take of business in, and also to contain the cat litter. There is also a ton of storage on those shelves for clothes etc. Much more useful than what was there before.

The Office/Garage Wall Repair Project

This actually happened just before the cabinet project and was not really in our schedule. But when the “soffit” (and I use that term loosely) collapsed where the garage and office connect, something had to be done.

A little history. The office is actually a converted garage, which itself was a converted carport. However when the garage was converted to office space, about 6 or 7 feet of the front was kept as garage/storage space. The automatic roll-up garage door was also kept along with the automatic opener.

Well, the garage door rails and opener extended into the new office space (the previous owner called it a hobby room). To cover up that faux pas, a soffit made out of a few metal braces, some screen material to keep out the bugs (it didn’t work) and thin wood veneer was installed to enclose the rails and the garage door opening mechanism (except for the actual motor which was not enclosed by the soffit). Rickety is a word that both describes this structure and also insults the word ‘rickety’.

Back in October a gust of wind blew through the open garage and collapsed the soffit. Which meant the top of the office wall was now open to the garage and any critters and/or bugs that would have occasion to visit me. Not to mention all the dust, dirt and dead bugs that fell out when the soffit collapsed.

So with that lengthy preamble out of the way, here are some before and after photos of the repair job.




I would jump every time the garage door opened rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooooooooommmmmm!


The soffit is down with a little help from the wind. On the bright side I could just throw stuff into the garage…


I framed out the opening. I also routed some electrical from the attic for an outlet in the garage. That is a grandiose way of saying “I ran a wire”.


T-111 siding was then added on the garage side.


Next the office repairs. At least the bugs will have to take the long way around now.


Drywall. Still a ton of ceiling repair to do.


Taped and scraped.


This is what it looks like today. Not bad for an amateur drywaller. The office remodel is yet to come, but at least the wall/ceiling repair part is finished.


And here is the garage side as it looks today. Muy bueno.

The Living Room Painting Project

In my last post I updated all y’all on the living room fireplace demolition and wall o’ windows project. This post is just an update on the next step in the living room transformation. Mainly we painted the walls. But as I mentioned earlier a little paint goes a long way in changing the look and feel of the room. Here are some before and after pics. You be the judge.


Gratuitous morning rainbow shot before we started painting.


Getting started. That’s a tall ceiling! Note the mint green walls. I used to work in a CRT (television TUBE!) factory and all the machines were painted this color. I kept having flashbacks of the machines breaking down.


“Paint or paint not. There is no try”



The first coat!


We ordered some new furniture. I think it looks good on the big wall. The white paint really brightens and modernizes the room.

We still have to refinish the floors in the living room (and dining room and hallway) like we did in the two bedrooms. That will be a summer project when Barb is off of work. So it will be even more awesome once that is done

The Dining Room Project

Yes, the hits just keep on coming. Once we saw how good the living room looked we decided to keep going into the dining room. This project would see the last ‘Wall of Green’ removed from the house. The long nightmare would finally be over.

First however, we had to remove the bamboo trim that had been installed around the dining room widows. While I get the idea of bamboo trim/molding in Hawaii, it didn’t necessarily mesh with our vision of the house going forward. Plus it was a place for geckos to hide out and lay eggs. While I love the geckos, I don’t like gecko poop, so removing hiding places for them is a good idea.


If the picture looks dark, it’s because it is. The bamboo shades had the dual purpose of keeping out light and offering no privacy whatsoever from the outside. You can see the big bamboo trim that came with the house. Bonus.


The trim has been removed. This is what it looked like underneath. There were a number of pieces of scrap wood being used as shims etc. There was not a nice flat surface to paint or line the new molding up with.



The painting is done. Now for the trim/molding repair and installation.


We made a shelf at the bottom because it looks cool and the cats like to stare at the chickens from here. We installed a thin piece of wood around the inside of the windows so it would be a single surface to paint.



Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures as we were installing the actual trim, but you can see the finished product in these next few shots. The room is much brighter now and just a cleaner look.



Ta-daaaaa! Sorry that the picture seems dark. It really isn’t dark in there anymore but the backlight from the window screws up the camera lighting.

The Hallway Project

As usual the smallest areas tend to pose the largest amount of work. This hallway was no exception. From patching all the holes to removing the cracked mirror in the alcove to replacing all the door trim and hall lighting, this project took us a lot longer than we thought it would.

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The hallway was painted a lurid dirty-yellow color. Probably the paint was attracting ghosts and lepers. The light fixtures were rusting and the door trim was just not really doing it for us.  In the right house it might be OK, but not in this one. 

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It’s a bit hard to tell from this picture but the mirror at the top right has a chunk missing. The mirror itself was glued to the wall of the alcove and then the trim was glued to the mirror. This was a bit sketchy to remove as we didn’t want it to break and sever any arteries that could lead to one or both of our deaths. But “Danger” is one of our cats’ middle name so we forged ahead. Note: How did I take this picture of the mirror without being in the reflection? You can see the hallway is empty in mirror… (ghosts I tell you!)

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The front door. Again with that trim! also notice the attractive rails used to hold up the glass shelves in the alcove at left. Rust and paint colored.

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We removed the door and the door jamb from the Master Bedroom so we could install a barn door there. That way the door no longer interferes with opening the cabinets in the master bedroom.

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Kind of looks like a party gone bad. The mirror is gone, but much of the glue remains. A lot of the drywall is missing where it came off when the mirror was removed. Clearly we survived the mirror removal…

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Bye bye old trim.

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goodbye to the old lights as well. This pancake box was broken into pieces and had to be replaced.


The first coat of paint – already brighter 🙂


Our mason jar light above the entry.


The trim is up on the door – just needs a coat of paint.



We cased out the master bedroom doorway in preparation for the barn door.



Varnishing the barn door. The door is made of alder and we went with a clear coat varnish to bring out its natural beauty.


The backing block for the door rail.



The rail is up and ready for the door….


Yes! the finished door

The hallway actually took us about 2 weeks to complete. We still have to install the shelves in the alcove but everything else is done – and that is really just decorating rather than renovating. Now that the hallway is done we have connected all the renovated areas of the house. You no longer have to cross a DMZ of ickyness to get from one improved area to another. Boom.

Next Steps

Our next project will be the office renovation – painting and new flooring. After that we will be refinishing the hardwood floors in the hallway, dining room and living room. The refinishing project should take place in early-mid June. We are also trying to find a contractor to build us a cover for our backyard lanai. Stay tuned on that – it’s a big job.

General Kauai Life Update

Life continues on here – we are pretty wrapped up in the house projects but we also eke out time for work, fake nuclear missile attacks, playing music (our band, One Lane Bridge, plays at the Waimea Town Celebration this Friday – shameless plug haha) and hanging out with the cats. Barb’s sister is coming out to visit in a couple of weeks and we are very much looking forward to seeing her.

Thank you once again for looking in on this blog. Sending much aloha your way!



The Big Living Room Wall Project

Finally we (or our contractor, rather) have started on the project to remove the old fireplace and old casement windows and replace them with new windows and a large patio door. It took almost 9 months until project start but we are now moving forward. This post will detail the start of the project on September 5th to date. Subsequent posts will follow it to completion over the next few weeks.

We really needed to get this one complete because there are many other projects that are waiting on this one to get done, for instance, we can’t refinish the floors in the living room or paint the living room walls until this gets done.

The Project:

Fireplace removal

We had a large faux stone fireplace in the middle of the living room wall. This wall looks out to our lanai and then down to the ocean. So instead of having a panoramic ocean view we had this:


I mean yeah, who doesn’t love an old fake stone fireplace with a rusted out firebox and flue that won’t close? Especially when it blocks your view to the ocean. But call us crazy, we decided to have it removed.

Before smashing the fireplace to smithereens, our contractor built a false wall to keep us and the cats separated from the dust and elements.


Gratuitous photo of the kitties. 🙂 From top to bottom: Mr. Beasely, Sheyna and Cali. Clearly, Mr. Beasely is not amused.



Looks beautiful, eh? Well this is our living area for the next few weeks while this project proceeds.


The view from outside after the guys had removed the old casement windows and installed the false wall.


Ugh! Doomed! Doomed I tell you!


The boards on the roof are to protect the roof from falling rocks and to guide the rocks onto the protective plywood below where they are corralled and taken to the waiting dumpster.

It took a couple of weeks to get our subcontractor out to do the demolition because, like most of the contractors out here, they are very busy right now. But once they started it was done in two days. Boom! This work was started on 9/21/17 and completed on 9/22/17.


Repairing the damaged posts and girder. Patching the deck.

Looks better already! We knew that we had damage to a post and girder under the fireplace so the next step was to repair that damage and fill in the open hole in the lanai.


You can see the damage to the post on the left. It just fell apart when the guys were pulling out the fireplace frame. The girder just above the two supports was just as bad; you could stick a screwdriver right through it with no problem at all.

The new post girder and joists for repairing the deck.


They feathered in the new boards for the lanai and removed the siding and the drywall.


Not bad for a day’s work! This was all done on 9/25/17. The next step will be posting up the beams for the roof support, adding in  new header to span the whole length of the wall and framing in the openings for the windows.

Installing the windows and lanai door.

The next day the windows went in! These guys are making fast progress. I was on the phone talking with my brother in law and the guys went by the window carrying the lanai door. 🙂


Definitely looking better than that old chimney… pretty excited at how it looks right now. Don’t worry, there will be a step installed in front of the slider so we will have “less” chance of taking a dive.

The next step will be to prep and patch the roof over the slider to match the rest of the roof.

Sept 27, 2017 The roof has been patched and is ready for the roofer to come in and do his thing.


The widow’ peak  (LOL) is gone and  ready to have the asphalt roofing added.

Here is a pic of the view looking out from the inside – a preview of our view from the living room once the project is finished. They also did a nice job matching up the cedar planks under the eaves.


Not bad! I can’t wait until the drywall goes up and we can take down the temporary wall. There is still some work to be done inside for sure. Here are a couple of pics from the area inside the windows now.

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Here we can see the new to support the roof  and the damage left by the fireplace. It should be covered by the drywall so no worries.

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The original hardwood floor. This is going to get refinished once this project is done (well, maybe not right away…)

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Kind of hard to tell from this picture but they dropped a stone when taking out the fireplace and it cracked one of the oak boards all the way through.


Here is the new board that replaced the damaged board. Sanded and ready to go.

The Inspection

We have to pass hurricane inspection before we can drywall. The guys came out and added hurricane strapping to the new header and supports in order to comply with the requirements.

Yes – not the most exciting photos but you get the idea…


There was not much drywall to install because the windows take up the bulk of the area. But having the drywall in makes it look like we are almost done – and since they took down the temporary wall to prep for the finish work we could finally see what the finished product would look like. 🙂 (Ignore the junk on the lanai, please!)



Final Trim and Paint

The next step was getting the trim installed and the walls painted. We are almost done!!!


And finally… done!

So here are the before and afters of the results of this remodel.

Before (Ughhhhh!)


After 🙂


A few final words

The project itself took about 50 days to complete once the actual work started. (Pretty close to the original estimate of 45 days). There were some minor delays, the main one being getting the fireplace demolished – construction is booming on Kauai right now and the demolition guys were very busy. The price was… well I won’t even get into that (LOL). However the actual time from when we started looking for contractors was over 10 months (Did I mention there is a construction boom on the island?)

We still need to paint the rest of the living room and refinish the floors but this wall project had to get done before we could do any of that. So now we have out work cut out for us in that respect. We are also waiting on the screen door from Milgard (They shipped us one but it was the wrong size, so we are working with them to get the right door)

The difference in the room and really the whole are including the kitchen is amazing. Where once it was dark, it is now really light and bright and the beautiful view is visible from everywhere in the common areas of the house: kitchen, dining and living/family rooms.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this and we’ll post again soon. The projects aren’t stopping anytime soon.

Now for the lanai cover…


Kauai Fixer Upper – Master Bedroom edition and… life update.

As usual it has been a while since my last post. But stick with me, there will be lots of photos! Here’s one right off the bat that Barb took in Kapa’a at an orchid shop. I think the gecko is actually posing for the picture.

First a quick Kauai life update.
Apologies to any of my Facebook friends as I have almost completely stopped posting and looking at Facebook. I just became so tired of political rants and posts from both sides and ads etc. that I’ve just given up on using the app for the immediate future. Probably the only thing you will see posted from me on Facebook will be these blog posts as I have them linked to my profile.

Okay okay, the life update.
We’ve been keeping very busy with general repairs and working on the Master Bedroom Renovation. As usual, the renovation always turns up more issues than you expect and everything takes a lot longer than you think it will. So we’ve been estimating worst case scenarios on how long it will take to do a job and then doubling THAT (haha).

The kitties are doing great and appear to not have a care in the world. They are really good at pointing out any geckos that have invaded the house so that we can capture and relocate them outside. We’ve been calling Mr. Beasely by a new nickname ” ‘lil G”, which is short for “The Gangster of Love” (apologies to Steve Miller).

It’s time for Barb to go back to work after having her summer break (always a downer) and I am pretty much always working so things are pretty stable there right now.

The band is still practicing and playing. We’ve had a couple of private gigs recently. One at Salt Pond beach and another at a private residence in Po’ipu. They both went very well and we are looking forward to more in the future.


We have more visitors coming to stay with us in a week or two. Barb’s brother and his wife will be with us for a couple of days before hopping over to Maui. We always have a great time with them and are looking forward to the visit.

We FINALLY got our permit from the county approved so we can start work on removing the fireplace and replacing it with a large sliding glass window. Having the construction in the house for a month or two while I am trying to work won’t be fun, but I can’t wait to see the place once that big ugly fireplace is gone and we have a clear view out to the Pacific.

On to the improvements and (more) pictures!

The “Before” pictures of the Master Bedroom.

Here are some photos of the room before the project. These are from our walk-through of the house before we bought it. The previous owner had some big furniture…

The Demo:

Not as much to demolish in this room but we did have those built-in drawers that were thrashed and needed to be removed. Barb gave it the red glove treatment…

We wanted to build in a shelving unit before we started on the rest of the room. We designed a place to put the litter box and supplies for the cats in the unit so it will easier to maintain and to contain the litter.

We still need to build the doors to enclose the shelves, and it is on our list, but it might be a couple of weeks before we get to that part. 🙂

On to the rest of the room

There was a lot of prep to do before we could actually start painting the room.

We had to:

  • Remove all the base board, repair all the holes, gouges and  fix nails that (inexplicably) protruded out from the ceiling.
  • Remove all structures from the closet so that we could paint the inside of the closet and install a closet organizer.
  • All electrical sockets were replaced.
  • A wall switch and associated light fixture above the old built-in dresser were completely removed.
  • The TV cable, which had been installed by drilling a hole in the floor and sticking the cable through, was routed into the wall into a proper box with a proper wall plated to connect to. The hole in the floor was filled and repaired.
  • We removed the old aluminum jalousie mechanisms for all the windows and replaced them with new vinyl mechanisms that seal better and are a bit more secure.
  • Old termite damage around some of the window frames was filled and repaired.

    The new jalousie mechanisms.

    The new Jalousie mechanisms.


The closet organizer


Our cat Cali, enjoying the afternoon


The room from the entrance. Again, Cali is enjoying the day.


The “new” closet doors. We got these at the local thrift store for $15 per two panels ($65 including tax!)


A view back towards the room entry.

You can see we still have a lot of finish work to do. We need to install the baseboard but we can’t do that until after we refinish the floors. That project will happen in about 3 weeks. Then we can finish everything up and get to decorating the room.

Other projects.

The outdoor shower next to the pool had no enclosure so we decided to enclose it with bamboo so we can use it as a real shower. Taking outdoor showers in Hawaii is one of the singular pleasures of living here. But you don’t want to aggravate the neighbors with your birthday suit so an enclosure is required. 🙂

We used some deck mounts for the poles to hold the carbonized bamboo up.2017-07-15_12-12-54_4722017-07-15_12-12-42_569

Then we built a door out of re-purposed wood and bamboo sheeting to ensure privacy while showering. We had to stain the wood and varnished the bamboo to protect the door from the elements. I think it looks pretty good.


We still need to figure out something to hold soap and shampoo and hang towels and clothing but in the meantime we have a small table inside to set the shower supplies on.

Well that’s a wrap. Considering all the work we went through to get these projects done, this seems like a pretty short post! But probably better that way.

Aloha to everyone and see you later!

Our Hawaii Fixer Upper, Project #2: The Guest Bathroom

Our second renovation project is the guest bathroom. This is a small, but not tiny, bathroom that is next to the guest bedroom that we previously updated. We have guests coming to stay with us on May 31 so we had a limited time to get everything done. And believe me when I tell you that this was pretty much a gut job. There was almost nothing that we would keep from the original bathroom.

First a few “before” pics of the bathroom in its former, uh, glory.

Sorry for the bad angle on the shower. The enclosure was corroded and the walls were Corian sheets that were just glued to the wall. Not really watertight.

The cabinet for the sink was full of water damage and had been harboring mice at one time. Note the position of the outlet on the wall. Not even enough room for a full sized wall plate.

If you look at the base of the toilet you can see way too much caulk that was used to mask the cracks in the tile. The tiles were cracked because the subfloor underneath was rotten from water damage. The picture doesn’t do justice to how tilted the toilet was because of the failing floor. I’m just glad no one fell through!

At least the window was OK. 😊


So the demolition began… everything came out. We took the shower area down to the studs, removed the cracked and degrading shower pan and removed the old tile which had cracked in many places. Essentially stripped the place down.

The Shower Area


This is after we removed the Corian sheets from the wall. They had just been glued over regular drywall – and not very well. I was able to pull the pieces down by hand. They peeled right off. At the bottom right you can see that the drywall had degenerated from water damage. It was very soft at the bottom. This damage extended to the floor underneath the tile and shower pan.


Yes, ugly like the other side!


Surprisingly, there was not as much water damage behind the drywall as we thought there might be. The wood was solid and not soft at all.


The shower pan is out. The flooring is 3/4 inch oak, which is used as both the floor and sub-floor in this 1979 house. At the corners where the shower pan ended, the floor had rotted almost all the way through from water damage.


It doesn’t look that bad here, but when we started scraping away the discolored wood on the floor it went almost all the way through. You can also see that the tile was laid directly over the old linoleum.

The Toilet Area

Under the toilet we also found water damage. Prior to the demo the toilet leaned to one side and the tile on that side was cracked due to a soft floor underneath. There must have been water leakage going on for a LONG time to damage it that much.


Yeah, not a pretty sight. You can see through the floor to the ground where I pulled out the loose, dry-rotted flooring. All of the flooring in the immediate area around the toilet ring was badly damaged.



This is a view from underneath before we started the demolition you can see where the dry-rot had gone all the way through all around the drain. Another fun fact: When they installed the drain they cut right through the joist and never bothered to support it anywhere. I believe this was the reason for the floor bowing so much and the tiles cracking in this area. Too much flex.


Yeah – just kind of hanging out there in space!



We cut out a large area around the drain to make sure all the bad wood was removed, and to allow us to access two more joists in order to support the 3/4″ plywood we were going to patch the floor with.

The Sink Area

The sink/cabinet was a Home Depot unit that was in reasonable condition from the outside. But the construction is mostly particle board which has a short shelf life here in Hawaii. Once moisture gets into particle board it starts to expand and come apart and this cabinet was doing all of that. It had to go.


You can see the wall had some raised spots behind where the cabinet sat. We found that, for some unknown reason, there were cardboard shims stuck on to the drywall there and then covered over with joint compound. Its still a mystery to me. You can also see that the linoleum did not continue under the cabinet and the tile had been glued directly to the oak floor.  Removing the mortar from that area was not fun, but we wanted a nice flat surface before we started  installing the floor. We also had remove all the baseboard and the trim around the door.


Prep work: Now that we had all the bad crap out, it was time to start prepping the area. We had to patch the floor around the toilet drain and install cement board on the floor and in the shower stall.


First, we wanted to support the joist where it had been cut to accommodate the toilet drain. I used some 2 x 4’s nailed to a wood base to give them better stability and supported those with cement block and termite barrier.


Here is the 3/4″ plywood patch that we applied. the wood is green because I treated it with termiticide before installing. Also a brand new toilet ring/extender was installed.


Next the cement board went down for the flooring. We used 1/4″ Wonderboard Lite for the floor. This would keep the floor from flexing and cracking the tiles that we would later install.



Here is where we had torn off the shims that had been stuck to the wall. We spackled and textured the area to improve its uniformity with the rest of the wall.


We framed out an insert for shower goodies.



After mortaring the joints we applied RedGard as a moisture membrane to keep the shower water tight.  You just roll it on like paint. Pretty cool stuff!


Unfortunately all the demo and prep work was not as easy as it sounds. It was grueling work to get it to this point. There were other tasks that I didn’t get pics of  – like relocating the power outlet and rewiring the light in the shower, etc. But now we were finally ready to start the finish work….

The Finish Work

Our next tasks were to install the tile on floor and in the shower. We had tiled floors before but not a shower so we knew we were in for a fabulous learning experience. We went with large grey tiles for the floor to give this small bathroom a larger feel. For the shower we went with 16 x 4 white subway tile and a stone accent strip.  We used grey grout to better define the white tiles. The walls were painted with white semi-gloss paint to keep it bright in the small space.



We were worried about getting the insert done, but it turned out to not be as difficult as we thought it would be…


…and we think it turned out pretty well!


The pictures look good but it actually took us 3 full weekends of tiling to complete the shower. The floor we knocked out in a few hours. Grouting the shower took 3 days to complete even with the pre-mixed grout. But we are first timers for the shower part and we were learning on the job. Our next shower will benefit from the knowledge we picked up on this project.

The Final Product

The fun stuff. We had ordered a bathroom sink/cabinet from IKEA. Since IKEA doesn’t ship to Hawaii, we contracted with a firm that specializes in shipping IKEA items to Hawaii. You place your order through them and they ship to the port here on Kauai where you pick it up. The shipping is pretty steep but even with that we were able to get a nicer wood (not particle board!) cabinet and sink for less than buying (a decent) one at Home Depot. We also ordered a ceiling fan appropriate for wet areas from Amazon and installed it over the commode. The LED light fixture was a Costco buy. The mirror we found at Home Depot by accident and it perfectly matched our cabinet (Score!!!!).

We are still going to install a glass enclosure for the shower but we haven’t settled on what we want yet – and we had to wait until we were done tiling to get good measurements before ordering one.

Anyway, here are the photos of the bathroom that I just took a few minutes ago. I hope you like the final product!


The Cost of it all

The final cost of the project to this point is about $3,100. That doesn’t include the glass enclosure which we estimate will be another $700. So an ultimate cost of $3,800 for a full bathroom renovation. Plus about 2 months of our time from start to finish. Everything in this bath down to baseboard, door trim, wall plates and electrical switches were changed except the medicine cabinet, which was repainted and re-used (and a cool little ceramic fish knob added).

Well, that’s it – I hope this was interesting to you. Our next project will probably be the Master Bedroom – although we are hoping to get the living room remodeled shortly as well.



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. 🙂

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!!!!

Our Kauai Fixer-Upper: 2017 starts… and so do the projects

Well. By now it’s not a secret that we bought a new home (which officially became ours on December 16th) and that it “needs some work”. That is putting it mildly. Here is a short list of stuff that we have identified already that need uh… refreshing.

1. The fireplace in the living room.

This one is a goner. The fireplace sits right in the center of what would be an unobstructed view of the ocean and coastline. Add to that the fact that there is wood rot at the base of the fireplace and that water from the rock veneer has damaged the wall surrounding it, and the verdict is in: It’s the death penalty for the fireplace.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_371 Yes. I know, it looks harmless, but trust me this thing should never have been built in the first place. It blocks light from entering the living room and is causing ongoing damage to the entire wall. The challenge now is finding a good contractor to remove this monstrosity and install a sliding glass door (that we bought on Craigslist!) and new windows. We hope to have this project completed by spring.

2. The Pool

The filter for the pool runs OK but has a couple of major problems.

  • The outgoing line from the sand filter leaks like a sieve when the pump is running. This causes a loss of water (and salt!). I’ve ordered the parts I need in order to repair this bit of plumbing. I should have those in a week or two and can get this fixed right up.
  • The controller for the filter system doesn’t work. I already replaced the main circuit board for it, but it looks like the display/interface also needs replacement. I hope to have that part in a week or two also. Previous to our moving in, the pump was running 24 hours a day because the timer would never turn it off. I have been controlling it now by using the breaker for the pump itself. I let it run about an hour a day right now. The fact that the controller doesn’t work also means that the salt/chlorinator isn’t running – or we have no way of knowing whether it is running or is even still working. That might be another expense once we get the controller going.

3. The Locks

Oh yeah – every lock on the house had a different key. And some of them were just plain broken. I mean WTF?! So we ran down to HD and grabbed about 5 sets of re-keyable locks so that we could use one key for any door. That was about a $500 project, but at least it is done. The other fun thing about this project was that the strike hole for the front door had been drilled but never mitered out for the strike plate. Inexplicably there was a wadded up paper towel jammed in the hole which stopped the deadbolt from closing completely. So I now have experience using a wood chisel to miter an area for the strike plate to fit into. (and a new set of wood chisels to boot). At least this one is DONE!

4. The hole in the floor.

What!? Yes, there is a hole in the floor in the secondary (guest) bedroom that Barbara found during our final walkthrough by stepping on it and almost going through the floor. It was caused by previous termite damage and was never repaired by the previous owner. That was a “negotiating point” before we actually closed on the house.

Currently the hole is covered by cardboard and duct tape, but I plan on repairing it today or tomorrow depending on how lazy I am. The interesting thing is that there is no real sub-floor on this house; the oak flooring is just laid directly across the joists. This actually will make the repair easier because I won’t have a plywood sub-floor to deal with. I found some scrap oak under the house that we can clean up and use to patch hole. It’s pretty beat up but will do the job, and we plan on putting a new floor down anyway once we replace the fireplace.

5. Plumb the propane in properly.

Everyone loves plumbing a flammable gas into your home improperly right? I mean it’s perfectly OK to have a 5 gallon propane tank sitting next to your dryer with a beat up line to the back of the dryer, isn’t it? Or to run a flex hose under your house, drill a hole in the floor and attach it to your million year old gas range? I mean, what could go wrong?

We had a plumber come out and are awaiting his quote for hard plumbing the propane in properly. Hopefully that will be complete within the next 2 weeks. Then we will have Amerigas come out and hook up a real propane tank.

6. Assorted little stuff around the house.

Here is a list of some of the stuff we have already fixed around the house.

  • Replaced all the burnt out light bulbs in every room and ceiling fan with LED bulbs.
  • Removed the window air conditioner from the master bedroom jalousie window. It was a highway for bugs to enter the house because it was jury rigged, I mean installed, incorrectly. 🙂
  • Replaced the slats for said jalousie windows after removing the AC unit.
  • Got rid of the nasty window coverings in the master bedroom. These were thick satiny things that could have doubled as blackout shades for the blitz in WWII London. (Sorry Martha Stewart).
  • Repaired the damage to the drywall in the master bedroom and guest bedroom where the previous owner had inexplicably used double stick tape to secure whiteboards to the wall. (Sigh).
  • Set the timer for the solar hot water heater to run on electricity for 2 hours in the morning when the water has cooled down overnight. Again, why that was disabled, I have no idea.
  • Replaced various outlet and switch covers that were missing and were exposing electrical wires – a “shock feature” for the house.
  • Repaired the leaky toilet in the hallway bathroom.
  • Replaced the UGLIEST CABINET KNOBS AND PULLS IN THE UNIVERSE from the kitchen cabinets with some unassuming brushed nickel hardware.
  • Had the cable company come out and replace the cable out to the main box on the street. Because watching jittering, pixelated television is only for those aspiring to insanity.
  • Cut away trim wood and trim supports that were making contact with the ground and causing wood rot.
  • Trimmed away some of the foliage around the house that was making contact with the roof and getting in the rain gutters.
  • Oh yeah, we unpacked some stuff too – but that is not complete either.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the things we’ve already fixed, and there is STILL a giant list of upcoming projects. But I will save some of those for the next installment of “Our Kauai Fixer Upper”

Oh, and I promise to include lots more pictures going forward. 🙂

Aloha now!

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