Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins Decorating DIY Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Lake Rock Stone Hearth

August 17, 2016
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Hey friends! I’m trying to get caught up on posting about all of the fun stuff we’ve been doing at the new cabin. This will be a two part post because I’m re-doing the whole fireplace surround and this is just one part of it. Anyways, once we got the wood floors in I couldn’t stop thinking about how dated the tile and brick looked. It just looks like a dated old house, instead of an awesome rustic cabin. I love old things, don’t get me wrong, but this was just….not working.

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I had already started breaking up the tile a bit when I took this photo, but you get the idea. The flesh colored tile and brick…the brass doors, ugh. None of it is working. So I’m learning lessons from the past and I’m taking on one piece of this at a time, starting with the hearth (AKA the part on the floor in front of the fireplace.)

I used a pry bar and a hammer to break up and lift away the tile. Didn’t take too long, maybe 20 mins. In hindsight I would mask off the areas around it if you have anything that could get damaged. Also – WEAR SAFETY GLASSES, and shoes! Tiny sharks fly around, so seriously, wear safety glasses so you don’t have it flying at your eyes. Also shoes so you don’t get a sliver in your foot. I say both of these things from learning the hard way……so don’t do what I did.

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Next step – find a new tile. I went to the store and found some cool stone patterns that I loved, but everything I was looking at was like $10/sq ft. Trying to be thrifty, I decided to use…rocks! From my yard. They are free, and it could work, right? I have no idea what I’m doing here, but I figured if I found rocks that were flat-ish and tried to keep them under like .75 inches thick, maybe I could use them in place of tile or stone. I laid them out to get a visual of what it would look like done and also make sure I had collected enough. This is me….foraging…using a laundry basket to collect rocks in.

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I decided to go about this whole thing as if I was tiling, and planned to use a thinset base and come back to fill in the gaps with a dark gray grout. If you’ve never tiled before, this may sound like a lot to learn, but it’s really not that bad. Ideally, you’d lay a base before laying tile of cement backer board or at least plywood to keep the tile from cracking, but since I know no one will be walking on this area I’m tiling right onto the subfloor (not recommended, yeah yeah.) I mixed up about half of the thinset as directed on the bag, and using a trowel I spread a layer about .75 inches thick on the entire area. You can definitely do this in chunks if you have a bigger area, and I would if I had it to do over – I ended up sort of frantically placing the stones before the thinset dried at the end.

[Still locating photo of this step]

Fun part! I pre-sorted my rocks into big, medium and small. I did this to make sure I had them spread out size wise. I pushed them into the thinset a little or a lot, depending on how thick they were. Ideally they’d make a fairly even surface, but that didn’t really happen. Once I had the big ones laid, I went onto the medium, and so on. I fit them in sort of like a puzzle, but you could really do a lot of different patterns if you wanted, like a gradation of color, patterns, etc?? I’d also be interested to try this with one general size of stones of all one color. So many possibilities, my friends.

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Starting to place the rocks…

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It is definitely not perfect, but I kind of love it. I literally brought the outdoors in. My favorite part about it is that these actually came from our yard and lake. Locally sourced material 😀

I was planning to grout between these, but I need to decide if that’s going to work. I may just mix up some extra thinset and put it in a plastic bag, cut a hole in the corner and squeeze it in the cracks to fill them in a bit more. Thoughts??? I don’t know, either way, I need to wait for this to cure, so I can’t do anything yet!

Next step….fireplace. NO clue what I’m doing there yet. Same thing? Skimcoat with gray? Paint it? HELP!





Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins Decorating DIY Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Bathroom Vanity

August 17, 2016
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Getting around to posting about our custom bathroom vanity! So here’s the scoop. Bathroom vanities are expensive. You can get super cheap ones for ~200 but they are generally made of particle board, and particle board in a steamy bathroom? Not a great combo. We’ve had a few cheap ones over the years, and they just don’t hold up. Anyways, I prefer solid wood any day, but the good looking vanities that are also good quality are upwards of 500 dollars (and go way up from there.) I did one awhile back for the first cabin bathroom as well, and it was really pretty easy, so decided to modify it slightly and build my own again.

Materials needed:

  • copper sink (I bought mine at Menards but they also sell them on Amazon)
  • 4 6ft 2x4s (plain old construction lumber)
  • 1 8ft 1×6 (for the slats on the shelf)
  • 18 x 36 edge glued wood top
  • sink faucet – I got one of the least expensive ones from Menards
  • wood screws

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I started by building the base. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t plan this out well. I did, however measure the old vanity and planned to make it the same width so the plumbing would line up.

First I made 2 boxes out of the 2x4s. Then I cut the 1×6 into 4 pieces that were the same depth as the box and hand nailed them on. Here you can see me laying them out.

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I forgot to take a photo of this, but then I cut 4 2x4s for the legs at 30 inches, and attached my two boxes. The top box I placed at the end of the 2x4s, and the bottom box with slats about 6 inches off the floor for the shelf.

Next step – cutting out the sink hole. The sink came with a cardboard jig for me to trace, so I just made sure I had enough space for my faucet and placed it in the center of the vanity top. I cut out the oval using a jigsaw. You can see I used the old vanity to prop it up.

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As you can see I drilled a couple holes with the drill to get a starting spot.

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Dropped the sink in.

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Then I placed the top on the base and realized my giant mistake. I based my top measurements on the boxes I built, and forgot to figure in the 2x4s I added for the front legs. I found a piece of scrap cedar and decided to improvise. FAIL. Oh well, I kinda like it. Here I’m test fitting it to make sure it will work. I attached the top using trim screws so they would sort of disappear. You could easily add some wood putty, but this is sort of a rustic look so I didn’t even bother covering up the holes.

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Then, the fun part. Staining. I mixed these two stain colors together, because I thought it would look pretty and because I only had a little bit of each left. The red mahogany is just a little too red for me, so the walnut tones it down and makes it more red-brown. Yes- you can mix stain, but just make sure to mix enough so you have some extra in case you need it for touch ups.


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Here it is stained! The final steps were installing the faucet and then (finally) installing it in the bathroom and hooking up the drain line. I will post more pics once the bathroom is all done. Love how it turned out and the whole thing took me under 2 hours.

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Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins DIY Rental Properties

Cabin Projects – Upstairs Floor

August 15, 2016
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It’s been awhile! We’ve been busy renovating the new cabin. So far we’ve:
1. ripped out all of the carpet in the 2 upstairs bedrooms and laid pine flooring (that’s what I’ll cover in this post)
2. ripped up the living and dining room carpet and laid pine flooring
3. laid new flooring in the bathroom and built and installed a new vanity. also replaced bathroom mirror and light fixture.

We’ve also done some landscaping including taking out some trees and cleaned up the yard.

Here are some photos of the first big project we did, the upstairs floor.

Upstairs bedrooms: We used pine construction lumber for the floors. Yes, I realize how many people would frown on this because pine is a “soft wood” and will easily get beat up. I called many places asking for pine flooring and got lots of lectures. I actually started lying and just saying I wanted it for my walls. The reality is, we can’t afford a better wood AND I wanted the wood to look old, so I’m okay with it getting beat up and re-staining it someday. Also, the next cheapest real wood floor product I found was over $3.50/sq ft just for the wood– and I didn’t even like them. These floors cost about $1.4o/sq ft finished, including stain, finish coat, and the nails. The plan was to sand the edges and beat up the floors as we put them in so they look rustic. We used 1 x 6 “quality” boards, which is sort of like the middle grade of lumber, which means they’ve done some intentional selection and the boards are (hopefully) not extremely warped and don’t have huge knots or blemishes. However, that isn’t really the case. I went through the entire pile they had at Menard’s hand selecting which ones to buy, judging by the look of the board, checking for warping, and large blemishes or cracks.

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So we started installing. I laid out a few rows just to see what it would look like. When installing, we went with a random pattern, so I just made sure that it looked staggered and cut each row to fit. We decided to face nail the boards using “cut nails” to add to the rustic look and also to attach them.

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Making progress while Roscoe naps…

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There were a few tricky cuts we needed the jigsaw for, but for the most part it was just straight cuts. By some miracle, both rooms ended on a full width board, so we didn’t need to rip any pieces down length wise to fit.

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Next: time to beat up the floor. We used a sock full of nuts and bolts and also threw rocks and a pipe wrench around to make dents and marks in the floor.

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Time to stain! We used Ipswitch Pine stain, to blend with the walls. I love a darker floor, but having had one prior, they always look SO dirty, so I went with a medium darkness this time. 2016-07-11 21.08.30

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All done! I love how they turned out. I’ll post some pics once we get the rooms all decorated and put back together, but here they are for now!

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Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins

We finally bought a (different) cabin!

June 9, 2016

Long time no post- I know! Per usual, we’ve been crazy busy since the last house closed, but I have a big update to make. We are finally buying a (different) cabin tomorrow!

Just to recap, about a month and a half ago we sold our home in Roseville, MN and decided to buy another cabin property to live in for the summer and get ready to make another VRBO rental. Since we sold the prior house, we have been living in one of Eric’s rental units (he had tenants who wanted to get out of their one year lease early, so it worked out well for us to live here for a bit until we closed on the next property.)

Since then, we got an accepted offer on a cute aframe cabin right on the water in Brainerd, MN. The cabin was 3 season and we planned to do a conventional rehab loan to turn the property into a 4 season dwelling so we could take out a 30 year loan on the place. Some newly learned knowledge I gained from this predicament – 3 season dwellings are VERY difficult to finance.

Basically, the options to finance a 3 season property, from my understanding are:

  1. a home equity line of credit (generally a 15 yr loan)
  2. an ARM loan (not something I’m personally comfortable with, and also generally 15 yr loan)
  3. A balloon loan which is essentially a line of credit to fix the place and then it comes due after a year and you refinance into a regular loan
  4. A rehab loan where the buyer would need to plan to turn the property into a 4 season dwelling.

We chose the rehab loan, and then spent about a month of calling/harassing contractors to get us bids to add a furnace, replace windows, and add insulation. Not only did we need bids formatted a very particular way, but we also needed them to fill out a giant packet of information. This was a HUGE headache, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. My overall opinion from attempting to do a rehab loan: do not do it unless you are not on a timeline, be mentally prepared for the giant headache to follow, and use a general contractor if you can rather than individual contractors.

Anyways, back to our story. Long story short, the appraisal on the Brainerd cabin came back low and the sellers weren’t willing to budge.

Essentially, they were asking us to stick to our offer price and would not let it go for the appraised value, or even meet us halfway. We even came up with a cash offer (due to the loan being such a pain) thanks to a temporary loan from an investor, but they refused. Not wanting to be under water on the place, and honestly just at our breaking point with the situation and loan, we regretfully walked away from this unique property. In the end, we felt the sellers were being unreasonable and just decided to let it go. I have mixed feelings on appraisals, especially for a very non-traditional property as it is nearly impossible to find comps, BUT my decision was made thinking about the trouble we may run into if we needed to sell someday. If the property can’t appraise, even if some could argue that the “cool factor” makes it worth more, and I tend to agree, you’ll have a hell of a time selling it for more than that number. I am very sad, but I will continue to track the property and still have hope we could buy it in the future if it doesn’t sell this spring. Cabins don’t sell as fast as regular city homes. So you’re saying there’s a chance? …I hope so!

Since that fell apart, we found and got an accepted offer on a different cabin in Comstock, WI – near Turtle Lake.

 And, guess what, it’s on the SAME lake as our other VRBO rental, Little Bear Lodge! We are so excited, and we close TOMORROW! So cabin life begins, finally.

A bit about the property. It’s on the opposite side of the lake as LBL. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. Big unfinished basement where we plan to make a sweet game room. Funky architecture with a big vaulted ceiling in the main living space. It needs some love and decorating and minor reno, but overall we love it. Screened porches for life, can’t wait to nap out on that bad boy. We also got a pontoon and paddleboat with the purchase, so I’m anxiously awaiting a celebration booze cruise tomorrow evening post move. More pics to come as we move in tomorrow!!



Rental Properties

Sign on the dotted line…..800,000,000 times

April 28, 2016

Today was my pre-signing for our Roseville house closing. We decided to set up a pre-sign because I have a conflict on the house closing day. Normally, I’d go, but I was able to do this work around and assign my realtor as power of attorney instead. This means he will basically show up to closing in my place, and sign anything that was missed in the pre-sign if needed. House closings are not the worst thing in the world – usually there is good coffee, cookies, and some form of candy. They also always have some sort of cheesy branded souvenirs for you to take with you. Today I got glasses cleaner. Last time was an ice scraper. Wooohoooo!

Anyways, outside of that it’s a whole lot of “reading” and signing. I say “reading” because unless you’re crazy, you’re going to be basically skimming and signing. You are assigned a closing agent a week or so prior to closing, and they are in charge of getting your documents ready and walking you through them at the closing. You’ll receive your closing statement prior to closing, typically the day before, so you have time to review it as well. The biggest thing to review is the numbers. Making sure the water bill, property taxes, closing fees, etc are in line. You’re transitioning your property over, so everything is prorated. Keep that in mind especially if you’re selling, because you can get a refund! Don’t hesitate to ask questions, it’s their job to explain how this works. I’m not a spreadsheet person, so I usually sit down with Eric prior to closing and make him run through it with me, but your closing agent can do the same thing.

They almost always have everything right, but don’t zone out TOO much during all of the signatures. Today we caught an error- they didn’t have that there was a sealed well on our property. Whether this would ever matter or not, who knows, but it’s good to have it right so it doesn’t come back to bite you later.

800,000,000 signatures later, the Roseville house is sold. I won’t actually get the funds until the official closing on Friday, but it’s basically a done deal. It’s a relief to be all moved out and done with it! Eric bought us champagne to celebrate, so I’m currently drinking a grapefruit mimosa 😀

That’s all for now!


Cabin that got away cabins DIY Rental Properties Uncategorized

Selling the house…moving to the cabin

April 26, 2016

We’ve decided to make another crazy move. 

I think we’ve stopped shocking people when we say we’re moving again. Lately we’ve been feeling like we spend so much money and time just to maintain our house, and although we really love it (and basically just finally finished renovating is) is that really what we want in our life? The answer, we realized, was no – we want to travel, make other investments, and have more time to do what we love. Since the market in Minneapolis has been sooo insane lately we figured we could get top dollar for our house. We weren’t overly optimistic, but with 25 showings the first day and 3 offers the next day, it became pretty clear we were moving….soon. Without a clear plan for the future, we decided to live in one of Eric’s rental properties until we figured it out. So that’s where we are at now. As much as I miss my house, I’m not really any LESS happy in a smaller, more modest place, and now my financing is freed up to do…….kind of whatever we want. I LOVE FREEDOM!  Anyways, our house is now pending and we got a whopping 20k over list price. Couldn’t argue with that! Farewell rooftop deck, I’ll miss you.

Here is our house listing and a few pics, in case you’re curious.

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Buying a second VRBO cabin rental….and living there for the summer. Because, why not?

The plan evolves. Originally we wanted to buy a smaller, more manageable house in Minneapolis or St Paul. In true “us” fashion we decided to up our WTF factor (as we call it AKA the typical reaction when we try to explain our plan to people) and do something totally random instead. Since the first cabin rental in Turtle Lake, WI is exceeding our expectations, why not buy another and move there while we renovate it and get it ready to rent. I love cabins! Especially in the summer! Now that we both have flexible jobs, it seems like the logical next step….right?

More to come on this, but we are doing a rehab loan to get the cabin renovated. This means that we budget for the renovations needed, and in this case it’s a matter of taking it from a 3 season to a 4 season. This means some new windows, a furnace, and some insulation- for the big ticket items.

Here are some pics, we couldn’t be more excited to look at that view every morning!

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That’s all for now – we are working on the rehab loan and also closing on the old house tomorrow. Can’t wait to relax on that deck once this is all figured out!




DIY Thrifty Finds

Basement Bathroom progress

January 4, 2016
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Progress so far- floors tiled and grouted, walls tiles and grouted, Ikea RAST hack vanity in progress. TO DO: set toilet, seal grout lines, finish vanity.

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My wrinkly West Elm shower curtain (need to finish this up and use the shower to steam this bad boy.)

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My in progress vanity – an Ikea RAST that I stained and painted – just need to find a vessel sink and faucet to fit on top

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Subway tile – this took FOREVER to install on all of the walls, but it is so worth it. Not only does it hide all of the wall imperfections, but I love how it works with the grey herringbone. 😀


cabins DIY Little Bear Lodge Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Cabin Bathroom Progress

November 18, 2015

So far so good.

For the most part (knock on wood) the cabin bathroom renovation has gone smoothly. We laid a sheet vinyl floor from menards in a simple beige/light grey grasscloth pattern. Then we continued the wood planking for the walls to match the rest of the cabin.

I custom built the vanity from construction lumber to save us some money, and ordered the vessel sink and faucet on Amazon (WAY cheaper than what was available at Home Depot.) The wood cost under $30.

Here is what is looks like in place! I stained it with this stain and I definitely need to coat the top of it with polyurethane, since it is wood and will be exposed a lot of water.

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My other big project was creating an accent wall behind the toilet. I took old pallets and stained them several different colors. I then just cut them down to size and tacked them up in a random order behind the toilet. Viola! I love it – there was just too much pine going on- plus I re-used the stain color of the vanity to tie it in. Oh, and I bought a couple of raw pine shelves from home depot for 7$ each and stained them to match the vanity too.



I also bought this mirror to go above the vanity.  mirror

Building a kitchen island. I took a small chunk of cabinet that was sitting awkwardly in the loft and decided to turn it into a multifunctional kitchen island with stools. There is a big empty space in the kitchen, and I want to create a place for people to gather, a place to prep food, and a place to sit down and eat. Here is an in progress photo. I painted the base white and added the stained pallet leftovers to the back side to cover up an unfinished back and add some visual interest. This will be visible right when you walk into the cabin, so I wanted it to look fun and funky.

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More to come!



cabins Little Bear Lodge

Making a bathroom out of a storage room – Little Bear Lodge

October 20, 2015

So far Little Bear Lodge has been quite an experience. We knew about surface level renovations, even plumbing and electrical. We did NOT have experience with having no water, no septic, and no electrical. When we purchased Little Bear Lodge, it was what they call “off-grid.” They were using a small solar panel for limited electricity, and a solar shower AKA a bag that you fill with rainwater and let sit in the sun for awhile until it gets luke-warm.

Anyways, the cabin itself was wonderful, and newer, and we couldn’t argue with the 8 acres it came with. So we decided to go for it, figuring in estimates for septic, plumbing, electrical, heat, etc.

So far we have an LP tank to heat a gas stove throughout the winter, and we have a well, which means – WE HAVE WATER!!! I never thought I’d be so excited about a giant tube in the ground that spits out water.

Time to build a bathroom out of storage room. Here is what it currently looks like.  This is after the well was installed.

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It’s going to be tight, and we only have room for a stand up shower, but do-able. The plumber is going to run the drain lines this week, and the electrician is coming to wire the lighting, then we will run supply lines and start putting it all together.

On to the fun stuff – this is what I want to do for finishings. Most excited about the barnwood accent wall and corrugated shower walls. 😀