who I am; and why I am here

Photo by Chelsea Diane Photography
Photo by Chelsea Diane Photography

As a wedding professional, I’ve heard a lot of best man/ maid of honor speeches start out with, “For those of you who don’t know me…” It is almost a joke among wedding vendors because approximately 98.74% of the speeches begin with that statement. I’m pretty sure I started my speech at my best friend’s wedding with it (photo above)..and I almost started this blog post with it.

It is because introductions are awkward. When you are standing in the middle of a dance floor in front of 150 of your BFF’s favorite people staring back at you it is almost as awkward as writing something on a blog that hypothetically 3 billion people in the world could read. You put yourself out there in both situations. And in both situations people could think what you are saying is stupid. So you start it off with, “For those of you who don’t know me…”

Well, I’m not starting this blog post with it because I figure if someone thinks what I am saying is stupid, you can click the X up at the top of your internet-browser-of-choice window. HA. This is our corner of the internet, suckers. And mostly, this blog is for us (me).

The Whole Damn House is a home blog that is here to document our journey improving our first home. Mostly, it is so that we can see our progress and remind ourselves that living through a construction zone is worth it. Seeing before photos after progress is made is a seriously powerful motivator. This blog also gives us the opportunity to keep our families and friends updated without having to monopolize phone conversations, connect with other fixer upper or non-fixer upper homeowners, and hopefully make a few folks laugh at our expense. 🙂 We like having people laugh with us. Maybe one day we will get to the point where you might learn something about home improvement, but..we’ll see. I’d need to convince Josh to write things here if you want to learn anything. 🙂

So. Hey! I’m Alison and I am the one who writes things here. Josh is my husband and he is the bossy one (haha, just kidding! That’s me, too!). He’s the one that has actual home improvement talent and is teaching me things everyday. In 2014, I used a nail gun for the first time and it was FUN. Our dog Tucker is along for the ride whether he likes it or not because we continue to feed him.

This is us when we were young(er) and in love. (Yes, this is from High School)


Why did we name it The Whole Damn House? Two reasons.

1. We have to re-do the whole damn house, and

2. Josh graduated from Virginia Military Institute. At VMI, one of the cheers they do during sporting events ends in “Whole Damn Team.” When discussing buying this house, Josh was wearing one of his VMI shirts that had the phrase on it, and I giggled about how we were about to buy a house where we needed to renovate the whole damn thing. So…I started the blog. I hope VMI doesn’t come after me with a cease and desist letter because then..See #1. (We’ve donated!! Love ya!)


One of my goals for 2015 is to blog more often. I signed up for Blogging101 through WordPress to learn more about this fabulous platform, get on a more frequent posting schedule and explore blogging in a new and different way. You’ll be seeing you’ll more posts coming through over here in our little weird corner of the internet. 🙂 Some may be random, some may be funny..I have no idea since WP is taking me (and a few thousand other bloggers) on the journey and assigning things day by day. 


New Year, New Couches

On the Wednesday before Christmas, I went to Target to go shopping on my lunch break. My phone rang and it was a number I did not recognize, but I remembered the folks over at North Carolina Furniture and Mattress were going to call mid-way through our couch wait to give us a status update. I answered and they let me know the couches were in early! And they could deliver tonight, if we were available! Uh, twist my arm, whydontyou. When they arrived, we hovered over the delivery guys like nobody’s business. We were SO excited and a little bit nervous to see everything since the sample couch we sat on was a turquoise patterned couch and we almost had forgotten what we ordered. Wee! New Couches New Couch

There are still some more changes to come in this room including reupholstering the red chair in the corner and getting a new chair where the rocking chair is. We’d also like to get a new rug and some curtains. 🙂 No matter what, I am so happy it no longer looks like this: livingroom

Or this:


It feels great to have “almost finished” a room just prior to the New Year-at least to the point where we are comfortable snuggling up to watch a movie! Happy 2015, ya’ll! Thanks for following along in 2014 ❤

Couch Potatoes

If you don’t follow me on instagram, you probably think we have passed the blogging responsibilities down to Tucker, who unfortunately cannot type, or completely given up on this little old house of ours, OR that we are being lazy couch potatoes. If you do follow me on instagram, you’ve seen this:

Truth is, our living room is 97% done. We have to do the trim around the beams and a few paint touch ups, but I’ve been holding out on all update photos because..we bought a sofa and a loveseat! And it will be 6 to 8 weeks until we have them. And we’ve been working on and blogging about this project since March so I feel like I can drag it out longer. But we are so close to having real-life adult furniture! YAY!

For local people, we went to North Carolina Furniture and Mattress and it was glorious. The brands they work with have great reputations for quality, the sales people are polite and don’t hound you like the other bigger stores do, and everything is custom ordered based on your specifications. We first went in on Black Friday (in the evening-I’m not THAT crazy) wanting to walk around and see what they had. They had a sweet sale going on that ended on Sunday, but we hadn’t seen what we were looking for ANYWHERE and weren’t ready to commit to anything. We sat our butts in every couch they had (because literally all of them are beautiful and comfortable) and once we left, we had two major contenders in our search! We got there about 40 minutes before closing time, so we told Susan (their in-house designer) that we would likely be back on Saturday to look a bit more. She told us to measure our room so that she could put together a floor plan with our two sofa contenders and talk about traffic flow, rug sizes that would work in the room, etc. We went in on Saturday afternoon, sat in our two contenders again, discussed the floor plans Susan drew up, and took home about five fabric samples. On Sunday afternoon, we went in and ordered them! I can’t speak highly enough about our experience. They made it so easy and fun and we can’t wait to see our gorgeous sofa and love seat in person soon!

Since I know it is killing you not knowing what we got, we ordered the Flexsteel Westside Sofa and Loveseat in a Charcoal Gray color that has a beautiful texture that unfortunately my monitor doesn’t pick up. We chose the Florentine leg color and even got to choose fabrics for pillows (the stripes and floral below)! Simple & Classic 🙂

photo from http://www.Flexsteel.com
photo from http://www.Flexsteel.com
photo from http://www.Flexsteel.com
photo from http://www.Flexsteel.com

Now we are hard at work finishing up our sunroom floor, windows, and trim so that dust is no longer flying once the couches get here. 🙂 Oh, and I seem to have started the downstairs bathroom, too. More on that soon!


This post has been a LONG.TIME.COMING. but I think it is a better post because of it, so there’s that. This is a story about our first really big fail on this house. We were failures with a capital F.

Early this spring, we decided it was time to try to grow grass in our front yard. There is something to be said about a lush, thick, beautiful yard of grass. It is fun to walk barefoot in. Tucker likes eating it. It gives Josh a chance to use our lawn mower since he is usually sooooooooo so sooo bored on weekends (haha!). And…it looks better than this:











Needless to say, we wanted to give growing grass a shot, even though our lot is heavily wooded and there is a short period of real sunlight throughout the day. After testing our soil to test it’s PH levels and that sort of thing, we determined our game plan. We started out with a truckload of compost from our city dump mixed with Vigoro Super Green Lawn Fertilizer and pelletized Limestone. By the way, Josh and I also know the best time to plant grass is in the fall, not the spring. We knew this when we planted grass in the spring, but we were feeling invincible after finishing our kitchen. Shut up and stop rolling your eyes.











We then spread the seed over that mixture and waited.


A few days later, we got hit with a huge thunderstorm where the rain created a stream through the middle of the yard. A few weeks later, we started seeing a bit of growth in some areas and a LOT of growth in the lower parts of the yard where the seeds all ended up at the bottom of the stream. It was a bit patchy.




So, we went and got some more seed and spread it again. This time, we covered the seeds (and the new grass) with another layer of compost to help it stay in the same place in case we got hit with another storm. We were worried it would kill the new grass, but a few days later it started popping up through the compost, so YAY! Soon, the second layer of seed started growing and it looked like this:




We put up this temporary fence so that Tucker wouldn’t get in to the new grass or dig holes. And our azaleas! They are so pretty when they bloom!

With even more waiting, the grass kept growing and it was very exciting!








Then, the summer came and it turns out… our front lawn gets more sun than we thought. And we got busy and forgot to water it. The grass totally withered away and was fried. It was really brown and sad. I didn’t take a picture because I was crying about it and couldn’t see through the view finder.

So…we started over. This time in the fall, with a better mix of seeds that aren’t Shade Blend, and making sure that we water it every single day it isn’t raining.

Grass x 2

Grass Re-do 3


Here’s to hoping the second time is the charm! We’ll keep you updated.


Ready, faucet, go!

Faucet Before

File this under the “Projects we should have done a million years ago because it makes us love our house WAY more” archives. The above faucet is probably the original faucet from when the house was built. As some of you may know, we do not have a dishwasher in our kitchen. We handwash everything and..we are tall. That faucet is low. Washing dishes for over a year with this faucet probably caused our spines to have all sorts of damage. As we age, we will probably become hunchbacks.

My mom gave us money at our housewarming party for a new faucet since we complained about ours so much. Our housewarming party was on October 1, 2013 just to refresh your memory. 🙂

Installing a Faucet

Tucker and Josh got to work under the sink while I unwrapped the new faucet and read the instructions. It was super simple to install and now our kitchen faucet looks like this.

New Faucet

!!!!!!! Our backs are thanking us already and that window is still nagging us for some trim to be installed. Baby steps, baby steps…We’ll get to it next year, I’m sure of it. 🙂

Get on the floor!

Faux Brick Tile Floors

So…we started this project in July prior to our trip to Turkey. We knew from our pre-purchase asbestos testing that the glue holding those sexy beast faux brick tiles down contained asbestos. Since it was only 2% of the make-up of the glue, we figured we’d chance it and just rip the tiles up and cross our fingers we don’t die in 50 years of diseases caused by asbestos. When we took up the first tile, there was scary looking powder under it and we decided just to encapsulate it and cover it with some pretty wood flooring. 🙂 Safety first.

The first step in doing so was to lay down a layer of luan, just like we did in our kitchen floor update.


After that, we put a layer of rubber matting to reduce any possibility of having creaks in the future.


We then realized we would have to take our door down in order to install the wood flooring. I took that opportunity to wash the door and paint it.



While I was painting the door, Josh got to work on the wood floors. We rented a floor nailer from the Home Depot Rental Counter and it was amazing. So amazing Josh struck a pose for me.


It was a pretty quick job-we finished this portion of this project in just two days.



Then came the week before our vacation to Turkey and we were just not feeling up to home improvement. We had too much stuff to do, so basically all productivity stopped there. Then, when we got home from Turkey, we were playing catch up, I started a new job, and Josh’s work schedule got busier than ever. So…weeks went by and it stayed like this.

But here..enjoy some pictures of Istanbul, ya’ll! It was amazing. You need to add it to your bucket list.

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Anywho..so, when we finally got back to work, we rented two floor sanders and knocked it out in a day. The borders of the room took a few days more because we had to do it by hand. We tried many, many different methods to take off the stain around the border of the room, but found hand scraping with a paint scraper then following up with sanding with a coarse sandpaper on our Dremel Multi-Max Tool worked best. Our hand sanders didn’t get through the stain as well as the Multi-Max. That thing is my favorite tool ever.


We had previously decided we wanted to do a pretty dark floor and we fell in love with Minwax English Chestnut, but then once we got everything sanded, we started second guessing ourselves and thinking maybe a medium or light floor would be best. We debated for a while then agreed on Colonial Maple, stained a test area, then decided we hated it in this room. We ended up going with Minwax in English Chestnut. This is when I got myself back in to blogging mode and actually took pictures. 🙂








YAY! Doesn’t it look awesome?? We haven’t stained the floors in the sunroom yet, but we decided we are going to do the Polyurethane sealer in this room first, then tackle the sunroom after that. 🙂 We’ll keep you posted!

Guest What?

IMG_1693Last time we talked about the guest bedroom we had just completed the painting of the room and installing the ceiling fan from hell. IMG_1639We still had to buy, stain, and install new trim for the wall that got taken out after the great flood of 2014 because all of the baseboard trim on that wall got damaged. We decided to re-do that entire wall of trim and then get new crown molding for on the wood paneled wall too so that it would all match. I didn’t get an in-progress photo of installing the trim since Josh did it in the time that it took me to wash the dishes and go grocery shopping. It was a pretty quick process.

IMG_2083 IMG_2085

The new trim doesn’t match perfectly with the wood wall or the existing doors and windows because the trim on those has aged over time, but we stained it as close as we could get it. We even tried mixing several stain colors and couldn’t find anything that was perfect, so…this was one of those “We did what we could” moments. You can’t tell unless you are staring at it and we hope our future houseguests love us enough not to say anything.

After the trim was installed, we got the queen bed out from storage upstairs, put it together, and then brought down the box spring and mattress. We moved our desk and office supplies into this room (from the dining room!) and brought in a wardrobe from Josh’s parents’ house to hold all of our linens/towels/etc (we were keeping them in the pantry and other various places throughout the house-it was annoying). Now all that is left is hanging some artwork and window treatments and this room is DONE-ZO!  

IMG_2080 IMG_2088


Much better than it looked after the pipe debacle!


The One that Got Away

unnamed1234 While I was cleaning out our filing cabinet, I came across our contract and inspection report from our house that “got away.”

I am sure every homeowner has one..You look at a house, love it, put in an offer, and it is under contract. Or you get out-bid. Or in our case, you get to the home inspection and realize there are lots and lots of overwhelming things to fix. Like, practically the whole inspection report was in red font, meaning: NOT GOOD. You ask the seller to fix the major problems and they say no. You debate and debate and debate about whether or not you should continue on with the contract. You counter, they counter…We walked away…and we are SO glad we did.

I know what you are thinking. You walked away from a house that had “lots of overwhelming things to fix” and then you bought YOUR HOUSE? Yes. For many reasons.

The other house was over $30,000 more and still had cosmetic things inside that we would want to change. I was obsessed with the yellow front door and the little mudroom it had as you walked in. It had a large garage/shed in the back yard and a huge magnolia tree, a screened in porch, and a fence! And a gas fireplace! It was super close to our favorite neighborhood and was within walking distance of the river and a delicious BBQ place (priorities, ya’ll). The downsides were that it only had 1 1/2 baths, it had an underground oil tank that we would have to remove eventually, it didn’t have appliances, and oh…it had major structural issues (foundation, moisture, roof, etc) that the  seller was not willing to fix.

For my friends who are going through or eventually will go through the home buying process..I have a few tips.

Try not to get discouraged. You will find the right house for you. It just might take more time than you want it to. And try not to be pissed at the seller if they can’t accommodate all of your requests, you spoiled brat (I learned that one through experience..it doesn’t help anything if you’re mad.).

Don’t rush in to something or give up one of your “must-haves” because of an emotion (I love that yellow front door!) and be REALISTIC about the amount of work you want to do or pay someone else to do. We were gung-ho about making improvements from the beginning and there are some days where we admit we bit off more than we can chew on our own.

Know that everything once you own a house is more expensive than you think it is going to be. You will walk in to Lowes/Home Depot/any store and you’ll be like…”oh cool, these screws/nails/whatever are only like $.97 each…” and then you realize that you need 40 bazillion to finish your project. Plus a new screwdriver, hammer, and, “ooooh..look! They have mirrors AND curtains here!”

Listen to your advice-giving family, even if you don’t like what they are saying. At least just listen and think about it and THEN do what you want to do. Sometimes they really DO know best, even if you don’t want to admit it.

Every seller has a “thing” they are looking for in the transaction. Maybe they don’t have a ton of cash on hand so they CAN’T pay the entire closing cost amount, but are willing to drop the price a bit or be flexible somewhere else. Maybe they are an investor and don’t really care if they sell it right away because they can afford to sit on it and wait for someone who will pay full price. Maybe they have to get out of the house ASAP and can’t wait for a later closing date. The key is to find out what they want, weigh it against what you want/can afford, and decide whether or not it will work. If you feel uncomfortable/uneasy about where the negotiations are headed, get out and go look at more houses.

You’ll find it!


I’m Board

We have made quite a bit of progress on our quest for a white washed wood plank ceiling in our living room. Holy moly, it has been a lot of work. The prep work these recycled boards needed was UNREAL and very time consuming. We did all of the prep work over a month and..we kinda still aren’t done. We have bills to pay, ya’ll.

Here is a brief rundown on what we’ve been up to:

1. Rip cut the boards using a table saw to remove any damage that was done to the tongues and grooves while removing them from the room.

Rip Cut Boards

2. Wash the boards down with TSP and water mixture then let dry.


3. Sand. Sand. Sand.

4. Wipe down boards with clean water and let dry.


5. Whitewash the boards using Minwax Whitewash Pickling Stain. Let sit for 1-2 minutes, then wipe with a clean lint-free cloth. Let dry for three hours or more.

White Washing Wood

  • Side note: Many people (including the instructions on the stain) suggest using a wood conditioner in order to allow the stain to soak in more evenly, prevent blotchiness, etc. We tried using it on these boards and we did not see a difference with this type of stain on this wood, other than it added more drying/sanding/wiping time. I think on newer wood that hasn’t been hanging in a house for over 50 years it DOES make a difference, but in this case, we skipped that step.


6. Finish boards with Paste Finishing Wax. Wax on, wax off. Literally.

  • We debated about using a Polycrylic, but decided against it since we wanted a matte finish. (And again, it added more drying/sanding/wiping time since the instructions suggest putting three coats on. Plus, it is on a ceiling so it doesn’t need as much protection as a piece of furniture or a floor..)

Minwax Finishing Paste Wax

7. Place boards in designated staging position based on width. We have 4″, 6″, 8″, and 10″ boards that we will mix in throughout the ceiling.


8. Measure the center of the room and start hanging boards! (YA’LL-I MADE A GIF! Next time I’ll try to take them all at the same angle and in more similar lighting so you don’t get motion sickness…sorry ’bout that.)

Ceiling Installation GIF


YAY for progress! We are still working on this and hope to finish eventually. We’ve found that our house is built unevenly (surprise, surprise!) so that has thrown us a little curveball in the planning/installation process..I’ll check back in soon!

Oh, and just for reassurance that all of this work was worth it…The first photo is the board that was visible previously and the second is the whitewashed version..