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. 


Mortar, and Tile, and Grout-OH MY!

It took us a few trips to several stores and lots of samples for us to come to an agreement on the kitchen tile.

One of our first “we love this” tiles was a special order tile from Home Depot that I cannot hunt down online. It was a dark grey (almost black) tile that was very textured and came in the long rectangular tiles that I really, really wanted. Those tiles were ~$4 per square foot, so it was on the high end of our budget AND was a bit too dark/modern looking for our little rustic home.

The second one we loved was from the Floor Trader. The man who assisted us at Floor Trader was amazingly helpful and truly helped us narrow down what we like/dislike/etc. We took a few samples home with us and really fell in love with one in particular called “Fitch Rainbow.” It was a really beautiful gray colored tile with a bit of brown/taupe mixed in. We weren’t sure why it was called Rainbow, but we decided to take our search to google to hopefully see the tile in action in a room. This is what we found:


Uh…what? The tile on our sample board looked nothing like that, although it did have a note on the board that said the color variation between tiles is ‘high.’ We determined this one was definitely not for us. It was too busy for such a large space and again, was too modern and too expensive at ~$5 per square foot. Plus, it just kind of looked weird to us. I don’t know. (Fitch had some really beautiful lighter colored tiles, so I am by NO means talking bad about the brand..This particular tile just wasn’t the right fit for this room right now.)

This is when I had my ‘a-ha!’ moment with the long, plank-like tiles. They were definitely what I had my heart set on after seeing many, many inspiration photos on pinterest. They are lovely, but they just aren’t the right fit for our house and they were far more expensive than the more widely available square tiles. So, we went back out on another trip.

This time, with our eyes re-opened to the possibility of square tiles, we stumbled upon this little gem at Lowe’s:


Heyyyy. It is gray and has a little bit of beige/taupe in it AND was under $1.50 per square foot. We bought a sample to take home and finally decided that this one was definitely a winner. Plus, with the price and the fact that it is an in-stock tile = major winner.  After doing all of the prep work, we were very excited to get started with the installation process.

The measuring/planning process was the hardest part of the entire installation. Our instructional book (we call it “The Bible,” and it was a gift from my dad for our housewarming party) told us to center the tiles on doors, sinks, or other focal points in the room. Uhh…it has four doors, a sink and a huge fireplace/brick focal wall. To make the planning process simpler, the book told us to create a ‘Guide Stick’ so that we could mark where cuts would be in the corners of the room without having to literally place tiles in each configuration during the planning process. Below is Josh making the guide stick.


We ended up deciding to center the tiles on the brick wall/fireplace because it required the least amount of awkward cuts and in our opinion is the star of the show in the room (after my baller gourmet cooking, of course). After coming to that decision (four hours after we started!), we snapped a chalk line to mark the center of the room so that we could start placing the tiles!



About five hours later, we had completed the installation of over 100 tiles!



Where the hearth was previously, we poured several batches of self-leveling concrete to make it level with the rest of the cement board in the room. We debated using a different tile or natural slab to make the hearth different, but decided to save time and have one less decision to make that we would install this tile all the way up to the fireplace.

While Josh was out of town, my friend Taylor and Josh’s brother Aaron (who really should just be a freaking character in our blog from now on. I might put a picture of him on our ‘about us’ section) came over to help install the rest of the full sized tiles. I think Josh was totally worried the whole time we were working on it, but our section ended up pretty okay, other than a few things that the grout ended up masking a little. haha! We’ve never said we were professionals!


When Josh came back home, we jumped right in to the grouting process. Josh went around the room to scrape off any extra mortar that smooshed up between the tiles so that the grout would evenly distribute and I made sure the tiles were vacuumed and cleaned really well.



For the grouting process, Josh mixed and spread the grout and I wiped everything down with the grout sponge. YAY. We love it. It is awesome. I want to do snow angels in the center of the room and snuggle with it.

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Now all that we have to do to completely finish the floor is seal the grout! Merry Christmas to us!!! 🙂

Cabinet Hard(erthanwethought)ware

The Monday following our housewarming party, my sweet husband came home to a package on our doorstep!!!!!


Wahoo! Cue the excited fist pumping and holding them up to cabinets/drawers to make sure we liked them. We definitely loved the style, although we did decide to buy the knobs for the bottom cabinets, as they were a bit awkward to open with the pulls. We jumped right in on Monday/Tuesday night to install the pulls on the drawers. Cue even more excitement and high fives. We were on a DIY high and feeling very confident that we could get the doors completed before my vacation.


On Wednesday night (the night before I left for vacation), Josh started to install the first of the doors with the new hinges. Turns out, we didn’t take into account the fact that the hidden hinges we ordered would also take up a few mm of extra space in order to make the doors close fully. Womp, womp. Cue Josh being angry and me feeling guilty about going on vacation and leaving him with this hellish we-thought-this-part-would-be-easy project.

After making this discovery, we realized we had two options: 1. Order new hinges that screw in to the face of the cabinets. or 2. Chisel out those extra few mm to install the ones we already have/prefer.


As you can see, we ended up deciding the chisel option, thus causing our perfect application of primer and paint to look imperfect. Hmph. IF ONLY WE HAD THOUGHT OF THAT! No one notices it in person except for us (and now the three or four people that read this blog now that I’ve mentioned it. Hi Parents!) and repainting those imperfect spots will be an after the-rest-of-the-kitchen-is-finished project.

While he was doing that, I was enjoying my time in San Diego with my girlfriends for our BFF Lauren’s baby shower.


I think choosing to go this route, though more difficult in the short term, was a very good decision and the cabinets look great and the doors close, which is awesome!


Our focus was shifted to the floors when I came back from San Diego to get it done prior to Thanksgiving. Spoiler alert: We didn’t, but we were close! Haha-this is definitely a developing theme here at The Whole Damn House! Better get used to it, ya’ll. because we have about 11 more rooms to go..

P.S. If anyone is wondering what the thing is on the second drawer from the sink, it is a Scrap Trap. Best Christmas present I ever bought myself (and my mother in law… and my sisters in law). Just saying, it is amazing. Add one or 15 to your Amazon shopping cart today.