The Best $0 I Ever Spent

When Lucas and I bought our house in 2006 — just a month before our wedding — we knew it would be a fixer-upper. The house itself is great…huge yard, pool, 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, in a great city, etc.

(Google Streetview is both cool and creepy.)

And since the day we signed (literally — we went to the hardware store and got paint just moments after signing the papers), we have been getting the place in shape. First came the powder room, followed by the kitchen, the backyard fence, the bedroom, both bathrooms…well, you get the picture. Or you will after this:

New Powder Room 2

Kitchen Midway 2

Fence paint vs non

Bedroom Stripe

Bathroom After 2

But from the beginning, the thing that SOLD me on the house has also HAUNTED me. The dirty, dingy and scarred saltillo tile. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent on hands and knees, scrubbing, scraping and praying — trying to get the darn thing clean. But saltillo tile is very porous — and anything that falls on it, even water(!), can stain both the grout and the tile itself. The tile runs throughout our main floor, and with two dogs and two cats, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the mess. So, this is what I’ve lived with for five years:

Tile Cleanup June 02
Tile Cleanup June 03

I know. I am brave for putting this on the Internet. :)

So, today, Lucas and I decided NOW was the time to tackle the stripping and resealing project in a controlled spot — the kitchen. First, the elbow grease — we used a mixture of vinegar and warm water to scrub the heck out of each and every tile, grout line, nook and cranny. Each tile probably took about 5 minutes, so this was a monumental task. Plus, we had to go back and vacuum in between rounds of cleaning to make sure every speck of debris was off the floor.

Tile Cleanup June 04

Junior wanted to help — so, here he is as model. He’s on the clean section, with dirty tiles all around.

Tile Cleanup June 05

This shows the difference up close — we took tiles from this (set in dirt):
Tile Cleanup June 09

To this:
Tile Cleanup June 08

Once that was done, we put on four coats of floor sealer, waiting about 30 minutes in between each application.
Tile Cleanup June 12
Tile Cleanup June 13
Tile Cleanup June 15

It’s so beautiful I honestly got a little weepy when we were done. It’s soft, shiny and will be MUCH easier to clean — the sealer is designed to keep dirt and liquid out, so as long as we sweep regularly, we should be good for a while!

The kitchen took us all day, but cost us $0. We used vinegar (already had), scrub brushes (already had) and tile sealer (left in the garage by previous owners). Because the tile runs throughout the first floor, it’s a tremendous difference, and (if we were counting) is a huge factor in the resale value of the house.

Now the only problem is that the kitchen is gorgeous while the rest of the main floor still has the dirty tile. It will take us another few days to get things done, so I think we’ll be tackling it one weekend at a time. I can’t wait to have it all done!

Are you a do-it-yourselfer? What’s the most ambitious project you’ve taken on?

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  1. says

    Amazing transformation, Katy! I love the idea of vinegar as a cleaner; I was just discussing this on Twitter last week. Chemicals just aren’t something I feel should be doused all over the home. Great ideas by you. Enjoy your beautiful floor!

  2. says

    That looks great!!!

    Well the home improvement that I am most excited about is the one that was cancelled today (I wanted to paint the deck damn rain)

  3. says

    Wow, what a difference! I love things like that don’t cost anything but a little elbow grease.

    We are looking at buying a home in the U.S. right now, and it is so hard b/c we won’t be back into the states until after we’ve already purchased it! We might have to redo the kitchen a little once we get there, but I’m scared about what we will discover once we get there!

  4. says

    WOW! The floors look absolutely beautiful! My husband refinished all the floors in our condo (before I met him) EXCEPT our guest room/my office. Every day when I go to work in that office I want to scream!!!!!!

    Congratulations on such a beautiful job- can’t wait to see the rest of it when it’s done!

  5. says

    our house is a “fixer-upper” too, BUT i am so not into DIY home improvement projects! i thought i was…i really did. after living in apartments for years i was so excited to be able to make my house just the way i wanted it. but…im just not into it. and im not handy at all. we’ve done a few things, and we’ve paid people to do the bigger jobs (new siding and trims, re-doing two walls on the garage, new roof for the garage, etc.). i really need to seal the tiles in my kitchen, thanks for the inspiration!

  6. says

    Katy, this looks awesome! This is exactly the kind of thing I looove to do! It’s hard for me to justify since we’re only renting right now, but even little things make such a difference! And it feels so good to do them yourself!

  7. says

    Ohhh what a difference! I love a good project that costs so little (nothing) and gives so much satisfaction!! I completely stripped, sanded, painted and then antiqued ALL the cabinets in my kitchen once and they looked so awesome when I was done!!

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