So here’s the thing: I’m REALLY good at starting projects. I get super excited, jump in, and go nuts. I work crazy hours, try new techniques, and let Pinterest raise my expectations of the finish product to wildly unrealistic levels. I defy you to find a person who is more excitable or a better starter than I am.
However … I am a terrible finisher. I inevitably burn myself out. The thing I loved and wanted to do forever, I end up hating and avoiding like the plague.
Long, story short, though we became full-timers in the middle of last July, we have used the last 15 months to slowly finish and fine-tune the interior to the point that now, we are finally ready to show it to you! We hope you like our finished project – we absolutely love it, and feel so lucky to call our Rambler home.
So there it is! What did you think? What’s your favorite spot that you’ve personalized in your rig or home?
So we’ve been having a ton of fun working on our reno series posts, and showing you guys all the work we did on our Rambler. Having finished most of it, we were SUPER excited to post our final reveal this week … but apparently that was not meant to be.
Our camper weathered some crazy thunderstorms in Virginia this summer, and kept us completely dry. However, apparently the mix of traveling and Louisiana rain storms — which, to be fair, are nuts — finally pushed the Rambler past capacity, and last week, we woke up to the sound of water dripping on the floor. Virginia gets seriously humid, and we’d had some condensation come in when we first moved into the camper in July, but I’d been able to bandaid that with some shims and a good cleaning of the drain holes.
However, it seemed the bandaid’s warranty had expired. Since water was only coming in through the air conditioning unit, I was pretty sure the problem was the rubber foam gasket the AC sits on top of. It’s designed to keep water out and also to let water drain out of the AC. The reason I’d had to shim the AC up in the summer was because that gasket was very compressed, so I already had a clue it was time for a replacement. I did some googling, watched some videos, and read some helpful articles, and came up with a plan of attack.
Now, overall, our roof is in pretty good shape. It’s an aluminum roof with no cracks or significant dents, and the seals on the seams were in mostly good shape. However, since I was going to be spending time on the roof anyway, I wanted to go ahead and do some preventative measure work, and hopefully save myself some pain down the road.
During my research I came across into a very cool, extremely highly-recommended product called Liquid Roof used to coat camper roofs. Basically it’s a two-part rubberized self-leveling paint that you mix and apply to your roof. It’s thin enough that it gets into and seals small cracks, but heavy enough that it dries level and clean and provides strong, durable, waterproof protection for your roof. It’s also pretty expensive. I wanted to coat my entire roof, but the 5-gallon bucket I needed was about $350, and I didn’t want to spend that much on preventative measures at this point.
After a lot of deliberation, I decided to not coat the entire roof, but instead to use Dicor Lap Sealant around the edges of the seams and seam tape, as well as in any visible sealant cracks. Then, after pulling up the AC and old gasket, I would lay down a bed of the Liquid Roof around the AC, coat all the seams/seam tape, and also coat around the skylights and vents to reinforce them. I went over to Baton Rouge’s RV Shop and found what I needed. They were very friendly and helpful, and even gave me a great discount without me even asking! If you’re ever in the Baton Rouge area and need some help, make sure to give them a call. I ordered my new gasket from Amazon, and got ready to get to work.
This was basically what I was starting with: some cracked lap sealant, peeling edges on the seam tape, and a good bit of dirt. Nothing too unmanageable. With some scrubbing, some new lap sealant, and a heavy coat of Liquid Roof, we’d be good to go — and probably (hopefully) for a good long time!
Now on to the source of the problem: the AC. The unit is in pretty good shape, especially for being 25-years-old. It ran great for us through a very hot and humid summer, kept our camper nice and cool, and never even threatened to give up. In the top right picture below you can see the shims I had put under the frame to keep the unit off the roof and draining properly. But in the bottom picture you can see how the front of the unit is sitting on the roof ridge. As the shims degraded, the AC had sunk back down and settled on the roof, blocking it from draining properly.
The gasket arrived in the mail, so after checking to make sure I had a good weather forecast for a few days, I went ahead and pulled up the AC to see what was going on underneath. I was a bit nervous to pull it apart — I’m no electrician, and was worried I’d have to unwire (dewire?) something, but it turned out that after pulling off the plastic shroud on the roof, and the plastic shroud inside the camper, there were only four bolts and a simple plug wiring harness to remove. No problem!
And here’s what I found inside: one gross, dirty, compressed, messed-up looking gasket. Which I was actually happy about! I could see almost immediately where most of the water was coming in, which meant the new gasket would most likely completely fix the leak. Hooray for simplicity!
With the AC out of the way, I got to scrubbing. I cleaned all the seams, all the seam tape, and all the existing lap sealant that was on the vents and skylights using soapy water and a kitchen scrubby. I also cleaned the roof about a foot out in every direction from the seals using Windex, and did the same in a large area around the AC hole.
While cleaning this area, I ran into a problem I hadn’t expected — some rust, and rust holes, in the roof. Part of the AC had been sitting directly on the roof for so long that it had been able to rust, and that rust had spread to the roof itself.
Fixing that was going to take something I didn’t have — rubber roofing tape. I was hoping to use a product I’d read a lot about, but unfortunately the RV Shop didn’t have it. However, I found a 6” x 24” rubber roof patch made by another company, and went with that. I cleaned the whole area really well, let it dry, then applied the adhesive patch, and rolled it down with a wallpaper roller. And voila! A watertight patch that would also protect the area from that same kind of contact.
While the patch set up, I went ahead and applied the lap sealant. It comes in a caulk tube, and went on like a very heavy caulk. I used one tube to cover any cracked lap sealant, and to coat the edges of the seam tape. The next morning, when that had dried, I taped off all the areas I wanted to cover with the Liquid Roof. I try to avoid doing messy work, so the tape gave me some nice clean edges, and also helped me avoid drips down the sides and front of the camper where I rolled over the seam tape.
Finally, I could go ahead and mix up my paint — and this is where things got tricky. The directions say to mix it in weather between 70 and 90 degrees. You’d think that’d be perfect for Louisiana in the winter, but the rain that had blown through a few nights earlier had also brought in a cool front, and even around noon, the temps were in the mid 50s. It was nice and sunny, but the lower temps meant that the Liquid Roof was very, VERY thick — and a complete bear to apply. I had a roller and a heavy brush, and both, plus the paint tray liner, were pretty much destroyed within 10 minutes. To make up for how heavy it was, I would slop on a whole puddle of it, then roll it out as best I could.
I was very worried, given how thick I was putting it on, and the fact that I’d only bought a gallon, that it wouldn’t go far enough, but by some miracle, after one coat, I’d only gone through maybe a quarter of the can! I still can’t figure out how that happened. But since I knew it was kind of thin in some spots, and I didn’t want any more of this $100 can of rubber to go to waste than was necessary, I got a new roller, jumped back up on the roof, and went over everything again, really laying it on heavily, and making sure it completely filled any sealant cracks or raised edges.
Despite how poorly it was applying, the self-leveling part of the product worked like a champ, and it all settled and smoothed down beautifully. I gave it a few hours to start setting up, then went back up and pulled off all the tape. The paint didn’t even budge, and my lines are straight and clean.
While that finished setting up, I took advantage of the time to scrub down the rooftop AC shroud, which was covered with 25 years of dirt and mold. It looked so much better when I was done that I got inspired, and I went ahead and cleaned and spray painted the inside AC cover, to make it match our new clean white interior.
I didn’t remember to get a good picture of this, but the underside of the AC unit had some rust on it from sitting in water for extended periods of time. To deal with that, I went over the rusty areas a few times with a wire brush, then wiped them down with WD-40, which destroys rust. Once those areas were clean and dry, I taped off the rest of the AC unit and hit the rust spots with a few coats of Rustoleum’s Rust Inhibitor Spray. Rust handled!
Now I could start reassembling everything. I had thoroughly cleaned the area where the old gasket and spacers had been with mineral spirits, so I had a surface ready for the new gasket. I applied the new one exactly where the old one had been, and put the spacer at the back of the unit, also where the old one had been. I also took the extra spacers they gave me, and applied them on each front corner of the unit (where it had been sitting flush on the roof) to help keep too much weight from sitting on the gasket. It was nice seeing the clean new gaskets and spacers on the cleaned up AC, ready to go back on the clean new rubber roof!
With that done, it was just a matter of getting my brother to help me lay the AC back in hole, and center it squarely on the gasket. He held the control panel up to the ceiling while I put the bolts back in, and I cranked those bolts down to compress the new gasket flat to the surface of the roof. After plugging the unit in and screwing that newly-white cover into place (complete with brand new air filters!), we were back in business! To be honest, I was a little nervous turning it back on, but it started up immediately, blowing nice and cold.
Now we just had to wait for some rain. Being in Louisiana, we didn’t have to wait very long — the next night, a storm blew through. I hung out in the camper, waiting to see what happened, and was thrilled when the first hour passed with not even a drop inside!
However — and you knew it was coming — soon that hour passed, and I heard a drip. And a minute later, another one. There was still water coming in, and it looked like it was coming in through the AC unit itself, not the roof. This was actually something of a relief, since after patching the roof, putting down a rubber roof, and replacing the gasket, I had no idea what else we could to waterproof it. But once the rain passed (two days later, we’re still in Louisiana), and I did a ton of googling, I had a pretty good idea how the water was getting in, and why.
I got up there, and it turned out I was right — the drain hole that tended to get the most use was blocked up, which had caused the drain pan to fill and overrun. The reason it was even filling up in the first place, though, was that the last time I had pulled the AC unit apart, I had put the casing back together wrong, and water was able to get in from the top. So I cleaned out the drain holes, made sure nothing else was in there that could gum them up, and then carefully replaced the lid, making sure the lip was secure all the way around. Just to be sure, I grabbed some duct tape and covered the entire joint with a strip of tape.
And when the inevitable storm came in a day later, it all worked beautifully! No dripping, a dry celing, and nothing coming through the unit. So for now, when it rains, we’re enjoying the sound of it — and how good it sounds on the outside of the camper ;-D
(If you’re just joining in, part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.)
With the floors repaired and the walls patched and sanded, it was time to get some paint on the walls! Finally seeing things looking bright and smooth and clean was so exciting — it was starting to match what we had in our heads! Plus, all that natural light, combined with clean white primer, made the whole place glow.
At the recommendation of the paint department at our local Home Depot, we used a new primer called Glidden Gripper, and put on two coats. It took a little getting used to, as it goes on thick and dries fast, but I cannot say enough good things about this primer. It blocked out all that ugly old wallpaper, covered the Bondo patches really smoothly, and just generally did everything you want a primer to do. Plus, with six months of use under our belt, I can tell you that it has been a very resilient base coat, and the walls still look great!
Now for the fun part — real paint! We decided to reuse the blue from our apartment bedroom, which we loved, and to paint all the cabinets with Glidden White on White in a satin finish. Rebecca had done a fantastic job cleaning, priming, and painting them, and once I reattached all our repainted hardware, we had a lot of fun putting them up and seeing how good they looked with the wall paint!
The White on White, together with the beautiful hardware Rebecca had picked out, made all those cabinets look so beautiful.
With the paint done in the bedroom, I could build the bed! After weeks of agonizing over the best way to build the storage platform bed, I finally had an epiphany … at 2 am. I got up in the middle of the night and drew the whole thing out with dimensions, supports, etc. listed out. You’d think making a platform would be easy, but with electric lines, water pipes, AND heat ductwork all run under the bed, it was a bit more complicated than it should have been.
Lots of details, but once I had the plans laid out, I was able to construct it at the apartment pretty easily. I then took it over to the camper and assembled it without much of a problem. With some minor tweaking, it was perfect! I’d achieved both our goals — have a huge awesome bed/nest, and be able to store a TON of stuff under it. Ta-da!
While I was busy putting the bed together, Rebecca painted the hallway, kitchen, and living room a beautiful light grey called Silver Cloud by Glidden. The bathroom got a darker grey (Anonymous by Behr) that we’d painted in a bathroom in one of our previous apartments, and loved — it’s very moody and warm. Most strikingly, we tried a product we’d read about online to recover the sink and counter area — Marine Topside Paint by Rust-Oleum. It worked awesome! Check out the before and after below — the second picture is after only two coats, and after four, it looked incredible. It’s very thick, self-leveling, and moisture-resistant, and even in the curved sink it dried really nicely. It now looks like we have a solid porcelain sink/counter.
Now, we’d known almost from the beginning what we were going to do with the hallway closet. As soon as we saw it in all its double-doored glory, we planned on splitting it in half, and making the left side (which is next to the stove) into the pantry, and leaving the right side for what few hanging clothes we were planning on keeping. And that’s what we did! First we painted it with the same paint we used in the bedroom, and Rebecca found some liner she liked and put that down.
Then I got to work. First I installed a dividing/support wall down the middle of the closet. Then Rebecca showed me what size containers she was planning on using, and I built the shelves to match their height — no wasted space! We have shelves for mixing bowls, shelves for large and small mason jars, shelves for baked goods — just about any shelf you could want. The top shelf even functions as our tiny linen closet! The pantry holds more than enough food for us for 2 weeks or more, and after our thorough clothing purge, the hanging clothes area is more than sufficient for our needs.
Continuing to work my way forward, I turned my attention to the living area. I’d been brainstorming for a while what I wanted to do in terms of storage — I had ripped out the original upper cabinetry during the demo, and wanted to keep the new shelf pretty streamlined (ba-dum-tsss), so I decided to run a solid piece open shelf that wrapped around the entire front of the camper.
It was a bit of a process, but I had fun with it. I had to drill along the walls every half inch or so to find and mark the studs around the whole area. Then I bought the strongest construction adhesive I could find (PL Premium), and coated the living daylights out of the back of my supports. Once they were on the wall, I screwed them directly into the studs with sheet rock screws, and voila! A ridiculously strong shelf mount!
I cut the shelf out of a solid piece of 4′ x 8′ plywood, and with some wood putty, sanding, and paint, our new shelf was well on its way!
Those yellow wires hanging over the shelf are the interior lights that run off the battery. After I had started mounting the shelf, I realized it would work much better to undermount them, and I pulled the shelf back up and notched out the support to make room for the wires. I mounted them to the underside of the shelf, and you can barely even see them!
Work was reaching a fever pitch, and we were racing the clock! At this point, we had moved out of our apartment, but due to earlier delays by the RV shop, the camper was obviously not ready for habitation. Thankfully some generous friends of ours who lived up the road had offered to let us stay in their fully-furnished basement apartment while we finished the transition. What a godsend – thanks Zach and Stephanie!
However, on the day I finished the shelf, we had only two more days to be out of their place, so I came back later that night, and began laying the floor. We had looked at a bunch of options — hardwood, linoleum that looked like hardwood, and a few others, but ultimately decided to go with a vinyl peel and stick plank flooring option by TrafficMASTER Allure in a beautiful barnwood finish. Let me tell you, in the sunlight, that stuff looks gorgeous.
Also worth mentioning is how easy it is to install. All I used was a razor blade, a sharpie, a carpenters square, and my 2′ and 4′ levels. It doesn’t actually adhere to the floor — the planks stick to each other. I used a staple gun in a few places to secure it directly to the floor, but other than that, it’s a floating floor. We love how it came out, and it’s proven to be very durable, and with a a quick sweep and Swiffer, it looks brand new, despite the best efforts of muddy rafting gear, dirty hiking boots, and all my tools!
So at this point, we had a place to sleep, a place for storage, a place for clothes, a place for food, and a shelf for books and pictures, as well as a beautiful floor. With our time limit expired, we moved into the camper, kicking off our new adventure at the Harper’s Ferry KOA in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
Now that we were officially full-timers, what we really needed was a place to sit and eat and relax. So next up was Project: Couch. The original couch that came with the camper had been removed by a previous owner and never replaced. I basically ended up recreating what had been there originally — a built-in couch with underneath storage. I built the seat supports to be removable so we could store longer items like our camp chairs and my rafting paddle underneath, and made the seat long enough (74″) that even a taller person could sleep on it comfortably.
With the exception of painting the couch and remounting the folding table to the wall, that completed the interior of our camper reno! We’ve been living very comfortably in it for five months now, and couldn’t be happier. We live a much more outdoor life, spend much more time with our friends and families, have seen a tremendous amount of the country, and continue to plan adventures every day!
Come back next week, when we drop the curtain and give the final reveal — the completed camper!
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With our new-to-us camper newly gutted and cleaned, we were ready to start building the dream! And to make things even more interesting, we’d decided that instead of giving ourselves till the end of September to finish and move into the camper, we were going to try to save a few months’ rent by moving in … by July.
Now, keep in mind, by the time we got the camper back from the RV repair shop (which took 2 weeks to do about 2 days worth of work), it was already the beginning of June. JUNE. And we were both working nearly full time. I had estimated we needed about 6 weeks to renovate, which ended up being just about on point, but with the 2 weeks we lost at the RV shop, we started behind schedule.
But now, we were ready to roll! Rebecca spent most of her time at our apartment, working on selling all our stuff, while also juggling camper projects. I started my work by getting her set up — first by removing all the knobs and hinges from the drawers and camper doors so she could clean and paint them.
We had been planning on replacing all the hinges with similar ones in a brushed nickel finish, but when Rebecca started poking around online to find ones she liked, she found they were pretty expensive. Like, $3/piece expensive — quite a bit of money when you have 60 hinges to replace. So instead, we went a different route, and after a good cleaning, we spray painted them, using Rust-Oleum’s Satin Nickel Paint and Primer in One, and were THRILLED with how they came out. And you can’t beat a $7 dollar solution to what you thought was a $180 problem!
After that, I spent all my free time in the camper, which was parked at a nearby storage facility. I was really eager to see some new color on the walls, and to see some of that awful wallpaper disappear, so I grabbed some Rustoleum paint and primer in one in white, and sprayed the inside of uppers in the bedroom.
It was really exciting to see things start to change! I decided to roll with it and do another small painting project, so I taped off the brass vanity in the bathroom, and prepped it for a round of that same paint we’d used on the hinges …
And another success! Spray paint is awesome.
Two projects were up next: repairing the water damage in the floors that we’d uncovered after pulling the carpeting and linoleum up, and patching the four billion holes in the wall that had been created when we pulled down the shelving, the valances, the mini blinds, and everything else was cluttering up the walls.
The water damage was not completely unexpected, as old as the camper is, although I must admit I was hoping and praying to avoid dealing with that. However, the damage was pretty minimal, and repairing it turned out to be less difficult (and time-consuming) than I’d anticipated — one of the very few times in the reno that proved the be true. The first spot I went after was in the front right of the camper, near the door. It was discolored and damp, and after only a little prodding, looked like this:
The corner fell right through, but obviously, the entire discolored area had been repeatedly exposed to water over the years. I wanted to keep the patch as small as possible, so I started with a small cut (with my brand new Ridgid circular saw my dad had bought me as an early birthday present – I adore Ridgid tools).
But once I got in there, I found a nice little treat — some healthy mold. Now, one reason we were excited to move into the camper was that we actually had some mold in our basement apartment, and Rebecca and I both had reactions to it. So, finding it in our new place was not super exciting. However, I had my circular saw in my hand, and knew a very simple solution: Total Extraction.
I extended my cut another foot or so, and after a careful inspection by feel and by flashlight, was satisfied that there was no mold or damp wood remaining. Just to be sure, I read up on mold killers online, diluted some antifreeze, and gave the entire area — both above and below floor level — repeated coverings with a spray bottle, and then left the whole area to dry for a few days.
Satisfied with my work there, I switched to the back of the camper, and repeated the process there.
I didn’t feel like going 6 inches at a time this time, and just ripped out anything that looked like it even might have seen water over the years. After that, it too got a good covering of the antifreeze spray — better safe than sorry!
I actually don’t have pictures that really show this, but the other side of the bedroom floor, near the external access panel, had had some intermittent water exposure over the years. While it was currently quite dry, parts of it were actually kind of crumbly and soft. I scraped the soft wood, which was largely on the surface, and then applied a few bottles of Minwax wood hardener. That stuff worked GREAT. It soaked all the way down and through the plywood, and made it even more solid than it was when it was brand new. Given that, and the fact that it was going to be a no-traffic area under the bed, I felt like that was all that really needed done for strength.
The last thing I did for the floor in the bedroom was to buy a Zinsser mold-killing paint/primer and coat both areas with it. This paint not only kills existing mold, but also keeps it from coming back. So far, it’s worked great! It also looks nice and clean under my platform bed.
Once the floor paint dried, I ran 2×4 bracing underneath the edges of the wet spots I’d cut out, and laid 3/4 inch plywood (also covered with the mold-killing paint) back in. Once it was down, I screwed it all down, and caulked the seams to keep out moisture and airflow. It looked nice and clean, and it’s worked great these past 6 months!
With the floors done, it was on to the other prep project — cleaning up the walls. The aforementioned four billion holes needed to be patched up.
I wasn’t sure of the best way to do this — I was used to using spackle, but A) the camper walls aren’t sheetrock, and B) given that the camper is on wheels, the whole thing flexes, and I was pretty sure spackle would crack. I gave my dad a call to see what he thought, and got an answer from him I’d never gotten before: “I have no idea.” So it was back to that fount of all wisdom, the Internet.
There were lots of suggestions scattered around, though not really any consensus. After some research and consideration, I decided to use Bondo and a spreader. I’d never used a two-part hardener before, but I figured A) if it worked on car exteriors, which flex, it should be fine for my walls, and B) it was sandable, so if it came out poorly, I could fix it. It took a bit of practice to get the mixture just right, and to figure out how much I could mix and apply before the batch started to harden, but overall I was really happy with the process and the product. It went on like a really thick spackle, dried quickly if applied in thin coats, and sanded down well. I started out sanding by hand, but this stuff is a LOT more durable than spackle, and I quickly switched over to my electric palm sander. As many spots as I had to sand, I probably saved myself 10-15 hours worth of labor. There were a LOT of spots:
But it went well, and soon the walls were patched, sanded, and ready for paint! Meanwhile, back at the farm, Rebecca (and her mom, who came to visit and jumped right in to help!) had been busy cleaning, priming, and painting the drawers and cabinet doors.
It was so exciting to see things start to take shape! The vision was finally come to life, and our enthusiasm was sky-high. Come back for next week’s edition, as we start painting and rebuilding!
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We’d purchased our very own camper, and even managed to get it home safely! After getting inspections and a few repairs done at a local RV shop, we were ready to get busy renovating and updating. But before that could be done, we got to do the really fun, fast, rewarding part — ripping out the old stuff! Say goodbye to the early 90s, camperhome!
We started by pulling out all the odds and ends the previous owner had left in the camper, including the trundle bed.
That was fun, because we immediately got a much better feel for both our floor space and our storage space. So much new room!
Once the clutter was out of the way, it was time to start disassembling. While I started pulling out all the drawers and cabinet doors, Rebecca began deep-cleaning every surface, starting with the ceiling. 24 years of grime was no joke! Every square inch had a yellow film on it, which Rebecca went through multiple bottles of heavy-duty cleaner to remove.
Between the front upper cabinets, the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, the hallway cabinets, and the uppers in the bedroom, as well as all the drawers, we built quite a pile. Below is just the start!
We then started pulling down the valances and disassembling the beds. We had briefly considered keeping the two twin beds, but ultimately realized that was a terrible idea. I began planning out a way to build a storage platform bed, which I’m excited to show you soon! But first we had to empty out the bedroom.
Rebecca was an absolute champion: once I had pulled out the bed frames, she grabbed a razor blade and ripped up not only the carpeting in the living room and bedroom, but the glued-down linoleum in the bathroom/hallway/kitchen area as well! Soon, we were looking at bare floors.
I had a flash of inspiration before she pulled out the bathroom linoleum though, and cut it so that I could use it as a form later when I installed our new flooring.
A bit more work, and we finally had a good look at what we were dealing with!
The back of the camper was totally cleared out, which meant I finally had to deal with my nemesis in the front — the upper cabinetry over where the trundle had been. l had played around with the idea of simply pulling the doors off and repainting them and leaving it at that, but somewhere down the line I got Pinterest-inspired to build a wraparound open shelf around the living room area, so the cabinetry had to go. But it had no intention of cooperating.
I removed every screw and fastener I could find, but even after that, this thing wouldn’t so much as budge. So I did exactly what my contractor father had taught me years ago: I headed straight to Home Depot, and bought bigger and better tools.
My greatly-increased firepower got things moving along nicely:
For anyone who might be inspired to try their own renovation, here’s your takeaway: a lot of the cabinetry and built-ins in campers are back-mounted. That means when you try to pull them down, A) they’ll fight you all day, and B) they will still try to kill you even after they are removed. Please reference exhibit A:
But with that cabinet down, the gutting was complete! We took the drawers and cabinet doors home to be cleaned and repainted, and began preparing for round 2 — construction, paint, and flooring!