Category Archives: Home Improvement
Next weekend marks the cutoff point when new home projects are put aside and we move into full wedding mode. Scary yes, but also a little exciting. We have a lot of DIY projects planned.
I am girl who loves a deadline so I had a big hopes to squash a few projects over my last home project weekend for the next few months. Friday night I organized my file cabinet prepping for the financial merge with Nate. It’s crazy to think this will be the last year I file my taxes alone.
On Saturday, I decided to work on our patchy lawns. Last year by midsummer most of the grass was dead and I’d like to try to avoid that happening again. Since the weather has been unbelievable lately I though it would be a good time to experiment with a little grass seed before the weather gets too hot.
I raked up all the dead grass and debris while loosening about 3-4 inches of top soil. Then I sprinkled the Sun & Shade Mix over the soil and lightly raked it in. Fingers crossed this works. I’ll be watering it daily to keep the seed and soil moist until I start seeing seedlings emerge and they get established.
I also took some new photos of our open ceiling. Yep folks, we have mold again. I’ll be zapping that will a little bleach later today.
We’ve had nothing but bad luck finding the right roofing or general contractor to replace the roof. Either they never get our calls returned, they don’t have experience with flat roofs or after we meet we get a “sorry we cannot send you a quote because x, y or z” email. It sucks. The only silver lining is besides the rainy day drips and mold situation, the roof hasn’t caused too many issues for us. We are very thankful we live in such a temperate climate. Currently, we are looking into another general contractor, but again this project may be pushed off until after June unfortunately.
Then Sunday happened. The day turned out to be all about our used 2001 Honda Civic that came with “better than the standard, but not fancy” rims.
We must have drove through a construction site on our way home Saturday night because Sunday morning we had a very flat tire from a nail still wedged into the rubber.
I hate driving on a spare, so the plan was to get the tire changed out and head directly to get it replaced. If only it was that easy. My roadside assistance sent a tow truck out to change the tire for me but the driver couldn’t get my stupid rims off. He didn’t have the right socket to remove them. After inflating the tire, he advised me to drive directly to the tire store before it went flat.
Not the safest prospect, but Nate and I took the risk and only made it down the street to a gas station before the tire went flat again. The nail that pierced the hole had fallen out and the hole was too large to drive with. Plus the placement of the hole, made it impossible to use a tire patch.
Luckily, a guy at the gas station suggested we use a screw to plug the hole. Once the screw was in, we inflated the tire and it held until we got to the tire store. Thank you random gas station guy!
We ended up buying a whole new set of tires and then spent the remainder of the afternoon waiting for them to be installed. Luckily, there was a great pizzeria nearby with amazing food and a great beer selection (have you tried a Belgium sour beer yet? so good.). So we passed the time with a little food, drink and the NCAA basketball Tournament.
Of course, the rims gave the tire installers some trouble as well, but it all worked out in the end. I hate those rims.
In the end, the tire adventure was a little time-consuming, but now we have lovely new tires that should last us years.
So even though I didn’t get to reseed the front lawn on Sunday, I learned some valuable lessons. 1) It pays off to keep a couple random screws and tools in your vehicle for Macgyver-like maneuvers AND 2) if you have to wait for service, make sure you pick a place with a decent bar or eatery nearby.
That’s my mom and sister Ali in the photo above. They are making pretzels for our annual Alt Thanksgiving a few years back. They are probably going to hate me for featuring this photo, but I really love it so I am using it.
We spend a lot of time in my parents’ kitchen. It truly is the heart of their house. My mother is the most amazing cook. I was lucky enough to have a childhood full of adventurous meals that inspired my love of cooking.
We have a family joke that you can never find anything in her kitchen because she reorganizes the cabinets and drawers so often. Even though we joke about it, the truth is my mom is very smart. She’s constantly improving her work flow in the most used room of their house.
Now I don’t intend to reorganize quite as often, but with my small room updates I wanted to streamline my kitchen just like my Mum does.
1. Simplify the plates & bowls
The first thing to do was remove the fluff. I stored or gave away all our random plates and bowls so on a daily basis we just use a set of white plates and bowls. (We highly recommend the 365 series from IKEA if you are looking for a set.)
Nate likes these plates because the stack nicely and take up little room in our dishwasher. I like them because they are classic and if a plate breaks we can inexpensively replace it.
We also have a stack of blue melamine plates and pink floral plates that we use during the summer especially around the pool. I keep them on an upper shelf since we are not using them much now, but will move them down to the bottom shelf this summer.
2. Keep the essential tools and remove the dupes
I grouped all my kitchen tools together and removed all the duplicates. I kept only one bamboo and one plastic cutting board out. I threw out the worn ones and stored any others. All my small appliances were consolidated in two boxes on a shelf so I can easily access them when I need them, but they don’t have to take up valuable space on our counter.
Now I just have my two cutting boards, a few choice cookbooks and a small collection of utensils on the counter for easy access.
3. Store the seasonal
Seasonal and rarely used tools were put in a box and placed on the top shelf of my cabinet. This includes cookie cutters, popsicle molds and my hand mixer. Since they are all in one box, I know where to look when I need them.
3. Keep the pantry and drawers organized
Food storage is another issue. My cabinet shelves and drawers are deep so it’s hard to always see what I have. I’m okay being a little haphazard as long as it’s tidy.
I took a cue from my mom and labeled the top of all my spice jars so I can easily find what I want. I buy my favorite spices in the bulk section of the grocery store. I stored them in old glass jars so I know when they are running low and can resupply.
None of these things are major changes, but boy has it made a difference. The kitchen looks cleaner with less clutter. So thanks Mom for teaching me the way!
Kitchen Update Progress
Update & touch-up the cabinets Paint the cabinet knobs Add a blackboard wall
- Deep clean the appliances
Organize the cabinets
- Install a water filtration system
My final parts of this update are deep cleaning the appliances and installing our water filtration system. Stay tuned!
Since we are in a waiting pattern on the prison bath and roof, I’ve decided to tackle a bunch of small projects to keep me busy. (Idle hands and all….)
Small Project #1: Kitchen Update
My first project has been updating our most neglected but most used room, our kitchen. Eventually, we will be renovating the kitchen completely, so I wanted to update the room without spending a lot of money or major updates. In fact, this project reminds me a lot of my renting days, when I did as many “improvement projects” as I could without major upgrades.
I broke my goals out into five tasks so I could easily complete these over a couple of weekends.
- Update & touch-up the cabinets
- Paint the cabinet knobs
- Add a blackboard wall
- Deep clean the appliances
- Organize the cabinets
- Install a water filtration system
I was lucky, my first weekend on the job was the 3-day MLK holiday weekend. One extra day meant I could really dive into the project and check off a lot on my list.
Touch-up the cabinets
Painting the kitchen was the first project we did when we moved into the house. (You may recall the pink and mustard yellow color scheme it originally had.)
Three years later, the kitchen cabinets need some love. The paint is chipped and cracked, the painted knobs are worn and the room just needs a bunch of sprucing.
For the cabinets, I decided to do a little paint touch-up. I cleaned off all the grime, then lightly sanded and painted the worn areas with a 1″ acrylic paint brush. In some places I had to add a couple of light coats of paint to cover the cracks.
Once I was done, I left the cabinets open to let the paint dry and cure for two days.
Paint the cabinet knobs
The cabinet knobs also needed a make-over. I spray painted them a hammered silver when we first moved in. I have to admit at that point in my DIY career, I didn’t know how to prep metal for paint. Perhaps that is why the knobs were so chipped. This time around, I took time to clean them and deglosser them before I painted.
I wanted to add a little punch of color to the otherwise white kitchen. I perused my spray paint collection, got some feedback from Nate and decided on a sun yellow color. After three coats on each side, I let the knobs dry for two days before I screwed them back on.
Add a blackboard wall
Besides the touch-up work, I decided to add a blackboard wall to the entry way into the kitchen. It’s right next to our fridge and pantry, so a great place to write-up our weekly shopping list or anything else I need to remember.
I’ve never used blackboard paint before, so I followed the directions closely. After prepping the wall, I taped the sided and top and bottom so we would have a 1″ white frame on the left and right of the wall.
Then I painted three coats of paint with a foam brush four hours apart. (I should have used a foam roller for a smoother application, but I didn’t have one on me.) I started this project late in the evening so I just put on Nate’s head light so I could see what I was doing in this dark corner of the house!
Three days later, I covered the paint with a light coat of chalk to cure the chalkboard and it was ready to go. Of course the first writing on the wall about Pixel. I just can’t help myself.
After the painting was complete, here’s the finished cabinets and knobs. The yellow is a really great punch of color on the otherwise white room. (Please ignore the ugly countertop. It isn’t changing until the remodel.) I plan on adding a few more punches before I am done with this update.
And now our entry way into the kitchen has write-able real estate for lists (Crap, I got to run 5 miles today!), drawings and whatever else we fancy.
Next up, I’ll show you how I organized the cabinets and drawers.
Happy New Year!
Today’s my first day back in the real world after a restful two-week break. Nate and I really tried to do nothing at all except enjoy a little solitude along with frequent visits with friends and family. I’ll be doing a post of our holiday tomorrow, but I wanted to start today with my first home improvement project of 2013.
This weekend, I decided to finally get out of my Christmas PJ’s and do a few projects around the house. New Years is such an easy date to remember to change out the batteries on all our smoke alarms and other yearly type tasks.
My biggest one was removing and re-caulking our shower and counter top in the master bath. When our bathroom was finished, I was told replacing the caulking yearly would keep the bathroom looking great years to come. Two years later, I have to agree. No matter how hard I scrub the shower, that caulking eventually discolored and got mildewy.
Last year I attempted the project and it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I just bought a generic tube of clear bathroom caulking and used my fingers and a damp rag to apply it. Maybe with seasoned skills, it would have worked out okay, but for the novice caulk applier I just got the stuff everywhere.
To help me out this time around, I bought a few new tools.
- White caulking for the counter
- Clear caulking for the shower
- Track & Grout Brush
- 3 in 1 Caulking Tool
Instead of using clear caulking on both spots, I am experimenting with white caulking this year on the counter to see if I like it better. I bought a basic white caulk that is a mildew and moisture resistant. The back of our counter doesn’t get much moisture so as long as it looks good I am happy.
I sprung for the more robust clear caulking in the shower. The product I bought has a Bioseal technology and says it “50-year durability, excellent adhesion and lasting flexibility.” We will see how it does, but if it does repel mildew and holds up in our shower I will be a happy lady.
Removing the old caulking is also a pain, so I splurged and bought this 3 in 1 caulk tool to help out. One side has this trough-like edge to remove the old caulk and the other has a rubber tip for applying the new stuff.
The majority of the caulking came out with the tool and then I went back with my knife and a wood skewer to remove the rest. The old caulking was pretty disgusting in the shower.
I had no idea what was growing there. So gross! To make sure I killed the mildew, I sprayed a mildew product that I keep around just for this sort of thing. Then I scrubbed and rinsed it out.
Our bathroom stays pretty cold in the winter time because we don’t have any sort of heat source in that part of the house. It rarely bothers me. I sleep better in a cold room and really it doesn’t ever get below 30 degrees all winter. So to make sure I got the shower and counter nice and dry before applying the new stuff, I brought in our space heater for a couple of hours.
When it was dry, I finally applied the new product from the tube and then smoothing it with the 3 in 1 tool. (I should also mention that the tool has three different sized tips which is an added bonus.) You have to press hard to get a nice smooth look so with the concrete shower bed, I had to go over a few spots a few times to get it right. Also, the clear caulking applies white and then once its fully cured turns clear. The directions say it can take up to 14 days.
Once I got a smooth, consistent look on all my crevices, I turned on the heater again and let it dry for 24 hours. I am really interested to see if the mildew in the shower was caused by my application or the product I used last time. Only time will tell when I remove it next January.
Here’s the finished look of the counter. It’s not the best photo, but I had to include the Pixel photobomb. She’s been at my side all vacation including my home projects this weekend.
It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on the prison bathroom. To update the cracked, old ceiling, we sanded off all the old paint and flakes and then hired a professional to skim coat it for us. Nate really wanted a smooth finish and didn’t think he could execute it well.
Unfortunately even with the professional help, we have a few spots that flaked off. (I’d show you a photo, but there is so little contrast that it the flaked off parts look like a polar bear in a snow storm.) Our vendor came out a second time to fix the issues for us. Everything looked great after it dried, so we left the ceiling alone for about a month as we finished other projects.
Over Thanksgiving Break, we picked up the project again to give it a final sanding before we painted. Three sections flaked again so we plan on just fixing them ourselves. With so much trouble getting the ceiling smooth, we now wish we had gone with a texture or started the whole project from scratch.
Live and learn, I guess. The good thing about this is the bathroom is tiny. I would have hated to learn this lesson in a larger space where we could have had more issues. Just searching the internet for “smooth ceiling” comes up with many horror stories. It makes me a tad bit glad that we have the wood planked ceiling in most of the house.
With our Winter Break approaching, Nate and I are both excited to tackle some of the remaining projects to finish this bathroom. Here’s what is left to do…
Prison Bath To-Do List
- Install flooring in closet
- Refinish concrete floor
- Make & install shelf next to sink
- Buy shower head, new sink faucet, medicine cabinet, mirror & lighting above the sink
- Install granite shower walls
- Install external shower head
- Buy & install toilet
- Refinish sink and tub
- Install sink and faucets
Crap, we still have so much to do.
I’d like to get the flooring installed in the closet, plus the granite and shower head in over the break. We also need to make final decisions on our fixtures, faucets and toilet.
Rainy weather came in two nights ago and with it my worry about how our roof will do this winter.
Our great room is already dripping like a sieve and just this morning I found three new drips in the front room.
Seeing them almost sent me to tears. This whole roof issue is so stressful.
I am sure some people think we are crazy to have our great room ceiling open to the rafters for over a year, but the decision on how to fix the roof became a bigger project then Nate and I realized. We had hoped we could just patch it, but the more we’ve researched and talked to experts it became apparent the whole roof needed to go.
Over the last year, we’ve been inching closer and closer to a final solution. I’ve paired down our journey to four main questions.
Should we keep the original roof line or pitch it?
This dilemma was the absolute hardest for me to wrap my head around. It took me months with plenty of discussion with family and friends to go with my gut and stick with the original roof line. A pitched roof would have given us more storage, but for me the mid-century modern house won out.
Should we improve other issues at the same time?
The list of “other issues” is actually quite long for us. With all our pipes running on the roof and no easy access to our rafters because of our plank ceiling, we have a lot of potential updates including:
- Insulate the rafters
- Update our electrical
- Rework our water and gas pipes so they run more efficiently
- Insulate the new plumbing
- Run gas pipes to the master bathroom and fireplace
- Install tank-less hot water heater(s)
- Prep the ceiling for our kitchen remodel by installing new range exhaust system
Every added project costs more money so we will have to do as much as we can. Most likely are the insulation, plumbing and electrical improvements.
What materials should we use?
I plan to go into some detail about the options once we make a decision. We’ve talked to roofers, contractors and vendors with experience with commercial roofing.
What can we afford?
Currently we are waiting for our last bid to come in. Once we get that, we will be working on financing and making our final decision. With so many moving pieces, I’m a little worried about final cost. This isn’t a project we can do in phases and it’s going to completely disrupt the house (and cats). I’d love to push this off for a year or two, but the drips in the ceiling are telling me otherwise.
With the walls in, next up was finishing a few electrical projects. Again, with my patient father’s help, I changed out the tiny, old light box above the mirror with a deep plastic box. This gave the three sets of wires more room and gave us more reassurance that they were all nicely contained. My dad was extremely happy how well the new box fit in the original concrete hole with a few small tweaks.
Our next project was to ground the new plug in the bathroom wall. Again let me state that we plan to eventually get the whole house rewired, but until that happens we have to make decisions about our 2-pronged outlets on a case-by-case basis.
We knew we wanted to use a GFCI plug since it was going to be so close to the sink. (A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing and if it detects an imbalance, it trips the circuit to prevent it going somewhere else like through a person.)
Our plan was to use our copper water pipe under the kitchen sink to ground it (the kitchen is on the other side of our bathroom wall).
Dad ran the naked copper ground wire from out new light box down the interior wall space to the kitchen plumbing while I waited for it with my head under the sink. When it appeared I attached it to the copper pipe with a grounding clamp.
Then we went back to attach all the wires for the plug, but realized that the installed box was too small for all the wiring so back to hardware store we went.
This time we got a much deeper box to replace it. Nate was a little worried that we were going to screw up his sheetrock wall, but we did a good job keeping the wall intact.
The final piece of work was replacing the original plug with a new one and ta-da our electrical work was done. The final test was turning on the power and seeing all the electrical work including the GFI plug.
Prison Bathroom Remodel To-Do List
Demo the room Remove the linoleum Prime the horrible pink walls and ceiling Remove the shower tile, step and fixtures Cut closet door in hallway Reframe the bathroom door, closet door and frame in the new bathroom wall Pour the new closet floor Wire the new bathroom wall and closet Install closet light and switch Rewire the mirror light Ground the new bathroom plug Sheetrock and plaster the new wall and closet
- Install bathroom and closet door
- Paint the closet
- Install clothes rod and shelf in closet
- Clean sink
- Refinish the bathroom ceiling
- Lay bamboo flooring in closet
- Paint walls
- Install lighting
- Refinish concrete floor and stain it
- Remove window molding and install granite shower backing & new shower head
- Install shelving wall
- Install new toilet & old sink