Archive | May, 2013

My fingers hurt…

29 May

We are 97% finished with the backyard makeover.

Even two days later I’m still so sore from digging, planting, carrying 40 pound bags of dirt, etc.  The joints in my fingers will never be the same. BUT it looks beautiful and that’s all that matters.

This is where we left off.

Fence was cleaned and dried.  In between the bouts of rain we were able to stain the back fence Tuesday night.

We gathered our supplies – Olympic Maximum Stain & Sealant in one Toner in Caynon Brown  (buy it here) and two large polyester brushes and went to work.

Here’s after two hours of staining.

We might have continued staining the side fence, but we ran out of stain. The back took an entire gallon.

So we let it dry, bought some more stain, and waited until the rain stopped. Weren’t April showers supposed to bring May flowers? Seems like Sub-Arctic April temperatures are bringing May Monsoons. It won’t stop raining!

The rain stopped Friday night and by Saturday morning everything was dry.

Here’s after the side fence was stained (If it looks a bit uneven – it is. I touched up a few places Sunday to make it more even)

Ignore the arborvitae’s thrown around everywhere. We were trying to figure out placement in very windy conditions!

With that done, off to the local nursery we went to pick up our tree (we put it on hold the day before), some additional shrubs, and flowers for the front and back yards.

Without further ado – here’s the 97% finished project. I’ll explain the unfinished business in a minute.

Working from the outside in we have two large green arborvitae’s on the ends (approx. 5 feet tall), with two fuchsia rhododendron,  two smaller arborvitae’s, then two golden euonymus.  The middle is our autumn cherry tree. She’s a beauty and we were lucky to get it since it was the only one left!

We added the rhododendron and golden euonymus for a nice bit of color and I think it turned out really pretty.

We lined the side fence with itty bitty aborvitae’s.  It ties in the larger ones on the back wall and makes everything look put together.

(Taken the day before. Notice the uncut grass and lack of bird bath)

I gave the bird bath a fresh coat of paint and it makes that back corner nice and bright.

That’s a bright blue bunny beside the bird bath. I am trigger happy when it comes to spray paint and I’ve never met a ceramic animal I didn’t love.

My husband’s pride and joy – his garden.

In no particular order he planted sweet corn, basil, cucumber, spaghetti squash, green peppers, carrots, broccoli, lettuce (two types), tomatoes (big boy, roma, and cherry), sweet potatoes, and zucchini.  We are hoping to live off that during the summer.

This is where the unfinished 3% comes in. My hydrangeas.

We dug out the flower beds (there were none before) and realized it looks better with a stone surround. We only had enough to finish one bed (while stealing one block from the border) so we measured, planted, and figured we need 10 more block to complete it. Another trip to Lowe’s is in the near future.

So after we level the blocks on the left, and lay the ones on the right this backyard will be DONE! (Oh yeah and lay mulch on everything)

Both beds have two Nikko Blue hydrangeas on the edges and one Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea in the middle. I’m excited about those. They bloom white and almost twice the size of your hand. I can’t wait. (Seriously – look)

So it’s a pretty dramatic makeover but we are really happy with how it came out.  I pulled out the patio furniture Monday night and cleaned it. All we need to do it strap on the cushions and finally enjoy the backyard.

Not too shabby.


Getting There

23 May

Despite the 36 straight hours of rain and a pup with a stomach bug who had a preference to only vomit between the hours of 1am and 10am we managed to make some headway with the backyard this past weekend.

First up – the shrubs.

We knew we didn’t want them in the backyard anymore.  They attract bugs like crazy.

The husband dug them out carefully and we transplanted them into a flower bed to the side of our driveway.

They got a nice trim and a new home!

Not a bad day for the boxwood’s.

It actually worked out really nicely.  We never know what to put in that flower bed, and the flowers we do plant end up dying.  So we needed something sturdy to hold up.  These shrubs have been thriving for the last few years in the backyard, so I think they are strong enough to survive a transplant and will continue to grow in the front yard.

Plus, it’s visually nice.  They add separation from our driveway and the neighbor’s yard.

I’m going to plant a few flowers in between to add some color and consider it a success.

So, back to the backyard.  This is what it looked like after the shrub removal.

Empty, empty, empty! A nice clean slate. Well, eh, not exactly clean. Take a closer look at that fence.  Disgusting!

So off to Lowe’s we went to pick up wood cleaner.

Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner. (Buy it here)

No scrubbing – YES!   10 Minutes – YES!

We had to buy a little sprayer to apply the cleaner.  We ended up buying the cheapest one at Home Depot the day before for $10.  (Buy it here)

Fill ‘er up and start spraying! It took almost 3 gallons to cover all of the fence. My only warning when using this product is wear old clothes (there’s bleach in it and inevitably it will get on you) and to keep a hose handy in case it gets onto anything you don’t want lightened! We had a small scare with our patio stones, but we got water on it quick enough so it isn’t too noticeable.

This is after the side fence was sprayed with the cleaner, sat for 10 minutes, and then sprayed with water.

SOAK IT WITH WATER! Just drench it. I would use the single stream on the hose first, to get off all the gunk, then use the shower feature to just douse it and make sure all that cleaner was off.  Plus, soak the ground below the dirt too so you can dilute the cleaner that’s run off the fence.

YAY and GROSS! I’m happy it was working and cleaning  so well, but gross with how much crap was caked on it.

You can see we dug the dirt away from the fence to clean because we want to stain as far down as possible.

Mid-spray of the cleaner…

Once we finished it really started to rain. So we packed it in for the day.

When it finally was able to dry I couldn’t believe how great the fence looked!

It’s like a brand new fence. I can’t believe how much better it looks!

There are a few spots where it didn’t clean as well, but that’s ok. (We could have scrubbed those areas – but who wants to do that!)  We bought a toner instead of solid stain, we want to see the grain in the wood, so a little color variation is to be expected.

We already stained the back fence – but I’m waiting until we stain the side fence to do a big reveal. It looks great! Can’t wait to show it off!

This weekend (if the weather holds up) we should be able to finish the staining and FINALLY plant some landscaping.




We are inching along … but we are getting there.

Until next time!

Upgrade U

16 May

Thanks for the title inspiration Beyonce.

This past weekend we took a big step towards upgrading the backyard.

When we bought the house there were cute flower beds around the fence line on two sides. Here’s a photo from our final walk through (Please note that all the clutter is now gone. I’m not a big fan. Also red mulch – gag!)

I liked the idea of them, they add some nice color into the backyard, but the execution was poor. There was no spacing between the flower beds and the lawn.

So we did what we always do, get the cheapest thing and hate it until we upgrade!

We bought the rolls of black plastic edging.

The stuff that doesn’t really bend, and you can’t get it in an even line if your life depended on it. It was a nice satisfying feeling ripping that out of the ground last weekend.

We lived with that for about two years.  Here’s what it looked like before we ripped it out.

Ignore the bushes, they are being trimmed and then transplanted – somewhere.

Also ignore the bird bath that looks like it’s dripping blood. (WHY would you paint it like that?!?!)  That’s getting a nice bright upgrade very soon.


We went to Lowe’s with the intention of getting stone. We wanted something to match what we had on the garden, which is on the far left in the photo above.  Well, looks like they don’t make the stone we used for the garden (we only bought it last year!), so it was back to the drawing board.

We both ended up loving the allen & roth Cassay low profile edging.  (You can see it on Lowe’s website here )


It was heavy (it’s concrete!) so it wasn’t going anywhere and it matched the length we needed.  So we picked up 50 blocks.  My poor car was riding low on the way home.

This isn’t even all 50…

So we worked from one end to the other, ripping out the old edging, digging a small trench to stabilize the blocks and making sure everything was lining up nice and even.

We liked it so much we went back to Lowe’s and bought 20 more stones to replace and expand the garden!

We are going to level out the side on the left, add some flat pavers as a walkway of sorts and add a few pots so we can grow herbs.

It’s a subtle upgrade, but it polishes it up a bit. Plus, it matches the pavers on the patio.

We bought 70 blocks for $2.52 a piece (they are cheaper in the store than online) for a grand total of $176.40.  Not too shabby.

Up next – stain the fence and add some landscaping!

My Everest

9 May

These stairs. These carpeted awful stairs.

They kind of make me barfy just looking at them. I’ve slipped and fell down them.  The cat uses them as a scratching post.  They’ve been puked on, peed on, and lord knows what else thanks to our lovely animals.  The carpet is OLD! It was old when we moved in a few years ago.

It’s stained from the previous owners.

We’ve scrubbed, rented steam cleaners, and the stains and smells won’t come out – so the only choice in my eyes is that the carpet is coming out!


The landing is the same. Carpeted and stained.

The husband and I have ripped up corners to see what we have to work with.  It’s finished hardwood! Beautiful hardwood flooring has been hiding under that disgusting beige-y carpet for years! Now that I know that, I’m showing as much restraint as I can to not just rip it all off.  I need a plan. Plus, I need a bit of confidence that I can refinish the landing and stairs myself.

Summer Stair Beautification 2013 will be in two parts.

Part 1 – Board and Batten

I love the idea of board and batten up a stairway.  It looks so crisp and bright.  So I’ll pull out the nail gun and miter saw and (hopefully) get it to look a little something like the photos below.

Some chair rail, MDF, molding, and a lot of white paint should get me this look easily.

Step 2: Remove Carpet, Refinish Wood, Add Runner.

This step is going to take a bit longer.  The carpet removal with be quick and make me extremely excited.  The sanding, staining, and polyurethane will take a lot more time. I’m thinking over the course of a few nights I can stain my way into bed so to speak.  Work backwards up the stairs and then leave it to dry overnight.  We’ll just have to live with that smell. UGH, that stain & poly smell is the worst.

After that, all I have to do is install a runner. The hunt has been on for months to find one I like.  I’m thinking something gray-ish with a bold pattern.  Neutral but fun.

Here’s a bit of inspiration.

So pretty. I’m thinking a bit grayer (and lighter) but it’s gorgeous as is too! Our floors are not as espresso as the photos above, but they are still dark so I think it will look great with a true gray runner.

I can’t wait to get started. Hopefully soon!

BYE BYE ugly carpeted stairs….

You won’t be missed…

This view will be so much nicer in just a few short months…..

The Accent Wall

1 May

I can admit, this wasn’t an idea I thought up myself.  I saw Sarah do it over at Thrift Decor Chick (Here’s her original post) and fell in love with it immediately. It’s rustic, but slightly industrial. You can tailor it to the feel of your home based on stain or paint. I was hooked, but I wasn’t sure where to put it.  I played with a few areas. At the top of the stairs, a wall in the living room, but I kept coming back to the wall in the entryway.  It would be a nice impact right when you walk in. It would look great with the tile and the color on the walls.

So I searched Lowe’s for weeks for the tongue and groove pine planking that was needed for the project. Apparently it was in high demand! My husband finally found it and brought 5 packages (there’s about 5 or 6 8 ft. planks per package).  Way more than we needed – but it’s better to return than search for more!

We grabbed the nail gun, a level, and a measuring tape and got started.

We started at the top and worked our way down.

We found out very quickly that our walls are NOT even so each plank needed to be measured and cut.  That’s what took the most time. We had to re-measure every time as we continued down the wall. It’s funny now that each board is a different measurement – it was not funny at the time since our miter saw is in the basement and we ran up and down the stairs at least 100 times that day.

A few hours later we were here…

The bottom pieces were tricky since we needed to notch out where the window molding was and trim about an inch off of another so it didn’t cover the baseboard.  Since we don’t have a table saw the jig saw had to suffice.  My husband took the reins on this one and was able to make the cuts (with only a slight hiccup).

Here’s the finished wall – pre-stain.

I was already in love.  We let it sit for a few days, giving it time to settle, and also giving us some time to relax!

I taped around the ceiling, walls, and baseboard molding, and added some plastic sheeting to keep the stain off the floor.  It was my first time staining something so I was a bit nervous.  I took a scrap piece of pine and practiced to see how long the stain needed to sit until it reached the color we liked.  Then, I just went for it.

You work up a sweat trying to keep a wet edge when you are staining something so large! I did two coats and let the stain sit in for about 10-12 minutes on each coat.  The top stained a bit darker than the bottom, so that sat on for only about 7 minutes.  It’s all trial and error.  I would rather do 50 coats to get the color I like then only do a few and have it end up darker than I wanted.

Here’s what it looked like after the stain.

The stain was Minwax Wood Finish in Early American. It’s actually the stain on our hard wood floors so it flows nicely.

I applied it with a foam brush and wiped off with regular paper towels.  Keep an old shopping bag beside you when you are wiping so you can keep all the soiled paper towels in one place.

I let the stain dry, waiting about 24 hours just in case, and then did a coat of polyurethane to keep it sealed.  I used Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in semi-gloss.  Applied with a foam brush.  Apply slowly and make sure to watch for bubbles.

I ripped the tape off, touched up any spots that stain leaked through, repainted the trim and was finished!

Here’s what it looks like now…

I’m so in love with it.  It really adds something to a very tiny entryway. Plus is looks great from the kitchen too.

The skylight in the entryway almost makes a spotlight – brightening up the wall even more.  That was a happy coincidence.

Considering what it looked like when we moved it, I think the accent wall definitely improved the whole look of the house.  We love it so much we are thinking of putting a second accent wall above our stairs!

This is really the best before I have (from our inspection):

And after:


Now all I need to do is find some curtains and possibly a small entry table and I can label this space DONE!