Tag Archives: home improvements

So, What’s Next?

8 Aug

We’ve been slowly working on putting the molding back on the landing.  We need to add some quarter round and then paint, paint, paint.  It’s been slow going for the last two weeks.  I think we burnt ourselves out a bit so we took a step back and are slowly finishing the last few things to make our stairway project 100% complete.

Even though it’s not totally complete, that doesn’t stop me from thinking what’s next on the project list!

There’s a few small things I could tackle…

  • Paint the door jambs (I had to do some spackling when our downstairs floors got refinished)
  • Touch up the kitchen cabinets
  • Find some large frames for the wall going up the stairway
  • Hang the three mirrors above the headboard that have been sitting on the dresser for months!
  • Clean up the guestroom – there are things everywhere from when I decided to sell old wedding stuff.

But all of those things are boring. They will eventually get done, I just have to amp myself up for it.

Right now I’m in the mindset of figuring out what the next big task is so I can plan it, budget it, and start working on the husband to get on board.

I think the next big project will be the living room.

Right now it’s functional, but that’s about it.  We painted it when we moved in and that’s the extent of the makeover it got.

It’s not a bad room – but I think our style (ok – my style) has evolved since we bought the house almost 4 years ago.

The first thing will be new hardwood floors.  There’s carpet now. It’s awful. The cat destroyed one of the carpeted stairs. Damn cat.

I love the floor in the kitchen and dining room.

They’re Pine that was stained Early American by Minwax.


I’m still so in love with it, borderline obsessively. The only downfall is that it is Pine, so it’s a soft wood. You have to baby it. With two animals it’s already scratched up. There’s dings and dents.

I still thing we’ll go with it though so the whole first floor will be uniform.  I have a problem with different woods/colors in one house.  Like how our bedroom is oak – for who knows what reason.

So new floors – check.

Possibly a new paint color – I’m still undecided on that. It’s blue now. I’m about 70% sure it will stay blue, but ask me in a few months.

Ignore that adorable dog and look at the blue in the background. That’s our color now. If I was to change it, I would probably pick a more muted blue.

I want to build a small faux sofa table for behind our HUGE sofa. It would keep the sofa pulled away from the wall and be a good place to put lamps.

Something like this would be nice..

We could even add decorative grates along the top so the hot air from the baseboard heating will still blow upwards.

Recessed lighting.

Right now we have track lighting that only lights up half the room.  Plus, one of the lights is falling out of the ceiling! I would love to put pot lights in and be able to fully light the whole room evenly.

Then the big project will be a built in entertainment center. Right now I’m toying with the idea of a vented gas fireplace or possibly an electric fireplace in the middle of it.

I’m already imagining myself sitting in front of it with hot chocolate while it’s snowing outside. Oh man – now I really want it.

Here’s a few images I saved that I like…

And a few without a fireplace, just in case it’s not possible/way too expensive.

Yes, it will be white. How did you guess?

We just need a lot of storage.  It will have to be custom built too.  I was toying with the idea of doing it ourselves out of pre-built cabinets, but I’m not sure if that would be possible.  We have a strange shaped alcove where we will be putting this, so I guarantee it won’t fit standard measurements.

I want it to be able to hold the TV, DVD’s, a wireless printer, etc.

I’m still in the initial figuring out what I want to do stage, so I’m sure things will change over time.

Right now I’m at…

  • New flooring
  • (Possibly) New paint color
  • Sofa table
  • Recessed lighting
  • Custom built in Entertainment Center with fireplace (vented gas or electric)

Hopefully in a few months (maybe after the holidays) we can install the floors and get this going!

Thanks to Pinterest for all the ideas/images. That website will be the death of me. Too many good ideas – so little time!


So It Begins

27 Jun

The carpet removal has begun.  On Saturday we ripped off the carpet on the bottom two stairs. I needed to see if there was actually wood under there and if it was salvageable. Check for both!

I wanted to try to sand a step or two to see how long it would take and if it would work. I have a small palm sander that I used and quickly realized it would take me forever to sand everything with it.  The sandpaper kept falling off!

So, my husband loves me and took me to Home Depot and bought me an Orbital Sander. Nothing makes my heart flutter more than power tools. I’m my father’s daughter.

I got the DeWalt 5 inch Random Orbital Sander (This). The sandpaper sticks directly to the pad and makes life a whole lot easier for me. It took me 10 minutes to sand one step, when previously it took me at least 30.

Look how pretty it is.

I took the same stain that is on our floors now and tested a little spot on the stairs.

Big problem with the bottom stair. It stained so much darker than the floors. I put the stain on and wiped it off immediately. It’s still several shades darker and incredibly noticeable.  I’ve read you can water down stain with turpentine. We might do that or pick a lighter shade that is as close of a match as we can get. We’ll see. The rest of the stairs stain exactly like the floor. It’s just the horizontal planks on the bottom step.


No bueno.

Ignore the brown grate. That’s going away. It’s non-functional and dumb.

Because there is something wrong with us and we can’t ever stop at what we had planned for the day – we ripped off the carpet on the landing.

It’s definitely worn. There are definitely a lot of scratches, but nothing was deep. It was all superficial. I love the look of older hardwood too and this has the potential to have the character that I love.

And because I’m an idiot I decided I should sand the whole landing. So I did. For almost 4 hours.

60 grit sandpaper really cuts through the polyurethane.

I was a mess and the house was a mess.  We hung up plastic sheeting to protect the downstairs, but there still was dust all over the place.

And me…

Don’t I look wonderful. Miss America, ladies and gentlemen.

But the floors looked good.


After a lot of vacuuming….

There are still a few places that I need to hit with my Dremel Oscillating Tool. That little guy is great to sand in tough to reach places.

I’m not sure if I’m going to fill the small crack above with stain-able wood putty or not. I’ve heard some not so great things about it so I’m on the fence. That will be a game time decision.

Here’s a good shot of where it was sanded and wasn’t…

I’m going to go over it lightly with 150 grit sandpaper before I stain. Just to make sure everything is smooth.

It’s going to be a crazy weekend.

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!

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!