Happy Halloween!

And Happy Trick or Treating, from our house to yours!


DIY: Chalkboard Camoflauge

The fuse box in the laundry is a bit of an eyesore, as well as wasted wall real estate.  So we made this:

It camoflauges the fuse box while giving us a great space for notes, both of the love and grocery variety... here's how we did it:
  1. Paint greenboard with chalkboard paint:
I used greenboard because that's what I had lying around.  Plain drywall would have worked, or any paint grade wood, but the greenboard was a leftover scrap and was therefore free-ninety-free.  

First I rolled the paint on with a roller, but I didn't like the texture, so I then used a brush.  I alternated horizontal and vertical strokes with each coat of paint to give it a linen look.  I probably did 6 coats or so; they dried quickly so it didn't take long.



     2.  Build and paint the frame:

HoneyDo built the frame out of pieces of 1x2 and trim moulding we also had lying around.  I painted it Olympic One Spice Delight, which matches the rest of the trim and cabinets in the laundry.

     3.  Hang the frame:

We used a piano hinge for this- you can get them in various sizes in the hardware section of Lowe's.  

HoneyDo also installed a magnet in the edge of the frame and then simply added a screw at the right point in the wall just to make sure it would stay shut.


 4.  Mount the chalkboard:

The board fit very snugly in the frame, so we just used a couple of finish nails to toenail it in place.

That's it!  I use the board mostly as a grocery list- I just snap a photo with my phone on my way out the door to the store! 

Linking up with:

Tip Junkie

Sweet Anne Designs - Sweet Sharing Monday
Home Stories A2Z
House on the Way


Organize! The Fuse Box

She Says:

When we first moved in, we had a very small, and very confusing fuse box.  Eventually, we had an electrician come in and replace it with a larger one to accommodate our reno, but in the beginning, this is what we had to work with:

The "labelling" left a lot to be desired.  It consisted of a penciled-in chicken scratch to the left of the breakers.  

I'm not asking for professional calligraphy here, but this is kind of important... legible would be nice!  Okay, I can read "sewer," and I guess "Garibige DS" could be interpreted garbage disposal, but "Ger LT"?  I have no freakin' clue! And some of the few that were legible were actually mislabeled!  But I digress...  

We're going to be flipping breakers on and off throughout this reno, and we need to know what goes where, so we took an hour and figured out where everything went.  Here are our tools:

My handy-dandy cheapo Label Maker        and              a Non-Contact Voltage Tester
That's it!  We turned off all the breakers, then flipped them back on one at a time to test which plugs and wires were live.

Green means it's dead, or safe, Red means DANGER, live wire!

Then, one by one, we labelled each breaker:

Simple and safe!

He says:

If you watch any DIY shows, you've doubtless seen people yelling across the house "is it off?!"  "I don't know!" "Ouch!  It's not off!", etc.  Let's just avoid all that by labeling the fusebox once and for all.  It's important to be thorough, every plug and switch in the house should be tested to know for certain which breaker controls it.  Don't overlook any, or you'll be doing the yelling sooner or later.

Note that the non-contact voltage testers are fantastic tools, but they are too sensitive.  I'm sure they have to be for liability reasons, but rubbing the tip of the tester against a dead wire or outlet generates enough static electricity to trigger the indicator light.  This type of "false positive" test will confuse you unless you take the time to really familiarize yourself with your new tester.  Take a piece of dead, unconnected wire and rub the tester tip on it to learn what false voltage positives look like, and ALWAYS treat an unknown wire, switch or circuit like it's live until you have proven quite conclusively that it isn't.  

Also, you should consult and hire pro electricians whenever needed but DO NOT listen to their stories about getting shocked.  It is universal across the electrical industry to act like 120V circuits are not dangerous - they are.  Listening to your electrician talk about how many times he has been shocked with house current can make you complacent.  Be vigilant around electricity and you will minimize your chances of being hurt.  

Last thing, if you examine the white fuse box in the above photos, you will see that it does not have a master switch for the house incorporated.  When we had it replaced with the nicer, newer, larger grey one you'll see in other posts, we gained a master switch inside the new panel....and because I wanted it, I also had a Master OFF switch for the entire house added to the outside wall.  Now I can turn off all of the circuits at once inside, and I can turn off the entire panel at once from outside.  I like this arrangement a lot, maybe it's overkill, but now we never have to ask "is it off?!" anymore.  We know when it's off.


A Different Kind of Room

On Sundays around here, we try to sit back, relax a little, survey our progress for the week, and just enjoy our surroundings.

It's been fairly warm and damp here lately, perfect weather for these guys:

And I fully expected to see a giant caterpillar crawl over the top of this one and start talking to me...

Hope you have a relaxing day!

Ni Hao Yall  


Floor to Ceiling

She Says:

Initially, we were going to lay tile in the laundry/mud room.  One of the structural changes we made to the room, however, was removing the door from the laundry to the kitchen and widening the pass through.  So even though they are two distinct rooms, they really flow from one into the other, so we decided to start the hardwood flooring in the laundry that will continue throughout the rest of the house.

We have a great local flooring liquidator here, and found this on special:

It's handscraped birch from Toscana- in Coffee Brown.  It's really rustic and has a lot of character, plus, you really can't tell when you've left a big scratch on it while installing the washing machine (ask me how I know)!

A word or two about installing hardwood flooring... I love it!  It's sort of like putting together a puzzle, and it's pretty tough to really screw it up.  You only need a couple of pieces of equipment- a small portable air compressor, which we already own, but you can pick one up for $100-200, and this little beauty:

It's a floor nailer, and we got ours on Amazon for $89!  You can rent them as well, but since we'll be doing the entire house, it was well worth the investment.

He says: 

This Bynford nailer gets good reviews on Amazon, we're not planning on going into the flooring business so it should be fine for one house.  Note that the shoe is set to one arbitrary height, which would be correct for a 10mm thick floor plank.  Our floor is 1/2" thick, so I had to glue a linoleum shim onto the shoe to set it to the correct height for our floor.  This modification is well addressed in the Amazon reviews so I knew what I had to do before we even received the nailer.  Works well, no issues through about 700 sq ft.

She says:

Here we are in the middle of the install:

The charcoal colored stuff is the underlayment- a thin layer of foam to help with sound dampening and a bit of insulation.

And here's the finished product!  (Along with an exhausted husband after wrangling the washer and dryer into place... more on that later...

And now, for the ceiling!

I have to give my In-Laws credit for this one- they built their dream home in the 80's, an old 19th century farmhouse that they completely renovated (I guess it runs in the family).  Anyway, my Mother-In-Law designed a country kitchen with a tongue and groove pineboard ceiling.  HoneyDo and I have always liked that look, and so we incorporated it into our plans as well.

Since there was already a perfectly good drywall ceiling, we didn't need to use real pineboards for this part of the house.  Instead, we found this:

Tongue and groove, stainable, pine paneling!  We get the same look without spending the money on full thickness pine boards, and without the mess of tearing out the ceiling.

Although we could just put them up bare, we wanted just a hint of stain to match our trim color, Olympic's Spice Delight.

I made a simple stain using equal parts oil based paint and mineral spirits.  Since Olympic doesn't really make oil based paints (at least, that's the line at our local Lowe's store) we took our paint chips over to Sherwin-Williams and had them do a color match.  That way, I could make my stain using oil based products.

Staining is a fast and fun procedure:

  1. Make your stain by mixing equal parts oil based paint and mineral spirits in a separate container (make sure it is mineral spirits safe so the spirits don't eat through the container!)  We wanted a very light stain so that the woodgrain really showed through.  To make a more opaque stain with more color, simply change the ratio by adding more paint.  Just remember your ratio so you can make more!
  2. Wearing gloves, dip a rag into the stain and wipe the board, coating it lightly but completely.  Because I was using such a thin stain in such a light color, I didn't need to go back and wipe off the excess.  This also made for a pretty quick drying time for an oil based product.

   3.  Let boards dry.  Finding places to lay out all those boards was the trickiest part of this project!

   4.  Affix boards directly to the ceiling using tongue and groove, a little construction adhesive and a finish nailer.  Stagger the lengths of the boards so that neighboring boards don't end at the same place.  This is to maximize the strength of the joint, and because it just looks better that way.

That's it!  Installing the boards is pretty much a two person job, just because the boards are so long and unwieldy to hold over your head and nail at the same time.

He says:  

We lucked out that the existing ceilings were in excellent condition.  The 5/8" drywall ceiling was an excellent base to glue the new planks to, which allowed us to the lightweight, cheap 1/4" thick pine planks.  After the glue had fully cured (we used Liquid Nails "project" adhesive in our caulk gun) we marked and drilled for recessed "can" lights in strategic places.  The pine planks cut cleanly using the specific can-light holesaw in our rechargeable drill and the results make me happy.

Linking up with:

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special


Laundry Beginnings

So if you had an entire house that needed renovating, which room would you do first?

I decided that I had to have a laundry room first.  Like I said in the last post, how could we expect to get any work done if we didn't have clean undies?

Also, the laundry room needed the most work, as it has had the most water damage, so we figured we might as well start this thing off with a bang!

Here are the before shots:

This was after we'd already gotten into the demo- there was a weird little closet wasting space and surrounding the leaky and non functional hot water heater.
But the worst of it was the floor.  It was just... soggy.  We had to tear out the entire subfloor and replace it.

Luckily, none of the floor joists had been damaged.  Unluckily, someone had apparently replaced the subfloor in here before, but instead of removing the rotten subfloor, they just chopped it up and threw it in the crawlspace... yuck!  So we spent an entire day removing moldy debris, bucket by bucket, out of the crawl space so that poor HoneyDo could work down there...

Look at that brave face!

We blocked all the joists in this room just as a precaution, then laid down the OSB subfloor.  We also replaced the damaged drywall with greenboard:

HoneyDo replaced the back door and designed the door casing to give the room more of a craftsman style using various pieces of wood and moulding.  We'll use this as a pattern for the rest of the house as well.  Here you can also see the installed dryer (the washer's next to it) and one of the two storage cabinets we put in.  The storage cabinet is actually an unfinished oak pantry that we repurposed for the room.


Then, I got to work painting the room.  We used Olympic One (paint and primer- a life saver!) in Amaretto:

And voila!  We've got a functioning Laundry Room!

Next I'll show you the ceiling and the floor, (I heart both of them) and the fun projects that went into this room!


Laundry Inspirations

One of the things we decided along the way in taking on this project was that we wanted everything we did to be perfect.  What I mean by that is that each room would have great functionality as well as designed and decorated to our tastes (more about our strange fusion of styles later).  At least, I decided this... Many a time have I suggested some impossible structure for the house only to get that "What do I look like... a magician? We have to follow the laws of physics here, Dear,"  look on HoneyDo's face.  (Yes, it is a very particular look.)  But he does his best to conform my MC Escher dreams into structural reality, and I am always thrilled with the result.

We decided the first room to tackle would be the laundry room.  No, we don't have a kitchen, and the one working bathroom is an indoor outhouse, and there are still many holes in the floor, but if we can't wash our undies, how far can we get?

So here are some ideas I've found for Laundry rooms I love:

From awesome Ana White, Homemaker... she is my hero!  We have a front end loader washer and dryer and have thought many times about buying the matching pedestals for them for storage... but they are between $200-300 EACH!  I think we can do something much more useful at a much better price.

A simple but good idea... I'd like to do something cool with the huge fuse box in our laundry...

I also would like to use some baskets instead of tons of cabinet doors everywhere...

Source: via Col's on Pinterest

So, let's get started! 



Now that we're sure that the septic system is in good working order and won't bite, we can move on to hot and cold running water!

He says:

The whole house needed to be re-plumbed.  You can really freak yourself out if you are new at plumbing and you start reading plumbing message boards on the internet.  You'll read a lot of paranoia and professional plumbers trying to convince people to leave it all to them.  Don't let it get to you.  

Every home improvement store in the world has a nice selection of PEX plumbing tubing and fittings.  There's a reason for this:  it's easy.
Yes, you will need to practice a bit to get really proficient at making the necessary crimp connections, but it costs almost nothing to make a test crimp then cut it off and do it again.  I bought a couple of plumbing books, but really they weren't necessary.  The kinds of things I actually needed help with weren't in them.  

One thing I knew I wanted was a manifold block.

This is a "water fusebox", providing individual shutoff valves for each pipe in the house.  Very handy during a reno!  I recommend buying this item online if possible, because home improvement stores don't usually carry them...which means you have to go to the dreaded professional plumber's supply.  

Beware the pro supply houses.  My experience of them (plumbing, AC, electrical) has been universally dreadful.  All the pros have credit accounts, trying to pay cash identifies you as a DIYer.  Expect to be significantly overcharged and take anything they say with a large grain of salt.  Home improvement stores may be understocked, disorganized, and have a staff that specializes in ignorance, but at least they aren't running a game on you.  

One thing to note:  The very first thing you want is a main water shutoff valve for the house, preferably outside in the yard.

I dug up the main water line from the meter (3/4" PVC), and called the utility Co. to shut off the water for me.  As it turns out our meter is designed to allow the homeowners to shut it down themselves, and Mr. Utility Man demonstrated, but since it is a long way from the house I added a 1/4 turn shutoff valve to the main line just outside the house anyway.

We needed a new water heater as well, so I built a water closet out of a pre-fab oak pantry, and installed the 40 gallon heater and manifold bloc inside.  Very tidy, if I do say so myself.

She Says:

I love the fact that I can shut off the water to any particular appliance all by myself!  We've got each one labelled on the Manabloc, and just a half turn to the right, and it's off!  (And yes, by the way, I had to mumble "righty-tighty, lefty-loosy" before I wrote that.  So what?)  Anyhoo, I took a nice hot shower in our crappy little bathroom tonight.  HoneyDo, you are my hero!