Category Archives: Home Improvements

Garage Shelving & Organization

Hallelujah! The very small garage in this little cape code is officially organized. Let’s  just take a moment to appreciate a good before after.

Now for some progress photos:

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Driveway disaster.

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Door Upgrade

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Before/After

 

When I first purchased my house, I had many many projects in mind ranging from big to small that were of course immediately prioritized. One of the projects that fell far on the list was to upgrade the interior doors. Hollowcore, damaged, and dated, over the past few years the doors had become

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Bathroom door w/ black knob

more and more of a nuisance, sometimes mysteriously locking themselves. Try coming home having to pee like crazy just to find that your only bathroom door was closed and locked, and the lock was not easy to pick.

First, Adam and I just tried the simple solution-new knobs. Unfortunately, the doors had other plans. Being that they were from 1953, the holes were smaller than present-day standards. So, we purchased a door jig kit from Home Depot, as well as
several door knobs and went at it. That wasn’t enough for me though. Many of the doors had nicks and holes from wear and tear, and I was sick of looking at the general wood color. So alas, we took on the project of

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Basement door w/ cat door

sanding, priming, and painting all of the doors in the interior of my little cape cod (10). The prospect of purchasing all new interior doors had of course crossed my mind and was seriously considered. However,we decided to work with what we had in order to be more cost-effective.

This project took some time due to limited space, cutting of the holes, and of course, the paint drying. Did we choose the best time of the year

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The doors took over the little garage.

for this? No. The paint was a bit unhappy with the fluctuating weather. You see, this project took place in December and we had temperatures ranging from the 60’s to the 30’s. One day I was even able to paint outside….that was a mistake. A few unlucky bugs decided to land on the wet paint and, well, they are no longer with us.

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Painted doors in garage

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Ta-da! White doors with black knobs.

We patched the holes/nicks in the doors (w
hich of course was another step that had to dry). I learned ab
out the delightful fumes of oil-based primer, the joy of paint

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Bathroom door and closet.

extender, the importance of sanding between coats,  the ease of an oversized paint tray, the convenience of a 5-in-1 for cleaning brushes, and that you should just take the damn hardwear off in advance.

I completed most of the painting prior to leaving for South
Carolina to see Adam’s parents, and when we returned, we put the doors back up. Since the new knobs are black, I used the product rub and buff on the existing hinges so that they would match. So far, the new doors are treating us well. It’s nice to finally have knobs that work 7ff85e67-3d3b-4ce7-9e68-0d903cb5f560properly. In the future, there will have to be touch ups, but that’s pretty normal.

Huzzah.

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hallway

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Paint, Paint, and More Paint

Blue Dining Room

Blue Dining Room

Painting is not my cup of tea, but ever since my best friend encouraged me to purchase and edging tool, it has been a heck of a lot easier. I ended up painting the kitchen nearly the same color that it was. The new color is called “whispering wheat.” Who comes up with these names? WHISPERING WHEAT. I suppose it could be worse. I hope that my walls don’t start talking after this.
Anyway, because the tile is so specific, I needed to go with something neutral, and even though it is no fun to paint something the same color, it was entirely necessary. Now that the contractor’s paint is gone, I don’t have to worry about accidentally spraying, touching, or bumping into the wall and then leaving a permanent mark behind.

Before: Brown chandelier.

Before: Brown chandelier.

After: Hammered Black

After: Hammered Black

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Jack hanging out on the floor

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This was when it was drying in the garage. It looks like a dungeon.

It took a while to choose a color for the dining room. I ended up with a light blue and it is taking time to get used to. Nevertheless, it’s a nice change and I’m happy that the contractor’s beige is gone. My “Whispering Wheat” has now been put in the kitchen, hallway, entryway, one wall of the dining room, and one wall of the living room (because the wall is continuous). I also finally painted the chandelier. I used this “hammered metal” spray-paint and it really gave a neat affect. Now I need some artwork and a small buffet. Then I think the dining room will be complete.

This is the nifty spray paint. The trigger was very easy to use.

This is the nifty spray paint. The trigger was very easy to use.

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Painting the entryway

Another picture

Another picture

Spring Refreshers

Me with a giant leaf blower!

Me with a giant leaf blower!

It’s finally Spring and I am so excited and looking forward to all of the wonderful things that happen this time of the year. The weather has warmed up, the birds are chirping, that terribly harsh winter has finally taken a vacation (and I hope it’s a long one). My house is doing well, too. I have some Spring and Summer projects in mind, but nothing major. Part of me is relieved about that, but the other part truly loves the larger projects that can be easily noticed. No matter, though. I will notice my smaller details, and that’s what matters.

Audrey "helping" with the sand.

Audrey “helping” with the sand.

As soon as the weather was nice, Adam borrowed a large leaf blower, and we tackled what should have been done a long time ago. The leaf blower was a beast-monster and I just HAD to try it.  Needless to say, I could barely lift my arm the rest of the day.

While he continued to rake, I decided to do some patio maintenance. I headed out to the semi-permanent sand dune that resides in my back alley, and got to work. Audrey helped.

As soon as I had a weather forecast with warm temperatures and low chances of rain, I

The patio survived a long winter.

The patio survived a long winter.

took full advantage and re-painted the front steps. It has been 2 years since they were first painted (I have now owned the home for 2 years!), so they needed a fresh coat due to foot traffic. Luckily, I still had the original gallon.

Front steps are painting, garden is mulched.

Front steps are painting, garden is mulched.

I am pleased to report that my garden looks well! The perennials that my mother and I planted last year are thriving. I took the time one day after work this week to lay some fresh mulch and it made a beautiful difference, as always.

My projects for the next few months include:

  • Painting the kitchen I don’t plan on changing the color very much, but when I moved in, the entire interior of my house had been painted contractor’s beige. While I find the color to be warm and neutral, the paint itself is a true nightmare. It feels like sandpaper, cannot be cleaned, and takes on any and all fingerprints that it can. It doesn’t help that I had an oatmeal incident in the hallway one clumsy day before work.
  • Painting the dining room, family room, downstairs hallway, up the stairs, and upstairs hallway (Please note that all of these rooms have unfortunate fingerprints/wall stains that cannot be removed. This WILL be annoying. The most disappointing part I think is that I don’t know if the new paint will be that big of a change. It’s one of those things that just has to be addressed. Wear and tear.
  • Painting the Garage Door (It’s just cracked and icky.)
  • Cleaning out the yucky plumber drum-ma-bob that links to my bathtub (should be interesting).

Workbench Time

It has been a while since I have done any major home improvements. The patio was my last great feat, and to be honest, it was tiring. I can assure you though that I am craving something new to do. I have been organizing the basement little by little. There are still things that I would like to put into plastic containers, but I am getting somewhere. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to stumble across a gold mine a few weeks ago in the form of someone’s trash. We found plastic shelving, a large piece of peg board, working extension cords, and some other little trinkets.

Anywho, I am pleased to present the newest addition to my house-the workbench! I did take a part in this project-I stained the darn thing, and helped choose the wood from the pile at home depot. I also may have held a few pieces together while Adam attached them, but he gets all of the credit. I will say that, like most things, it is a work in progress. Eventually the peg board will be behind it, and some other little additions will be made here in there. But I can tell you that this thing is SOLID. I recommend building one!
The plan came from this handy site: http://www.familyhandyman.com/workshop/workbench/how-to-build-a-workbench-super-simple-50-bench/view-all

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Making some initial cuts

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Frame

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Skeleton

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Bottom shelf frame

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Securing table top

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Basic model created

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Stool obtained from someone’s trash-perfect size! -Marker board will eventually be attached.

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Stain for protection, which really ended up looking clear.

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Adam and the cat on the (almost) finished product.

 

Happy Summer!-Using my new outdoor living space

Here are some pictures recapping my first outdoor party at my house. It is absolutely wonderful to finally have an outdoor living space and even better to have friends and family to share it. I take no credit for the pictures, since my sister took them. (Click the circles to enlarge)

Patio Construction Pics!

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My brick patio-

Completed patio with furniture

Completed patio with furniture

FINALLY!-I am pleased to announce that my (approx.) 225 square foot brick paver patio is complete! While I don’t have a final count on labor hours, sweat, and tears, I can certainly tell you that the project was quite physically demanding. My legs are bruised and my muscles are sore, but at least now I have a wonderful outdoor living space! Digging sod was an absolute nightmare, and as with anything, my skill improved drastically over time. The initial cuts took ages in comparison to the rest. I kept thinking that my next step would be easier than the last, but that really was not the case. I wanted to be thorough and do it right. So-here is the breakdown of my construction process. My next post will have all of the pictures.

1. Spray-painted the ground to get a general idea of the shape. I ended up putting a bit of a curve on the outside.
2. Pounded wooden into the ground and ran mason’s line across the space. Determined the proper slope needed for drainage, and raised line accordingly.
3. Removed sod from space. (That was a grueling process filled with sweat and tears.)
4. Watched as birds of all kinds gathered to feast on the bugs in the large pile of dirt. I saw blue jays, cardinals, and an extremely pregnant robin.
5. Installed edging. A lot of people wait to do this until the end. I used the edging, however, as a guide, and it ended up helping tremendously in the screeding process.
6. Ordered limestone gravel. This stuff is fantastic! It is also quite heavy, so moving it from one side of the yard to the other in a wheel barrow was interesting to say the least. Spreading the gravel created a solid foundation for the patio.
7. Ordered over 1000 bricks from home depot. I had these delivered directly to my backyard. I still have quite a few leftover so I will let you know what I do with them!
8. Ordered sand. Sand is a miracle worker. Working as both a leveling agent and base, the sand sunk between the gravel and smoothed beautifully.

9. Screeded the sand with two connected 2 by 4’s. This was one of my favorite parts. I felt like I was building a giant sandcastle. In fact, I have enough leftover sand to build one the size of a dog house.10. Laid the bricks. I used the herringbone pattern. I love the variation and interest that this pattern provides.
11. Rented a wet saw made for masonry from Home Depot. I saved all of my cuts for the end. This was new for me. I did alright for my first time. My boyfriend did a little over half of the cuts though.
12. Spread additional sand with push broom in between bricks. Sprinkled with the hose.

Some notes: All-in-all, the patio project was a great success. While it was physically demanding and required a large amount of patience, all of my hard work was well worth it in the end.

Approximately 85% of the labor was done by me, however, my dad stopped by here and there to help oversee the project. He had built a few of these in the past so had a better idea of the technicalities involved. My sister and her boyfriend helped fill the space with gravel, and my boyfriend helped with the brick cuts (and lifting that wet saw!).

Happy 1 Year Anniversary House!

My house-purchased in April 2012! How many differences can you detect? 🙂

My house after purchase April 2012

My house after purchase April 2012

My house-1 year later May 2013

My house-1 year later May 2013

 

Spring is here!-Part 1

This came up on its own in my backyard!

This came up on its own in my backyard!

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Winter view of my house!

After a cold and drab winter that lasted way too long for my taste, I am happy to finally say that SPRING IS HERE! I love Spring-the colors, smells, sights, temperature, sounds, the anticipation of all that follows. You may remember that in the fall, my dad and Adam helped remove the way-too-thick, concrete slab that had been situated beneath one of my circus awnings. Once the concrete was removed, and the gap was filled with dirt, it left an unsightly blank spot in my yard. You also may remember from last year, my beautiful annuals that Aunt Kip had given me as a house warming gift. These flowers flourished and took over the world, at least, the world of my garden. Amazingly, they continued to bloom all the way into October. One day, they turned into a giant pile of dead and I pulled them out, seemingly in one tangle, and proceeded to lazily throw them into my lower flower bed (the dumping ground).

The winter brought a fair amount of snow, and when the ground was covered, my house undoubtedly looked like a greeting card.  But, once that snow melted I was left with a barren wasteland of death. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. As soon as we began to experience better weather, I attempted to plant grass on the large rectangular area of the former concrete slab-No luck to start but in the past 2 weeks, I have begun to address the issue again and little by little the grass is peaking through the rough, mostly clay ground. When I moved in last April, my yard was in bad shape. There were several stumps that my uncle and cousin were nice enough to remove, outdated railroad ties lining the garden, and terrifying, alien-like spike weeds invading most of the yard. This year, I am happy to say that the grass is noticeably healthier both aesthetically and by touch. I mowed the lawn for the first time this season two weeks ago, which was rather exciting.

Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory

Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory