Archive of ‘Home Improvement’ category

What’s Up This Week

This week we were working on a bunch of projects but didn’t get a chance to finish anything, so I’ll post finished pics next week. I was also struggling with fatigue from 3 nights of insomnia (gah!). But I’ll share a few updates on our progress this week.

diy table

Our DIY dining table is almost done! It’s been basically constructed and now needs to be finished off with stain and poly, and then assembled in the dining room.

baby using tools

This little girl helped put the table together.

staining table

Yesterday we put on a couple coats of stain (Minwax Special Walnut, my favorite) and we’re going to put on a couple coats of polyurethane today.

dining chairs goodwill

I often feel like we never find anything good at Goodwill anymore, but then something like this happens! My latest find — four mid-century-esque dining chairs. Solid oak, cushion stuffing in really good condition. Oh and did I mention the table came with (I’m saving it for the “craft room” in the loft when we get around to it). All for 40 bones?! I have a feeling these chairs are more 80’s than truly mid-century but I think they’ll be great once I recover the seats and refinish the wood (hopefully in a less honey finish, if I can sand off all of the current finish).

And finally:

trader joes cards

I switched in some new “art” in the small 5×7 frames on the left of this gallery wall in the breakfast nook. They are actually cards from Trader Joe’s for 99 cents each!

(Please ignore the disintegrating trim on the right there. It will all be fixed. Someday. Also, paint on the walls. It will happen, I promise.)

trader joes art

Trader Joe’s has the cutest cards, and they are printed on really nice textured matte cardstock that looks just like watercolor paper. I love that they have a lot of non-subject specific cards so they don’t look strange framed. Go get some! For a buck you can get really cute art at Trader Joe’s to switch things up around the house!

Elsewhere on the Internet, a few more of my articles are up at Wisebread.com:

Is Your Apple Dangerous? How to Eat Fewer Pesticides (While Saving Money) – buying organic is one way, but there are several strategies you can use to reduce your pesticide exposure in food.

5 Ways to Say “No” to Friends and Family – We all could use some more balance in our lives…saying “no” once in a while is a good start.

How to Save 10-20% on Online Purchases Every Day – My not-so-secret method for saving every time you buy something online.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Begone, Wood Trim!

breakfast nook Collage

Hey all! Thanks for reading even though I haven’t posted much this week. We’ve been trying to crank out a lot of house/yard projects this summer, but they all take time, and thus I haven’t had the chance to post as many little crafty cute things as I’d like to.

This week I’ve been working on this space:

wood trim breakfast nook

The breakfast nook (before picture above) has always been workable, so I hadn’t bothered to do much to it other than hang pictures. But last week while we were painting some other stuff, I decided it was time to paint the dark wood trim. I have nothing against wood but in this room it was looking dated and a little too 1980’s summer camp.

2 coats of Zinsser Cover Stain (water based) and 2 coats of semi-gloss white (untinted white base from Behr) later and we have this!

kitchen nook white

I painted a couple of coats on the plank wainscoting too. It had been previously an off-white cream color (combined with the wood trim, totally dated!).

breakfast nook white

Ahh, so much fresher in here! Next, I’m planning to paint the walls and install a DIY roman shade in the window. We’re also going to remove the battered quarter-round baseboards and replace them with some more substantial base trim. Then I’m going to do something to make over the 70s oak table and chairs we inherited from my in-laws. So many projects, so little time!

Sharing at NotJustAHousewife and DIYShowoff!

Our Big Weekend Project

I still can’t believe we managed to pull this off in a weekend.

Granted, it was a long weekend, but this project was completed in just two days. So definitely weekend doable.

This is our living room wall before.

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And this is our living room wall now.

slider complete

That’s right. We cut a hole in the wall and installed a sliding glass door into this long and windowless wall in our living room!

By “we”, really, I mean Chris and his dad installed the slider. I contributed by being in charge of the toddler all day and by giving constructive criticism when warranted ;).

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Our walls are ridiculously thin. These mass-manufactured tract homes were built out of prefab wall panels and our walls are only about 2″ thick.

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Chris peeled off the outer layer (after removing the electrical) so he could see what he was dealing with. Then he cut a hole just so he could step through and work.

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You can really see how thin our walls are. Basically two plywood panels joined with pieces of wood and this interesting honeycomb foam insulation, which was disintegrating from age. Also, there were large gaps where there was no insulation.

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Chris and his dad cut the hole to the size of the slider (which we bought from Lowe’s for about $350).

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After cutting the hole they added a new header and side support beams. You can see the header above, whereas the side support beams were inserted into the walls between the plywood panels.

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Because we are planning to install rigid foam insulation and siding over the walls this summer, we wrapped the window frame and surrounding walls with Tyvek, a water resistant barrier. Then Chris added flashing to the sides.

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You gotta flash the windows properly to prevent leaks. Other windows in our house had not been flashed properly and in a driving rain, water leaks through. We can kind of get away with it in Southern California, but still, better to do it right. We’re hoping to flash the rest of the windows properly before we install new siding.

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We were chasing the light, but we got ‘er done! All this in one day!

slider horiz

The next day we added the pieces of trim, partially salvaged from the board and batten (well really just the battens) we had removed with the wall.

Because our walls are so thin, the window frame was thicker than the wall. Fortunately, the board and batten thickened the wall so it came up flush against the frame, and then the extra trim we added along the top and sides finished it off. We just need to caulk the seams, patch nail holes, and add another coat of paint.

Not bad for a couple days’ work, eh?

Sharing at HopeStudios, AStrollThruLife and SavvySouthernStyle!

Painting Grout Lines

We only have one operational bathroom in our house, so it is used for our needs as well as guests. The other bathroom is gutted down to the studs right now so this bathroom is it, for two adults and one baby. I mean, first world problems, right…three people sharing ONE bathroom, oh my! I really can’t complain.

Our current bathroom isn’t in terrible shape… It’s definitely livable. It was updated at some point, probably during the 90s, so there’s nothing major that is in dire need of an overhaul right now. However, the grout lines between the tiles were nothing short of icky.

dirty grout

I don’t think they had ever been sealed to begin with, so every bit of dirt just stuck onto the grout like white on rice. And I don’t think the grout had ever been cleaned either. In the photo below, it looks like the grout lines are brown/gray, but they’re actually supposed to be WHITE! It’s so dirty it just looks like they’re dark.

dingy grout floor

After living with it for a year, the grime just started to get to me. It made the whole bathroom feel dirty. Even after I tried covering it up with bath mats, it just made the whole space dingier and it just wasn’t a happy place to be. So finally, we headed to the Home Depot and picked up some supplies to remedy the situation.

We grabbed a bottle of Polyblend Grout Renew in Delorean Gray, which is a nice steel-gray color. I chose a darker color to ensure that it would cover up any dirt that still remained.

First, we cleaned with TileLab Sulfamic Acid Cleaner, a strong cleanser recommended on the grout paint bottle. You mix it with water (8oz to a gallon) and apply it with a toothbrush.

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It worked pretty well. You could really see the difference after using the grout cleaner.

grout contrast

It wasn’t quite good enough though. There was still quite a bit of dirt embedded in there. A good reminder to SEAL, SEAL, SEAL your grout if you don’t want to end up with a similar mess!

That’s when we broke out the Polyblend grout paint. The instructions said to use a toothbrush but we used an old craft paintbrush with pretty stiff bristles for better control.

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You apply the paint to the grout, working it back and forth with the brush so it really gets into the porous grout.

applying grout paint

It’s best to work in small sections at a time (for me, one section of one line at a time). Wipe off any excess paint on the glazed tile immediately, or it will start to dry and you’ll have a harder time cleaning it up.

It might be a good idea to start behind the toilet in case you mess up a bit at first.

NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend this product for use with unglazed tile or natural stone. It might stick on the tile and never come off.

remove excess grout paint

I used a piece of tissue, wrapped it around my finger, and ran my finger in a continuous line along the side of each grout line to remove the excess grout paint. This was the hardest part, and to be honest, it took me a while to get the hang of it so I wasn’t smearing paint everywhere.

You’ll probably still have some smears of paint on the tile here or there. Don’t worry. Just wait until the grout paint has a chance to set  for about 30 minutes. Then use a damp rag and buff the extra paint off the glazed tile, being careful not to scrub the paint off the actual grout.

The whole process took me about 2 hours, for a pretty tiny bathroom. It wasn’t quite as easy as I expected, but the results are pretty nice.

painted grout

The grout paint dried a tiny bit darker than when it was wet. It definitely covered up any dirt that was left after the grout cleaning, and it looks like grout, not like paint. In fact, our bathroom looks like it has been newly tiled!

how to paint grout

The faux marble porcelain tile wasn’t my favorite tile to begin with but the grout paint makes it look 100 times better. I like that the gray of the grout picks up the gray in the “marble” so it feels like it belongs (unlike the yellowish off-white grout before). And I LOVE that my bathroom doesn’t feel dirty and grimy anymore! The Polyblend grout paint is a paint and sealer in one, so I’m hoping the results will last for quite a while. And since we still have plenty of grout paint left, we can always do touch-ups later.

Again, here’s the before:

dingy grout floor

And the after:

how to paint grout

A subtle, but significant, difference.

Are you thinking of refreshing some old dingy grout in your home? If so, I’d definitely recommend using grout paint! Although it takes a bit of elbow grease, the results are awesome.

8 Month Update: The grout paint is holding up great by the way! See more pictures of the bathroom here!

Sharing at HopeStudios!

How Far We’ve Come – Backyard Updates

Chris and I spent an hour yesterday deciding what projects we’re going to make a priority this summer. The biggest obstacle to a DIY-er is time…there just aren’t enough hours in a day! We have all these projects going on but they all take time, something we don’t have a lot of between Chris’ work and me staying home with the baby. So we decided that while we have longer daylight hours, we should prioritize the exterior space. We’ve already come a long way.

This is what our side yard is looking like these days:

pool fence

There are definitely a few things we want to do. First, get rid of those hideous pipes on the roof. Chris put them up there as a project to make a solar pool heater, but it never got finished, and they’re just U-G-L-Y. I’ve convinced him they need to come down. Next, either paint/put siding up and paint the exterior of the house (your eyes are not deceiving you, the house is currently painted two different colors). I think we’ve decided to put siding up and then paint. These cheaply made houses were made of pre-fab wall panels and the exterior is just sheets of plywood + spray texture. It’s not even real stucco. So we’re going to add insulation + siding + pretty paint. It’s going to be a big project.

Still, it’s encouraging to know that we’ve come a long way from the day we moved in:

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The grass was dry and sparse. The white lattice fence was peeling and the wooden gate was sagging so badly it wouldn’t close, and it cut the house off from the yard. The paint on the fascias was peeling badly.

pool fence

Chris installed a pool fence (panels purchased at Home Depot, and welded together by my awesome hubster) and outward-swinging gate for the baby’s safety. We bought a gazebo, umbrella, and some cheap patio furniture at IKEA. Last summer, Chris painstakingly installed a brick paver patio (they’re actually concrete pavers that look like brick) using pavers he got for cheap on Craigslist.

gazebo from ikea

The gazebo is from IKEA and we like the faux-rattan on the sides. The outdoor sectional is from IKEA too (it’s pretty, but to be honest, not too comfortable), and the loveseat, coffee table, and ottomans were found for free on the side of the street. They are REALLY comfortable and I think are the best deal we’ve found for the house yet. I’d like to get some more exterior pillows and colorful accessories for this area, when the budget allows =).

landscaping with rocks

On the other side of the pool we’ve started doing some landscaping with citrus trees, shrubs (golden euonymus) and landscaping rocks that we found lying around the yard in random places when we moved in. I still need to get some more mulch and finish mulching the right side, and clean up the dirt on the concrete (this is definitely an in-progress post). Eventually when those trees and shrubs get bigger they’ll cover up more of the wall.

new patio chairs

You’ve seen the patio table, and I’ve got a project coming up with that table that I’ll post in the next couple of days. I think it will really add a lot to the space!

I’m so glad you’re following along with our DIY adventures! Please do take a minute to leave us any suggestions or comments!

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