Shut the Front Door!

We’re on an exterior mission to fix up the house’s curb appeal before we lease the house.  Here is step one!

Ready….set….lookatourterriblefrontdoor!!!!!!!

It’s pretty sad and pitiful, isn’t it?  We heard from several of our neighbors that this door had been “knocked in” by the previous owners.  Something about being a foreclosure and them trying to get in and “steal” things from the bank (like the kitchen sink and all of the appliances).  Pretty sure they won “Homeowner of the Year” award in a parallel universe.  Oh, and we still haven’t traded out the Sheriff’s Locks on this bad boy.  We’ve been rocking the two toned handles since 2009!  Pretty sure we win “Homeowner of the Year” in this universe – haha!

But as if all of that weren’t bad enough, the door also faces west and gets all of the prevailing winds and moisture from our rainy Pacific Northwest winters.  Once it’s wet, the sun comes out and bakes it so up close it’s looking a little more like this:

…in other words, kind of warped, damaged and dried out from the sun.  We kind of hemmed and hawed around repairing this door for awhile for God knows why.  First it was because we thought we would need a handyman or carpenter to repair it because it looked like it was “out of true” and we wanted to try and salvage it.  The door looked crooked in the frame but after breaking out our level and straight edges we realized it was the casement that was crooked and not the door – haha!  Classic.  Reminded me of that Shel Silverstein poem about the kid who has wavy hair and eventually shaves it all off only to discover he just has a wavy head.  Well, we definitely weren’t going to tackle repairing the casements (that takes a calibre of skill that neither of us have and a can of worms that we didn’t have handy).  So that kind of gave way to the fact that we could go ahead and try refinishing the door and then seeing what happens.  After all, replacing this door is not an option.  It’s a full 8′ tall and as expensive as they come so may as well try to give it some spit polish…

So we removed the door:

…which gave Maggie a perfect perch to monitor all of the goings on:

…and then Dr. J got to sanding it down so it was smooth as a baby’s behind – literally took like 20 minutes:

…then it was into our secret stash of stains and paints and we found a leftover stain from….mystery project?  It may have been leftover from when we finished the Ikea Countertops for our desk in the office but we really don’t remember.  In other words – it was free.

Then we let it dry, sanded, poly-ed, sanded, poly-ed, replaced the door hardware and VOILA!

How’s that for some updated curb appeal?  Not bad for a quick weekend project that only cost us the cash to replace the locks.  Is it perfect?  No.  But we’re renting this house from here on out so it doesn’t have to be perfect for us.  It just has to look good!  And since we’ve purchased a nice storm door to protect it, we’re hoping that this finish will be nice and protected from the elements – fingers crossed.

Cork floor Redux

I’ve missed writing, I’ve missed all of my readers, and I’ve missed working on my house this summer!  Where have we been?!?  Can you say “crazy is the new normal”?  Let’s just say that we’ve been busy spending time and money on everything BUT the house and so there isn’t much to report.  And to give you a slight glimpse into the craziness that has been our lives lately, I have to share this project that took us two months to complete and it’s probably one of the most inconsequential things we’ve done to the house thusfar!  Hilarious, right?!!  But here goes nothin’!

Do you remember awhile back when we installed the Cork flooring??  You can click on those underlined links over there to remind yourselves.  Go on, I’ll wait…..ok, enough reminiscing!  Basically, we have this huge upstairs hallway that just serves as a pass-thru to all of the bedrooms and our *now* snazz-i-fied upstairs laundry room (pause for a litle bit of eye candy mayhem!):

…but when we installed the floors oh, so long ago (nearly three months of “cork-i-ness” and I am still lovin’ it!!) we left a few items blissfully incomplete and decided that we would get around to it eventually with absolutely no rush needed.  Namely the shoe moldings and toe kicks.  Here are a few pics to show you the goods:

Hallway before shoe molding

Hallway after show molding

I know it’s hard to see…oh, and do you like our dog bowl get-up?  Seriously, our dogs are the most spoiled dogs this side of the Milky Way.  I had this brilliant idea to buy this boot tray from Ballard Designs as a method to corral all of our boots and shoes in a cute-sy Pacific NW kind of way, but when we adopted Tiki, we realized that her “drinking problem” (i.e. – gets more water on the floor than in her mouth) created a perfect opportunity for *my* beautiful boot tray to become an easier-to-clean drink tray – le sigh.  What I wouldn’t do to have a non-drooly dog – and she’s twenty pounds!!!!!  But I digress…..on to more befores and afters…

Hallway before shoe molding

Upstairs hallway after

Delicious shoe molding completed…and, wait…what’s that I see?  Wait, didn’t that vent used to be white?  Go ahead and look – I’m not stopping you!  Very perceptive, my young padawan.  When we had the white-ish/creamy carpet in this upstairs hallway (go here to see some shudder-inducing before photos) the floor vent was painted white and sort of receded into the carpet with no muss, no fuss.  But as soon as we finished up the cork flooring (which has brown-ish/red tones in it), that white floor vent stood out like Britney Spears at a MENSA conference and it was just screaming for a little makeover.  And it’s really nothing that a  little bit of $5 spray paint can’t cure (leftover from this spray-painting project from over a year ago, so this makeover actually ended up being F-R-E-E!).  It was super simple, too!  In fact, there were only 5 steps:

  1. Remove vent
  2. Give it a quick clean up (wet rag + dry cloth)
  3. Turn it over and paint the underside first – let dry

  1. Flip it over and paint the top – let dry
  2. Voila, you’re done!

…and since we’ve used this spray paint for over a year now on our towel holders, knobs, and faucets in our master bath with nary a chip in sight, we felt pretty confident that putting it on a floor vent (which gets some occasional foot traffic) wouldn’t be such a big deal!  And we were right!  It’s held up beautifully and looks just as good, too!  I admit, though, that this vent has no moving parts (it’s a return vent) and if it did, I might feel differently about spraying it on a vent that had wheels and pulleys, but that’s just me.

…and what about those shoe  moldings?  Let’s just say that Dr. J is pretty awesome and managed to take his time (per my request to just “take it easy” this summer) and just worked on that as he had the opportunity – hey, I’m all about putting my hubby to work, but after our laundry reno earlier this summer, we definitely needed a break!  And I think he did a fab job – check out his handiwork here:

…and for those of you who have ever cut shoe moldings/baseboard, then you know that my hubs did a pretty good amateur job!  Hey, I’m proud of him!  And even though it took us two months, I’m happy to report that we didn’t stress one bit having houseguests galore over this summer with and without shoe molding installed.  Lesson learned, ladies and gentleman – enjoy life, and NOT a perfect house.

Airing our dirty laundry: Chapter 3, Water Works and E-lec-tri-ci-ty!

We’re back with another installment of our dirty laundry (and, hey, while you’re here, we have a few clothes that need folded and ironed, so anytime you want to get to that would be great).  If you’re just joining us, then you know that we have a Laundry Room that needs some serious functionality injected into it as in, an IV of functionality, STAT!  We’ve already tackled hanging some much needed storage cabinets and now we’re onto plumbing so we can install this gorgeous sink and faucet, and a wee bit of electrical work so we can do some under-cabinet lighting!  Brace yourselves, this could get a little technical!

The Water Works

Allow me to introduce you to this weird….”thing”….in our laundry room:

Drain stub sticking out of the wall

What is this plumbing related "Thing"?

…from day one of living in this house, we both thought, as cute as it was to have a weird “thing” in our wall, it might be a little cooler to have an actual “sink”.  I mean, we can’t really use this “thing”, can’t decorate it, can’t take it for walks….ya know, it’s pretty much useless.  So what precisely is this “thing”?  Turns out the “thing” was a capped off drain-line, that was already run for a sink!  So we were already part of the way there, with the sink drain almost in the right place.  Then, there were existing hot and cold lines about 3 feet to the left of where we needed them for the sink, so that was pretty close too.

Ok, quick plumbing lesson for everyone our there in blog-land – if you have a sink, a toilet, shower, or washer on one wall, then there’s plumbing in that wall.  And if you have plumbing in a wall, it’s pretty easy to route off of existing plumbing and do what you want with it rather than to have to plumb new, ESPECIALLY if you already have hot/cold lines running in that wall (i.e. if it’s only a toilet or a refrigerator, running the hot will be a bit more work because you obviously don’t need a hot water line to flush a ‘loo – just sayin’).  If you have to plumb brand new, just do yourself a favor and hire a plumber to take care of all of that for you – trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!  And while you’re at it, thank ME for helping YOU!  Muwahahah….

A’ la Alton Brown, the  hardware for the task:

  1. A saw capable of cutting CPVC, ABS, and PEX — I actually used two saws for the job, a hack saw and a jig saw, depending on the the pipe diameter and how much room around the pipe I was cutting.
  2. Something to cut the drywall.  I used an old drywall saw I got from L’s grandfather’s tool box a couple of years ago, but a utility knife, your fist, and persistence could work too.  I suggest the drywall saw.
  3. A stud finder.

And the software:

  1. About 10 feet of 1.5 inch PEX tubing suitable for drinking water.
  2. Gator Bite (I’ve also heard them called shark bite) connections: 2 T connections, 2 right angle connections, 2 shutoff valves.  I love these things!  More on why below …
  3. Water supply lines.
  4. Combo-Tee ABS junction for the “new” drain.
  5. A new transition for the ABS drain/vent pipe.
  6. Drain trap attachment to the ABS drain pipe.
  7. ABS compatible pipe cement

The very first thing you have to do is TURN THE WATER OFF!  To the whole house.  Trust me.  Just do it.  Don’t go cutting into drywall you think has water lines behind it without turning the water off as a precaution.  I hope I don’t have to spell out why that can be bad news!  One thing to keep in mind is that any connection that is inside the walls MUST have a permanent connection.  As in, no screw-on attachments on these steps!  The next thing you know, you’ve patched up the drywall, turned on the faucet, and a couple months down the line when the “screws are loose” you’ll have a whole mess of problems!

Drain Install:

I started by cutting holes all over the place so I could see what the existing plumbing was actually like.  Fortunately, the room was already set up for a sink (see referenced “thing” above), but it was just the wrong height!

I made a mess ...

My "access" holes. By the time I was done, there was even more drywall missing.

First, I cut out a small piece of pipe where I wanted to put the new drain about 18 inches off the floor.  I started by using the hack saw, and when it got too crowded for me to keep using it, I took the blade out and just used my hands (wearing gloves, of course).  It worked MUCH better than I thought it was going to!  Then I replaced the cut out “thing” Combo-Tee with a reducer coupling and installed a new junction lower on the wall for the sink drain.  After those two pieces were cemented together, I added the white end cap (also cemented) that can be screwed to a standard sink trap piece.  To cement the pieces together, follow the directions on the back of the pipe cement bottle.  Looking at the picture, you may wonder why there is a pipe going up AND the pipe going down.  Well, the down-ward leading pipe is the actual drain (where the water goes), the up-ward leading pipe is a vent that goes up to the roof.

On the left is how I cut the pipe, holding the hacksaw blade in my (gloved) hands. On the right is after I cemented on the comp-tee and the screw-on drain attachment

Water Line Install:

The next part was running the new water lines.  Now, our house is plumbed with CPVC pipe, which I really don’t like.  It’s kind of hard to work with because the lines are not flexible and it’s relatively easy to crack CPVC (which means they can leak if you make a mistake).  For these reasons, I decided to run the new lines using more flexible PEX pipes so it would be easier to snake the lines through the wall to the new location.  Luckily, you can buy Gator Bite connectors that can join CPVC to PEX (or even ABS) — these things are AWESOME!  Instead of struggling with pipe cement (or using copper pipes and literally playing with fire), the Gator Bite connectors slip on, and don’t let go.  They’re dead simple to install, and they’re good enough to put inside the walls.  I started by cutting out a 1/2 inch from both the hot and cold lines and joining the cut-out piece with the T junction.

Pic of the water lines, partially installed, using Gator Bites

Cut off a 1/2 inch piece of the CPVC water line, and installed a tee to run the new water lines.

Then I visualized where I wanted the new water lines to snake through the wall and drilled the necessary holes in the studs to snake the water lines through, and put those in too.  Finally, I put an elbow on the end of the line and the shut-off valve a few inches later (the shutoff valve is outside the wall).  After everything was connected (and the shut-off valves were OFF), I turned the water back on to the house.  Slowly.  Make sure to check for leaks BEFORE you patch all the drywall holes you made.  I’m glad I did!  The tee I installed on the hot water line leaked when I turned the water back on.  It was a simple matter of re-checking the connection (even though the Gator-Bite connections are dead-easy to use, I didn’t quite push one end on far enough, so it leaked), and then retesting.  But if that had happened AFTER I had patched the wall, I would have been in big trouble, especially when my wife got home!

Pic of the whole plumbing job.

Ran the water lines over to where I needed them. Notice how the PEX tubing can actually bend a little bit? Also, notice how I had to rip off the base-board to clean up the leak ....

E-lec-tri-ci-ty:

The last thing I did was run electricity to a new plug I installed on the inside of the cabinet for the under-cabinet lights.  I ran the power for the plug through a switch next to the existing switches in the room so I could turn them on and off.

Hardware:

  1. Steel wire pull (to snake wire through the wall).
  2. Wire stripper/snips

Software:

  1. About 20 ft. of wire
  2. New outlet (GFCI because it will be fairly close to a sink) and box
  3. New switch and box

Just like the plumbing, turn the power off BEFORE touching anything having to do with the electrical work!  I’ve been electrocuted before (hrmmm….that explains some things …), and aside from the weird tingly feeling it’s not something I’d like to repeat!  I started out by running the line from the new switch (next to the two older switches on the wall) down the wall, across the perimeter of the room, then back up the other wall into the cabinet.  While that was easy, it was also W-R-O-N-G (ralizing this might have had something to do with watching an episode of Holmes on Homes, my favorite Canadian Contractor, but I’m not sayin’).  It’s too easy to put a nail through a wire that is on the outside of a stud, and the wire ran right under the new plumbing I just put in.  Water + electricity = NO GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS.  After realizing my mistake, I ripped the old wire out and ran the wire UP into the attic (right along with the existing wiring) and over to the wall.  Once there, I drilled a hole in the wall header and dropped the wire down to the cabinet and installed the outlet.  Once that was done, it was a simple matter of attaching the lights to the under-side of the cabinets and running their plugs to the new outlet!

Mood pic of the under-cabinet lights

The new under-cabinet lights on the left, and the new outlet hidden inside the cabinet.

So now we can actually sort our blacks from our navys and install a sink, a definite laundry room must!

Now…..we wait for the floors to come in!  Sadly, there was a delay in ordering our floors (there’s always a delay when you do major room makeovers, so just hold your horses).  We are hoping to get those in the next couple of weeks and when we do, you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to be doing the happy dance to get those installed just as soon as you can say “bend over and I’ll show ya!”  Lots of time crawling on our knees in the future….le sigh….

Want to see our other installments of the Laundry Room makeover?   Well, then click here for Chapter 1 and here for Chapter 2!  Stay tuned for floor installation and then the final installation of lower cabinetry later in the summer!

Reflections of the Bath…

So if you’ve been following lately, you know that we’ve really been trying to improve our Guest Bathroom and take it from something very builder’s blah…

…to something a little more polished and “complete”.  We have already tackled painting the room as well as some uber-easy and cheap free art, but that wasn’t all that was up our sleeves for this standard builder’s grade bath.  It’s kind of the elephant in *any* new construction home – those ugly builder’s grade vanity mirrors!  C’mon, we all have them and, admit it, none of them look good!  So why not remove it and exchange it for smaller framed mirrors to give it a more designer high-end look?  It’s all the rage nowadays and it’s certainly something Dr. J and I wanted to tackle in our house.  However, if removing your mirror just isn’t in the cards, you can also buy framing kits that go over top of your existing mirror.  Hey, even Martha Stewart has some tips on how to tackle that project.  However, at nearly 7 feet long and a full 3 feet tall, our monstrosity of a mirror truly overwhelms the space, so we felt that emphasizing its large size by framing it out just simply wasn’t going to make it look any better!  So we were off to a fun start when the mirror started to look like this before we painted…

It may be hard to see, but we actually taped the mirror so that when we went to remove the mirror it wouldn’t shatter all over us and leave shards everywhere.  Yup, that grody builder’s-grade mirror is gone-skie!  We lucked out, though because the mirror was super easy to remove, but I’ve heard horror stories online that removing one of these behemoths resulted in mirror shards everywhere and/or so much glue being utilized that the back of the wall required patching, new drywall, etc, etc.  Here are a few tips if you are going to remove a huge mirror like this and how we got ours down:

  • Tape the mirror – this is just a precaution in case it does break so that all of the pieces will stay relatively “together”.
  • Wear long sleeves, shoes, glasses, gloves, etc – Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing these, but you might not be so lucky with yours!
  • Remove the screws from the top – Ideally, your mirror should have a couple of “Screw clips”at the top that need to be removed before attempting anything.  Then the mirror will either have a metal channel at the bottom that it just sits in that you can just lift it up and out of or if you are a little more unlucky, then it will be completely held up with glue, caulking, or some other adhesive agent, in which case, you may need to get out some crowbars and/or hammers (this is where the glasses, gloves, long sleeves, etc. comes in handy!).  Fortunately, ours only had three dollops of glue (thanks for the extra safety, stupid homebuilders – did I mention they have gone out of business?), so we had just a small bit of “prying” and then we tipped it towards us and then up out of the little stand and out of the bathroom.

  • Be prepared for damage….or not – Again, we got *really* lucky in the sense that there were only three little dollops of glue and they hardly ripped off any of the drywall.  The mirror was mostly supported by a small metal channel on top of the backsplash, which we had to remove and then patch as well.  After that, we patched the glue holes and then painted right over it!

…but ya do have to admit that not having a mirror in a bathroom is a little depressing, so we needed to replace the large mirror with two smaller ones but we didn’t want to spend a ton of money on it!  So we went to our favorite mirror shopping haunts (Target, HomeGoods, BB&B, etc) and settled on two damaged mirrors from Target at $39.99 apiece!  They were originally a silvery color and had damaged edges and deep scratches on the frames, so painting was definitely in the plans.  We decided to go for white because it’s crisp, clean, and since we already had several white items in the room (the counters as well as a few accessories), we decided to just keep that whole theme going for a soothing spa-like feel.  Any other color would have felt a wee bit out of place.

One little tip I’ve picked up, though is that if you have mitered edges to a frame and you want to paint it, then you don’t want to ignore those edges because then it’ll just look like a frame that you painted!  So when you do go to paint, you should tape off the edges like this:

So that when you paint and remove the tape, it will look intentional as though it is a wooden mirror that’s been painted prior to construction as opposed to a metal mirror that needed repairing.

This process does take a little bit more time (because you have to tape, paint, let dry, remove tape, tape other side, paint, let dry, remove tape…).  But the completed product looks much nicer in the end!

So that’s the tale of how we removed our mirror and gave the room a little bit more life!  Stay tuned tomorrow when we give the “big reveal” on our mini bathroom makeover as well as our overall budget breakdown.  It’s a lot cheaper than you might think!

If you want to see a little bit more info on why we’ve decided to makeover this room, then take a look at our first post here and if you’d like to see the awesome paint job we did and how we picked out the colors, there’s a sneak peak over here as well! And if you’re a cheap-o-zoid like me and want to make cheap art for a bathroom, then take a look over at this link here!

We’ve Been Benched! Chapter 4….

….this is the project that doesn’t end. Yes, it goes on and on, my friend! Some people started doing it, not knowing what it was and they’ll continue doing it forever just because….this is the project that doesn’t ends….(thanks, Shari Lewis!)…

Who knew that a simple Saturday afternoon project would still be loggin’ face time on our blog some 2 weeks later?!? Oh, I admit, dismantling our window seat bench in our master bedroom was a *lot* of fun (destruction always is!), but to be honest, the painting/dry time was really crampin’ our style! We were just wrapping up the project when we decided to take a weekend away from the DIY Dementia (I’m coining that term – it really *is* an addiction) and visit some friends in San Francisco. When we returned, the persistent coats of white paint (Valspar’s Du Jour in case you’re curious) plus polyurethane, plus dry times have taken us forever to wrap up. But I can safely say….*drumroll please*….it is DONE!!!!!! The final staining, polyurethaning, painting, touch-up painting, and organizing has been completed and we now have a usable space for storage from everything from linens to lingerie (ooh la la!), shoes to shams and everything in between! And the best part is that we still have space to spare! Hot diggity dog!

But since I know everybody loves a Before and After, let’s do the final before and after reveal!

Before:

…and now for the final reveal…

Isn’t it dee-lish? After all of that work it seems like such a shame to cover up the beautiful paint job, but yours truly may be tempted to take up some sewing classes just to put a window seat on top of that beauty! Throw in a couple more plush pillows and a blanket and, voila – reading nook for a rainy day! That is how it’s done, folks!

I bet you’re wondering what the wallet damage was on this project, eh? Believe it or not, but this project came in just around $125 total for all of the supplies, paint we already had on hand (free!), two tubs of stain/polyurethane, 1 sheet of MDF, 2 sheets of plywood, and one extra paint brush because I love painting with new paint brushes. And now that I have all of this extra storage…maybe I can fill it with more purses and shoes….hmmm…. ;-)

PS If you’re looking for more information on why we dismantled this built-in beauty and how, check out Chapter 1. If you’d like to know how we tackled an awkward space underneath all of that finish molding, check out Chapter 2. And if you’re thinking about how we finished it off and created storage in this space, check out Chapter 3!