Saturday, May 21, 2011

Death to the Dirt Pit.

The previous owners had ripped astroturf, rocks, and other debris in this area. They placed a small children's play structure on this space. I doubt I would let my kids play in that, but to each her own. We found this didn't fit our needs and wasn't functional for us.

Our primary objective for this space was to make it functional. We had three options: 1) grass 2) rocks 3) pavers. We felt like grass would never grow from seeds because the dogs are always trampling all over this area, so we would need to purchase sod which would be very expensive. Rocks would mean that it wouldn't be a huge dirt pit anymore, but also wouldn't be very functional. So, pavers it is.

I read a lot online about installing pavers, some of which we followed. They suggest 3 inches of rocks, 1 inch of sand, pavers, then sand between the cracks. After some discussion with the Home Depot staff and a small seizure over the price of the rocks/sand, we opted to skip the first step. The HD staff member indicated that the Ohio soil packs well and is unlikely to do much shifting under a paver project. Plus, the paver manufacturer (Pavestone) indicated that with a 12x12 paver, rocks are less necessary, especially in a compact area (like a square that's built up with wood retaining walls), but rocks are more important for smaller, decorative pavers also known as patio stones.

Anyway, we went with the cheapest route possible. Shocked? Me neither. #1 I'm cheap. #2 We really just want this project to be functional. We're not looking to install custom pavers with an incredibly intricate design. #3 We don't want to price ourselves out of the neighborhood installing all kinds of crazy stuff.

We bought 35 bags of sand and 170 pavers. As it turns out, we were pretty exact on our paver needs (we ordered 2 extra because we thought some might crack/break), but needed 12 additional bags of sand. We coughed over the money and had it delivered foor $70. In hindsight, this was well worth the cash as it saved our backs and cars lots of wear and tear.

Tim spent a couple of months cleaning up the square prior to this project. He removed the astroturf, large rocks, and other debris. Then, he did his best to level out the dirt below (much harder than it sounds). Step two (pictured above) involved pouring and leveling sand over the surface. I used two boards placed parallel to one another, while Tim poured sand in the middle. I then scraped a third board over the other two to flatten/level the sand.

Then it was time for pavers. We worked late into the evening on Friday to knock out most of this project. Tim is showing those pavers who's boss!

I look way too happy for my level of exhaustion (note the pitch black background).

We laid most of the pavers on Friday. Thankfully, we only had 14 cuts to make (one row nearest the house). We rented a heavy duty wet saw for $60 from Home Depot. My mom has a smaller wet saw that we could have borrowed, but these concrete 12x12 pavers require a pretty hefty tool for the job. Tim finished the cutting and placing this morning.

The final step is pushing sand over the top of the pavers. This puts sand in the cracks to make it a solid base. The above photo is a complete paver patio, minus rinsing the extra sand off. I'd be lying if I said this was an exact science, but it's good enough for the White House! Our pavers aren't 100% level, but it's definitely a flat, solid surface that we can sit on with our patio furniture and fire pit. I wouldn't recommend rollerblading or rolling eggs on this surface (since we do both fairly regularly), but it's fully functional for our needs!

This project was definitely labor intensive (I'm very sore today-- back, legs, even fingers!) but, I think it was worth it in the end! Now we've got a space to put some patio furniture and enjoy. Plus, now the dogs are much less likely to come in with muddy paws after digging holes.

Dining Room: Before and After

It's that time! Our second room is done and we couldn't be more excited. The first two photos are the before while the bottom two are after. Sorry one of the before photos is so dark. I realized I didn't have many before pictures of the dining room.

Check out that after! New flooring, paint, and trim.

The biggest difference is the new flooring. It's incredible. I am elated that we tore up that nasty old carpet and installed laminate wood flooring. It's such a huge difference in the space. With our front door there, the room gets a lot of traffic, so this helps us keep it clean! It's also surprising how new the door looks now with just a little bit of paint.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Witty titles aren't my thing, but thrifty shopping surely is! I've been on the hunt for a medium sized (not so tiny it just shows your face, but not a full length mirror either) white mirror for the guest bedroom. I searched around online and in a couple of stores, but I found only dissatisfaction.

Most were entirely too expensive, in the $50 range, which was about $30 out of my budget. Several were too small. I want something that you can at least see yourself in, rather than just a hand mirror. Those that fit the size and price were not white. I'm definitely not opposed to painting things, but I can't justify paying $25 for something that isn't really what I want.

I CAN, however, justify spending $3 on something that isn't exactly what I'm looking for. I decided to stop at Valley Thrift (the local and busiest thrift store in the area) to see if they had anything on hand. I figured, why not, I'm having no success anywhere else! That's where this gem comes in:

It was an ideal size, approximately 18" x 18". The price was more than ideal at a mere $3. Unfortunately the color was terrible. For $3, I don't mind a little DIYing!

I decided not to prime this mirror. I figured I would just do 3 coats of paint and that should be good. After the first coat, I was feeling nervous.

After coat two things looked better and the third coat did the trick. The mirror has some nice detail with ridges around the frame. The gold/red color scheme is appropriate if your guest bedroom is circus themed, or if you have an affinity for McDonals (like the 25,000 Big Mac guy).

I have to say, I'm pretty happy with the results of my $3 adventure! I'm waiting to hang this mirror until I get some other items for the guest bedroom and will post when I figure it out.

I went through a phase where I really didn't like yard-sale-ing with my granny, but now I'm really looking forward to it and look fondly on the times we spent together haggling property ownders for lower prices. I also enjoy a good thrift store or Craigslist deal, as evidenced by two of my recent projects.

Dining Room Phase 4

Finally, the last phase of the dining room. It took us about a month to finish this portion of the room. Then, another month to actually post it! And we forgot to take action shots (mostly because Tim did this by himself). Fail.

We purchased the trim from Pease, a local discount warehouse (Thanks for the tip Brian!). The prices were radically cheaper than the big home improvement chains. Tim lugged home massive pieces of trim (one wall is 16 feet I think?) with the Focus. Amazing what you can haul in a compact car! Oh, the adventures the Foci have. The wood was already primed, so Tim painted two coats of semi-gloss white on each piece (ideally, all of the trim in our house will eventually be semi-gloss white).

Tim cut the pieces using our miter saw, compliments of my mom/grandpa. Tim used our brad nailer/staple gun combo tool to install them. Then, I touched up the holes with a small paintbrush. Sounds simple right? It never is... I doubt the walls are 100% square, the trim perfectly straight, or that Tim's cuts were the exact angles. Nothing a little caulk didn't fix.

Then came the closet doors. Same routine: prime then two coats of semi-gloss white paint.

Tim re-installed them and added brushed nickle handles. These are larger than the handles in the kitchen, but are both brushed nickel.

Over time, the closet doors got warped. They're original to the home and aren't straight. There's a gap between the wall and edge of the door (despite some trimming to make sure the new, slightly larger trim fit in the gap from the old trim). I love the crisp white look to balance our dark paint and table.

At this time, I'm debating between keeping the doors or installing a long, solid curtain instead. The latter is definitely a less traditional route, but makes the closet even more functional (it can be difficult to get larger items in and out because of the doors). I see a white floor length curtain fitting in nicely with the space, but would that alienate future buyers? I would love to know your thoughts, so I'm taking a little poll. Stick with the current doors or install a white curtain instead?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The saddest yard

That's right, we're in a contest with our neighbors across the street for the saddest yard in the neighborhood. We're trying though! "A" for effort, that's the motto in the White House. There happened to be one shockingly warm (and dry) Sunday in late March. We seized this opportunity to move up to the 2nd saddest yard in the neighborhood.

Last summer absolutely scorched our grass to an oblivion. Winter ripped away the dead tufts and we were left with a patchy front yard. We laid grass seed and the monsoon we've been having in April has helped our little seeds prosper.

We were having some issues with the wild woman escaping from the yard, so we knew it needed fixed. A few months back, Tim posted about us installing an invisible fence. That wasn't enough to stop the baby Monk! We had to get her the extra-shock collar. It has 5 settings. Setting 3 is for normal dogs, that wasn't enough to contain her... we had to give her the high energy dog setting (#4). Monk, high energy? No!

Flaig Drive is two streets over. There's a bank on the corner of Flaig and Gilmore Road. Gilmore Road is also known as Winton Road also known as the road that leads to Cincinnati also known as the road that connects 275 and Dixie Hwy. My little Sully man decided he was going to run some errands the Saturday before we installed this fence (below). WHAT? He got that close to the busy road? Yes, I could have killed him. Tim and I walked around the neighborhood thinking that he trotted off to pee on some mailboxes (his usual routine while on walks). I asked all of the neighbors en route if they had seen him. None had, but our sweet neighbor Bob offered to drive around to find him. He circled once and didn't see him, circled again, this time over on Flaig and found him up by the bank! Little did Sully know that the bank closes at 1 on Saturday. Yes, I baked Bob some cookies and thanked him generously for bringing Sullivan home.

We think Sullivan got into Mike's yard (where Maggie lives) then escaped from Mike's yard. Maggie is a good girl so she doesn't leave her yard and thus their fence isn't an issue. Here's Tim installing a two foot fence adjacent to Mike's to contain these heathens. It went surprisingly quickly. Our property has chainlink fence on 3 sides, all except where our property meets Mike's. He has a wood fence with chicken wire. Monk & Sully love visiting with Maggie, so they're always venturing into Mike's yard.

Tim called a few months ago to get an estimate to finish off the chainlink fence. $1000. Are you kidding me? You want to charge $1000 to finish off 1/4 of a fence?!? We priced the materials at about $200 (concrete, chainlink, posts, hooks, etc.). For all that we really need, we figured that $50 worth of short fencing should keep our dogs in their own yard (we hope).

Monk & Sully, the little rascals in action. See that red collar on Sully's neck? We tried putting Monkey's less intense shock collar on him (more of a "hey what was that?" kind of buzz), but it was unsuccessful. He was so paralyzed with fear that he wouldn't move off of the line that was shocking him, so he kept getting shocked. Then, he was too scared to even go outside and kept pottying inside. We now know that this, and all future homes, must be secured like Fort Knox so these two psychos don't get out.

Maggie and our new fence (the green bars).

This weird patch of dirt doesn't look like much. Right now, it isn't. We initially thought we might tear it out because the dirt is too close to the foundation. Then, Tim informed me there's no concrete below and suggested a garden. I planted two strawberry plants in this area. This will hopefully grow into a productive garden.

Nothing crazy here, just an additional hose and hanger out front.

This is kind of my pride and joy for right now! I revamped the flower bed out fron in an effort to give our house more curb appeal. You wouldn't believe how many earthworms and spiders live in this thing! Earthworms are one of the few bugs that I find tolerable. Spiders on the other hand... I call in Monkey or Tim to save me. Previously, the flower bed had bulky, ill-fitting pavers. I like the curves in this clean-lined, petite paver. The flowers are dragonfly (in the back, will grow up to 12 inches tall), pansies, and 2 pre-existing leafy plants (not shown).

We scored these solar lights for $3 a pop at Wal-Mart. They provide a soft ambiance to light the walkway at night.

With the April monsoon, the leafy plants have tripled in size and are more visible now. The grass is gradually getting less patchy too (although it's hard to see with the height of the other grass!).

Remember those bulk pavers I mentioned? Here they are! Tim wanted to spruce up the mailbox and we love repurposing items that we already own, so voila! Instant upgrade to our mailbox. The previous owners also used brick rocks to fill in the corners of the flower bed because the bulky pavers didn't extend to the edge of the corner. We picked those out and chucked them into the center of the paver circle. Amazing, and totally free!

Speaking of free--- I've got two 5" recessed lights that we can't use. HD is selling them to $0.01 now so I thought I'd see if anyone wanted them. If not, I'll probably just give them to ReStore in Hamilton (along with a boatload of other things I've been meaning to take there).

Coming Soon: Dining Room Phase 4 (I know this is the 3rd time I've mentioned this, Tim plans to do a post about it soon, or as soon as we're not busy haha), the Hutch, and Third Bedroom (speaking of using what you have on hand... you'll see a fun project coming up)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lights: Take 2

Back in October, we purchased lights for the house. Yeah, I know that was 6 months ago. I'm not exactly an electrician. No shame here. Sometimes projects take a while... take a long time.... take much longer than we expected.....

I finally managed to call an electrician to discuss the installation of said lights. Much to my dismay, he informed me that this project would cost around $1000, maybe more depending on the amount of labor involved. WHAT? This has to be some kind of sick joke. I can't afford $1000 to install lights! Keep in mind, this is for labor, installation, and wiring not the actual lights themselves! We paid around $500 for all of our light fixtures, some of which have already been installed (see my previous post regarding our kitchen and hallway lighting).

Since our house is void of overhead lights, I couldn't stan it anymore! I had to find a way to make it happen. I was ready to whip out one of my grandpa's teach-yourself books and learn how to do electrical work. I'll be darned if I'm paying $1000 for this! I'll pay myself with a nice vacation for $1000 after I learn how to install lights!!!

Then along came some sheer brilliance. Not by me, I'll admit. My mom asked my Uncle Rex to help her install a new jacuzzi tub in her bathroom as well as some new light fixtures. Quite a bit of electrical work there, eh? Rex is certainly a handy guy! So I convinced my mom and Steve to drive down here with Rex and help with lights. How did I get so lucky to have such great family? Here's the worker bees busy:

Rex working in the attic... for hours. He probably spent about 10 hours up there running wires, hanging boxes, etc. The process went something like this: get in the attic, string some wire, and hang the box and framing; get out of the attic, hook up the switches, realize it's not working, mess with it for a few hours, try 7,364 configurations of wiring, finally get it working, celebratory dance.

Not exactly what Rex had in mind for Easter weekend. I fed him lots of Easter casseroles, generic pop, and Reese eggs. Small price to pay for finally being able to see at night. Rex thought this would be a quick in-and-out kind of trip. Not so. He, Tim, and my mom spent around 14 hours working on lights?

I honestly forget what this picture is about, but I remember it was complicated... probably trying to get the switches to work properly.

The hubs... hard at work... supervising. He was Rex's assistant throughout the weekend. He helped hand screwdrivers, wires, etc. like a surgical nurse. Here's the finished products in all their glory:

This beauty rests in our bedroom. Look familiar? Yep, we bought the exact same one for our kitchen. The guys worked on this one into the wee hours of the morning. Sullivan tried to sleep on the pillows while insulation and other debris came crashing onto the bed. I finally hit the couch downstairs at 3 am. Tim and Rex stayed up working on this tricky task until 5...

This light my mom switched out while I played surgical nurse. I'm a pretty crappy nurse because I forgot to check to see that all of the shades were in tact before hanging it. I realized at the end that one of them had a big crack. We just bought another fixture, swapped out the cracked shade for a good one, and will exchange it later (we plan to put the same light fixture in the downstairs bathroom also). This light is now in tip-top shape and looks fantastic! Just pardon the ugly mirror, we'll eventually get to that bathroom reno!

Check this out... looks simple right? This is actually a light/vento combo. Our upstairs bathroom had no ventilation system installed. There were constantly drips along the walls even if you showered with the door open. The only way to avoid this is to open the window that's in the shower. Sure, that works well in July when it's 70 outside at 7 am, but not so in April with morning temperatures around 40. Now we not only have a light, but also a vent in our upstairs bathroom!

The best for last... or really the hardest first. This light took the longest. Rex, Tim, and my mom worked on it all day long on Saturday. It's in our dining room, which happens to be the darkest room in the house without an overhead light and also the brightest room. Huh? Well, when the sun is setting, it beats into our front window glaring you in the face. The moment the sun passes behind the Meadow home accross the street, you have no idea what you're eating for dinner. That was a long winter of mystery food! Just kidding Chef White who lovingly prepares most of my dinners. :)

The previous owners used this room as a sitting room/formal living room. Other than the huge stain on the carpet, it looked like they used it twice. A dining room is more functional for our needs. We didn't want to eliminate the possibility of future owners using it as a living room, so a chandelier was definitely out. That screams put a dining table under me! We also didn't want a boob light (yes, that's a technical term- see our hall lights for an example). Instead, we opted for a Goldilocks light (not too hangy, not too flat, just the right light)!

While all of this light madness was occuring, Steve and I worked on another project. Steve and I refinished a large hutch that used to belong to my grandparents. It's still in progress, so more on that later.

Coming Soon: Dining Room Phase 4 (Trim & Closet Doors), Hutch Refinishing (mentioned above), and several outdoor projects. Yeah, we're a little behind on posts- what's new?