Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homemade Halloween at the House

So even though we have less then half-dozen trick or treaters every year, that's no reason not to enjoy the start to the holiday season with Halloween decorations! This year I crafted my way early and had some fun making a few holiday accents for our house. Take a look and see how easy they are. Maybe they will inspire you to make something fun, too!

So easy! 18 extra-large canning jar lids tied together in the center with twine, an old stick hot glued in the center for the stem and bits of wire curled into fun spirals. Spray painting orange optional : )

Inexpensive to make: $4 golden straw wreath from Hobby Lobby spray painted white, 1 1/2 rolls black ribbon wrapped and pinned at the ends, 1 scrap green ribbon for the bow and 2 plastic spiders for $1 at the Dollar store tied on with fishing line.

This one is also easy to make: brown stick wreath from Hobby Lobby spray painted black + assortment of black plastic creepy, crawly critters and a few selections off of a bouquet of artificial black roses hot glued or tied on by fishing line.

And to top it off, our furry and usually interactive Halloween decoration of the year keeps us company long past October 31st.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to Pour Our Driveway

This is more of a brief overview than a how-to that gives some visual ideas of how this process unfolded for my husband and I.

Step 1: Dig

First, make sure you have access to a skid-steer. If you have to make repairs to it while you work, know that it is always better to break the machine than to break your back. Our driveway began by getting rid of tons of river rock and dirt that lay in the path of a future 7" thick by 11' x 81' concrete driveway. The digging step also involved creating a huge pile of dirt and rock in our backyard. This required moving the dirt again by dumping it into a rented dump trailer and driving a few miles south of town to dump it at the quarry of a local sand and gravel company.

6 loads and 10 hours of dumping, driving, shoveling and fixing the skid-steer later, one tired husband and one relieved wife were happy to see the dirt gone. To say I am proud of his efforts--learning to drive and pull such heavy loads with a trailer, fixing a number of hydraulic hoses on the skid-steer, tediously transferring the dirt from the pile to the trailer without over-turning the machine--is an understatement.

Step 2: Apply Surewall to Foundation

This step was a day's worth of work and a job that needed to be done. Once we were able to remove the old cement coating that was supposedly helping keep the house foundation together we applied a product we call "Surewall". It is like concrete in that you mix it with water and it dries to a hard surface. The point is to give added support to our 100 year-old foundation bricks.

"Beach Hat Construction" CEO inspects the area.

Step 3: Place Sand

Again, another great time to have a skid-steer. The sand we needed had to get piled in our backyard, moved around the south side of our house and then dumped and spread evenly all along the north side of our house. A friend drove by and saw us working in our new "beach" and wondered when "Beach Hat Construction" was going to get this project finished. We encouraged him to come join the party. Funny thing is that he never stopped by...

Step 4: Install Forms and Rebar

This step took more brains than brawn, and I will have to say I claimed the "dumb end" of the tape measure quite frequently. A lot of calculating and recalculating was needed before we got the angle of the forms level and sloped just right to allow water to run off in the directions we needed.

Step 5: Pour (and Pump) Concrete

This is when the anticipation, excitement and nervousness set in. The night before the big day, we both felt a sort of impending doom that would either make or break us. You don't want to mess this up, otherwise, you have 21 cubic yards of very heavy, solid material to deal with.

Given the location of our driveway, the best solution to get the concrete in the right place was to hire a concrete pumper. This meant that the concrete got pumped from the truck through a long hose. This also meant that the person managing the hose had to use every ounce of strength they had to hang on to the handle-less hose as hundreds of pounds of concrete shot out the end.

Thankfully, we had a new device at our disposal--an electric power screed attachment for our screed board. This made pulling that board over the concrete so much easier. We vibrated the board from the west to the east end of the driveway smoothing out the concrete as we moved. 

Step 6: Finish Work

Once we were done with pumping and pouring all the concrete, it was time for bull floating, edging, brooming and other finish work. It was fairly manageable to complete except for the area between our house and our neighbor's to the north. 

Thanks to our neighbor's foreman efforts, we knew exactly where to go and what to do.

In Conclusion

We started at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and finished the entire project around noon. The afternoon ended with a well-deserved lunch and everyone heading their separate ways--myself, husband and in-laws to a 2-day, 150 mile cycling excursion in Iowa and my parents back to their home. Here's to a convenient (and typical) way to park and store our vehicles!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A "Labor" day of concrete

It's Labor Day weekend. The unofficial end to the summer and while that can create some melancholy, I am reminded of the episode of The Simpsons where Bart Simpson breaks his leg and Homer warns him of the reality of adulthood in the summer.

Bart: "Aw, I'm going to miss the whole summer."
Homer: "Don't worry boy. When you get a job like me you'll miss every summer."

Oh yeah, that isn't exactly comforting. Well, to be fair I am actually looking forward to fall--cooler weather, football season (even though I'm not a fan of any team), Halloween and the closer promise of snow and crackling fires.

The end of the summer causes me to reflect on some of the highlights and accomplishments over the last few months. One in particular being the completion of our front/north driveway to our house. Let me give a visual illustration to the transformation:



The start of the project began in early May and concluded in late July. A series of weekends and weeknights kept us busy, with some other fun summer outings scheduled in between.

What began as a husband and wife beautifying and improving the functionality of their home, ended in a group effort involving both sets of parents and one willing neighbor. A deeper look inside this project involves more than the average do-it-yourselfer perspective. 

The paving team we dubbed "Rico" construction.

This back-breaking amount of work--after which we all left that day feeling very tired (but certainly satisfied) is what being a little out-of-the-ordinary will get you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Runner's Tchotchkes

It's definitely running season around here. Not that we have thousands of people running here and there but you can catch at least one or two of them every day while "running" (i.e. driving) around town. Plus, as I am on the event committee for our town's only half-marathon race that culminates this Saturday (finally!), I am keenly aware of those people trucking down a street in pursuit of a finish line somewhere even if it's just returning back to their house or other point of origin.

I made the following running inspired items trying to find a classy or at least unique way to display the tokens that every runner who registered for some sort of race is bound to have and not know exactly what to do with other than throw away or stow in a box or drawer.

Bib Number Coasters

How They Are Made

This simple project in which I found one of my more generic bib numbers, probably from some high school or college track or cross country race or a smaller road race, and used Mod Podge Hard Coat to adhere it to basic glass tiles from a local home improvement store is an elegant solution to display this badge of honor.

I went to Hobby Lobby and picked out some fun scrapbook paper sheets and then cut my bib number with an exacto knife. I then traced the tiles onto the scrapbook paper so I had four squares that surrounds the bib on each tile. I then trace the bib piece onto the scrapbook paper to get the shape right and then cut our the portion where the bib would fill. I used a foam craft brush to apply the Mod Podge to the back of the bib and the scrapbook paper then placed it onto each tile. I let it dry as per the bottle's instructions and then put two layers of Mod Podge over the top of the whole tile to let dry and create the hard coaster surface.

I then got a roll of cork with a self-adhesive back and cut out squares to place on the backside. I think the coasters work perfectly for drinks and other items while giving me a fun way to display an old bib. I liked how this one turned out so much, I think I'll do another!

Race Bib and Medal Display Plaque

I saw this idea on Pinterest and had to see if I could duplicate it with a few revisions compared to the designs I saw. I made it for my husband for Christmas as a motivator as long winters in Nebraska and then the following spring can sometimes make it quite difficult to keep up a running routine. It is hung right next to our closet so he walks by it every day.

I bought a pre-routed piece of wood from Walmart to start as I didn't feel like messing with trying to route one myself although that would have been a little cheaper. I then just spray-painted it black and stenciled the text at the top. I used a silver sharpie and it worked perfectly!

I then got some hooks and pre-drilled the holes and placed them on the face and the bottom of the plaque for the medals to hang. I think I may need to add 2 more hooks--one on each end, to complete the look and allow for more room to hang but I wanted to see how three would look. I was a little unsure what distance to place the hooks for the bibs since not all bibs have standard sizes or even where the holes are placed. Since I didn't want to put more holes in the bib and ruin any other graphics on it, I thought why not use the same safety pins you use to pin it to your shirt? This has seemed to work great and adds a little more interest and nostalgia to the piece.

I think my husband will be able to fit quite a few bibs on there until he runs out of room. Now medals on the other hand, 3 hooks will not be enough! That's a good thing though. I can always make another wall hanging....or start using them as cat toys!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Peaceful Patio

After last summer, I could not wait until we could sit outside with a drink in one hand and my feet up enjoying some sort of delicious grilled meal and enjoy a little world of my own. You see last summer/fall my husband and I spent most of it racing to finish literally a ton of concrete that became our back driveway, sidewalk and back patio. More on that in a future posting.

That season is over now but the following summer (right now to be exact) is the perfect time for us to get out and finally enjoy that new patio area. And what would a calming backyard get-away be without the bubbling sounds of water to listen to and pass the time.

So I stopped by our local home improvement store to see what kind of fountains they had and not to my surprise--not a lot. And the ones that they did have were either way too expensive for what I was looking for, too large for our space, or involved some sort of fake broken looking pot, a water wheel, gnomes and driftwood, or some other chintzy looking motif.

So on to the internet I went to see what could be found. Of course, "the answer box" presented me with a load of ideas on how to make your own. So make my own I did since the cost was considerably cheaper plus I could make it look more like what I wanted.

Most of the DIY examples involved using a flower pot so I went looking for one that wouldn't look quite so much like I put a fountain directly in a flower pot.

Here is the finished product:

DIY patio fountain

I still need to make some adjustments as the sealer I used on the inside of the pot does not seem to be working as well as I hoped. Since the base is an un-glazed clay pot, if not sealed properly, not only will water continue to seep through but over time it can eventually deteriorate the pot itself. No worries though since I have an option of using another type of brush-able sealer later. In efforts to get this put together for this past week's family visit I went with what I had on-hand.

I used a 140 GPH pump with about a foot of 1/2" tubing to connect to the fountain spout. The platform on top is actually a ceiling fan diffuser that I spray-painted with Rustoleum Hammered Metal spray paint. It worked perfectly since there is plenty of venting for the water to filter into the pot plus the fountain spout rests perfectly in the center once removing the center section of the diffuser with tin snips. I also cut a small section out of one of the tiers to allow enough room to squeeze the plug end of the fountain connected to the pump through. Again, it worked perfectly!

Ceiling fan diffuser before
DIY patio fountain
Finished ceiling fan diffuser used as top platform

The pot I used as the base I got on clearance for $15  and then sealed the drain hole on the bottom with epoxy. The rocks I got for free over Memorial weekend when visiting my family. They live near a lake that has these type of stones along the top of some water breakers near one of the marinas/camp areas.

DIY patio fountain

I bought a round paver stone to use just as a little platform, elevating the whole fountain slightly and giving it a little more presence.

I was happy to find a pot that coordinated well with the rest of our outdoor decor even matching a large square metal flower pot I already had. My husband said that without the rocks and fountain on top it looked more like an ash-tray. I kind of agreed but I think it looks much better now that it is finished.

The whole project cost around $60--it is hard to find much of anything of this size at that price range off-the-shelf. The labor was fairly minimal (except for an error in mixing the epoxy in which that step had to be repeated) and compared to any other fountain I had seen in person or online, I liked the look of this one much better. I like that it is a more modern take on the DIY flower pot fountain examples I found and it gives our outdoor space a relaxing and calming sound to enjoy dinner, evenings with neighbors, games with friends and family or just a few minutes sitting outside and enjoying the weather.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rain, rain--go away

Tap. Tap. Tap. SPLAT!

That's the sound of simple rain drops hitting our ginormous 32"x72" windows.

So often the rain sounds more like hail and the hail sounds more like...well...destruction.

Even though the moisture is good for our drought stricken part of the world, the rain and possibility of a lot of it along with frozen ice chunks being hurled from the sky is rarely a welcome sound at our house. Maybe it is because what turned out to be a 3+ month project to re-shingle our entire roof, started with one torrential downpour that could only inflame our continual battle against our arch nemesis: Mother Nature.

Temporary flashing and underlayment is a less than satisfying solution when mother nature makes a bold move working to undo our best efforts.

Once the rain began to pour and as we sat under our partially exposed, half-finished south side of the roof where we had started, we could only look up at our ceiling and wonder what would happen next. A tornado? A hurricane? A freak monsoon coupled with a new ice age storm? We were so worked up that we had to bring in a ladder to get ourselves up into our attic space area just to see if any sign of a leak could be seen so we could know the full extent of needed damage repair.

However, either luck or mother nature (I'm sure my husband would never agree) was on our side and thankfully there were no leaks. Our temporary coverage held its own like the miracle it was and the storm that made us swear 3 days into our project came and went leaving us a good long stretch of dry weather to continue work.

And work we did. With plenty of patience, labor and supplies, we toiled away in evenings and on weekends to get the job completed in time for winter and to save our sanity.

Stay tuned for more about this epic project involving asphalt shingles.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

This Old House Reader Remodel Contest II

Old Addition + Reno = Stylish Storage.

TOH finally got our other contest submission posted online. We hope to keep our finished "mudroom" mud-free but either way it is stylish and highly functional and certainly crumbly-no-more.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Just before April showers.

Since it is beginning to become what we hope is the rainy season, I took a moment to reminisce about this year's ski trip from a few months ago. Working on our house non-stop the first 2 1/2 years after we bought it has led us to treasure our "play" time and really enjoy every vacation we take now.

One of the last runs of the day on Lower Hughes, Winter Park, CO.

We generally stay at our family's duplex near the resort in which we have themed the entire interior as a cozy cabin for winter wonderland getaways. I helped add to this theme by creating modern, yet simple and inexpensive wall art in both bedrooms.

I used 2 inch styrofoam as canvases--cutting them into 4 equal rectangles and then wrapping them with fabric. I made a pattern for the mountains on my computer and translated that to newspaper and then drew it on the actual fabric before cutting. I simply secured the main fabric pieces on the reverse side with straight pins and then used fabric glue to attach the snow pieces.

The great part is other than being cheap and easy, since each piece is so light, you can hang them with just straight pins to avoid putting large holes in your walls. Here are few others that I have done after I realized how simple this project was--except for the lower-right hand design. That was tedious!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Old House Reader Remodel Contest

"Functional, Spacious and Warm."
That's the title TOH gave our submission for the bathroom "Reader Remodel" contest category. Now that description is certainly accurate but I would have added "Spectacular", "Stunning" and maybe "Winner" behind the title. Whatever comes of the winners remodeled spaces, you can bet we are thrilled to enjoy ours, cash prize or not.

This Old House Reader Remodel Contest

Read Our Contest Entry Here

Contest Entry
Add caption

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cleaning up the "character"

Ok, so it's cold outside right now but it is oh so warm inside and not because there is a warm, toasty fire going on in the wood-burning stove. What I am referring to is another piece to the puzzle that helped complete our bathroom--the cast iron bath tub.

Now I'm not exactly one for keeping all the "character" of an old house because the word character to me now just means more work and more problems than generally something that is new.

But this fixture is one of those things that though it possesses character, it also holds a lot of function and beauty in addition to a lot of water. But in the beginning it was not so. And thanks to my then-fiancĂ©, it became my  project in-between times when he would work on tasks that I could not assist with.

The tub as it sat originally when the house was purchased.

Now, once removed from the bathroom, a nice little custom dolly was built in order for it to be easily wheeled around the house as we moved from room to room in the demo and renovating process. And roam it did. The tub, along with our eager toilet kit purchase, rolled around and around to keep it from totally being in the way.

The first step in the refinishing process was to remove as much of what was on the surface of the inside of the tub to reveal a smoother surface for more prep-work that included sanding and filling in dimples and imperfections. Though at first glance it appeared in fairly good condition, one pass along the surface with your hand revealed a combination of pits, rust and waviness.

So I got to work on the inside with a small electric palm sander, hand sanding blocks and just simple squares of sandpaper. In addition to the tub, there was an old cast iron wash sink that was in the basement that we thought--why not finish that, too?

(left) The wash sink with filling compound. Lots of damage and many pits yet to fill!.
(right) Work on the inside of the tub.

Old wash sink as it sat originally in the basement.

So as time and other house projects dictated, I would assume the responsibility to labor on the two fixtures. This process as my husband can surely tell you was not my favorite thing to work on, if I even could identify a favorite! It was certainly the worst of all the evils in my mind at the time but in working on them, I guess I figured it was something I could do on my own and it seemed so often that was reason enough.

Work on the sink was a little more tolerable when warm enough to work outside.

In this rare instance, these projects became a team effort outside of our house and ourselves. Once the inside and outside of the tub was finished to the best of my ability and with our tools, my parents graciously transported the tub to their farm where they sandblasted the outside to remove the remaining paint and continue the prep process before the final refinishing began.

Once this process was completed, the next step was to turn it over to a professional tub re-finisher  Though we had considered trying our hand at this process (as we did with every project we came across) our final decision was to leave this to an expert and finally wash (no pun intended) ourselves of the responsibility.

So it was this past month that we completed final installation and years of having that empty space in our bathroom were no more.

(left) Tub before refinishing and sandblasting. (right) Tub after installation.

 Tub details after installation.

(left) Manufacturer date stamp on underside of tub: 11/20/1913
(left) Tub as it now sits in bathroom.

What happened to the sink? Well, needless to say, that work so far has been in vain as I have tried not to bring up the subject too often for old wounds recalling hours of toil come to mind. We decided (after I had completed much of the prep-work process) that it was too large for our bathroom and the sink was not the best use of space. Our plans have not further entertained the idea of using it in our anticipated bathroom in the basement so for awhile longer, it will stay in my parents shed until a suitable plan can be determined. 

Such is the fate of some of our ideas and time spent working on our house but I guess there was something to be learned from this whole process...just buy it new!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

OK! demo

I got started on demolition of our house on a chilly February day right around this same time in 2007. The plan (for me at least) was to start in the bathroom. Why the bathroom?

I guess it was the smallest of all the rooms so maybe it made sense to start with the smallest of all the demo projects first but I'm pretty sure our fallible logic was because a bathroom is so important when you are working in a construction zone with no running water and the sooner we got the bathroom finished the sooner it could be of use.

I know that was the reason we bought all the pieces for installation of the toilet over a year before it actually was installed. From that point on, we had two heavy boxes that contained the parts and proceeded to move them from room to room and corner to corner as it always seemed to be constantly in the way. But in those days, so many ideas seemed so plausible and so we continued on in hopes that in just a few weeks, we would be ready for installation.

But I digress, I was eager to start the demolition process in the bathroom.

"What do I do first," I asked.

My fiance handed me a hammer and a "wonder bar" and said, "Take this paneling down."


The bathroom untouched then after ROUND 1 demo.
Then I asked, "Now what?"

"Take down all the lath."


"What now?" I asked.

"Take down all the plaster that was lying beneath all the lath."


"Now what?" I asked.

"Remove all the debris and put it in the roll-off," he said.


I think you get the picture. As each step added to the next, my enthusiasm waned and I began to truly understand the enormity of this house project. But despite that fact, I think we both left that evening feeling satisfied with our progress.

That's the thing about demo work, it's dirty but it's quick and brainless. We would soon realize that those days of progress would be a welcome change from time-consuming, tedious complexities that would start to make our house something that could make it a livable dwelling and eventually a home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Where it began...

Rotting wood, shaky windows, rusty pipes, weathered siding, random wires, dying trees, chipping paint..and two stories to contain it all. To say I am thankful that this did not become our house is an understatement. It was, however, the object of first infatuation for my husband-to-be during the home search. I use the word "search" in the sense that there was a choice between less than half a dozen properties labeled with some type of "potential".

In the exact words of my now husband describing the available possibilities of a home that was listed under our designated price range, "they all sucked."

As a result, his enthusiasm for this yellow house grew. It was obvious this property was surrounded by positive qualities at which any untrained eye could immediately recognize...or something like that. As the fascination with this property grew, it was clearer to me that taking on this project would be one of enormous proportions. Somehow, the house we did end up purchasing seemed so much more manageable. "There is only one floor to deal with," I was quick to point out.

The yellow house was a foreclosure and eventually went to auction in which a bank purchased and resold the property. From that point on, the property rose out of our desired price range and was removed from consideration.

Moving onto other possibilities, a conveniently located home came into the picture. I say conveniently because it was only blocks from where my then fiance worked. A trip over his lunch hour helped solidify its contention.

With his curiosities stirred, an actual scheduled visit with the listed realtor and invitation to our good friend to tag along, made it official. We ventured inside to check it all out together.

(left) Front exterior of the house.
(right) Our friend seems more interested in the listing information than the the details of the place.

The floors were worn, the kitchen was bare save the very old style cabinetry and cast iron sink and there was no running water as far as we could tell throughout the main level. Some squeaks from underneath a couple stacks of wooden pallets in the basement revealed just the beginning of what would become one of many unwanted furry winged guests.

"Are you handy?" said the realtor.

Those famous words from the realtor have since been repeated in many forms and instances and now it's safe to say that it's true.