July 21, 2015 Comments Off on New House Paint on the Exterior
The biggest cosmetic change over the last two months is that we repaired and painted the exterior of the house. Here’s some of the painting-after photos (the color is deceptive – this is gray with a brown undertone):
The house still had its original paint color of when we built it 18 years ago – a khaki green color. The trim around the windows was really suffering as well as two areas where squirrels had taken advantage of wood rot to gain access to the attic.
The house was WAYY overdue for a repair and paint job! In the photo below, the paint is still drying on the left (and why it looks uneven) while the painter repairs our chimney stack. Boy, I can’t believe he got it done in 12 hours with just one helper!
We had discussed possible paint colors with a real estate agent years back and she had recommended gray. The brick on our house is a red color (no orange-red) and had a gray/smoky black accent brick. As you can see from the photos we have a unique mortar – called “weeping mortar” – it is not a mistake and some people like it (like us) and some people don’t.
We went around to some neighborhoods that were a notch above ours and scoped out a bunch of houses with brick about the color of ours that had painted the wood gray. Definitely liked it! However, we preferred the darker grays, not the light colors.
One thing we did not like was the really light color trim around the windows and roof trim. The white trim with dark color would look better in a Cape Cod neighborhood and with a house with alot more wood showing. For example, this house has a large wood facade over the garage, so the two colors of paint work! I also love the shutters!
However, this style just didn’t suit or house and we both thought it chopped up the line of the house too much. Our front house profile actually has far more brick than wood and could handle a darker color in order to make a statement.
Some people make out doing exterior house paint more complicated then it needs to be. Since we are reselling in three years, I just needed a nice neutral that showed off the brick of the house, and would be acceptable to a large number of shoppers. I didn’t need the exact right shade of gray out of 20 different test paints.
1.) Drive thru neighborhoods with similar styled houses and take note of paint colors. Take photos.
2.) I had collected paint colors through Pinterest and read various blog comments etc… that were attached to popular colors in the color family I planned on using.
3.) Get some test paint samples and put on the house. Make sure the test paint is put on in a big enough area you can see it from a distance. Look at it in different lights and keep it up for a few days. See what you think.
4.) If not happy, go back to the paint store. Painting a house is a huge undertaking and expensive. Better to invest in some more test quarts than tell the painter to stop in the middle of the job!
Going darker, which we ended up doing, was taking our paint a little out of the comfort zone of many of the houses in our neighborhood. About 80 percent or more still sporting the same light taupe colors the builder had put on over two decades ago! We felt it was worth the risk as more expensive houses had gone darker in tone, and we wanted to stand out but not too much.
Our Painter uses Sherwin Williams so we tried two shades on the front entrance (French Gray was the lighter) and we decided on the darker color, 7019 Gauntlet Gray (the painter chose a Satin finish which I LOVE!). With the needed repairs, this was a $2,000 job for a professional house painter (someone we saw do a house in our neighborhood and who really impressed us with the work they did).
I’ll get more photos once the sun comes back out. The brick color in the bottom before photo is more accurate. The top after photo was taken in really strong sunlight so the color is a bit off. New photos will be coming soon.
This is just the beginning of the house exterior redo – we plan on putting up shutters and doing a hardware accent on the garage, as well as new landscaping. However, after the big expenses we have had, I’m going back to smaller projects inside the house.
July 21, 2015 Comments Off on Mechanical Failures and replacing stuff
The last 45 days have been busy on the house but it’s all structural and mechanical.
For example, the 18 year old water heater failed and we ended up replacing it. Water Heaters are really heavy and while we did replace it ourselves, we ended up using a winch to get it into place.
We learned an important lesson: DO NOT ORDER ONLINE FROM LOWES! We ordered this hot water heater they stated was in stock. Once we called to arrange pick up it was NOT in stock. They agreed to do a charge back on the credit card which took FIVE DAYS to get cleared off! Meanwhile, we were rushing around moving money in order to buy this unit so we could take a damn shower!
We also didn’t qualify for any rebates from Oklahoma Natural Gas which was a bit of a bummer. Although when we do taxes it might give us something back (we shall have to see) due to the Energy savings.
OTOH, the new hot water heater has been great! It makes tons of hot water! Lots and lots! The water is softer (we have hard water) for some reason we can’t figure out and the towels and clothes smell so much fresher! The old hot water heater must have been processing the water in a musty way we weren’t even aware of.
Before the hot water heater bailed on us, we replaced the dishwasher. The new dishwasher replaced the old and very noisy 18 year old one that had kept limping along.
After researching and reading reviews, there were many more complaints than I thought were needed for an appliance that wasn’t very sophisticated. If you get your dishwasher home and don’t like it, immediately replace it while it is under warranty! There seems to be lemons out there as well a lot of variables on what people like (for example, I consider our new dishwasher very quiet, others have complained about it being noisy).
Whatever you buy, I would recommend a 3-5 year warranty for sure as the electronic circuit boards go out, making it an expensive repair.
The only issue with this dishwasher is that it takes a long time to do its full cycle. OTOH, its much larger on the inside (with no central tower on the bottom drawer) and gets the dishes amazingly clean! I really liked the price too – as I was not going to spend $1,000 on a dishwasher! It has a stainless steel front and is the first changeover in the appliances (all will become stainless steel).
We installed the dishwasher ourselves. Be aware that generally, you need to buy a new dishwasher hook up hose and connectors when you do this so figure that into your installation. In our case the old electrical hookup also failed so new wiring was run to another electrical outlet box that was convenintly near by.
One thing I do like about reading online reviews, is many people give really good tips on how to install, handling common problems during the installation and advice that can help make the job go much easier.
Right before Fourth of July, both AC units failed us. The upstairs AC was replaced 3 years ago and was still under warranty. The problem was they didn’t have the fan part. So that took over a week to get fixed and involved a LOT of aggravation!
We ended up replacing the entire downstairs AC and heating unit which had been our plan to prepare to sell the house all along but it just happened a bit sooner than we had expected. The fact that all the mechanicals have been replaced should be a selling point!
That leaves only the upstairs heating unit to be replaced prior to putting the house on the market in 3 years.
Hopefully, since this is a huge upgrade on energy saving, we will get some sort of tax break come next spring on installing these units. I’ll just have to see at tax time.
As you can imagine that was a lot of ka-ching to put down but it had to be done. It’s one of those not-so-great things about homeownership. It’s also not very glamourous so hence why there are no photos! :D
May 22, 2015 Comments Off on New Stainless Steel stove vent hood installed
I ordered this stainless steel vent hood for the stove from Overstock. It’s a mid-range hood to replace the solid black one we once had and the SS is to go with the new appliances I plan on putting into the kitchen. The price was good – about $200 with the additional charcoal filters being bought with my Reward points. To get a super nice fan would have been well over $600 and I simply wasn’t going to spend that for this house.
I didn’t buy from Lowes or Home Depot because I just didn’t like the selection; what I found at those stores looked small and cheap. I relied heavily on reviews because I bought online.
I couldn’t get to hear the fan or see it in person: the noise on low is definitely less than the old fan; when on high the noise is quite obvious but that is pretty true of any fan.
I have to write that I’m overall very pleased. I like the substantial size of this hood – it makes the whole area appear bigger than what it really is (30″ wide). It has a modern sleek look that doesn’t look as cheap as others in its same price range. I also like that it has two lights and they are located at the front of the unit so they can be easily replaced.
Of course it will look more impressive once the backsplash is done and the rest of the kitchen appliances are in Stainless Steel but at this point it’s baby-steps.
Next up for appliance replacement is the dishwasher, then fridge, and lastly stove as the stove is a great appliance and is being replaced only for looks. But before all those expenses, back to the family room ceiling….
May 13, 2015 Comments Off on Getting a Beamed Ceiling look for less money and effort
The next step in remodeling the family room was to put molding in the coffered ceiling. A traditionally beamed ceiling would have looked fantastic in our formal living room where ceilings are 10 foot high and there is plenty of light. Not so great in this darker room, where a coffered ceiling makes the ceiling feel lower.
Let’s face it, neither of us wanted to go the expense either that boxed beams would require. Even doing a faux look (like at this blog) would have taken more time and money than we wanted to do.
However, this room lacks definition and with it’s huge coffered ceiling we knew some sort of molding would take it to the next level. The molding we decided upon makes the eye go upward and defines the ceiling but doesn’t lower the ceiling visually. I guess you can call this the poor man’s beamed ceiling look.
Before we begin, we installed recessed ceiling lights, and marked off all the lines for molding with chalklines. The ceiling should was painted the final color before we started this project.
Be aware that white molding looks best against a darker wall color. Here we are using Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720 from Lowes; this color is being used throughout the downstairs to make the space look larger (vs. using different colors in each room).
To prep for your project, measure your room and mark on paper where you want your molding to go: even and equally spaced squares work best. Our ceiling dimensions: 135″ x 201″.
You can tell from our rough graph that the squares aren’t perfectly even in their dimensions but the difference is minimal and not noticeable from below. Black lines mark 1×4 placement and red indicates the 1×6 boards.
Mark out with a chalk line which will be erased or covered by projects end. Take a stud finder and be sure to locate where you can attached to studs in your ceiling. No studs for nailing up boards? We worked around that and will show you how too.
Materials for this project: a saw (we used power miter saw and circular saw), a nail gun and compressor is a must, chalk line, liquid nails (our project took two tubes), finishing nails, toggle bolts to mount in areas without a stud to mount boards (plan a bolt for every 4 feet approx.), paint for your molding, foam paint roller with tray, fine sandpaper block and wood putty. Drop cloths may also be needed; our floor had been removed in anticipation of replacing it.
Lumber for your project: we used white primed MDF boards (1×4 for inside squares and 1×6 for the outer border), in this blog post. Depending on what you want your own project to look like you can finish it off differently – this is just an example of what we did.
For example, the look in this post with no additional trim or crown gives an appearance similar to Board and Batten. However, our next post will show additional trim we used for a second layer.
For this project we started with primed white, MDF boards, because MDF is cheaper and the look of real wood doesn’t matter since we are painting. Because it was primed white, and I’m painting it white, painting went faster. If staining, go with real wood.
Boards were painted twice more to get even coverage and sanded lightly between the first and second coat because sometimes MDF (or any wood) has slight blemishes. If you paint before being mounted it saves a lot of hassle and just means final touch ups.
Before mounting the board up, make sure it is cut on both ends of the board to fit the space. You will want a tight fit – no gaps! This may take adjustment especially if you find that your walls and ceiling are not straight, which is typical of older homes or homes who have settled.
Speaking of which – ceiling molding will not look good up on an uneven, damaged, warped, wavy or crooked ceiling. Go with plaster and paint to repair these types of ceilings/walls.
You may also have to work around fixtures. We had to cut around this ceiling vent which could not be moved. Also, shown is the corners where we went with mitered edges; other boards (see below) butted end to side.
We also had to put in board for the ceiling fan, allowing an area for electrical and hanging of the fan.
Mounting to ceiling areas with studs: This is the easy part. Using your stud finder, mark the location of studs with painters tape. This helps as a guide for using your nail gun.
Cut your board to fit, run a line of liquid nails on the back of the board, mount and nail into place. Be aware that liquid nails won’t be strong enough to hold a board in place on their own – nails or bolts are also needed.
You will need a helper on another ladder or step stool, while you finish nailing or screwing in the fasteners. This really is a two person job, not only for holding the other end of the board but to also let you know that the boards are visually lining up.
Mounting to areas without studs: Using our stud finder we found some areas would not have studs where boards would be mounted. This required the use of toggle bolts.
On a long board we chose two areas to drill spaced out holes (ours was 1/8″) with a countersink hole of about 3/8″. Counter sinking a screw or bolt can be done with a power tool and a specialty drill bit.
Another way is drill a shallow hole with the large bit (3/8 inch), then switch to the small bit (1/8″) and finish drilling through the board. The large bit leaves a V-shaped depression in the hole, so it is easy to line up the small bit to finish off the hole.
Hold up to the ceiling and mark the ceiling with a pencil or scratch it with a screw tip. Take down the board and drill a larger hole in the ceiling (about 1/2 inch) at your marked areas; the larger hole allows the toggle bolt wings to collapse and push through. On the inside of the ceiling the wings open giving your board support.
Insert the screw in your board, apply liquid nails in a wavy pattern down the board, and mount. We used our power drill to screw down the bolt. Shorter sections and smaller boards (the 1×4) did fine with only one toggle bolt; our longer sections required two toggle bolts.
Use wood putty to cover holes, lightly sand after it is dry, and touch up with additional paint. At this stage we are finished with the first layer of molding. You can stop here if you wish for a simple board and batten look which would work well with an updated country, farmhouse or home with transitional décor.
Because there is a lower entrance to get into this room and I don’t have a wide angle lens these were the best photos of the ceiling I can could take today. The project looks a lot nicer in person!
We will be installing additional molding so look for a new post after the next weekend with the details on trimming out your boards with additional molding for a layered and more detailed look.
May 11, 2015 Comments Off on Retrofitting recessed ceiling lighting in the family room
We have a large family room which is one of those awkward and bland rooms that is a decorating problem child. One of it’s major problems is that it’s often too dark and needs even illumination, so the first major project for this room, working from the ceiling down, is installing recessed ceiling lights.
Before you begin it’s easier to paint the ceiling vs. doing it after installing the lights and future molding. Since the project will have white ceiling molding we went with matching ceiling and wall paint (Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720 from Lowes). This color is being used throughout the downstairs to make the space look larger (vs. using different colors in each room).
TIP: if using molding, the more contrast between wall and molding colors the better your end project will look.
Before you begin this type of project, grid it on paper and than check stud locations as well as electrical. We planned on pulling the power for the lights from the ceiling fan which would mean the future replacement fan would have no light. This made it a pretty easy project, electrically speaking.
On our plan here black lines is where molding will be placed; red lines show how the electricity was run.
In our room, it turns out the ceiling fan was not centrally located, thus measurements had to be adjusted. Depending on the age of your house you may find some surprises like this too.
When choosing your lights, consider: how much room is in your ceiling; the amount of light you want; the type of light; how big a diameter the exposed light ring you want; how tall the can unit for the interior ceiling space; and if it will be on a dimmer (some lights don’t dim).
We needed a low profile canister light so it could fit in within the existing ceiling structure which had no attic access. The light we chose came from Lowes.
We had a central ceiling fan that had power for a light and a fan. The first thing we did was remove the old fan and from the electric for the fan light, and ran a line of electricity through the ceiling in a grid pattern. The holes we made to run the electrical line will be covered with future molding.
The 12 box grid we marked out with a line of blue chalk line. You can tap in a headed nail on one end and run the line from it to the other side to easily snap the line. When the project is done, a brush wipes off the chalk line.
Each of the smaller squares will have a centered light. Make two diagonal chalk lines from corner to corner to make an X in each box. The center cross X will be the location of the recessed can unit.
You can use a “hole saw bit” that attaches to your power drill to cut out a circle pattern in drywall. This punches out the circle smooth and easy where you can insert your can light. It also helps as access to run your electric without making too many unnecessary holes.
Most of the electrical wire was easily tucked between structural interior beams (behind the drywall) and the fiberglass battings. However, we did do a half inch notch in four beams at four different locations. If you do that be extremely careful that you do not impact the structural integrity of the beams. If in doubt, ask an expert before proceeding!
Be sure to cut the power from the main box before you wire to the live line. Our 12 recessed lights used Halogen light bulbs and wired to a wall mounted, dimmer switch that we used to replace the old on-off switch for the fan light. When selecting a switch make sure it is rated for the amount of power you plan on hooking it too.
This project takes a moderate level of knowledge about wiring and electricity. However, if you know enough to wire a ceiling fan you probably know enough to do this project. :) I will be doing better photos of the entire room once the project is complete.
The smaller fixture units are more classy/trendy than the old and larger can lights. Best of all, being on a dimmer we have control – make it bright for visitors or dim for the big movie night.
LOVE THESE LIGHTS!
May 4, 2015 Comments Off on 8 Tips for the best DIY Orange-Oil Dusting Rags
There’s a couple of different versions of this recipe floating around the Pinterest boards. Over the year of making and using these I’ve found a few tricks that I’ll share here.
Oranges or Lemons – the procedure is the same regardless of what citrus you pick. Lemons gives a stronger smell than oranges which are milder. I find it easiest to sit down with a bag of oranges (bought on sale) and just peel and keep the segments back for snacking and the rinds for the cleaning project. If you try to collect as you eat oranges through the week the project drags on forever.
Clean Rags – T-shirt material is ideal as it is thin and you want something that will soak up the cleaning mix. Another option would be microfiber washcloths and I love the price at the Rag Company. If your using microfiber cloths plan on keeping the oil in a dispenser (like a recycled condiment bottle) and squeeze onto the washcloth instead of soaking it (soaking it would take a lot of oil to gain saturation).
Olive Oil – it is not necessary to use the expensive kind. Cheap is fine.
Vinegar – I prefer White Vinegar as it doesn’t have as strong a smell as Apple Cider. If using ACV it will overwhelm the citrus scent, FYI.
Essential Oil – optional for those who like a stronger citrus smell. I’ve added about 1 teaspoon per one batch (as described here). Luckily, citrus essential oils are some of the cheapest EO’s. Orange and Lemon are very affordable.
Containers – I started out using recycled glass spaghetti jars with lids but I’ve switched to quart or gallon sized, Freezer bags as I really like to tuck a baggie of dust rags in my cleaning bucket – one upstairs, one down, for quick access.
1 c. water
1/2 c. vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
10 Citrus fruits – trim off for the rinds – they should be dry – not wet! All pulp should be removed.
TIP #1: Cut your rinds into thin strips. This shape is easier to wrap cloth around and to tuck into the bag over the quarter/wedge size.
TIP #2: If orange peels are damp or wet, pat dry, and stick in a low temp (150 degree oven) to dry out for about 10 minutes. Let them cool before using.
TIP #3: Oil and water will continue to separate so whisk your liquids between each rag you are soaking.
TIP #4: If you mix in one large batch and dump in a rag, it will soak up ALL the oil, leaving you only with vinegar and water for the subsequent rags! Get a shallow pan, pour in a quarter cup or less of your mixed/whisked solution and put in a rag to wipe it up. Wring out the rag, wrap up your orange rinds inside and tuck into your plastic bag. Repeat. This way oil is spread evenly throughout your batch of cleaning rags.
TIP #5: Do not put used rags back in with the clean as this brings in contamination and starts mold. From my experience, these should last (unopened/unused) for at least 6 weeks maybe longer.
TIP #6: Once used these rags start to dirty up fast! Rinse in the sink and you can re-use immediately about two more times before there is no more oil in the rag to collect dust.
TIP #7: For best results, wait to use for at last two weeks after setting up. My only problem with these is I go through these very quickly and it takes so much time for them to set up. If you need dusting rags right away skip adding the fruit rinds and just go with the oil and vinegar to use immediately.
TIP #8: When wiping furniture, if you find it leaves too much oily residue to your liking, than go back over with a clean and dry microfiber cloth and next time you make the recipe cut the oil in half.
EXTRA TIP: A week after setting up a batch, doublecheck that nothing is molding. Sometimes despite your best efforts, mold enters and starts to spoil your batch. If caught early you might be able to save the rest by removing the offender.
I prefer these soaked cleaning rags over dusting spray. They work best over flat wooden surfaces like bookshelves, dressers, nightstands, sideboards, dining room tables, bed frames, etc… For my own cleaning routine they really work out for what I clean and how I do it!
May 3, 2015 Comments Off on My Favorite DIY Glass and Mirror Cleaner
Most of these DIY cleaners simply don’t work (for example the popular Goo-Gone recipe of cheap oil and baking soda simply is not Goo-Gone and will never be). However, this is one recipe I came across that I’ve tested over the last year that is excellent for cleaning mirrors and glass. I’ve used it to bring a shine to my stove top too.
I mix it up at a gallon at a time in a clean kitty litter jug (with handle and lid properly labeled).
1 gallon of Distilled water (I use distilled because the water at my house is heavy in mineral content)
2 cups of Rubbing Alcohol
2 cups of White Vinegar (you could use Apple Cider but it increases the vinegar smell)
When I’m ready to finalize the mix into spray bottles I put 1 Tablespoon cornstarch to 2 cups of solution. Be sure to shake well before using as the Cornstarch likes to settle.
I also add 10 drops of Essential Oil. Some of my favorite cleaning EO’s include: Pine, Lemon, Lemon Eucalyptus, Orange, Lavender, and Rosemary. Be aware that some Essential Oils are packaged in oil (such as Vanilla and Rose) do not use these – as it will make your final solution oily.
Often most of these ingredients can be found on sale; here is an average cost of raw ingredients:
Distilled water (1 gal.) = .88
Rubbing Alcohol (16 oz) = $3.50
White Vinegar (1 gal.) = $2.50
Cornstarch (16 oz.) = $1.70
Essential Oils range from cheap (Orange at $8 a bottle) to expensive (Lavender at $35 a bottle) so that price is not included. Of course if you don’t use distilled water the price comes down a little more.
Homemade DIY cleanser is $.52 cents (2 cups) versus the same amount in Windex is $1.30. As I’ve gotten older I have found the smell of Windex more pungent. Not sure why that is but if you don’t like the smell of chemicals, going DIY on your cleaning solutions is smart.
I have three bathrooms so I leave a small spray bottle in each bathroom so mirrors can be cleaned whenever I grab a moment instead of searching around for cleaning solution downstairs when I’m upstairs.
Not all DIY cleansers are made equal. I’ve found many of these recipes don’t measure up but this one is easy, quick and effective! Great stuff!