Playing catch up with lots of house projects

Wow! It’s been a year since I posted! So I need to play catch up with what we got done on the house. One reason I haven’t been posting here is that lack of money kept us from getting much done on the house. Combine that with lack of time and you get a whole lot of lack of motivation.

However, come December, husband took time off of work so we got a lot of the little jobs that had been sitting around done and we are back to moving forward again.

1.) The Termite team came and sprayed. We had some damage on the front porch from these bugs and that needed to be treated. Once that got done, the wood siding came off, the plywood backing behind got replaced and new exterior boards put back on. We got a quote for $600 to do this; husband got it done for less then $40. Woohoo!

2.) We had two windows giving us troubles. One had a crack and the other had lost the seal so was getting moisture between the panes. This we did contract out for to have the glass replaced. Good as new. About $400 which was cheaper then I expected. If we could afford it, I’d replace all the windows with new but that isn’t happening.

3.) Front door latch which was brass was being cranky due to being worn out; I mean it was 20+ years old! That got replaced with a brush nickel pewter colored latch which looks a lot better with the black door and gray house paint. I’ll be repainting the door a fresh coat of black come summer.

4.) The front exterior wall lamps all got taken down and repainted. $16

5.) The Garage Door got some magnet faux hinges on it as an upgrade. $45.

6.) Our walk in pantry got a fresh facelift. Everything was dragged out, the ceiling repainted, the walls repainted, the shelving repainted and a couple of the shelves up high got cut back in depth (these were installed over 2 decades ago by us when we had specialty items that needed a deep shelf but the deep shelf cut back some of the light).

Because food items in the pantry can stain the shelves (an onion had really done a number on one shelf!), those shelves are now lined with clear, ribbed shelf liner from Bed, Bath and Beyond – so no I’m not repainting these again! Ha!

I’m still working on that pantry (buying more food containers, putting in a built in bin etc..) but I’ll do a reveal when we are done.

7.) The single large recessed light in the hallway to the laundry room also got replaced with two halogen recessed lights, the short ceiling replastered and repainted.

8.) Most of the winter centered around the Kitchen. Originally, the house had 7 recessed lights that were the old style, large recessed can. They never provided enough even light in the kitchen and especially in winter, gave a lot of shadows and were constantly burning out.

Husband replaced and rewired for 16 new recessed Halogen lights so they now match in style with the lights he put into the adjoining family room. They provide a lot of lovely light and give far more illumination to the kitchen area.

However, this was a massive job. Not only were the new lights an investment ($265 from Home Depot which had a better price then Lowes), but the ceiling had to have drywall patches put in, then the entire surface was replastered, and all of it repainted. Instead of using flat white wall paint which didn’t look so great against the creamy white cabinetry, we went with the wall color at 50% lighter which worked great as we have 10′ tall ceilings in there.

Working above your head is no fun! However, we are very lucky husband knows electrical because to have contracted this job out would have been well over $1,500 I’m sure as wiring for one outlet in the garage for husband’s pottery kiln was $300!

10.) The Kitchen Shelf unit FINALLY got painted. After debating again and again what I was going to do with the colors in the kitchen, I found a $5 gallon of paint at Lowes at closeout. I thought it would just be the undercolor (with a topcoat of cranberry red) but once it went on we both loved it so much we decided to go with it. It got a glaze of black on top but is not distressed.

I’ll be doing a reveal of that soon too but I’m waiting on the countertop.

11.) We first painted the Island with the same color as the Kitchen Shelf as a test. But once again, when it went on we really loved it as it provided a beautiful contrast against the cream white cabinetry.

It made us completely rethink our plans which was to rebuild the island from the ground up. Rebuilding the entire island would take quite a chunk of change, and we now know that in 3 years or less the house will be on the market – so was it worth it? Nope!

We will be redoing the island instead with different types of drawers. I’ll be posting about that in the near future too.

12.) Which brings us back to the Kitchen cabinetry that I did in Ce Ce Caldwell’s Chalk paint (the same problem would have happened with Annie Sloan) and topped with wax. A BIG reason I haven’t posted in this house blog is that project was a disaster I was not happy about at ALL.

Wax in no way will protect kitchen cabinets. And what to do about a protective coat when everything I know yellows when it is on top of white paint? I felt like house designer failure and it took me a long time (as you can tell from my blog posts) to feel like I wanted to tackle this problem again.

I even debated about repainting all the cabinetry AGAIN or calling in an expert to fix the problem. However, after doing a lot of research I’ve decided to go with Protect by Velvet Finishes. I’ll be cleaning up the chalk paint on there now, removing the wax that remains and going with Protect over the cabinet surfaces. Hopefully, this will fix the problem that I’ve been wrestling with for two years!

If I have a recommendation for you is don’t go with Chalk Paint in the Kitchen and if you do, use a medium to dark color so you can glaze and protect it with a top coat that won’t yellow over white.

So while yes, I’ll be posting again, it will not be on a very regular basis – only as projects get wrapped up or if there is one that I think is interesting enough you might want to know the process. See you soon!

Sconces for my updated Farmhouse rustic fireplace

I ordered two sconces (with coupon and discount $179.08) for the fireplace and they are now installed! We wanted a more contemporary look even though the fireplace stone is rustic; this continues my idea of “updated farmhouse.” These glass cylinders are reminiscent of hurricane glass although without the bell bottom it has a modern flair.

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Love the shadows and warmth the sconce light gives to the stonework we recently finished up.

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Fireplace renovation: beginning the build

We started the build of the fireplace right before Christmas, which is okay for us but of course for you – be aware that this is dusty work and takes some time! Your fireplace area will be down for a few days to a week, depending on your ability to devote time to the project.

Living Room Wall with fireplace
Fireplace before

Prep work was removing our original builder mantel and breaking off all the tile. This is dirty work – have your floor covered, wear junk clothes, and eye protection for those pieces that might shatter.

The mantel I sold in 24 hour for a very low price on Craigslist as I just didn’t want to junk it. Another option would be to donate to Habitat for Humanity, which we have done with other items.

The first part of the building stage was to lay the hearth stones. We are replacing the floor in this room with wood and opted to go with the stone down first, with the wood floor being added later. This is on a ground floor, family room with a cement floor.

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Next we built out two columns from the fireplace wall. This are equal in size and frame the bottom part of the fireplace (below the mantel). These were built like a stand up box using 2×4’s at the corners and plywood as the face using a nail gun. Over this a wire mesh was applied and fastened using a staple gun.

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Then a skim coat of mortar was applied over the wire and let to dry for 48 hours. A coat of mortar has to be applied in order for the next coat of mortar to stick.

While the bottom was drying, we made two other structural changes:

Part of the electrical change we made was we moving down the overhead light originally in the sofit. The future lights will be two sconces that are mounted above the wood mantel beam and are centered vertically over the stone pillars.

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The recessed light was always a pain. I guess the original builder put it there so you could hang artwork and let it be illuminated; the only thing it really did was provide a harsh, unflattering light to a short wall, as well as getting into your eyes while you watched television!

Another change, was the lowering of the mantel. The original mantel was too high and anything placed on it could not be admired if you were sitting in the room. The new mantel height is also in better proportion with the wall height.

Another part of the prep was getting the mantel into shape. We did darken the wood using the Java gel stain color from American General because the wood we chose was lighter then we wanted. This ties it into the future floor and the staircase molding at the front entrance hall of the house.

The mantel weight will be supported by the two columns so no additional supports are needed.DSC_0089

At this point we are about Day 3 into the project and decided to take a day or two off so we could get holiday stuff done 🙂 Next post will be the wrap up of the stone and mounting the mantel.

Retrofitting recessed ceiling lighting in the family room

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Bargains no more

You probably want to read about some amazing deal I found: like a fantasy $10 dresser I redid and sold for $500. Personally, the reality is that those deals are getting harder and harder to find – if not impossible.

All the popularity of painting furniture on Pinterest, Facebook and in junk/vintage booth stores has made it rare to find “deals” anymore. Even average furniture has gone up in price on Craigslist and so I am not here to tout bargains. I actually am a bit tired of having to buy something only to spend weekends getting it back into some sort of shape for my home – it’s one reason the blog has not been so busy this last year as I’ve had re-decorating burnout…

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I did find two matching lamps for the Living Room – they are the Mercury Glass style (I did try the Mercury glass spraypaint featured in many Pinterest pins and the reality is that it was crap and not at all professional in end product).

If I had bought similar ones on sale at Hobby Lobby they would have been about the same price though these are a bit better in quality. I am also no longer spending money at Hobby Lobby due to them breaking the law and trying to shame women working at below a living wage into being baby machines (or maybe breaking the law in New York advertising fake bargains from China – or maybe breaking the law in Oklahoma by holding secret meetings with government officials).

They would have cost me twice as much if bought at Pier One and these are about the same quality as Pier One lamps. But a steal? No.

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I also found two matching end tables for the Living Room on Craigslist. Again, no real bargain at $120 for two. However, these are high quality pieces, nothing wrong or damaged with them, with hardware I won’t have to replace. It’s also a huge problem trying to find two matching tables – generally you find an end table with a matching coffee table (not what I wanted as it didn’t work with the room’s configuration).

I will be painting them as soon as I replace the couch and chairs. While the black and white striped curtains, the black chair, wall color and floor will remain the same, the sofa and the chairs will be changed. I may go with a gray couch and patterned upholstered chairs or gray chairs and a colorful couch. Not sure.

The chair here? Craigslist for $80. Why so high? Because it’s real leather not fake vinyl. The springs are excellent and while I might put a wax on the wood, I’m not repainting it. It’s pretty much ready to go.

Nothing wrong with dumpster diving or finding a broken dresser to fix up – but even broken things are Craigslist are going for twice what they did two years ago (I saw a dresser missing two drawers priced at $100! Really? and the ad stated – “redo like on Pinterest”).

On the bright side – it means the economy is improving. The downside is that the days of scooping up treasures next for nothing is pretty much gone.

dining room wall sconces installed

I had some money AND the wall sconces I’ve been looking at for a year, went on sale! Wow! half price! yeah! This made a $400 purchase, $200 so good deal for me.

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For some reason, wall sconces and lighting in general is ridiculously expensive. Considering it was made and assembled in China or Thailand, and the materials aren’t all that expensive to begin with, it’s a rip off to say the least. So if you are re-doing a room and working on a budget I would definitely really, really make sure you consider the cost of your lighting – it may come as an unpleasant surprise!

We also installed the sliding dimmers on the over the dining table lights and the wall sconces. The silly builder put the switch for one on another wall because he and his electrical crew were morons. We were morons on putting in so much light as it isn’t really necessary, however, what is done is done and I’m not ripping out walls to re-do a small lighting design faux paus.

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I’m glad to get this area wrapped up. It was one of those little expensive projects that I kept telling myself I’d get the money for – later – and later never happened. It’s also good to get this done as I wanted these public areas wrapped up before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Okay to explain where we are – so to speak – in the blog narrative. Husband got a job out of state two years ago. A year later I followed with daughter (I stayed to get our son through his senior year of high school). Son stayed in our house and we got him a roommate. The “plan” had been to come back and wrap up most of the remodeling and than sell.

However, in May 2013, we decided husbands’ work wasn’t going the way we planned, and daughter wasn’t too happy at her school, so we all trickled back to the house you see profiled on this blog. Daughter and I came first, and two weeks ago, husband got here with a new job. Still we have been busy moving animals and possessions, as well as dealing with some personal things so nothing has been done on the house.

So I’m kickstarting back the entries as we zoom through a few remodeling chores and updates before the end of the year.

Room: Kitchen updates on the progress

Of course, the kitchen is the most expensive house to renovate and it’s because appliances, cabinets, countertops, and floors are big money investments.

Mine is no different – between buying new kitchen counters (granite) and putting in new appliances (via Craigslist), I’ll probably be working on it in stages over the next several months. Knowing this is why, among other reasons, I choose Chalk Paint for the cabinet re-do.

Completed:

Wiring and installation of four drop pendant lights, two over the island and two over the kitchen sink prep area.

Wiring for cabinet lights is in place. Still have to install the actual lights (they are rather expensive LED strips).

The four solid cabinet door fronts have been cut open for glass. They are painted and just need waxing before being dropped at the glass co.  (I’ll be updating with a link on the how-to a bit later this month).

Plastering and painting of the kitchen ceiling. The ceiling paint color is white mixed with some of the wall paint color (Rock) so it is not pure white.

Building of the new open shelf cabinetry over the stove and the fridge.

Installing the crown molding to make the upper wall cabinets taller.

Installing the new, pull out, pot storage drawers (4) in the lower cabinets.

Current To-Do:

I’ve decided on what to do with the cabinets. I was planning on using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old White but that product is no longer available locally. So next I tried Ce Ce Caldwells Chalk Paint and decided to go with their Vintage White color, distressed with clear wax. Since I’m doing it in sections I probably won’t be fully done until the end of September.

I’m still getting quotes on kitchen countertops and my tentative plan is to use the 2013 tax refund to pay for their installation as granite will not be cheap. After looking at a lot of white/cream kitchens online, I really need a very dark countertop,  in the brown family to add contrast to the cream cabinetry (which fills up a LOT of the kitchen) and the white tile floors. The brown has to have no pink or red tones or it will pick up the pink vein in the floor tile which I’m trying to downplay.

Until I finish the cabinets – then decide on countertop, I won’t have a firm decision on backsplash. Right now I do know that 1.) it needs to be a simple cream, off white, 2.) be non-busy and 3.) have texture.  4×4 tiles are very outdated right now but I also don’t want something like piano tile or glass tile which is trendy and will date itself within the next 10 years.

These are Travetine, Subway (3×6) tiles:

This is a rough, tumbled, dry stack look but don’t know if it would work with the kitchen use:

Here are the sizes of the countertops and the backsplash.

I’m debating though on the island counter — should I go ahead and match it with the other counter granite or go with an aged and dark stained wood counter? I kinda like the idea of doing the wood counter top but perhaps it would be too risky…?

The island itself will be changed, most likely around Thanksgiving – right now it’s a huge block of cabinetry right in the middle of the kitchen. I want to keep the three drawers (very handy), but open up the bottom with a shelf. Four new corner post legs will be added for interest and the bottom will have baseboard molding to hide the lack of tile underneath this structure. It will be similar to this in terms of design but smaller and not white.

We also decided to go back to the idea of removing the breakfast bar (it doesn’t work as the space is too tight for stools AND a breakfast table) and instead, put in a shelf unit (something like this perhaps but with all open shelves).

The original sketch … but we will probably change some measurements…

He is also going to re-do the molding around the bay window area sometime in November.

Husband is going to DIY a new, copper vent hood for the stove! We found a website that sells distressed copper and he thinks he can remake our old black venthood into something like this but not as ornate. For obvious reasons we can’t buy a copper vent hood (KA-CHING!) but if he can pull it off it will really be something! I’ll post more when we start that project sometime in October.

The sink faucet I’m currently favoring is from Overstock.com:

The hardware will be knobs I’ve got on hand, as well as some additional cup pulls in rustic brown for drawers from Overstock.com.

The hardware will go well with the pendant lights from Lowes we installed over the island and kitchen counter. BTW I don’t know why this light got negative reviews, did not have the issues other people did and the product is fine.

Lots to do and while it would be nice to show you all a finished kitchen tomorrow, it’s really down to money AND time. Just got to stay focused and moving forward as we can.