Category Archives: kitchen

Wednesday Renovation Recap: Stepping it Up

Last week was crazy at work with my first big annual dinner to do, so the blog took a bit of a hit. Working until almost 7 every night for a few weeks will do that. With the dinner over, and spring finally starting to show it’s face, I’m super excited to share with you a lot of things we’ve been doing on the house, and outside of the house.

So let me just say….


DSC_3605-01Let me take a deep breath and back up. When we decided to renovate our home, we knew we were going to be building a lot of the final touches ourselves. I’m using the marital “we” because I really mean Andy would be building the final touches, since my level of building is something closer to a rugged potato box (I’ll be blogging on this later).

DSC_3531-01It has always been important to Andy to build a lot of the house himself, including the finishes. For one, he knows how to do it. For two, he can build it for less money than a cheaper quality version he could buy. For three, it’s a family thing to have little touches throughout the house to make it personal. Every single piece of wood has some sort of story of how it was found, or how cheap it was bought, or where it originally came from, etc. It gives the house what many houses these days are missing—character.

I trusted Andy to build a beautiful set of stairs, so I stayed out of the way and didn’t really give any input. I knew he would turn out something wonderful and I’m most definitely not disappointed. At this point we only have parts which need to be painted and/or sealed so let’s dive into the finishing process. The first thing we had to do was decide what treatment we wanted for each part. Since the risers and balusters are made of poplar we decided they should be painted. However, the railing, balusters and newel posts are made of walnut and beech. We absolutely knew those were going to stay as solid wood. We haven’t reached the painted parts yet, or installation, so I’ll discuss those in a later post. For now let’s get into the finishing of the unpainted parts.

We quickly decided the best bet would be multiple coats of the same clear finish we used on the exposed trusses. It would give a nice hard surface and show off the beautiful wood without adding any tint like a stain or oil might do.

It’s still too cold to do the finishing outside, so we had to set up in the house. We decided to use our master bedroom on the second floor as a staging area for finishing, and utilized the roll staging as a drying rack for the treads.

DSC_3571-01For finishing I simply followed the instructions on the water based clear coat, which in our case included letting each coat dry for two hours and a light sanding with 250-grit sandpaper in between each coat. I started with the rough side, since I knew it was important to get a coat on each side to help prevent warping. That said, I only did one coat on the back side but plan on doing about 5 or so on the front side.

You can see just how different they look after one coat!

DSC_3579-01After a light sanding I did a second coat and with each coat since then I’ve been loving the stairs more and more.

DSC_3584-01DSC_3588-01In addition to the stair treads I also did the newel posts (there is a third one but it wasn’t in the shot).

DSC_3597-01My favorite piece of the entire staircase so far has to be the railings though. I absolutely love touched of dark woods like mahogany and walnut, so these walnut railings are right up my alley. Once we put a clear coat on them they really took the cake.

DSC_3603-01Each of the three railings will get a few more coats, including the sanding in between, before they are finished. They keep getting prettier with each coat and I adore them. They all look like one piece of wood, right?

Surprise, they’re actually each three pieces of wood! Andy did an incredibly fabulous job making them all look like one cohesive piece.

DSC_3549-01Now that it’s the week and we’re back to work eight hours a day, it pretty much means I’m doing about one coat a night as each coat needs about two hours drying time. So far they are looking beautiful and shiny. I can’t wait to have time to get the other pieces painted and document that for you. Finally, and obviously, the biggest excitement will be getting everything installed!

In addition to the stair parts, we also finally finished sealing the beams above the stairwell, which means they are D.O.N.E. DONE.

DSC_3592-01And since spring has finally sprung, it means the tarp has been taken off the kitchen we’ve been housing in our garage. More on the kitchen later, but oh Lord, it’s beautiful even with the few dings. The granite knobs more than make up for any dings.

DSC_3703-01Spring is certainly refreshing, no doubt about it. It means finishing touches, fresh air, building new structures for the garden, planting the garden and getting to spend time outside with those you love. How does a park on a sunny Sunday with your friends and their kids not just make a soul happy?

DSC_3637-01All for now. While I’ll still only be posting once or twice a week there is a lot coming up once I find time to write again!



Salvaging The Budget

It’s really easy to go off budget with renovations, and with a husband that can build anything I sometimes have to remind myself that just because he can build anything doesn’t mean that he has either time to, or that we have the budget to. It’s extremely important for us to stay on budget. I figured I should do a post about our budget, and about how we’re staying in line with it so far.

There are four big things we’re doing to keep ourselves on budget.

1. We are paying for this entire renovation ourselves with no financing. We are not rich by any means of the word, it’s taken a lot of work on our part to put our money where our mouth is. Not eat it, save it. I’m not being literal because that would just be straight up wasteful. Our budget is well under $20g for the entire house including the new deck, addition, porch, complete gut and re-layout of the original house, finishes (millwork, trim, casings, etc.) and appliances.

2. We are taking it one project at a time. We do not have all of the money we’ll need for everything at this point but we continue to save. We saved enough to do the addition and porch. Our hope is to get the area to a complete-enough place so we can move into it. It won’t be painted/decorated, etc most likely right away. We may not even have a solid wood floor in our bedroom for a while. Taking it slow.

3. We’re doing the work ourselves. I understand that not everyone can, or should, do this level of a renovation themselves. We’re fortunate enough that Andy was raised in a very hands-on environment where he was taught these things from a very young age. Doing the work ourselves will save an exorbitant amount of money.

4. Salvage salvage salvage. We’re no strangers to salvaging considering Andy built most of our current barn with the plywood and pieces from our old barn. At work, if a client has a nice piece of furniture they want to get rid of you can bet they often call Andy first. Salvaging everything we can simply saves a lot of money. If the insulation is good, salvage it. Plywood still good? You bet I’m pulling all the nails out sheet by sheet so we can either re-use it on the addition, or another project down the line. Those $15-20 dollars here and there add up. We most definitely aren’t afraid of a little extra work when it will save us a lot of money. When we pick up nails with the magnet, if I find one that is perfectly straight I set it aside. Now, I’m not sitting there inspecting every nail but if I happen to catch it, I’ll grab it.

Andy is very good with budgets and as a builder he really understands the process from negotiations on product cost, to the technical execution of the actual building process.  I won’t lie and say his knowledge and know-how doesn’t help, it most definitely does. We do get some of our materials at a discount but truth be told, not by much. Salvaging materials and doing the work ourselves is the biggest help of all for our budget.

For me, the hard part for budget will be further down the line when it’s time to do the interior design. This isn’t part of our overall budget, it’s something we’ll save for separately (new couch, rugs, new mattress, etc.). It’s going to take a lot of ingenuity and creativity on my part to pull off the looks I love. If you follow me on Pinterest (link in the upper right corner of the side bar under “P”) you can tell that I have a fairly specific taste. I’m looking forward to the challenge of how to execute an updated farmhouse/cottage interior. You can bet there will be plenty of flea markets in my future and lots of crafts.

If we continue to follow a simple rule we learned in elementary school we should be just fine: “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Whether it’s saving money for the project, with actual building materials, or finding/making a specific decor item I’m pining for we can just reduce to save money for it, reuse what we have, or recycle another items to stand in for it (or to barter for the item you want!).

Salvaging our budget all comes down to one overarching principal: this project really is a true “DIY” adventure, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Why let someone else do it, when you can do it yourself?



Making Your House A Home During Renovations

When renovations are in full swing, sometimes it’s hard to keep your house feeling like a home. With the drywall dust, construction debris, and in our case moving two huge rooms of our house into tiny spaces, it can quickly make you feel like you’re living in a construction zone. This isn’t a fun feeling for anyone, and I assume it’s one of the biggest reasons people get stressed out during renovations. Lord knows a few months ago I had my moment of “what if this process is bad?”. Then, I got over it, pretty quickly. Attitude is everything in life. There are a few key things you can do to help lower your stress levels and keep your house a home when it looks like this:

  1. Plan: As important as it is to plan your actual renovation, planning the space you will be living in during renovations is crucial. Maximize your space so disruption of flow from room to room is kept at a minimum. If you’re renovating your kitchen, you can cook dinners ahead of time that you can easily heat up in a microwave. Think of moving your fridge to another location so you can still store food. Keep things in place for as long as you can, but have a plan so when it does come time to move them it’s not stressful. If you’re doing a bathroom it’s a little more tricky but can you try and plan it so you have at least the toilet and shower back up and running in one day? We’re moving our bathroom to an entirely different room, so we’ll finish the new bathroom before we tear out the old.
  2. Phase Construction: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you take a hammer to every wall “just to see” what’s behind it, you’re going to leave a lot of dust in your path. Every time you look up you’ll see that hole in the wall and be reminded you need to fix it. One room, one project, at a time. Not only does this help you focus on the task at hand, it’s also helps in case you can’t finish the other phases as planned. The last thing you want is to run out of money, time or help and be reminded of it because you’ve ripped apart every room in the house.
  3. Get Creative and Be Flexible: Yes, it would be great if we all had the budget to afford whatever it is we wanted to do during renovations, but be realistic. You might have to get creative to make some of the things happen that you want. It may also be about picking the most important things and scrimping for them. Do you want lunch with the girls/guys, or do you want a marble counter for your bathroom sink? This goes in hand with being flexible. Sometimes walls just can’t be opened as much as you thought because it would be too expensive for the added structural support.
  4. Stay Within Your Budget: You’re probably thinking “duh” but honestly, when you’re caught up in it and you’ve already spent a bunch of money you might say “what’s a few more thousand?” That’s only a question you can answer, but be careful-it’s a slippery slope. You will be much happier in the end if you don’t have looming loans over your head, just so you could have a bunch of minor details. If you’re stressed after it’s all over, you’ll be too consumed with it to even notice or truly appreciate them. All you’ll see is the debt you’ve incurred. Be smart about it, get creative when you need to in order to attain the things you want, and be flexible. A blown budget just isn’t worth it.
  5. Don’t Forget Your Routine: Let’s face it, when you’re both working full time (I include stay at home parents in the “full time” category), it’s not easy to find time to renovate. Your schedule will be thrown off – but at least try to maintain some normalcy. For Andy and I, we make our dinner and sit on the porch. I do laundry, brush the dogs, take them for walks, play with them, weed the garden, etc. We aren’t letting our lives fall by the wayside just because we’re renovating-it’s just a new part of our lives. This often means Andy is doing a lot of the renovations, while I’m helping to keep the rest of the house running. Dinners are a little less prepared than they used to be, but we aren’t eating out. If you have kids, keeping some routine will help them a lot (and everyone) with the transition.
  6. Keep A Clean Job Site: This is one Andy stressed hugely to me. Messy job sites are the sign of a sloppy job. At the end of the day, no matter how tired you are, do a quick pick up. You will find yourself way less stressed if you don’t have to see everything everywhere when you want to get work done. This includes putting your tools back in a designated spot when you’re done for the day.
  7. Keep A Clean House: Just like a clean job site, a clean living area during renovations is extremely important. You’ll feel like you’re in your home – even if it feels like your home crammed into a tiny box. In our case, because all of our belongings are in a very small area now, it’s incredibly important to stay on top of any messes. With our bedroom being 8×8 it means clothes get put away immediately. No baskets of clothing sits around waiting to be put away. Small spaces force you to be more conscious of not only what you have, but how cluttered it can get. Keep it to a minimum. If you have to, do a once a day clean sweep through the house to pick up any odds and ends. You’d be surprised how good it feels just to keep your floors vacuumed, your laundry put away and your coffee table picked up.
  8. Remember The Little Things: I love having fresh flowers in my house during the summer. To keep our house feeling like a home, I’ve been picking wild flowers and keeping them in a case next to our bed. Not only do they last longer than anything store bought, and are free – but they are significantly more beautiful and diverse. Whatever the little things are that make you feel like a cup of tea and happy, then do them still if you can.

When you’re done, it will be so worth it and even more so if you aren’t fighting the entire time. These are tips we are using in our own renovation, and I hope will help you get through yours. It’s a new and exciting time in your life – embrace it and have fun.



House Tour {The Before}

These renovations are going way faster than I thought since we unexpectedly started on Thursday, so I need to stay on it so I don’t fall behind!

Before I get into the other stuff in later posts – let’s house tour it up. This house tour is long overdue, and I did it right in the nick of time. I actually wasn’t intending for this to be the house tour because I had wanted to get the laundry taken care of, our bedroom furniture moved downstairs and the current master bedroom vacuumed, once empty, before I did it. On Thursday however, Andy came home and started tearing down some of the molding in the living room just to get an idea of what was behind it (don’t get me wrong, I was on board—more like jumping up and down). While he was out getting something else done, I decided to take a video of the excitement and then somehow it all got put into a regular old house tour. The only room I missed was the basement. I’ll try and remember to get that the next time I do a tour. Thankfully I had vacuumed when I got home, but I didn’t prep in anyway for the video so you’re in for quite a treat.

By treat I mean laundry, dinner items all over the counter, a messy pantry, some dishes and a super dirty window because of dog noses pressing up against it.

A few notes before the video:

  • The outside of the house tour was done before we fixed the deck in May and the inside of the house tour was just done last Thursday so it’s a bit of a mish mash.
  • When I went into the bathroom originally the seat was up so I cut to another part of it. It’s right outside the office/brother in laws bedroom though, which you see when I turn back around. It’s a really messed up transition in the video, so I apologize. I didn’t realize it until after it was completed and exported.
  • For some reason I call the patio set “the porch”. Nope, the porch will be on the other side of the house, though, it may have a patio set on it too.
  • It’s hard to hear me outside because that day was crazy windy, sorry.
  • I talk with my hands – even on video, when I’m holding it. Hence all the “let me point everything out” for you.

You love it, admit it. Or so I choose to believe this is your reaction.

Poor Winnie did start to get the basketball (that’s why her head was in her toy basket), but then I distracted her by walking around and ignoring her so she just left it. We did get  got in a big walk up to the farm right after all of this hullabaloo. While up there I took a video of the cows, with the intention of making a post about it–and then I got a straight shot of a steer unsuccessfully attempting to mount a heifer while at full *ahem* attention. So I most likely won’t be posting that video.

I will however be posting a video of the demolition work we’ve already done later on.

Drinking game: How many times can I use the word exciting in this blog or in my videos to reference the demolition? Nix that, you’ll all be drunk.



Why Am I Standing In Water?

I’m no plumber, and I don’t know a lot about it, but I admittedly like plumbing. Like, I really like plumbing. Have you ever watching Ask This Old House? If no, you should. If yes, my favorite segments are the plumbing ones.

I have no explanation for this.

So when this morning I found myself standing in a puddle of water while I rinsed the coffee pot out I may or may not have had a little spark in my eye along with the inevitable, “what the..?!” that went through my mind.

It turns out the elbow of the drain had a hole through it and if you pushed your finger on it, it simply crumbled. Even though I like plumbing Andy actually knows how to do it and do it right. So I told him about it, came back downstairs by myself and looked at it again.

I knew I could fix it. I was determined that I was going to fix it. I asked Andy if he wanted to come to Home Depot with me and he laughed and said, “I’ll go the second time”, implying I would get the wrong stuff the first time. Nothing like a little teasing to make me dig my heels in. Challenge on.

First I put a sticky note on the right side of our double sink (the side with the hole) to make sure no one used it. Luckily changing this pipe out isn’t something you need to shut the water off for. Excuse the much needed sink wipe down, I couldn’t run the water for that side of the sink.

Then I asked Andy where our plumbing stuff was and grabbed our handy dandy pipe wrench and loosened the nuts on either side of the 15″ pipe.

I removed the entire pipe and nuts to bring with me (because I was only going once to the store for this). Yep, definitely a hole. And a really really gross pipe.

So off I went to pick up the right pieces. It cost me just under $15.00 total for a 1.5″ 15 inch waste arm and two 1.5 inch “slip joint nuts with washer”. I put that in quotes because I had no idea what they were called until I got to the store. I just matched up what I had. I can tell you though that there is also a 1.5″ to 1.4″ slip joint nut for when the pipe you’re connecting to is slightly smaller. It seems like 1.5″ is standard though. If you didn’t have either you might be looking at about $30.00? I have no idea how much pipe wrenches cost.

Old vs. New. Yikes.

The next step was to wipe down the pipes left under the sink and put some pipe joint compound onto the threads. I tried tape at first but didn’t like the connection it gave, so I took it off and switched methods.

The one thing you need to make sure of is that you have the washers facing the right way. I accidentally put the left one on wrong at first and had a small leak. Once I turned it the right way and re-tightened everything there was no leak. The photo below shows the right way to put it on. Ignore the piece on the top of this photo with compound on it, focus on the red piece. If you are curious though, it was a small gasket that was causing it not to tighten enough and it didn’t leak without it so no problem. Also ignore the fact that I have that upside down in this photo too. The rest is right.

Once I got everything going the right way, I battened down the hatches and tested the water.

Boo yah, no more leak!

Despite having one washer backwards, and a piece I decided not to use, I consider this a success.

In one trip.

Challenge won.

Happy Plumbing,


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