Spring Catch-up

5 05 2010

My folks were in town for the past week and boy did we have a great time.  We did everything from hanging in LA, betting on some horses and watching around 250 dolphins play.  Here’s our fun rundown: we went to a taping of Price is Right and, unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the stage but it sure was fun to watch the taping.  Plus, the lady who won the whole showcase and all was seated just behind us so we might be flashed on the big screen!!  We also took a trip to go whale watching, but it was in between blue and gray season so we were only able to see a pod of dolphins (but boy were they cute!)  And finally we each picked a strategy for the Kentucky Derby and put money in the pool.  Too bad that John was the only one that took home anything and it was a whooping $7.40!!  Talk about big spenders! 😉

We also worked on my household to do list that had been back-piling for quite a while.  They graciously offered to do a few of the things off the list and before the end of the week the entire list disappeared.  Talk about a weight lifted off my back.  Thanks for visiting and helping us out!  We had a great time and can’t wait for you to come back.

Here’s a glimpse at what we completed:

Dad and I cleaned up the workbench, reorganized tools that never found a home when we made the peg board wall and installed the vise.  Here my dad, Lee, is just finishing up the installation.

Meanwhile, my mom, Kathy, was putting some spar varnish on our new patio chairs from IKEA.  We had this same version before that are not intended to be outdoor chairs and the finish quickly came off (less than 3 years) in the sun so we put a marine grade lacquer on this time to protect the chairs a bit better.  Trust me when I say these chairs make a fire-pit so comfortable.

So while mom was finishing up dad and I got the idea to create a new house number plaque since John had bought me new numbers for my birthday a while back.  I know very romantic gift but I asked for them!!  Anyway, we ended up cutting a new board, staining it, mom put a couple of coats of lacquer on it then we attached the numbers and installed it.  Now our front really looks great since all the items are in brushed nickel (the light, mail box and number plaque) and match!

That afternoon we also installed a new clothesline with a retractable cord on our patio.  Since we live near the beach we are always bringing home beach towels that need to dry off before they track sand in the house so it will be nice to have this cleverly designed clothesline for the future.

To finish off our afternoon we planted the planter garden I had been planning.  First, the planters didn’t come with pre-drilled holes so we made our own with a concrete drill bit.  Next, we filled the bottoms with river rock for a better water flow, then filled them with dirt.  I am now in charge of keeping a lime tree, a strawberry plant, grape tomatoes, radishes, tiny cucumbers, basil, cilantro and mint alive.  I will keep you updated if I kill anything or if they start producing like they are suppose to.

Lastly, we had an old stump that was part of the original planter the home builder put around the garage.  We intended to remove it with a chainsaw but dad kicked it a few times and the thing came right out.  Guess it had been dead for longer than we thought.  Talk about an easy removal!  So we poured on some more topsoil and planted some wild flower seeds.  Hopefully, they grow as well.





The oww & aww of Fresh Paint

12 04 2010

Who doesn’t love fresh paint?!  I get such a thrill from the aroma of a newly painted anything-enough so to make me giddy–although it might just be the fumes.  In all seriousness, nothing says brand spankin’ new more than a fresh coat of paint.  In my opinion you can salvage anything with just a bit of primer, a little filler, some paint.

Good as new was what we were hoping when it came to our house.  When we bought the little fixer upper, it was in horrible condition.  Years of neglect and abuse showed through the ceilings, floors and everything in between.  Step one after tearing everything out was to put a fresh coat of paint on anything that would stand still.  So we called in reinforcements–Doug, a friend and John’s mom, Georgia, came to help for day one of painting, and since John’s parents own quite a few rental properties they know their way around a can of paint!  Poor Georgia, she flew in for a week from Omaha to help us out with the renovation and ended up extending her trip by a few days so she could help us move after she spent the entire trip painting!  A gigantic THANK YOU for her help!!

Now before we could get started we chose to wash down the walls with a bleech and water mix (we used the suggested value on the back of the bleach for ratio of water to bleach) since the previous owners had been smokers.  After we washed the walls we needed to patch all the tiny holes that were left from a ton of picture frames that had previously graced the walls.  So once the patching was complete we were ready to start.  We thought that since we didn’t have anything left to ruin we would initially try to spray the paint on with a paint gun.  However, we didn’t have much luck.  We probably should have rented a professional version of a spray gun but decided to purchase a inexpensive alternative.  This was money not well spent as we couldn’t get it to spray evenly and after about an hour of messing around with it we decided to go back to the traditional route of rollers and brushes.  Here is a look at our  paint gun try:

Since we were on a pretty tight timeline we had to move forward.  I am sure that we eventually would have gotten the hang of it but with John’s dad flighting in the next day to help lay the wood flooring, we had to have the lower level completely painted on day 1 so it just wasn’t the right time to work with new tools. Once we moved to the upper floor (a LOT more walls to cover) it was just Georgia and I left working on the painting.

So most of you have painted a couple of walls in your day and know the ins and outs.  But I thought I would try and recall some of our more successful tools and a few suggestions that we wish we had never tried.  We first started by taping everything but quickly realized that a steady hand and a shield tended to work better than waiting for the ceiling to dry before we could paint the walls.  In the picture below you can see me cutting in with my shield while John painted the dark wall beyond with a roller.

Another suggestion that I would have done differently would be that we have 2 different colors of trim in our place.  One color is used upstairs and one downstairs.  Since we had ordered the wood flooring for our lower level I went ahead and picked paint for the lower level.  Once we had selected our carpet for the upstairs the same paint scheme didn’t work as well so I picked another scheme.  I couldn’t find a trim that would look good with both color schemes so decided to pick upstairs trim and a downstairs trim as two separate colors.  This has made things confusing later in the process.  The paint cans have to be labeled accurately and even so the wrong color has been used a time or two and has had to be redone.  We also have run into how to finish the banister since it would be running between two paint colors.  I would have worked harder in the front end to have one trim color run throughout the project had I known it would have made things so complicated.

Also make sure that when picking a paint roller you always pick the right nap.  This can save you hours of work on a project.  Here is a guide to better help you with this selection:

  • 1/8 — 1/4 inch, are for ultra smooth surfaces. Use with enamels, varnish, oil and water base paints.
  • 3/8 — 1/2 inch, are for semi- smooth and medium textured surfaces. These can be used with all paints.
  • 3/4 inch is a multi purpose roller nap length that is useful for semi-rough surfaces. This size of roller nap is a good choice for most interior and exterior surfaces; such as siding, walls and smooth concrete block.
  • 1 — 1-1/2 inch thick piles are for the roughest of surfaces, such as rough stucco and split face concrete block.

On a side note, all the ceilings were finished with a flat paint and all the walls were finished off with a satin finish.  Flat tends to be less expensive and since it’s cleanability on the ceiling is not as important you can save quite a bit of money going this route.  However, for the walls either an eggshell or a satin finish is the way to go since it has to stand up to a lot more wear and tear over the years.  Finally, all of our trim is finished in high gloss since it is on wood and would create a nice contrast between the walls and again has a cleanability factor that you can’t mess with.

So hopefully these suggestions help you with your next painting project.  Do you have any suggestions to add that really helped you during your last painting project?  We’d love to hear them!!





Demolition Loose Ends

2 04 2010

Before I can begin the run down of us starting to re-build our little home, I feel like I should tie up some loose ends. We didn’t just scrape the ceiling and rip down a wall.  We were very “eager” to make this house our home so we tore into it deep and we did it quick.  Our thinking was if we ruin it now, we will have to repair it later (even if we don’t feel like it) so we ripped everything away that we planned to fix even down the road so we could have our fresh start.  We removed a layer of carpet from every room in the house minus the bathrooms.  Downstairs after the carpet was pulled back we discovered vinyl tile that had to be scraped off.

Once the flooring was all removed the baseboards and tack strips from the carpet had to be pulled off.  Since we had a Wonderbar the job went pretty smoothly.  In the kitchen we removed the 18″ square sticky vinyl tiles and all the cabinet doors (so they could be refinished with paint) and painstakingly removed the contact paper from each of the shelves, seeing as I am not really a sunflower kind of a girl.

This is my friend Sarah, she was working her first drill!

Just off of the kitchen is the powder room which we ripped the toilet and vanity out, sadly I don’t even have a before of this room because it was just too disgusting to peek in.  Speaking of bathrooms, the upstairs had to remain a working bathroom until we had the downstairs repaired so we only ripped out the freestanding shower and left the rest intack for almost a year while we completed other projects.  Let me remind you what we lived with for over a year–remember this is the room that made me exit the house halfway through our first visit it was so disgusting!

Our Original Master Bath

Oh bonus, in this picture you can see the shower we ripped out.  Let me tell you a bit about this shower…when they installed it they didn’t have backer board to put up the tile on so instead, they built a frame with lath (chicken wire) and poured 1″ thick concrete on the walls as the backer for the tile.  This made the removal horrible, dusty and extremely heavy since it is on the second floor.  Lastly, we ripped out ever single window covering in the place to get rid of the smoke smell from the previous owners.

This is our demolition pile the morning we moved into the house (photo taken from our bedroom.)  We had rented a U-haul to move with so before we piled all our belongings in the truck we decided to make a run to the local dump to get rid of some of our debris.  It really took up a lot of room on our patio so it was nice to have it gone before we had tons of people trying to move boxes in.  If you can believe it, that is an out of control avocado tree in the upper right hand corner.  Later in the year, while John was studying, I couldn’t take it any longer and bought a chainsaw and removed over half the tree!  Running a chainsaw turned out to be very liberating.  Cheers!





Making our 4 Bedroom into a 3-who says it won’t add value?!

12 03 2010

Up until now, we have been just dipping our big toes into our new home remodel testing out the water, but in the next project that was all about to change.  We decided it was lame just dipping our toes into the remodeling, so we did a cannon ball from the high dive and got it over with (metaphorically)…we tore down a wall.  A concern of mine in the beginning was that the master bedroom only kind of had a closet.  It was located in our bathroom which is shared jointly with the rest of the bedrooms on the upper level.  Knowing me and my shopping habit, this was just not going to be enough space.  So our decision to change the little room off the master that was formerly called “the nursery” seemed ideal.  Here was our thought process when everyone under the sun asked us ‘is tearing out a room really a value added move?’

A. It’s a townhome, why does it really  need 4 rooms? and B. What exactly do you do with a blank x blank room.

It was way too small for a guest room (unless you want to stay on bunk beds and even then would have been REALLY tight) and basically too small for an office.  A question I ask is: what do you do with a room that has been designated as a nursery during the years you don’t have someone to fill it?  We also had 2 other rooms that would act as our guest room and an office so making it our closet was an ideal move for us.  I am a firm believer in making your home for yourself and how you need the home to function for you, but I do always try to be mindful of what future buyers will expect as well.

First, we started out by measuring and scoring the drywall so we would have a clean line to work with later on the remaining part of the wall.  Since we were planning on mounting our television to the stub wall that contained the wardrobes on the back side we measured out the length of the wall to fit our television.  Above is Ian (a good friend of ours that helped us during our remodel on the weekends since he was in LA working for an architecture firm that summer) scoring our gyp. board.  Notice he is using a vent cover as his straight edge?!  Sometime you have to use whatcha got at the moment.

Next was the big moment (well for us) where there is no turning back…hammers in.

Now had we realized that a couple years down the road I would be showing this picture to lots of people we may have made an attempt to look a little less grubby, but we didn’t.  So here I am with my ‘working on the new house uniform’ that I wore daily and John has on his ‘cut off the sleeve of my old t-shirt hair tie’.  I must say that this moment truly felt like Sarah Jessica Parker walking into her walk-in closet from Mr. Big during the Sex in the City movie.  That moment just made it all feel like this was REALLY happening.  If you are not sure what I am referencing you can check it out here.

So we started to make progress on the removal of the wall board:

So while we are swinging away hammers at our end, since there is no rules to pounding out drywall.  Ian is working away at the meticulous job of taking out gypsum board next to the score line.

And what do we do once our holes get a bit bigger… we had to pose with our handy work.  Maybe its just me but it seems like your house  just isn’t a home till you put a hammer through one of its walls.

So we finished the wall on ‘the nursery’ side and this is what it looked like.Before I go any further, as we tore into the wall both Ian and I, with degrees in architecture for him and interior design for me, did a double take on this diagonal 2×4.  We both looked at it, scratched our heads, asked the question that we had so thoughtfully worked out before taking on this endeavor, that this wasn’t a load bearing wall.  But when we saw that diagonal brace we hoped we had made the correct assessment.  We had.  This was just a method the builder used to “shore up” the wall as my well versed architect friend verified for us.  Anyway, on to the other side of the wall.  This time John thoughtfully measured a line to score the bedroom side, while Ian got started punching a hole through the wall.

Now this picture conjure up a couple questions in my mind.  Why would I ever allow my beautiful golden dog to be subjected to acoustic ceiling scraped leftovers that she laid in for days (i am certain digesting some of it into her system) and who ever came up with the phrase “designer vertical blinds?!”  Anyway, this is one of my favorite pictures from all of our days working in our little abode.

So we labored and labored, what am I saying, this was the best part of the whole thing tearing stuff out.  And we came up with this.

And finally this…

And today this is how it looks:

We patched the drywall about a week later after we installed the floating ceiling I told you about in this post.  So now that the wall was down we patched in the door since how many doors do you need to one room and it would have interfered with our wardrobes.

So above is the before we patched it, and under is the much, much later after the whole project is done of that same wall.  You would never know that there had previously been a door there.  Plenty of things have changes between then and now but we will go over all that in the weeks to come.

Now, I wish I had documented the building of the wardrobes that complete our closet addition, but I didn’t.  I think by the time we moved into our new place I was pretty much sick of working on the house and really didn’t want to document the journey as closely as I had been.  So between moving in and the next year or so of our lives things didn’t get photographed nearly as complete as the first several projects.  Next posting I do on our house will be about the painting.  And trust me when I say…we did a ton of it!!





Taking down the popcorn.

19 02 2010

Ah. Now where did we leave off with the story of our little abode?  Right, we just finished up how we obtained such a great starter home *sigh*.  You can catch up here if you missed that posting.

Since I didn’t deem it “livable” in its current state we stayed in our apartment for the first month while we renovated it.  This meant that we would go to work in the morning, work our full day at our jobs, then show up to the “new house” as close to 5:30 as humanly possible.  We would work there until at least 10pm when it would be out of the question to run power tools (remember how we loved that it was a very quite neighborhood?) and if we had quite work to do we might stretch it to midnight before heading back to our apartment to get a little shut eye.  The weekends were devoted to our “new house” as well, so we would generally start at 9am and go until we couldn’t see straight.  We really worked our hinnies off that first month.  And as you will see as we go through this process we weren’t alone in the work.  We had such great family and friends helping us every bit of the way.

John scraping the ceiling

Even Gracie helped with the ceiling scraping, but she got fleas the first night so couldn't "help" until the house got exterminated a couple days later!!

Our first official project on day one in our little abode was to tear down the popcorn, as in the ceiling acoustics.  First, we had it checked for asbestos (during our inspection we stole a little piece from a closet to have tested) and in return  the lab gave us a big thumbs up to get started.  So armed with a borrowed garden sprayer (from our realtor) we sprayed the ceiling with a bit of water, let it absorb for a bit (just a minute is all it takes), then took a large scraper (like they use in drywall mudding) and scraped it off like you would with paint.  Note: If it hasn’t been painted it is quite easy to remove (no matter how many years of smoking tar has been absorbed) however if it has been painted I hear that it is a much tougher project.  Since ours was not previously painted our process was actually quite easy and went pretty quickly.  We had it all over the house except in the bathrooms and the kitchen and it only took us about 6-8 hours to do the whole place with 3 of us working.  The tough part came when we had to sand out the original tape/mud work that was done during construction.  While we started off doing the sanding by hand with a drywall sanding block and a long extender handle (we lasted about a room and a half) we quickly learned how efficient a orbital sander can be to this process.  Just be careful to start while holding the sander to the ceiling plane as to not gouge the drywall.

John and our friend Ian sanding the joints

Me working the orbital sander-don't you just love the slouch socks?!

We made it through the rest of the house without a problem scraping and sanding, but we knew we had a project ahead of us in the master bedroom. At some point the ceiling sustained a couple of leaks that ruined the drywall in areas.  They had been patched but whoever did the patchwork left it pretty noticeable so we weren’t sure how we were going to fix it.  Once we started working we noticed the ceiling appeared to be sagging in places.  Upon further inspection we found that the nails in several areas had become dis-engaged with the supports.  Our first thought was to just re-nail them and call it a day.  So to the hardware store we went, once there we explained what we were doing and they gave us another option.  They said the ceiling would hold the way we had planned to execute the job, but it was always going to appear to be sagging since the drywall was already warped.  So they suggested building a frame out of 1×2 boards on the existing ceiling plane then install 1/8” drywall on the new frame.  Honestly, the way they described it this was going to be the best and easiest solution to our ceiling debacle so we hauled home all the needed goods to get started.  What did we learn?  Drywall is hard to do well when you are a novice.  What should have taken us “about a day” according to the home depot guys, took us close to a week of our tight enough deadline as it was, and taught us that we were not good at the mudding process.  After we finished all of the ceilings, we primed and painted them with a flat finish paint and in the end we have nice, smooth ceilings throughout our entire house to swoon over.  On our next installment of our little abode I’ll go into how we made our 4 bedroom house into a 3 bedroom…

Have you ever been in mid-project, headed to the store to pickup a supply and come home with a completely new direction?  Tell me about your most recent debacle and how you were able to solve it in a jiffy.





In the beginning…

5 02 2010

As some of you know, John and I purchased a not so nice townhome back in 2007.  To say it was a “fixer upper” would be an understatement.  It was built in the 60’s and from what we can figure it was “revamped” in the 80’s (little bit of carpet-little bit of paint) but that was about all she wrote—until we purchased it 20 some years later.

When we made the list of things we wanted in a house we were NOT looking for a 4 bedroom fixer upper.  Funny thing is I don’t really remember what we were looking for but I am thinking we were in the market for a 2 bedroom condo, freshly painted, nice grounds with low HOA, and a pool/hot tub area with nothing further than 10 mile to the beach.  So we went to a couple open houses, drove around looking at others from the outside and came to the conclusion that everyone that lives in California has really small homes-and must be okay with it because that is what they grew up knowing!  John and I (mid-westerners that we are) already felt like we were living on top of each other in our 2 bedroom apartment and it was bigger than some of the places we were looking at.  Enter the idea to look at fixer uppers that were larger so they would be in our price range.  The house we bought was the first “fixer” we looked at and on the first tour I only made it thru the ground floor and half of the upper floor before I had to leave the premises.  When we entered there were stockings hanging from the fireplace (it was at least halfway thru April), a pile of clothes stacked in the corner that was at least up to my waist and dirty, dirty, dirty everywhere you looked.  I don’t think the place had been truly cleaned since…well I don’t know that it was ever cleaned.  But, for some reason the bathroom really grossed me out and I HAD to leave.  So as soon as we were outside I looked at John and he looked at me-but they were two totally different reactions and I knew this was going to be trouble.  I’ve attached a photo-a re-enactment made just for your viewing pleasure.

Anyway, John was excited that it was a 4 bedroom with plenty of space for the 2 of us and he was up for such a fix up challenge (he grew up with parents that owned rental property and were always fixing them up).  I, however, was less enthusiastic.  I could be the president of the “starting off a project, getting distracted and not coming back to it” club and John is a chronic procrastinator.  Trust me, two virtues that do not win us any awards.  All I could see was getting the house, starting the revamp and living in a half done house for 10 years until we were ready to sell.  At that point we would get our rears in gear and finish everything and never really get to experience our 1st home finished.  Needless to say, I thought it was a HORRIBLE idea.  That was until John began listing off all the good qualities of the place.  It certainly had great bones, it had everything off our list minus the hot tub and it was an end unit with a really quite neighborhood.  Now this is where he got me to take a second look at the place.

John “You could personally pick out every finish.”

Sharon “Really?”

John “Well we will need to start from scratch.”

Sharon “I’ll think about it.”  What I was really thinking was HECK YEAH!!

So we returned to the dump.  This time I saved the upstairs bathroom for last (that way when I was done looking at all the *nasty* shower gunk I could leave.)  Now we bought the house before short sales and foreclosures were all the rage and since this house was in a short sale position soon to be a foreclosed we had to act quickly.  We put in an offer and waited.  They countered, we countered and the house was ours, every little dirt speck.  Champagne party ensued.  Then the real work began…This was the condition of the house upon our official inspection.  I snapped a few pictures so I could remember why I was so grossed out during our initial visit. Enjoy.

The Living Room

Dining Room/Kitchen/Laundry/ Would have a Powder Room as well but I was too scared to look at it

The Master Bedroom

The Master Bathroom

Both Bedrooms (2 on the left are now my office and the one one the right is a guest room)

The Nursery & Hallway

The Outside

Keep your eyes open for what we did next to our little abode (it’ll be coming up in the next couple of weeks.)  I am hoping to do a little step by step in our transformation process and show you how a little elbow grease goes a long way in making a house, a home.  So, now that you have seen how our little home started off-have you ever lived in a fixer upper?  A place that needed so much work you didn’t know where to begin?  One of the apartments I lived in had the kitchen set up so the washer was on the far left, followed by the stove and then the dryer was on the right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen-but that is a story for anther day?!  I want to hear about your horror stories of fixing up a dump. It makes me feel better in a weird, twisted sort of way!

Have a great weekend.