Big Boy Room Complete!

Note: This post is very delayed because Liam’s big boy room has been finished for a few months now but I didn’t find the time to update the blog with a newborn.

Liam loves his room & bathroom & I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

The room started last January when Kevin and I took a trip to Asheville & found a propeller (vintage reproduction I think) in the Antique Tobacco Barn.  It’s a huge warehouse with no heat and minimal lighting but it’s always fun to visit.   The propeller started the idea of an airplane theme which developed into more of a transportation theme as we found things that we liked.

We debated on where to put the propeller and how to hang it for a long time and finally settled on hanging it above the closet.  I thought it would look nice over the bed but we could not figure out a way to hang it in a secure enough way to erase our fears that it would fall on the bed and hurt Liam.  It also had to be high enough off the floor that a toddler couldn’t try to climb it and get hurt; while it may not be the best focal point, over the closet was the safest way to go.

 

I love the Pottery Barn Kids Harper curtains but could not justify the price for a kids room, so I used a pair of Ikea curtains, hemmed, added blackout fabric to the back of each and then added the ribbon trim.  I used the sewing machine for hemming & the blackout fabric but the ribbon is attached with iron on tape.

Grandma knitted Liam the awesome blanket to match his room.  I love the colors & the chevron pattern.  Liam and his animals (Monkey, Captain monkey, Moosie, Whale, and a rotating assortment of others) sleep under it every night.

The bookcases on each side of the bed are great for both books and the stuffed animals that don’t make the cut.

I used an Ikea Kallax shelf in the closet to store diapers, pjs, socks, etc.  I wanted to put in a better closet system but that can wait until he is older and we know what kind of storage he needs.  The extra cube with bins works great for now.

The adjoining Jack & Jill bath also had a makeover!  I fortuitously decorated it in a Pirate theme before he became obsessed with all things pirate.

It was surprisingly hard for find navy rugs in the right color & size (which only really matters to me) but I bought and returned at least three sets before I found these.

We only had to paint the walls & decorate the bathroom.  I made the art with graphics I bought on Etsy & then put together in Photoshop based on some cute things I saw on Pinterest.

 

I found cute anchor towel hooks at Target and added those at Liam height under the pictures.

Source List:

Sheets – PBK

Duvet – clearance at West Elm – similar one at PBK

Dresser – local mom

Bookcases – Amazon

Bed – antique

Art – Etsy shop Wallfry

Propeller – Antique reproduction from Antique Tobacco Barn

Curtains – Ikea & Ribbon from TheRibbonRetreat.com

Closet shelf – Ikea

Closet Bins – Home Goods & Target

Shower Curtain & Accessories – Kassatex (I bought it at Bloomingdales.com on sale)

Anchor wall hooks – Target

Rugs – Kassatex from Zappos.com – no longer available

Towels – Costco

Art – Ikea frames & used graphics from Etsy to make prints

2014 Project List – Update

It’s time for an update of the list of projects that I put together in January because I’m love crossing things off lists.

Here was our 2014 list with updates!

Dining Room99% COMPLETE!  We finished the hardwood project and only have one minor loose end – touching up paint on the baseboards.  The dining room has been so much better without carpet.

My parents gave us a very nice antique buffet when they moved to the cabin.  It now holds our wedding china from Kevin’s mom & table linens.  The buffet has been around as long as I can remember & I used to use it as a deluxe Barbie condo.

Office  – 90% complete – We had it painted, installed a new ceiling fan & added some new decor.  I didn’t have the rug yet in my last office post.  The rug made a big difference in breaking up the beige carpet & it’s much nicer to look at when we work from home.  I have to admit – sometimes ticking of all those clocks drive me crazy!

I still think that the windows need curtains to add a little more color & visual interest to the room.  I’ve got the fabric & will hopefully get them made & hung before our new baby comes in January.   (Sorry this picture is so dark – I’ve only had time for pictures at night lately).

Outside – There WERE are several projects that need to be done outside this year.

1) Repairing wood rot – 100% complete – A contractor was supposed to do that before we moved in but he was a POS so we fired him before he finished the work.  We hired our favorite painters, Greenwave Solutions, to do the job for us & everything looks great now.

2) Fix the front porch – 100% complete – & install a new front door – on order – this year (details on why in the linked posts).  The front porch project was a cluster but it’s done now so I don’t have to think about it anymore.  The front door became more of an issue after the front porch demolition went awry so we have a new door & picture window on order from Champion.  It is custom made to fit the exact opening so it has a long lead time but we expect it to be installed sometime in December (hopefully before Christmas).  We really wanted this door in red (mock ups from sales process):

However, due to the much higher price of a full glass panel door and privacy concerns, we ended up going with a solid steel door in red with the same sidelights that will look something like this:

We are also replacing the picture window above the door.  We have tried everything (insulation, new AC units) that we can think of to control the temperature of the top floor but after those upgrades it still easily reaches 80 on a hot summer day (which we have a lot of in GA).  The sun blasts in through the current single pane decorative window and bakes the thermostat so the upstairs end bedrooms are cooler but the middle is sweltering.  The new window will have what Champion calls Comfort 365 glass which (if it lives up to the marketing) should finally make a difference in the temperature of the house.  Fingers-crossed.

3, 4 & 5) The next three items on the list escalated to a much larger project this year & are 90% complete.  We grouped all of these together & built a new deck & patio!  The wood still needs to be stained but most of the deck, stairs & railings are composite/aluminum so this might be a manageable DIY project.

3) Pour a concrete patio under the screen porch – a task for Kevin &  my dad.  We got a quote on this that was high so my dad offered to help us with this DIY project as well.  Right now it is uneven dirt covered with pine straw.  We don’t have another spot for the grill or smoker so it would be nice if this area was a nice flat surface.

4) Install a new screen porch door (major procrastination here since we’ve had the door since Sept ’13).

5) Possibly have someone rebuild the deck stairs so they are safe.

 

Basement – Hallway & Gym – 25% complete – Paint the trim & doors & possibly remove the last wallpaper in that is left in the house in the stairs & hallway. You can’t tell in the picture but the trim has yellowed and needs caulking in some spots so it would just look nicer with fresh coat of paint.   The hallway wallpaper was definitely the least offensive in the house but it is still wallpaper.  The trim & door painting would be a DIY job and I can’t think of many things less appealing than painting trim so we’ll see how far we make it on this project.

One day while Kevin was not home (shame on me), I started pulling off the wallpaper in the hallway & using the wallpaper steamer to remove the paper layer.  I made good progress over a couple of different sessions and now the hallway is almost wallpaper free!  But…

the stairs look like this….still.  Liam looks at them in amazement and says “Messy”.  The yellow part on the walls is the paper backing that still needs to be steamed off.  I estimate this is going to take another 8-9 hours to finish and then the walls & trim will need cleaning & paint.  The good news is that the steamer works great & the walls are not damaged.  The bad news is the stairs are going to be difficult to paint due to the height of the ceilings.

New Projects:  There are a few new projects on the list for this year as well.  Since we are expecting a baby girl in January 2015, we needed to fix up Liam’s new Big Boy Room & free up the nursery for baby.   Kevin & Dad worked one weekend to paint the walls & trim in both Liam’s new room & the attached jack & jill bathroom (I helped paint as much as they would let me while Mom watched Liam).   I had the bedding & we picked up the airplane dresser back in the Spring.  There is still some decorating to do (e.g. hang art, curtains, a couple pieces of furniture, clean junk out of the closet) but the hardest part is done!

Big Boy Room – 75% complete

The bathroom is also looking great now!  We used the same color as in the nursery (Sherwin Williams Watery)  It’s a nice cool blue that works well with the grey tile.  The bathroom will have a pirate theme with navy towels.  I am looking for new bathmats & also have a few cute ideas for wall art to go with the theme.

Nursery – 75% complete

The nursery will also get a few updates to make it girly.  I have plans for a new crib skirt, changing pad cover, blanket and blackout curtains.  I have at least 8 sewing projects that need to happen in the next 3 months so I better get busy!

Evolution of the Front Porch

The front porch of our house has been a puzzle from the time we moved in.  As you can see below, it was barely visible when we first bought the house due to the overgrown juniper bushes that flanked the sidewalk.  We didn’t pay much attention to it until we ripped out all the bushes a few weeks after moving in.

After removing the bushes, we found that the slab was sitting on air.   There was a 5 inch gap under the porch that we didn’t see until the bushes were gone.  We tried to hide it with some extra rocks and plants but obviously not the best long-term solution.  We did have a couple nicer wall lanterns put in and tried to pretty it up with some flowers but fact remained that it was still ugly & made a nice home for the local chipmunks & bunnies.

I found more issues (rot) with the front when I painted the front door & hardware (which we are still ignoring).  The size of the steps has also been an issue from day one.  The first step is too tall & the second step is too short & together they create a tripping hazard.

We brainstormed many different solutions for the porch & talked to several different contractors for quotes and finally decided that we would try to tackle it ourselves.  Our plan was to extend the small step to the edge of the landing w/ concrete, knock out the too tall step & add 2 new steps down to the sidewalk and then tile the whole porch.  We bought the tile (which is still sitting in the garage) and Kevin started the first step by mortaring cement blocks under the gaps on each edge so that the tile would have something to stick to.  Then we did a little more Googling and found that you can’t just put new concrete on old concrete.  It will not stick and is likely to crack.  So back to the drawing board.

This is where the deck/patio project went awry.   While the concrete guys were working on the back patio, we asked them (through the contractor) to give us a quote on fixing the front porch.   They came back with a solution to build up the middle to be even with the front door and have a couple steps down to the existing sidewalk.  The quote was pretty reasonable at $1300 so we told them to go ahead.  They did a little bit of demo & removed the small stair & the tall stair before we left for the cabin for July 4th weekend.  I talked to the concrete guy before we left & he said he was concerned that the solution proposed was not a good idea because of the void underneath the porch (which we had described in detail prior to the demo).  He had already contacted the deck PM – who was on vacation – and was waiting to hear back from him before proceeding.  We left for the cabin with the understanding that nothing else would be done until we heard from the PM.

We got a text from the PM around 5 o’clock on July 3rd that the better solution was going to involve cutting out the entire middle of the concrete slap & pouring support piers & then pouring the middle in the configuration that was originally discussed & the price would now be $2800.  Umm.  We told him to stop all work and we would discuss on Monday.  We worked on alternative solutions over the weekend that we could do ourselves because we weren’t ready to spend almost 3K on a mediocre solution especially after the deck bill & the new AC units.

We got home after the 4th and found that they had done more demo after we left on Thursday & that there was now a 2 foot chasm between our sidewalk and the porch.  Not happy.  We sent a couple urgent & less than friendly text messages to the PM & didn’t receive a response back until Monday morning.

We discussed the issues with the deck PM on Monday morning & asked him to come back to us with a quote to do the whole project right.  This entailed demoing the entire existing slab, prepping the area & pouring a new LEVEL slab higher than the old one with a couple steps down to the sidewalk.  The quote for this came back at a staggering $5600 – more than quadrupling the initial cost of what we had initially agreed to.  Not good.  And due to the additional demo we were at a point of no return on the front porch project.

We called another concrete contractor that had lots of very good reviews on Angie’s List and had him over ASAP for a quote on the project.  He came in a little over $3600 for the same work that the deck contractor quoted $5600.  We went with him on the spot.  I wouldn’t say communication is this guy’s strong suit either.  The first timeline was he would fit us in the next week and when I called at the end of that week – the new timeframe was later the next week.  The 2nd timeline worked out and work started (& finished) on a Friday.

A couple hours in the crew had broken up most of the slab.  This looks pretty scary.  You can’t really see it in the picture but it appears that the slab was not actually tied into the foundation of the house but just sitting on top of it.   We are glad that we didn’t add more weight to the middle because it would have likely broken & we would be stuck spending even more money to get it fixed again.

The plan was to leave all of this as a base for the new porch.  I was skeptical about this but once the porch was framed and rebar was drilled into the foundation the new porch is not going anywhere.  It was a long day of work that I’m glad I had no part of but our curb appeal was much improved by 6pm.

Liam is a fan 🙂

We had caution tape blocking the front for a full day to let it dry so hopefully none of our neighbors thought it was a crime scene.  There is still a little work to do patching stucco under the door, touching up paint around the edges & fixing the door frame.

and no longer plan to tile it.  We can get a little money back by returning the tiles we bought back in March (yes – it is now July – this one has been a long time in the making).   We found a couple pretty red planters at Target that will add a little more color in front but the concrete still needs to cure for a few more days before putting anything heavy on it.

We are very happy with the way this turned out and the ease of dealing with the (2nd) contractor.  I’m also glad I no longer have to think about how to put lipstick on the pig that was our old front porch!

New Deck and Patio

We had a great view from our kitchen windows but something was missing….

Grilling in the dirt under the screen porch with the spiders & random lawn equipment (moved prior to this pic) is really not appealing.

Especially when you have to use the stairs of death to get there & back with hot food.  There wasn’t a landing outside of the porch so it was almost impossible to get in and out because the door opened over the stairs.

These babies have been a PITA since we moved into the house.   Before we moved in they weren’t even attached to the footings – the whole staircase could be moved by pulling on the bottom rails – and you didn’t even have to pull hard.  As part of the repairs prior to closing, the stairs were secured & the screen porch was jacked up & leveled because it was slowly sinking but long story short the contractor that did the work was an unprofessional hack.    So we were left with this slightly less rickety but way too narrow & steep set of stairs.  You felt like climbing a mountain when you walked up & I tripped a couple times carrying Liam up but luckily didn’t fall.

The screen porch was also still sinking & no longer level 1.5 years after the last “fix”.  We started getting quotes on different deck & stair options over a year ago & finally found a contractor in May that offered the best solution – albeit not the lowest price.   Most of the time “best” and “lowest” don’t occur in the same sentence when talking about home improvement so we decided to go with them and finally get this project done.

Here is one more before shot.  I do miss the pretty grass that we had – there was definitely some damage to the landscaping during the project due to lots of feet & some heavy machinery.

After signing on the dotted line it took three weeks and a phone call with the owner of the company before we had our first meeting with the (2nd) assigned project manager.  This was annoying because we expected the timeline to be quicker from what the sales guy told us before we signed the contract.

After the initial meeting with the PM, the process started speeding up.  The permit was pulled within a couple days and the survey of our lot was completed by the end of the next week.  The crew started work exactly 1 month after we signed the contract.  The deck building went very quickly and the whole thing was up within 2 days except for the support posts.  Everything including the screen porch was propped up on temporary supports until the concrete pad under the deck was complete & dry.

When they dug out the foundations of the original support posts under the screen porch, they found that the posts were sitting on dirt & concrete had just been poured around the posts instead of actual foundations – that is why it was sinking.

We were very hesitant to walk on the porch or deck while it was being held up like this.  The concrete pad under the porch was where the project slowed down again and went off the rails a little.

It took another full week to dig out under the porch & build the forms.   The original intent was for the patio to be a full step down out of the basement door so there would only be about an 7-8″ drop on the front edge to the yard.  This didn’t work out due to the placement of the foundation so the patio had to be poured at the same level as the foundation. That left a 16-18 inch drop at the front & edge of the patio.  We decided to fix this issue by adding a railing to match the deck around the front & edge of the patio so no one would fall off.

They finally poured concrete 2 weeks after the first crew started on the deck.  The whole timeline was supposed to be 2 weeks so heading into the third week we were getting impatient again.  We had to push hard to get the deck crew to come back on Friday of the third week to finally put up the support beams.  The entire house shook as they were hammering in the beams.  They also built the rail for the patio on the same day.

Our stress level was also higher during this part because we found out that we had to replace BOTH of our air conditioners.  NOT Cheap (either)!

The concrete guys tried very hard to minimize the damage to the grass & did bring in hay & pine straw to limit the erosion after they were done but we will still have a good bit of work to do this fall to get the grass back in shape.

We asked for an add-on quote on our front porch (see issues in this post) during this process & that is where the project took a wrong turn.  I’ll save that for a future post because I already have too many pictures for this one.

The final inspection passed & the final walk-through with the PM was exactly 2 months after we signed the contract.

Sooo…after all that here’s the finished product.

There is now a landing off the screen porch and short set of nice wide stairs down about 5 feet to the deck.

The grill is so much more convenient now that we’ve already started using it more (as soon as the support posts were installed).

The decking is composite w/ aluminum balusters.  The pressure treated parts of the rail will eventually be stained but we need to wait until September.  The deck is 12′ wide & 20′ long.

We had a double gate installed to match the railing to keep the kiddos in.

The main set of stairs is such an improvement!  The stairs even have LED lights that come on automatically when it gets dark.

 

The area under the screen porch is so much better now too.  The space is actually usable and the railing ties it into the rest of the deck.

It’s an impressive addition to the back of the house.  I can’t wait to get some furniture so we can start enjoying it!

We need to do some landscaping around the patio – right now it is just dirt covered up with hay – but one thing at a time.  We’re very happy with the finished product even though it was painful at times during the process.

Uncovering Hardwood

Our dining room has come a long way from the wallpaper & pink walls but the carpet in there was still bugging me.  There is just something a little icky about carpet in the dining room.  I knew we had hardwoods under the carpet (also in the playroom) but wasn’t sure what the condition of the floors was underneath all that carpet.  Here is the lovely carpet:

One corner of the carpet was loose, so I had pulled it back a few times to check out the floors and determine what kind of work would be required.  the floors seemed to be in pretty good shape in that corner so I thought we could pull up the carpet, patch any nail holes from the tack strips & install quarter round (toekick) trim.  The project seemed pretty doable so a couple weeks ago (between the snows) we dove in.

One night after Liam was in bed, we moved the furniture into the playroom and got started.

Here’s the last pic with carpet!

We pulled up the carpet starting in the corner that was already loose.  It was DUSTY!  We tried to roll it up as well as we could but that was difficult to do without scratching the walls.

Once we had it into a manageable pile/roll we just tossed it out the front door onto the sidewalk & went on to the padding.  The good news was that the padding was stapled mainly on the edges & only a couple rows down the middle of the floor.  We rolled it up in sections and threw it out the front door as well.

We were left with a pretty good looking floor…with a LOT of staples and a bunch of little sticky spots left from pieces of the padding.

The easiest way that we found to remove the staples was to gently slide a flat head screw driver under the staple to pry up one end and then remove the whole thing with pliers.

We only scraped the floor with the screw driver a couple times (oops!).  It took the 2 of us around 2 hours to remove the carpet, padding & all of the staples.  The staple holes were not noticeable so that was a big relief. We called it quits around 10:30 pm and blocked off the room so Liam & Mac wouldn’t hurt themselves on the tack strips.  Here it is at the end of work day night one.

I posted the carpet roll for free on Craigslist with the approximate measurements and had a response in under 30 minutes and a pick up in less than 2 hours.  I am glad that the carpet will go to good use for someone instead of being dumped in the landfill or paying by the pound to have it recycled.

The next day I vacuumed and then spent about 30 minutes giving the floor a good scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and the scrub brush end of the mop to scrub up the sticky spots left by the padding.  I was happy to find that there were only a couple big scratches in the floor and that the sticky padding spots had not stained the floor.  Here it is after one cleaning.

It took me around 1.5 hrs to remove the tack strips.  I cleaned the floor first because it was pretty gross sliding over the floor the night before with all those sticky spots.  Here are the tools I used to pry up the tack strips.

The technique that worked best was to gently slide a stiff 2″ flat tool (the one with the red & black handle that isn’t a screwdriver) under the tack strip between the nails and pull up on the handle to break the wood strips.  I sometimes used the small pry bar to make it a little faster.  I pried up a few feet of tack strip & then went back around to pull up the nails with a hammer.

After the tack strips were up it took me another 30 minutes for a 2nd cleaning.  So here’s where we had at the end of work day two (complete with a Mac photobomb).

I would like to try some Bona on the floors to see if they will get a little more shine back, but I will need to do the entry at the same time so I am saving that fun task for the future.

We took a family trip to Home Depot to get the supplies for adding the quarter round molding to the baseboards to cover up the gap between the floor.  We decided to get a nail gun to make the job easier.  On the advice of the guy at the store, we bought a Ryobi battery operated nail gun that uses the same batteries as our drill & other tools.  It doesn’t require a noisy compressor & the price point is more reasonable for occasional DIY jobs than the other nail guns.  This thing is FUN (& a little scary).

RyobiNailGunWe cut the pre-primed quarter round trim pieces down from 16′ to 8′ so it would (barely) fit in the car.  Next time (if there is a next time), I would be a little more strategic in the sizes that I cut at the store so there wasn’t as much cutting required  when we got home – but this stuff is cheap at less than 50 cents a linear foot.

Next came the cutting (while my parents played with Liam).  I don’t have a lot of pictures of that because 1) it’s not interesting and 2) it’s enough of a PITA without stopping to take pictures.   We labeled all the pieces with which wall they were for right after cutting to make it a little easier to install.  We did a dry fit and at the end of the day, all but one piece was cut correctly the first time.

But this piece took another 3 or 4 times to get the angle & length right.

Fast forward a week to the next weekend for the rest of the steps.  The painting was pretty quick since we already have left over trim paint.  I spread out all the pieces in the basement storage room on a plastic drop cloth and just gave them a quick coat in about half an hour.  Then came the fun part (the only fun part about trim) using the nail gun!  I read the instructions for the nail gun, which were surprisingly short, and we tested it out on a couple of scrap pieces of wood to make sure the pressure was right.

It only took about 15 minutes to nail in all the pieces.   I caulked the seams and called it finished for now.  There is still trim touch up that needs to happen but it is really very minor (and who goes around looking that closely at your trim anyway).  We also need to stain and install a transition piece in the threshold between the kitchen and dining room and fill a few nail holes but overall I’m very happy about having hardwoods instead of icky carpet in the dining room.  It is especially nice when you eat with a toddler whose idea of table manners is throwing food to the dog when he’s all done.

Here’s the before & after.  Yay for no more carpet!  I also got a couple more dining chairs from World Market to add to the set.  We usually end up with more than 6 people (including the kids) when we have people over so squeezing in a couple more chairs on the 8 foot table made sense (& the chairs were on mega sale  BONUS!)  WHY would anyone cover this up!!

Before:

After (obviously taken at a different time of day than the before):

I was featured on Remodelaholic

I party with Remodelaholic

 

2014 Project List

We accomplished a TON on the house in 2013 and I’ve been thinking about the projects that I want to do in 2014.  We aren’t planning any major renovations (e.g. kitchen/master bathroom) this year but do have several smaller projects on the list.  I reviewed our inspection report as well and while we’ve tackled the majority of the issues there are a few items that need to be added to the list.

Dining Room – The dining room is in great shape right now but the carpet still bugs me.  There are hardwoods under the carpet and I’ve pulled the carpet back in one corner to see what kind of shape they are in.  The hardwoods are finished in the same color as the entry so I don’t think this is a crazy project for us to DIY (IF no refinishing is required).

Office – The room is less cluttered after we moved the guitars to the basement but still needs a coat of paint on the walls & trim.  I’ve gotten some accessories since this picture was taken and have a project planed for the open wall space over the bench that I’m hoping to share soon.

Outside – There are several projects that need to be done outside this year.

1) Repairing wood rot – A contractor was supposed to do that before we moved in but he was a POS so we fired him before he finished the work.

2) Hopefully we can find someone to fix the front porch & install a new front door this year (details on why in the linked posts).

3) Pour a concrete patio under the screen porch – a task for Kevin &  my dad.  We got a quote on this that was high so my dad offered to help us with this DIY project as well.  Right now it is uneven dirt covered with pine straw.  We don’t have another spot for the grill or smoker so it would be nice if this area was a nice flat surface.

4) Install a new screen porch door (major procrastination here since we’ve had the door since Sept).

5) Possibly have someone rebuild the deck stairs so they are safe.

Basement – Hallway & Gym – Paint the trim & doors & possibly remove the last wallpaper in that is left in the house in the stairs & hallway. You can’t tell in the picture but the trim has yellowed and needs caulking in some spots so it would just look nicer with fresh coat of paint.   The hallway wallpaper was definitely the least offensive in the house but it is still wallpaper.  The trim & door painting would be a DIY job and I can’t think of many things less appealing than painting trim so we’ll see how far we make it on this project.

These are the projects that come to mind this year but there are lots of other “little” things that are also on the list (e.g. a few more new blinds for the upstairs guest rooms, new shower heads for a couple bathrooms, etc.).