Monday, December 16, 2013

Screen It In

August 2013

It was time to make the final push to finish the porch. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of this push. We were so busy and it was such a blur it just kind of happened. The first weekend Josh started building the screens. Our friends Kristin and Kyle let us use their mitre saw so we could churn out all the cuts to make each of our frames. It became obvious very quickly that we underestimated the amount of trim this would take. We had a lot of 5-6' length pieces that left us with plenty of unusable 2-3' sections of wood. We drove back to Lowes and bought 20 more pieces of wood (another $150). We decided to paint 15 of them. So back in the basement we went painting the sticks. Josh and I shared the task but it was still maddening after painting 30 pieces already.

The actual building of frames was really a one person show. Josh mitred the corners and nailed them together with our brad nailer. I pretty much did other house stuff during this time. It was a frustrating task, since we had made the raised beds out of rough cut lumber there was very few level or plumb areas. Josh would measure, confirm the piece fit, cut it's mates nail the pieces together, and then... it wouldn't fit. Part of it was the thickness of the screens, part of it was the allowance for the fact that they didn't nail together super tight and this added some length to every edge. Either way, it was a slow process. I pretty much tried to help, and then tried to stay out of the way.

It took one full weekend and another Saturday to make the frames. On Sunday Josh banged out all the interior trim pieces on the openings and we were done with all the cutting. It was getting late so we had to add one more day to actually build the screens. The following Saturday I started rolling the screen material out, stapling it, and cutting to size. This was quick work, there was attention required to keep it taut and also not to cut yourself on the unfinished screen edges (seriously I need to wear gloves). We brad nailed the frames together and placed them in the openings.

Note the dog door.  Which is now the second dog door Gus must use to get to the backyard.  He is not amused
Next we installed the screen clips, these are simple small black metal fins that screw into the porch frame to hold the screens tight. They can be spun to release the screens for when we want to clean them, repair them, or if we ever want to take them out. We chose to use 2-3 per side, the bottoms of all screens would use gravity to stay in place. Once they were all in, it looked pretty darn sharp. It was a marvel to see it all come together. Granted, we still needed to caulk some corners and touch up paint areas where we had to sand to make them fit. But, it was, for all useful purposes: DONE. Two summers, roughly 14 weekends and we had finished our screen porch! This was our biggest diy project to date, it showed a lot of our weaknesses, it proved that hiring a professional would have gotten things done so much faster. However, we learned a bunch, we probably broke even on costs, and we got a totally custom porch that was designed to work for our needs.

When we updated the front porch we changed our house numbers, however, these are the originals that we repainted and are glad will stay with the house.
We had a few small steps left to fully enjoy our space. We called in our electrician to install a new ceiling fan/light and to move an outlet box to the ceiling so we could install string lights along the perimeter of the porch. We also needed to get some porch furniture so we could actually use our new found square footage. More to follow..... 

This is a cheat picture with some of our new furniture. More to come.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Red Paint... Will Be the Death of Us

June 2013

Now that the porch was painted and stained we could start making the screens for the openings. After several brainstorms we decided to make these ourselves. The work needed to create 'standard' sized openings to utilize prebuilt screens was almost the same. Building our own screens would give a more custom look while using store bought would look more builder grade.  Step one: what to build the screens out of?  We ruled out cedar due to cost and MDF out of crappiness, which left us with pine trim pieces. These would work well because we wanted the screens to be removeable, light, and attractive.

We found our pine trim stock at Lowes. It was 1" wide and 1/4" thick. One edge was bull nosed which we liked. It made them less boring and standard looking. They came pre-primed and I always like when a step has been removed for us. The biggest issue was how much of the material we needed. The pieces came in 8' lengths and as we started tabulating the number of sticks grew. Our plan was to build two frames for each opening. We would staple the screening to one side and then nail the frames together to make a complete screen. So each opening x 2. In addition to the screens, we needed to purchase trim to create frames inside the porch bays to allow the screens to rest in the openings. We decided the same trim for the screens would work pretty well. Before the math made our heads explode we decided to get 30 sticks. At roughly $8 a piece, it brought us to $240 in wood. We also had to buy screen material $116 for a roll (we chose black aluminum, which was more expensive but more durable), brad nails, staples, screen clips, black screws, and paint. I talked the Lowes lady into giving us contractor pricing (since we bought so much) and we gulped and moved forward.

Since it was June in Oregon, it rained the entire month, so I set up shop in the basement to paint the trim red. I am not sure when we decided to make the frames red. By this I mean, that I decided they should be red. Very quickly I grew to regret this decision. As I already knew, our red (Benjamin Moore Raisin Torte) requires 2-3 coats to cover. This was even worse since the pieces were painted with white primer and it was slow going painting the 1" pieces without drips or brush marks. I spent hours in the basement half bent over painting the sticks on saw horses. It took about 2 hours to coat all the pieces on one side, wait to dry 4-6 hours, paint again, then flip and paint the backside (I cheated and did one coat on the back). This is the point where I should have sucked it up and purchased a paint spray gun and the job would have taken half the time.

As soon as the trim pieces were complete, I remembered that our porch doors would also need to be red. So four doors came off their hinges, down in the basement and onto my trusty saw horses. These required primer, and two coats of red on each side. It was a lone women show and it was not fun. We rehung the red doors once we stained the porch.  After all this effort, we were still miles away from being completed and we needed two full weekends to complete the rest.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sand It. Wash It. Stain It. Paint It.

July 2013

This is the Daft Punk interpretation of my life.  Before we could screen in our porch we needed to stain it.  To say I was dreading it was an understatement. I actually got a quote for a contractor to stain it and paint the floor, but when the price came back at $1,100 I knew we had to do it.  The biggest issue was finding a time frame to do about 3-4 days worth of work.

The first step was to sand the entire porch.  There were several areas which had been stained by standing water and also by general wear and tear.  Josh and I decided that the Fourth of July was as good as an excuse as any to finally get on this project.  After about 2 hours we had sanded every inch.  Not fun work.   Then we used a borrowed power washer to fully clean the entire structure.  We also power washed the front porch and the sidewalk.  This was exciting and boring at the same time.   Power washing is messy and loud, but everything looks so pretty afterward! We then showered and decided to be American and went to a BBQ and drank alcohol.  Phew.

On Saturday, we got to work staining the wood.  Once again this is a job that is both fulfilling and exhausting.  There was a lot of surface and it started off easy as I used a 4" brush to stain the raised bed walls and the cap.  Then things got harder as I crawled through landscaping and started doing the vertical uprights and the rafters.  The sum up is that we started at 10am.  By 4pm I was spent.  We ran out of stain and had to make a Lowes trip then we ate dinner, then Josh went out and powered through and finished staining at 10pm. Cringe.  My arm was tired and my neck hurt.  I also dropped a very large cup of stain all over myself.  It was one of those days.

On Sunday, I was grumpy, but I knew we needed to power on.  A month prior we had taken the time to patch all the cracks in the concrete pad, we also filled in the gaps between the raised beds and the edge of the patio.  Since they had now dried the only thing left to do was paint the floor.  I was not planning on taking this on the same weekend, but then I figured this might be my last chance until the Fall. I woke up and went to Miller Paint bright and early, after cleaning the floor one more time, I was ready.  Armed with a satin finish Cabot floor paint (karma) I started painting the floor. It took 8 hours to dry before the next coat so I started at 12:00 on my hands and knees.  It was easy, especially with my trusty knee pad, but it was a bit of a 'just keep swimming' moment after the day before.  Around 8pm I came back and did one last coat and finished up around 9pm.  Thank goodness the Pacific Northwest has such long summer days.

So the round up.  Three days, roughly 30 hours of sanding, staining and painting and our porch was filled with fresh surfaces. We spent about $180 on stain and paint and we used some brushes and sanded pads to the tune of 40 bucks.  So you can count that as a $920 do it yourself savings.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Backyard Round Up

May 2013

Seriously, another backyard post?
We had one last hurdle to our backyard, it was the small space between the back porch and the house.  There was a lot going on here.  We have our hose bib, our 'o so lovely' AC condenser unit, and for the longest time a huge pile of pea gravel.  Thanks to our firepit and South pathway we no longer had a huge pile of gravel.  Instead, we had a pit of dead grass, invasive vines, and some driveable pavers we had bought as a demo for a Depave project.

Step one: clear everything out of the space.  I pulled up the driveable paves and powerwashed them clean.  Josh dug out the invasive English Ivy and some other horrible vine we had growing and then we turn up the ground, rotilled and leveled the area.   We knew we wanted a small graveled area back there. We needed an space to grill, get to the hose bib and allow us to wash the dog without him standing in mud.

Step two: what do we have?  While the driveable pavers are very neat, they were not really my style. But Josh really liked them and we had eight of them so it was a 'make it work moment.'  As background, these are concrete squares attached together in a 3' by 3' mat with wire holding them together.  They can handle a huge amount of weight and the voids can be filled with anything from gravel to grass to plants.  Pretty cool. They are great for driveways because they allow water to infiltrate the soil.

The first solution was to create a small landing pad directly outside of the porch doors.  This worked for several reasons, it stopped the gravel from kicking into the porch and it also helped transition the space from the yard into the porch.  It happened that we were able to cut the pieces so they fit perfectly between the raised beds and the AC unit pad.   Yay!  We still had three of the mats left.  Originally, we had planned on using river rocks to create the border from our gravel grilling area to the grass, similiar to what we did over at the firepit.  However, after talking, we both agreed it would be better if there was no barrier to step over.  Our solution?  Cut the mats into strips and install them along the edge to keep the gravel in place and create a level surface into the lawn.

Step Three: Beautify. We made a small planting bed under the bedroom window, added some grasses on either side of an existing rose bush. For the rest of the area we  put down landscape fabric and installed the rest of the pea gravel into the area.  We actually came up about a 1/2 yard short of gravel.  But we were able to find a pea gravel (abeit smaller pebbles) in bags at a local store and mixed it together with the old stuff so we could finish out the space.

In the end, I am really happy.  Please excuse the pictures we didn't take any that weekend so these are all current photos, and we are already in the throws of other projects.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bathroom Gets Fancy Pants

May 2013

While we were working on the backyard we had a few days of rain that made me take one last look at our bathroom.  The space was missing many of the finishing touchs that would make it feel more like a bathroom we would have designed.

Disco bathroom gets updates
The first step was the decision to paint the sink cabinet.  I am pro wood. I would never paint wood unless I absolutely had too.  This one was a long internal debate.  Two things finally turned the tide. The current cabinet was starting to get water damage from all the bathroom steam. I believed painting it will help seal the wood and avoid further damage.  Also, the cabinet was Maple which is fine but really not in keeping with anything in the house or even the feel of the house.  Before I could change my mind I sanded the cabinet on a Friday and primed it.  Three coats of semi-gloss white paint and it was looking much more smart. At Lowes I bought two black knobs to tie into the black countertop. Mini-Project Complete!

Many people have asked about the small sign on the tile.  It reads 'Please!  Mind the faucet water is hot and flows like crazy!  Thanks the Mangement.'  Don't all of you wish you lived in an old house that requires disclaimers?
The next step was what to do about a hamper.  We had been using a rolling metal basket that was mine from college.  It worked great, but the round shape meant we hit it alot and banged up the wall.  We had many requirements for a new hamper.  It must be narrow (no wider than 14")  it must have a cover on it (no one wants to see your dirty underwear), and it had to match the style of the bathroom.  This is actually a tough nut.  There are not many hampers that are that narrow or attractive or have covers.

I love this John Muir quote and sign
We finally found a small tilt-out unit from Home Decorators that was about the size we wanted and had the bonus of being a small cabinet that would allow us to store stuff on top. It was expensive and on principle alone I would never spend 100 bucks on a hamper.  I searched the internet and got several coupons and decided to bite the bullet.  There were two things wrong with the hamper. First, it is a little more ornate then we wanted (it has silly little feet and this curved trim moulding), second, it was cream not white. But since it fit so well we decided to overlook it's fancy pants and took the plunge.  And, for the second time, I was sanding, priming and painting a cabinet for our bathroom.

             Mr. Whale looks really high in this photo, probably because I am sitting down. 
Once these changes were made, all we had to do was update the accessories.  After searching all over the internet it turns out I like products from Target best. I bought some Nate Berkus towels and a floor mat. I decided to go with a gold color to compliment the gray wall color.  I also picked up a blue glass toothbrush cup and soap dispenser.  The last addition was a new metal sign with a John Muir quote in gold.  The room is finally starting to feel a lot more our style.

This really gives you an idea of how small the space truly is.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Side Yard Waste Land

April 2013
 Side Yard April 2011

After finishing the fire pit we had about 2.5 seconds of celebration.  Then we turned around and looked at the South side of our house.   When we moved in, this area was covered in blackberries and was completely overgrown.  In 2011, I cut all of it out so that we could paint the house.   I then put down cardboard until we could decide what to do.  Well, we decided to store left over building materials there.  Then slowly over two short years the blackberries came back.  

  Side Yard 2013- Cringe

Starting at the corner I cut back all the blackberries.  It took about 4 yard debris bins to get it all and it seemed like I would never make it to our front yard. As I cut back the blackberries I was forced to deal with all our debris. We 'free' craigslisted the old wheelbarrow and the fence gate (scrappers delight).  We recycled the plastic garden pots, dumpstered our broken concrete, and neatly stacked the tens of pavers, bricks and rocks we found back there. Once we had a bare slate, I turned up the ground and tried remove ALL of the blackberry roots to avoid the same problem again.

Random pile of dirt from old owners, huge pile of pea gravel from us
Once again, this was backbreaking and I have no pictures of doing this work. We filled a whole wheelbarrow with all the roots we found under there.  I rotilled the space and Josh got to work fixing the grade. We needed to be very careful making sure we had a steady sloop away from the house, we also needed to meet the existing height of our neighbors side yard in a 10' wide area.   Josh's solution was to create a curvy dry creek bed feel that would be our pathway.  I loved it!

The sun is killing me here 

Using the fill from our random dirt pile we created mounded beds on either side and kept a free flowing feel to counteract our more ridgid lines over by the firepit. 

This is what is left of the forsythia and two limelight hydrangeas

Next, we put down landscape fabric for the pathway and then installed more boulders and river rocks to form the edge.  Using the remaining pea gravel we had left we filled in the pathway.   All we had left was to find plants that would be happy on the South side of the house.  We also had to find plants that will be happy in the constant shade along the fence line.  We started with a Lilac since these like sun, smell delicious and never get too big.

Lilac is on the left between the living room and bedroom windows

If you have been following- this is the third tarp in this post.  We were cleaning them throughout the project, which really made for some horrible pictures. Boo to the large cinderblock wall.

Fast forward to June when I took these, you can see the pathway.  I also added lavendar, little lamb hydrangeas and some sunflowers.  I am still looking for more plants for the fence line.  Also, please note the amazing moment the pathway ends into our stone fence.  Gate and new fence TBD.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back Yard Jungle: Part 2- Sunny Fire Pit Weekend

March 2013

After we completed the firewood pad we started addressing the 'pit.'  As a reminder it looked like this. 

The first step was to remove all the cardboard.  This was gross.  It was soaked, covered in insects and generally ripped into small chunks when you tried to pull it up.  The real goal of sheet mulching with cardboard is that you just let it decay into the soil.  However, given the fact that we needed to level the area, and that we were not together enough to remove all the packing tape from the boxes (which would never decay)  we had to pull it all up.  Fail.

Underneath this lovely gross cardboard was hard packed clay mixed with old dead grass roots.  There was no way to level it without breaking it up.  This was a back breaking 3-4 days of turning over the dirt shovel by shovel.  I wished for a draft horse and plow but alas nothing came.  We may have been able to rent a commercial tiller, but I still not sure it could have gotten through the wet clay either. It was exhausting work and for that reason I have no pictures of this process.

Then something amazing happened, it stopped raining and got hot, really hot.  In the most un-Portland March we got a 70-80 degree Easter weekend. We came out with the sun, using our little tiller (thanks Mom) to break up the large clay clumps and begin  to level the entire area.  The tiller is amazing for this work, I turned up our earth until it looked like the Garden of Eden.  Josh followed behind with a rake pushing dirt to the low spots and raking down any hills. We even got to take some of the dirt from the pile over along the side fence that the past owner had decided to randomly amass.

By Saturday we had leveled the space, compacted it, and dug out the round circle for our firepit.  We were done early so we decided we could go to a local Ciderfest and enjoy the sun.  Glorious!

On Sunday, we went to buy boulders for the fire pit, only to remember it was Easter (we are heathens) and that the rock place was closed (not heathens).  We were devastated to be so close to the end and yet so far. We decided to try corporate America, knowing that it had long since given up religion for consumerism.  Bingo, Lowes trip.  There was, of course, no real boulders at Lowes, but they did have some attractive gray concrete blocks that were designed to be installed in a ring.  We were torn, we want the pit to be a bit more organic and less masonry- but we were here and it was pre-made to go together flawlessly (something boulders would not do).

A full car of 28 blocks, 4 bags of river rock, landscape fabric, pins, some plants, and mortar and we were off.  We got home and I swear made the fire pit in about 30 minutes.  It was the quickest house project ever.  Josh mixed the mortar and shoveled it in and I laid the stones.  When we were done we filled the bottom with river rocks and back filled the dirt around the edges.

A few quick passes with landscape fabric which we pinned down. A cuddle session with Gus and we were ready to put the gravel down.  Josh powered through on Sunday afternoon and moved about 30 wheelbarrows of gravel while I spread it. Power to the man!  A little mulch and plants and suddenly our scary backyard looked a bit like one of those fancy HGTV shows. Kirchbot sun power for the win!

A small round up for the space: three new Monterey Cypress trees ($200), 8 new grasses, 8 new ferns, and 12 perennial flowers ($150), endless amounts of Mexican river rock and river boulders for the edges ($350), fire pit stones and river rock ($130), mortar ($10), landscape fabric ($50), reused our existing pea gravel, reused cinder blocks, relocated existing 2 blueberry bushes, 4 ferns, 1 euphoria, and 1 lilac.  Pulled out our old Adirondack chairs.  I think the total was right around $900

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back Yard Jungle: Part 1

March 2013

We got a break in our normally bummer spring rainfest and had several nice weekends out in Portland.  This encouraged us to get moving on our increasingly scary back yard.  In the fall, Josh and I had decided we wanted to install a fire pit in our backyard.  Being pro safety and anti grass we thought it would be best to install gravel around the area.  We took all our old boxes and laid them on top of our grass from the corner of the porch to the back fence.  This is roughly a 20' x 15' area. 

Then something happened which we are not proud of, this area became a logical dumping ground for things we didn't know what to do with.  Remaining stones were placed to hold down the cardboard, left over mulch - left in a pile in the middle, a random door we scored for free and then had no idea what to do with, random scrap wood stacked in the corner. The end result was horrible and I looked at it all winter. 

 Please note: this is the improved backyard after I had removed the mulch, door, and Josh had taken out the blackberries. 

On the landscaping front it was even worse. We went into the winter without doing our standard cut back of much of our landscaping. We were honestly so worn out and the weather turned bad so quickly we just never got around to it. The invasive blackberries were everywhere.  The forsythia fence line was about 10' deep and 20' tall.  It was a jungle.  We had piled all the gravel for this fire pit along the house under the guest room window.  Which made it difficult to even reach the backyard from the porch.

Our first step was to cut back all the foliage and remove the blackberries once and for all. Josh dug out all the blackberries along the back fence.  I worked over on the side cutting down the forsythia and some invasive vine. If you have ever done this, it is horrible work.  I hated removing blackberries they have roots that go everywhere and the prickers get you with even the best gloves.  This took a full weekend and we ended with only one small corner in the back of yard cleared.

This is after I cut back the forsythia and only to expose our rotting fence and more construction debris
Josh took advantage of this space to build a small pad for our firewood to live.  He leveled the area and reused some amazing 1970's decorative cinder blocks that once were a fence to build an open lattice and then filled it with gravel from our pile. I followed behind to move some ferns from other spaces in the yard, and purchased an awesome lime green pine tree.  I also moved the blueberry bushes that were on the back fence to the front of the porch.  They had never been very productive so I was hoping they would work better with more sun.

Weekend one ended with a 5' x 8' section completed.  It felt great, but we knew we had a long way to go.  The good news was we reused free blocks, already owned gravel.  The bad news, I had at least 20 yards of lawn debris and we had only cleared half of the area.  
Dear lord do we need to paint this baby blue horror-  I pray for the willpower to come

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Grout & Paint Bathroom Weekend

February 2013

Since Josh was on board to keep working on the bathroom I started by calling in a steam cleaner to try and clean our dirty grout.  I figured that was the best way to start.  They come out and were super friendly, they explained that our grout was bad and had probably not been sealed or at least so poorly maintained that there wasn't much they could do.  I told them to give it a shot since they came.  They did.  The two guys worked for about 1.5 hour.  Honestly, not a huge difference was made.  They did seal the grout in the hope it would not get any worse. I think our solution is going to have to be a regrout- or maybe, if we stay in the house long term, to replace the tile.  But for now I will have to be satisfied with my not so nice grout. The one thing I could change was the silicone along the floor line.  The old material was covered in mildew and it did not clean up with any cleaning agent I had found.

This was all me. It took about two hours to cut and razor blade all the old silicone out.  I did this sitting on a foam pad inside my shower.  Not a fun way to spend a Saturday. Afterward I cleaned the area with bleach and water and put a dehumidifier in the room to clear out any moisture.  The old silicone was a nice gray color which blended with the tile.  Home Depot and Lowes had three options: white, clear and almond.  I figured white was the best way to go.  I really wished I had done more research here and either ordered gray silicone or maybe used water resistant caulk that was gray. The white silicone is very bright.

While I siliconed (yes I am making that verb) we decided to start painting the walls.  Going off our last bedroom repaint oops I went with my gut and only bought one sample of paint.  Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray.  It is beautiful and the sample went up and matched the upper tiles in the bathroom perfectly.  Without a second of waiting I went to Miller Paint and color matched a gallon in semi-gloss. I then set about frog taping all the edges.  This was serious! I have never taped/cut in so much in my life. We had one door, one window, a tile shower, a sink cabinet, baseboards, lighting fixtures and a toilet.  Thank God we decided to paint the ceiling the same color or else I may have gone a little batty. 

The ceilings in the bathroom are too tall for me to reach even on my step stool so I called in Josh to paint out ceiling and cut in along the upper edge of the wall.  I followed behind cutting in and using the weenie roll to roll the 2.5 sqft of actual wall space in the room. We were able to two coat the entire room in one Sunday. Since I had patched and filled all the holes the weekend prior.  One weekend, one fresh clean space.