Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

Install Tile Backsplash: Using Silicone

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

We had planned on installing a tile backsplash in our kitchen after we got the countertops in.  I asked the countertop installers what their recommendations were based upon their experience going into hundreds of homes.  Without hesitation, they said “a tumbled stone, to hide the irregularities in the wall, and silicone.”  By irregularities, he meant – the damaged wall where they tore out the old backsplash, and by silicone, he meant – no thinset or mastic – just glue them suckers right on the wall!  He said it would be a super easy do it yourself project and inexpensive.

Oh, the horrors of not following the tile installer’s bible.  Just glue them on?  Really?  Yep.  He said that the backsplash was not a high water area like the shower/bathtub.  He also said the irregularities of the tumbled stone would blend in/hide the irregularities on the wall.  If we had used a smooth tile, we would have had to use thinset as a leveling compound.  For 4 inch tiles, silicone would be fine…  After all, the tiles in his own house have been adhered for over 10 years without a problem, so it’s gotta be true!

We couldn’t find a tube of just “silicone” at Lowes so we bought an uber silicone product from Loctite called, “Tub and Tile Ultra Sealant”.  The description says it will stick to just about anything.

We prepped by patching holes, by removing last remnants of wallpaper, and by cleaning the walls.  We then laid out our first row of tiles along the countertop to test fit them before we glued them on.  I then broke a bunch of toothpicks to use as spacers for the bottom of the first row of tiles.  We only need the slightest of clearances to caulk the tiles and countertop together.  For the rest of the tiles, we used 1/8 inch spacers.  Ready, set, go!

We squeezed out a dollop of silicone in the center of each tile and pressed it on the wall.  The goo took several minutes to set, which gave us wiggle room to get the spacing just right.

Once we locked a few tiles in place to use as anchors for the first row, the rest went up very, very quickly.  When I say locked, I meant that we let those tiles dry over night so they were rock solid.

We did 2 rows of the 4 inchers and then we did 2 strips of tumbled stone cut from a mosaic tile.

Looking good so far!  Come back to see tips on how to cut tiles and how to work with mosaics.

Painting Ceilings

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Not a single person who has come into our house since we have painted the ceilings has noticed that we painted the ceilings.  However, they have commented on how big the place looks and how bright it is. It could be that we have finally gotten rid of enough “stuff” to make the place look bigger OR it could be that we’ve gotten rid of the grimy, dingy, grey ceiling that was holding us down.

We didn’t have a clue how we would paint the cathedral ceiling until we spotted an awesome extendable pole at Lowes.  We didn’t even extend it it’s full length!  (Um Dad, just how tall did we think our ceilings were?)

We hit the dining room, kitchen and living room in the same night.  We taped off the walls with plastic sheeting as we went.  We also piled as much as we could in the center of the room and threw another plastic sheet over that.  We did pretty good with the splatter control, especially later in the night when the roller was super saturated and paint was dripping off it in big gobs.  As you can see, it was past midnight when we did the living room and well into 2am until we finished the main parts.  I have to follow up later and cut in around the edges.

Can you believe the color difference!  We used Valspar, Ultra Premium, Interior Finish Eggshell in Ultra White 72322.  The living room alone took about 2 gallons.  Popcorn ceilings have a greater surface area than a smooth ceiling with all those nooks and crannies to fill.  Talk about a pain in the butt to paint.  The Eggshell finish does have a very slight sheen, which reflects light beautifully.  This is a big plus as we don’t have much natural light in our house to brighten things up.

In some areas, the popcorn started peeling off the ceiling and sticking to the roller.  You have to immediately stop, lighten the pressure and carefully roll/pull the brush off.  Load the brush back up with paint and roll it on in one direction only using very light pressure.  Roll in the direction that goes against the peeled up popcorn, like you were smoothing it back down.  If it starts coming off in large amounts, stop ASAP and let the area dry 110%.  Come back after the area has dried and follow the tips from above or use a paint brush and dab paint on the area.

We had thought about hiring someone else to come in and paint for us, but once we got organized it was a breeze.  We saved a ton of money and it was easier than we thought.

Here’s the list of supplies that we used for painting the ceiling:

* Roller brush appropriate for ceiling texture – the thicker the nap, the better it can handle popcorn ceilings.
* Roller brush tray and roller brush frame.
* Some sort of extension pole to screw into the end of the brush frame.
* A ladder to help you cut in the edge of the ceiling along the wall.
* A hat to keep the paint flecks and splotches off your head.
* Plastic sheeting out the wazzo to protect your floor, furniture, TV, walls, etc…
* Blue painter’s tape to hold the plastic sheeting in place.
* A 2 inch paint brush or angled trim brush to cut in the edges of the ceiling where it joins the wall and to work around light fixtures, etc…
* Paint.  A latex is easy to clean.  An eggshell finish gives off a very subtle “glow”.  (The matte ceiling paint seemed to suck light away and looked dark.)  If you have popcorn ceiling you will need more paint than you think to get the job done (ie. one gallon for the master bedroom).

Anyone out there have tips to share from your own ceiling endeavors? 

Clean Up Your Inside Doors With Paint

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

You never know just how grimy your house is until you start painting.  Once one area is fresh and clean the rest of the house screams – Paint Me!  It’s no surprise that the doors, which are some of the grimiest, scuffed up, and well used surfaces of the house, need a fresh coat of paint too.  With little effort, you can save money and do it yourself.  No need to buy new doors or hire someone else to help out.

Yesterday, the hubby set up a paint station for me out back.  We have 8 internal doors total.  He took off the hinges and the door knobs and let me loose.  TIP: Use a permanent marker and write on each door what room it came from.  Write in the space cut out for the hinge so you can see it after the door has been painted.

The first chore was to sand every surface of the door to 1) roughen the door so the new paint will stick and 2) remove loose and peeling paint.   For my purposes, sanding also served to clean the door.  Otherwise, you would need to wash the door down so the new paint will stick better.

If you are doing one or two doors, by all means use sandpaper and do it by hand.  If you are doing multiple doors (like, 8 of them) then do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or steal a random orbital sander or  you’ll be sanding those doors until the cows come home.  (To all my kleptomaniac fans, 2 Pennies does not advocate the stealing of sanders in any way.)

Orbital sanders are relatively inexpensive as far as power tools go.  I used a little $30 el cheapo Black and Decker sander for 10 years, before it went to tool heaven.  The hubby went with a more expensive replacement, because he wanted more power (don’t they all?).  It still works the same to me.

I used a white Valspar semi-gloss latex for the doors to make it pOp and because a semi-gloss finish is easier to clean.  I rolled the paint on with a roller meant for super smooth surfaces.  For the best finish, you need at least 2 thin, even coats.  I don’t care what the advertisments say, I have yet to use a paint that only took one coat. 

When I came back to do a second coat, I discovered a flaw in our brilliant paint setup – trees and other debris.  Most every door had some sort of gunk on it from pine needles to bird poop.  The hubby had to string up a tarp to protect my finish.  After a second first coat, we were back in business…until the thunderstorm.

By the third day, I was able to finish 5 doors 100%.  I was outside working on the last 3 (see pic above) when a storm rolled in.  Not only did it roll in, but it stayed for 5 days. 

The tarp was able to keep debris off my doors, but it collapsed under the weight of the rain.  I managed to haul in 2 half finished doors, but the 3rd door bit the dust.

With the hinges and knobs replaced, the new doors look spiffy indeed.  We can’t help but marvel at how clean they look!  I still have 3 doors to finish, but considering I’m juggling packing, moving, and kiddos I think I’ll be okay.

TIP: If you went through the trouble to take the door off the hinges to paint, you might as well paint the door trim before you put the new door back up.

Tips and Tricks for painting an interior door:

1) Remove hinges, knobs, hooks, and other items attached to your door.  Write which door goes where on the door itself in the space where the hinge attaches.

2) Setup a well ventilated workspace that is protected from the environment.

3) Wash or sand the door to prep it for paint.  Use a 120 grit sandpaper for the first run and then 220 to smooth everything out.  Random orbital sanders rock. 

4) Roll on your paint with a smooth surface paint roller.  Brushes will leave too many marks.  You may use either the roller or a brush for the edges.  Be careful not to paint over your door markings in the hinge area.  Also, be careful not to goop up paint in the hinge cutout or your hinges won’t fit properly.  Give it at least 2 coats and dry thoroughly before flipping door over.

5) Reinstall hardware and bingo – you have a nice and clean door!

Brick Path: Phase II

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

One of the top 10 tips for selling your house is to FINISH undone work.  The big monkey on our back has been finishing our brick walkway up the side of our driveway.  I cannot believe that is has been 1 YEAR since we started the project.  At the time, I had no idea that I was pregnant with baby number 2.  A couple of weeks later, my big project days were over as I wrestled with the first trimester blahs.  The bricks laid in the exact same arrangement for a year, virtually untouched.  With Nana here visiting this week we were able to steal a few hours, while she watched the kiddos, to work together and “dig” into the project.

The hubby stacked all the bricks on the driveway so he could excavate the dirt.  He trucked wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow up to our house so we could use the dirt to get rid of another monkey – a drainage problem caused by soil erosion.

I hopped into the trench and followed behind him doing the fine detail work.  We had cut out the exact width of our brick pattern and the depth of the gravel, sand, and bricks from a piece of wood.  The depth includes 2 inches of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and the bricks.  My job was to use hand tools and the wood guide to make sure the trench was squared off and cleaned out.  I also sat in the trench on a foam pad and compressed the dirt as I went.

It wasn’t too hard to create a firm base.  Most of the trench is made of clay and after a light rain, the soil is almost as hard as cement itself!  Tomorrow, the hubby will be pounding in the metal guide rails and filling in the gravel.  We have another wood template that is 2 inches shorter and we’ll use it as a screed board to level off the rocks.

It was so nice to work with my hubby again.  We are both fixer-uppers.  It’s one of those common bonds that drew us together in the first place.  It’s also very satisfying to do something ourselves and to do it well.  Let’s hope we can keep the momentum going and knock this out before next weekend!

Clear a Slow Moving Drain with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I have read from several sources that vinegar and baking soda will unclog a drain without using harsh chemicals such as Draino.  Now that I’m in my full post-partum hair shed-a-thon, we’ve finally gotten the opportunity to try.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 C. of baking soda
1 C. of water
approx. 1 gallon of hot water
drain plug

Helpful items: 1 wire clothes hanger, 1 paper plate/funnel, 1 chopstick or screwdriver

Okay, so here’s the gross part: the clog.  Our tub drained very, very slowly and got worse over a week or two.  It wasn’t fully clogged, but it was getting close.  When you are standing in 4 inches of water after a shower, you know its time to fix the problem!  We bent the end of a wire hanger into a small hook and fished out a hair clog.  The leftover gunk was extensive soap buildup and probably more hair down the line.  The drain was a little clearer after fishing out the hairball, but still clearly gunked up.

Using a paper plate as a funnel, we dumped the baking soda down the drain.  You’ll notice that the drain makes a 90 degree turn a few inches down.  The baking soda won’t magically turn the corner and pour down the drain.  You will need to coax it down with a chopstick or long screwdriver.

It took some fiddling, but the hubby managed to pack in 1/2 of cup of baking soda.

He poured in 1/2 of cup of vinegar and had the plug ready for the INSTANTANEOUS foam eruption (think back to your volcanoe science project).

When he capped the drain we could still hear the mix foaming and then a very audible “PoP” as the clog was pushed through.  We poured in the second half of the vinegar and plugged up the drain.  A much smaller pop was heard and there was much less push back from the foam.

We waited 15 minutes and then poured about a gallon of hot tap water down the drain.  First off, the drain was clean as a whistle!  The soap scum had vanished from the drain itself.  Second off, the clog was 100% gone and the water ran free.

Very Cool!  We were amazed at how well this worked considering how bad the drain was clogged. 

Here is more food for thought: 

A) We haven’t tried this on a clog with standing water.  I don’t see how it would work as the baking soda would dissipate in the water and wouldn’t react with the vinegar.  I could be wrong though. 

B) We also did not use boiling water as some other websites suggested.  We weren’t sure how hot our bathroom plumbing could stand.  212 degrees is a big difference from 120 and the hubby thought it might melt the caulk and cause leaks in the plumbing.  Hot water did just fine. 

C) I’ve read that it may take more than one application to clear the clog.  I guess that depends on what the clog is made of and how bad it is.  By digging around first, we were able to break through the first try. 

This treatment is suggested as a monthly ritual for all your drains to keep them clean and running free.  I am so impressed that I am adding it to our chore list!  Much less caustic than Draino and MUCH less expensive!  More money to save for a new house.

Painting the Porch: Day 7

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

We have completed porch steps!  The hubby worked on the steps throughout the week after he got home from work.  He had the first step tacked in on Day 3 and on Day 4 a very annoying salesman broke it by using it as a launching pad to jump on our deck to sell us frozen meat.  Not only did he ruin our work, he rang the doorbell 3 times, opened our glass door and knocked 7 times on the main door.  Needless to say, 20 minutes into their naps my children woke up crying. 

Mental note: Hang a “No Solicitors” sign on the new porch.

No Solicitors. 

I do not want your meat, magazines, phone, cable, or satellite TV.  I do not want your insurance, home repair, religion, shrubberies, miracle spray, or vacuum cleaners.  If you have it and I want it, I will obnoxiously knock on your door to get it

Mail, package, and pizza delivery are welcome.

My hubby kept at it and finished the steps this morning.  He did salvage a few pieces of wood that were in good condition.  I get the rest of the old wood to frame my summer garden.

This time around, the steps are perfectly square and level.  They are also the same size and he used the proper screws to hold everything together. 

For the railing, he cut some spacers and used some handy clamps to hold everything together.  The clamps he bought at Harbor Freight with a coupon for $1.99 each.  A couple of quick screws in each rail and he finished before the rain started falling!

He raised the height of the rails to make them more functional.  You can also see how he scribed the bottom riser to fit the angle of the sidewalk.  Before, I had a big toothy gap at one end where the sidewalk tipped down.  The new staircase is strong, sturdy, and looks 100 times better than before – even without the paint! 

Here’s a reminder as to why the stairs had to be rebuilt in the first place…

Now! On to the painting!  Sigh…unfortunately, as I type, yellow pollen is swirling through the air and blanketing everything in sight.  From experience, there is no way that I will be able to paint until the pollen clears in a couple weeks.  Back to the garden we go…

Have you ever started a project only to have it derailed and turned into something much bigger?  Share your story with us in the comments below!

How to Cut Hair with a Weedwhacker

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

No, I didn’t really cut my son’s hair with a weed whacker – though it looks like it from most angles… Normally, I cut his hair with scissors.  Lately, he has been screaming bloody murder when I get near him with the scissors.  Oliver doesn’t seem to mind the electric clippers though, after watching Daddy cut his own hair with them.

This was my son 2 days ago.

This is only half the hair we ended up cutting.  I probably should have stopped at this point!

This is the after!  He wouldn’t let me get near his ears with the trimmer, so I’ll have to go clean those up with the scissors after he stops having nightmares.  The top is 1 inch long and the rest is 1/2 an inch. 

The hubby was shocked and a bit horrified from the sound of his voice when he saw the pic I sent him at work.  He says it makes Oliver look like a Vulcan.  He then asked me not to cut Evelyn’s hair…

I think that after a few days it will look just fine… I must say that it is much cooler for him now that the temps are rising.  The poor guy was always sweating with the mop from before.  As he grows, I might bring him to get it professionally cut someday, or maybe for a special event like his birthday.  Otherwise, this is the 7th trim I’ve given him since he’s been born.  That’s $175+ in our pockets.  With all that money saved, I can buy him a baseball cap to wear until his hair grows out a bit!  :-)

I can’t be the only one doing home haircuts out there!  Anyone have a hair raising story they want to share? 

Painting the Porch: Day Two

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

After breakfast, the hubby went outside to cut new stringers, and support pieces.  To save money, we disassembled the steps to reuse as much good wood as we could.  We were also salvaging the posts.

Seven hours later, we still don’t have steps.  My hubby is thoroughly frustrated at this point and after a few more hours we call it a night.

Why is it so hard to rebuild the steps? Well, the original porch steps were not built systematically.  Each step was built as a separate unit.  They weren’t all precisely square or level, and the treads were even different depths with varying overhang on the risers.  I know this because I rebuilt the steps when I bought the house in 2000 (your welcome honey).

This all leads us to the big problem.  How do you reuse wood from the “flawed” original project and build stairs correctly the second time around.  The obvious answer is to go buy new wood and start from scratch.  We’ve already spent 65 bucks and it would probably cost another 65 to replace the rest of the wood.

We are giving it one more day to see if we can get the mismatched salvaged wood to work.  Meanwhile, we’ll keep tramping through the backyard to get to the car…

Painting the Porch: Day One

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

After nearly 3 years of being pregnant and birthing babies, we are finally getting around to taking care of our house.  As you can see, it sorely needs it.  This is a pic of a rail on our front porch.  If you think this is bad, you should see our chimney!  The wasps, squirrels, and woodpeckers have done a number on it over the past few years.

We borrowed a power washer from a friend and blasted the heck out of our porch.  We cleaned off all the mold and managed to remove most of the peeling paint.  We bought industrial strength paint stripper to tackle the rest and then we hit a big roadblock…

Rotted wood.  One of the stringers was rotted from the bottom up.  This explained why the stairs were so wobbly of late.  There was no way we would be able to paint over this.

So our painting project turned into a replace the stringer project, which entailed dismantling the entire front porch steps.

“What’s all the racket??? I’m trying to play with my trains!” says my son.

Daddy’s little helper!  Oliver picked up his daddy’s tools and proceeded to help him out by dropping them through the spindles and into a bush in the side yard.  That’s my boy!

We ended day one with a clean porch, clean gutters, and a clean planter box, but no porch steps.  The hubby went to Lowe’s to buy replacement wood to build a new stringer and to replace a couple rotted treads.

Do It Yourself Leg Warmers for Toddlers

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Ready for Snow

If you live in an area that has mild winters, like we do, you probably won’t have true cold weather gear for your little ones.  Mild winters to me are those with only 1 – 2 snowfalls that drop 1 – 6 inches and melt within 1 – 2 days.  Having a nice warm coat is a must regardless of the snowfall, but what about snow pants?

After our white Christmas I got creative with the kitchen shears to make a warm outfit for Oliver to wear outside.  We bundled him up in layers (2 of everything) and slipped on my smallest pair of gloves.  The only problem we had was how to keep the snow from going up his pant legs and down into his shoes.

I took a pair of scissors to an old pair of socks and voila –  leg warmers for Oliver!  I snipped the toes off around mid-sole and left the heels on the socks.  I slipped them on over his shoes and stuffed his pant legs down into the socks to keep the snow out.

With the heels covered, he also got a bit of extra traction on the ice.

They were a huge success and the best part was that they didn’t cost us a dime.  The snow stayed out of his shoes and he was comfy and cozy.

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Instead of splurging on large, fluffy, winter gear dress in lots of layers instead.  Layer on the sweat shirts over the long sleeves, the pants over the sweat pants, thick socks over thin…  Oliver stayed nice and toasty after playing in the snow.  Note: This is very practical if you don’t get much snow for the winter, otherwise buy the kids snow gear at consignment sales.

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