2018 Goals

Now that 2018 is upon us, it’s time to lay out some goals. Since we don’t stick to timelines too well, I’ll start out by listing some projects we’d like to get completed this spring.

Obviously, bathroom is top of this list. We’re 100% done with the vanity, floor, toilet, and shower so the bathroom is functional as is, but we’re still working on updating the garden tub. The tub was fine, but had the 90’s square white tiles on the tub surround, and with some of our shower tile left over it was hard to turn down the option of tiling the tub to match. In my mind this was simple: chip off the old tile, mortar, and new tile, done. But, as is typical of DIY projects, it turned out to be a bit more complicated.

The little square tiles didn’t chip off nicely at all, so we had to just cut out the drywall they were attached to.

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I then made an arrogant post discussing our purchase of a new sheet of drywall, how we cut it to size in the Lowe’s parking lot so it would fit in the car, and gosh we’re so good at this all we have to do is screw it into the wall! You would think I would have learned at this point in time to never sound so full of myself, and indeed, we screwed this up.

We did do a good job measuring the size of the drywall pieces and getting it all cut…the only issue is we bought the wrong thickness drywall! In our defense, drywall is tricky – the edges of a sheet are apparently tapered to allow some thickness for mudding seams, so I measured the drywall we cut out of the wall (in the middle of the sheet) at what seemed to be a little more than 1/2″, so I assumed this was 5/8″ drywall. Then at the store, the 5/8″ drywall is actually about 1/2″ at the edges to allow for mudding so we assumed this must be the right size. And it wasn’t. Luckily, the sheet was only about $11 but the blow to our esteem felt more damaging. So, this past weekend we were back at Lowe’s purchasing another sheet of 1/2″ thick drywall, and we finally got it cut, mounted, and taped, and thus far have gone through two rounds of mudding:

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The plans for the tub are now to tile and grout – 1 row of the large 12×24″ tiles, and 1 row of bullnose surrounding it all. We would’ve tackled this over the past couple weekends, but the cold temperatures are still hanging around and with our tile saw already having some issues starting up we didn’t want to push it. Perhaps next weekend some warmer weather will give us a chance to cut the tiles.

After the tiles are in, we’re planning to plank the back wall to give the room a warm, cozy feel. The grey tile everywhere has made the room look nice, but cold, so I think a little bit of wood grain in there will be just what the room needs to make it look more like a bathroom retreat. This was the original picture that inspired this idea:

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We don’t have a budget for real planks, but other DIY people have taught us that thin underlayment cut into planks can look great as well. We bought a 4×8′ sheet of thin maple underlayment that was stain grade wood ($24) and cut it into shiplap-sized planks on the table saw:

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And then I played around with about 20 different stain combinations. I was originally thinking of just going with minwax classic grey, but the pinkness of the wood made it sort of clash with the grey tile, so we ended up doing one coat of special walnut followed by a coat of classic grey, which made it look like the color of weathered fence wood.

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Here’s a picture of me bundled up in the freezing weather Sunday, applying the first coat of walnut, and the comparison of the walnut alone and with the layer of gray over it:

Now the planks are drying in the guest bathroom with the fan on (they’re stinky, but it’s too cold to let the stain dry outside):

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I think we’ll probably tile before installing these so we get the height right but we could start with a few rows at the ceiling and work our way down. This will only be on the back wall of the tub. And, if we end up not liking the stain, we can always paint over the planks for a lighter look.

Our tub valve is also one more issue we’re struggling with. Apparently Moen doesn’t even manufacture temperature dials to fit the valve we have on our tub anymore, so we’re thinking we’ll have to use the universal trim kit that we bought a while back, which seems to be compatible. We contemplated changing the plumbing when the wall was open since the universal kit was pricey…but we decided an extra $50 to use that kit was well worth what certainly would’ve been a whole weekend of effort to switch the valve out.

One more bathroom project is the threshold for the door. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the existing threshold options at Lowe’s, so Nik ended up convincing me he could turn a 1×4″ oak board into a threshold using his router and the sander. This is still in progress but I’m curious to see how this will turn out.

And THEN we should be done with the bathroom!

So what’s next? The other main projects that need to happen this spring are caulking/patching the crown molding on the first floor (ugh), and getting our new balusters installed. The balusters need a coat of paint, the railing needs to be stained and sealed, and we need to figure out how the heck to install them. We have some ideas…but I’m not confident this will be an easy task (probably why it’s been put off 2.5 years at this point).

The last project I’d like to see completed in the somewhat near future is a kitchen island. We have a slab of granite cut for it, so it’s a shame that it’s sitting in the garage while we’ve been using a rusty wire shelving rack with cutting boards thrown on top for over 2 years now. In an ideal world, I’ve love an island with some closed cabinetry and some open shelves to have a little more storage for large unsightly things. The dimensions we need (20″x39″) aren’t quite as wide as this disproportionate sketch, but you get the idea:

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At this point, I’ll take anything that is done quickly, has some shelves, and doesn’t break the bank since if we move, this would probably be left behind since it will match the kitchen granite. I’d also like something on wheels since the kitchen is small and it would be nice to have the ability to slide it out of the way at times. Maybe a design like these would be feasible:

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I  think Nik will have fun with this. He likes building furniture, and with the biscuit joiner and kreg jig furniture joinery tools he’s acquired, the things he’s crafted always look professionally built. We’ll see what he comes up with!

These plans should get us at least halfway into 2018 without killing us. Our weekends have been filled with a lot of doggie activities for Gunnar recently, and it is really nice to have days where we’re not DIYing all day, every day we have off. The cold weather hasn’t made working in the garage pleasant, so I think once the spring weather hits we’ll actually be antsy to get back to working more diligently on our projects. Cheers to 2018!

 

 

 

2017 Year In Review

Every new year, I panic when I think back over the past year and I feel like we didn’t accomplish as much as we wanted to. Maybe this year was a particularly slow struggle for our bathroom project, since our original timeline had our master bathroom finished in August. While we’ve moved back into the bathroom and are using all the necessary components, it still feels far from finished – stepping around tools and shop vacs to take a shower every morning is disheartening.

But then I started scrolling through all my blog posts from 2017, and it became apparent that we DID do a lot this year. I’ll go project by project to sum up the year.

In early spring 2017, we got our kitchen cabinet crown molding painted and installed – our first attempt at mitering corners of crown molding. A few months later we also added ceiling crown molding to our downstairs bathroom, dining room, entry way, and living room (although painted, it has yet to be caulked and filled….)

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We also finished up our guest bedroom improvements, including a new ceiling fan, wall paint, and bedding – and eventually two refinished side tables.

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The project that has dragged on the longest for our home renovations is hands down our stairway balusters. Early last year, I was inspired by Fixer Upper to make our own balusters that are square and simple, which we did last spring…and are still sitting in our living room, primed, waiting for a coat of paint, and waiting for installation. This installation absolutely has to happen this spring to bring our house up to code!

Nik also used some old jungle gym wood to replace the decking on our little side deck, and we refinished an old chandelier for our dining room:

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Outside, we extended our garden bed also using up some of the lumber from the jungle gym:

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We finished installing new wide blinds on all of our windows:

And we finished up refinishing a furniture piece for our friends, and built a little stool for another friends’ baby:

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And now for the the bathroom!

For the bathroom, the major projects were demo, refinishing and raising the vanity, installing the vanity top and plumbing fixtures, tiling the floor, installing the shower pan, tiling the shower, and adding shower doors, adding floor trim, figuring out the most convoluted shower/tub valve plumbing in the world, and finally (still in progress), tiling around the tub.

Oh, and in the middle of all that we had our epic two-week trip to Colorado and Utah:

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…and we adopted our wonderful greyhound, Gunnar, in October:

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Well, 2017 seemed pretty productive after all. I think I’ll allow myself to bask in our 2017 DIY progress for a few more days before I make a list of 2018 projects!

The Tub Demo

I mentioned last week we had to do a mild demolition of our tub to get the old tiles down – we were hoping we could just chip them off, but it turns out the people who built our house decided, for once, to not do things half-assed and to actually adhere these small tiles quite well to the drywall underneath. Nik was finding he was just denting the drywall in when he tried to chip them off with a pry bar. So he got the Dremel out and cut just outside the tile on each wall. Here’s the tub, (old pic, but you can see the square white tile surround), and after:

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There weren’t any huge issues, other than the studs on the left wall were built up an extra 1/2″ with some plywood so the drywall would reach the tub on one side, but that will be easy to replace when we put the new drywall in.

So, new drywall. We went to Lowe’s last night to buy a sheet of 5/8″ thick drywall, but of course a 4’x8′ board didn’t fit in the car, so here we are cutting it down to size in the Lowe’s parking lot:

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I was envisioning this ending poorly, perhaps because my most recent experience cutting large sheets of things was with the Hardibacker cement board for the shower, which was so difficult to cut. For once, this actually went very smoothly and we had the drywall sheet cut down to fit in the car within about 10 minutes. A simple cut with the razor, breaking the board along the line, and then a razor cut through the paper backing. It’s almost like we’re pros at this! We got home and finished the last few cuts to make the pieces the right size – all that’s left is cutting out a small circle for the faucet, then screwing them into the walls.

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After we get drywall up, we’ll be able to slather on a layer of mortar (we have some left over from the shower), and then lay the tub tile – one row of the 12×24″ tiles, and bullnose to surround it. And then grout. And then patching any exposed drywall seams between the new and old drywall – which will exist, because of course the old tiles went about 1″ further up the wall than one row of our new tile + 1 row of bullnose will go. Speaking of bullnose, I just remembered we forgot to buy those on our Lowe’s run last night…we got excited about the drywall, and apparently that was enough to distract us from our extensive two-item shopping list. All in all, replacing drywall and giving new tile to this tub will probably cost ~$60 at the end of it, which I think is well worth it to not leave behind one part of this renovated bathroom in the 1990s.

In other news, our shower is up and running! We got the faucet in yesterday, and we used it this morning! My only complaint is we had to buy the eco-sense shower head, only because the regular one was out of stock until the end of this week and I didn’t want to wait. And sure enough, it has a pretty weak flow. There might be a way to take out the water restricting device in the shower head, which would work; if not we may switch it out with our old one, or see if we can return it to get the other one when it’s back in stock.

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Also, since we had part of the drywall down around the tub, we toyed with the idea of trying to reach up into the wall to move the valve back from below so the shower handle wouldn’t stick out as far. But, for once, we decided to leave it as it, for fear that we would make a small cosmetic problem into something bigger if we screwed it up.

Gunnar didn’t know quite what to think of the new shower, he just stood awkwardly in the bathroom and watched me while I was using it this morning! I’m pretty sure he was wondering whether there was also peanut butter in this shower, just like there was on the wall of our other shower when we gave him a bath last weekend. Or he was wondering why I hadn’t fed him breakfast yet…we’re pretty confident his thoughts revolve around food approximately 97% of the time.

 

Shower Doors…and More Demo

The last few weeks Nik and I (well, mostly me) have hemmed and hawed about what faucet set will be most compatible with our shower, and we’ve made some new discoveries, and had some set backs. We did determine that we have a Moen posi-temp valve that is already there, and we also determined we’re not willing to cut through the wall to replace it! So we have several options at this point: we can use a universal kit we got that is made by Pfister and that should work, but it protrudes pretty far from the wall because of our valve placement and it isn’t as nice looking as some of the other sets. This isn’t completely installed, but this is what the ‘protrusion’ would look like with the universal set…not impossible, but not ideal:

Now that we know we have a Moen valve, we started looking more closely at Moen products, and found a line that we like (Brantford) that also sells individual components which we thought would be useful for replacing the tub hardware without having to buy another complete set (spout, shower head, and dial) as well.

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Our tub spout turns out to be somewhat not standard (surprise!), so we did have to order a couple other tub spouts to try (Delta and Kohler make one that should work in theory…whether the metal finishes match the Moen ones perfectly is unlikely but Moen doesn’t make a compatible spout that isn’t chrome). So we ordered all the parts (shower head and temperature dial for the shower, temperature dial and tub spout for the tub) and then started pulling the tub apart yesterday (1 hour after ordering) and realized that the tub  temperature control dial HAS A DIFFERENT STUPID VALVE THAN THE SHOWER!

Soooo…we should be set on the shower when those kits come in this week, but the tub will still take some troubleshooting to find a valve dial that works with it. This part of the project has honestly taken longer to figure out than tiling our floor and shower. If only the contractors that built our house used standard, matching plumbing and fixtures, we could’ve been done with this 2 months ago!

In other news, while we were disassembling the old tub faucet parts, we also started removing some of the square white tiles around the tub – we’re planning to do a quick cosmetic tile update around the tub to match the shower tile. Well, the little white tile squares didn’t come off neatly so we ended up just cutting out all the drywall attached to the tile around the tub so we’ll need to replace that drywall, then tile over it. We thought the demolition for this bathroom was done, but we were wrong.

All that aside, we do have some fun progress to show you! We got the remainder of our walls painted this weekend, and got the shower doors installed! Despite the doors being super heavy (about 75lbs each), we got them in with relatively little hassle and I think they look amazing. We selected Dreamline Encore 48″ frameless sliding door in brushed nickel, which set us back about $450. Here’s the Home Depot stock photo:

DreamLine Encore 44 in. to 48 in. x 76 in. Framed Bypass Shower Door in Brushed Nickel

We thought about using a hinged door for a hot second…but the reviews were much worse for those types of doors, the installation seemed a lot trickier, and they were a couple hundred dollars more expensive. I read a few reviews for these sliding doors and everyone loved them and had an easy time installing them, so that made our decision easy. The hardest part about installing these was drilling 4 screws into the tile to secure the top bar. Nik did a great job with this, but it took him about 2 hours to get those 4 screws through a layer of porcelain tile, mortar, and cement board.

Here’s the finished product:

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In other news, we got a mini-Christmas tree this year to avoid any potential dog destruction:

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Luckily, Gunnar has shown very little interest in the tree. We’ve started leaving him loose out of the crate for about a week now while we’ve been at work, which has gone splendidly for the most part. His one goofy transgression was consuming an ENTIRE banana, peel and all, that Nik mistakenly left on the coffee table. We only figured this out because Nik found a small portion of the stem left behind on Gunnar’s bed, then we realized what had happened. Lesson learned. But really, who couldn’t forgive that sweet face? Gunnar has managed to carve himself a perfect little niche in our family, and I have to say that snuggling with him is just the best thing ever!

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So Close, Then So Far

Well, we had good intentions when we were hoping to have our entire bathroom (shower included) functional by Thanksgiving. I mean, all we really had left to do was some trim installation and popping the new shower faucet hardware on this weekend. We should’ve known better that many things don’t just “pop” on, and this turns out to be the case for our shower faucet dial.

You know what I’m talking about – changing something that looked like this:

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Into a more updated one like this:Image result for pfister ladera

You would think that the old one comes off with some hidden screws (this was true), and then the new one fits into the standard plumbing that is under the old one and voila, updated hardware. WRONG.

Apparently almost every shower valve is unique to each brand of shower dial, and even if you use the same brand but the first one was 20 years old, they likely won’t be compatible. How do you fix this? You need to access the pipes, cut the old valve and surrounding piping out, reattach new copper piping to the new valve, install the new valve mounted to the studs under the wall, then weld those new pipes to the old ones (called ‘sweating the pipes’ as I found out, or you can buy fancy connectors that allow you to snap the pipes together). Home Depot has a very thorough video detailing this process, which was useful, but caused my anxiety to rise with each passing second as I realized what a big job this can be:

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Fortunately, Nik seems somewhat confident that he can do these things (one of the reasons I love him!), but the one complication is that WE JUST TILED OVER THE PIPES. So now we’re faced with cutting a hole in the drywall directly behind the shower wall (over the tub) to perform this surgery.

We did get a plumber to come over just to advise us and we’re waiting on the quote, but I think we’re going to end up trying to do this ourselves since I’m assuming it’ll be at least a couple hundred dollars to hire someone. We did look back at old pictures from when the wall was open, and realized that the two water lines leading into the old valve are plastic, so there will be only one copper line to cut and reattach which is the one that leads up to the shower head (the shower plumbing is off to the right in these pics – the plumbing that is straight ahead is actually for the bathtub in our guest bathroom):

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We actually have two options at this point, both of which will probably involve cutting into the wall. If we use the faucet set that matches our sink faucets (Pfister Ladera Trim Kit), this will require a totally new valve to be installed (so all the steps I listed above). But, we also ordered a “universal” faucet kit that is coming in the mail today, and that one supposedly is compatible with many types of valves and I believe our old valve pictured here will work with it:

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It still looks nice, but wouldn’t totally match the sink faucets. But, even for that kit I’m about 95% certain we’ll still need to open the wall to recess the old valve back into the wall about 1/2″ since our new tile is not as deep as the fiberglass insert that was there previously – you can kind of see the line where the wall used to hit the valve in this side picture:

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Might be an easier job that replacing the whole valve system, but if we’re going into the wall anyways, we might as well put in the hardware set we like better! We’ll make our final assessment tonight once we have both faucet sets to compare. The two kits were comparably priced, around $105-125, and include the shower head, temperature dial, and a tub spout, which we won’t use, so we’ll just cap off that connection on the valve.

Another annoying thing about this is that we now know we’ll have to do the same thing to replace the tub hardware in the master bathroom, meaning we’ll have to make an even larger hole in the wall to reach that plumbing (it’s in the same wall as the shower plumbing, just lower down). Still blows my mind that switching these fixtures out is so complicated…

Anyway, we did make progress elsewhere this weekend while waiting for that other faucet set to arrive today. I got the shower area all cut in with paint, but we’ll probably wait to fill in the larger areas with a paint roller once we’re all done with repatching the drywall hole to access the plumbing. Nik and I installed the baseboard trim and quarter round for the rest of the room. I got it all caulked last night and filled the nail holes – now all that’s left is the touch up paint! Trim is amazing – these are before and after pictures and the trim is about the only difference, but it makes the room look so much more finished:

I also finished the last few remaining sections on the sink that needed caulking:

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Last night we moved back in to start using this sink so all we’ll have to share with my family in the other bathroom is the shower. Not too bad, and I might even convince Nik and my dad to busy themselves working on this shower plumbing adventure to remove them from the Thanksgiving kitchen madness!

Shower Progress

I was looking back through my summer calendar, and almost laughed out loud when I saw that this renovation was scheduled to be completed in July. HAHA. Makes me laugh again. Sadly, we are still working on this bathroom. Which is partly our fault, since we’ve had plenty of weekend days we just didn’t FEEL like doing work on it, so we didn’t. Fortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel became a lot brighter last weekend with the installation of the shower door, and now most of what’s left is purely cosmetic.

The most difficult part of finishing up the shower has been patching the space between the tile and the drywall, since the cement board under the drywall (the red and darker grey area) was about 1/8-1/4″ thinner than the surrounding drywall:

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This has meant applying a thin coat of joint compound, sanding till smooth, then repeating approximately 932 times:

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I think it is ALMOST there – maybe 1 more coat this weekend, and we’ll be ready for wall paint. We got all the door framing up last weekend, including about 2 hours that it took for Nik to drill 4 holes through hard porcelain tile (and the mortar and cement board underneath it!). After all that drilling, we forgot to take a picture of Nik’s perfect drill holes, but we did take one of the final frame installation:

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We haven’t actually put the doors on yet, just to make the sanding/painting part easier, but at this point it’s just lifting the door panels into place when we’re ready for them:

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Nik also finished caulking and installing the shower drain the other weekend, so that is all done:

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Another problem we had to tackle was figuring out how to caulk between the shower pan and the first row of tiles. This was fine on the right side of the shower, where this gap was a perfectly caulkable size of about 1/8″ thick. However, this gap was significantly larger on the left side of the shower, closer to 1/2″. We couldn’t come up with a better strategy for filling it, so I just squirted in several thick layers of clear silicone caulk. It seems successfully filled at this point, but when clear caulk is that thick, it’s not really very clear.

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Once the door is in place, I’m sure it won’t be noticeable. We’ll just have to clean it regularly and maybe replace it every year if icky stuff grows on it.

Next up is attaching the faucet hardware, which we need to pick up from the store. We’ll probably match the sink hardware, unless we find a set that has a hose attached to the shower head that looks decent. Our new greyhound, Gunnar, appears to lack all sense of agility and grace, so we’re thinking that future baths will probably be way easier in a walk-in shower vs having to help him navigate his bony, long, awkward legs over a tub wall. So it could make more sense to put a hose shower head in there, and they do make some pretty nice looking ones now. Here’s those long, bony legs I’m talking about!

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After those tasks are done, the last few things will be installing the remaining floor trim around the shower and the adjoining walls, which is already painted and ready to go. Although Gunnar doesn’t like people in driveways a hundred yards away, he seems to have no fear of loud noises or power tools, so he’s been extremely tolerant of, if not interested to the point of being annoying, in our bathroom renovation. He’ll probably love the air compressor and nail gun for installing the trim!  We also need to fashion some type of threshold for the room. Once we’re done with those things, we can move back into the bathroom, and at that point we’ll also assess if we want to do any sort of cosmetic tiling around the tub to tie it into the room, and the accent wall I had envisioned behind the tub. This tiling will be a lot easier than the shower tiling since the cosmetic tiles can go right over the existing drywall.

Well, the count down to the end has begun. We’re hosting my family for Thanksgiving this year, so with extra people in the house, this puts a hard deadline on us to get this renovation wrapped up!

A Cool Stool

In the midst of our bathroom renovation, we knew we’d be taking a trip up to PA for one of my friend’s weddings, and luckily it worked out that we’d also be able to visit Nik’s best man, Jed, and his wife Laura who just had a baby boy in June. This baby has a special (and kinda funny) story: Jed and Laura Skyped us last December to tell us the very happy news, and the due date. They could quickly see the gears turning as we thought about the due date, and realized it was just about 9 months after our wedding! So we call him our wedding baby (which will surely embarrass him some day!), and he is the sweetest little thing! Nik is a little more enthusiastic about children than I am, so I’m pretty sure this trip was one of his ploys to get me more interested….and he was so cute,  it was pretty effective!

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Before our visit, we hadn’t gotten the little guy a gift yet, so we decided to build him something. I had seen a post on another blog I read about a step stool that she made for her kids, with free design plans from another DIY blog. We headed to Lowe’s because somehow in our garage filled with lumber, we didn’t have quite the right piece of wood to start building it. We got a plank of poplar and traced out the design, then cut it with the jigsaw:

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Nik used his Kreg Jig to make some fancy pocket holes for the joinery:

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Then it was time for assembly. We decided to stain the top and prime and paint the sides light gray:

After 2 coats of paint, we then screwed the steps onto the body, and I got to work free-hand painting his name onto the stool, which was stressful but came out pretty well in the end:

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He’s not old enough for it yet, but I’m excited to watch him grow into it over the next year or two! Jed also just finished a very impressive remodel of their basement, and I told him we’d love to have a guest post about it on the blog, so perhaps that will be coming in the future.

I also mentioned in our last post that we were doing something exciting for our anniversary. Nik and I (well, mostly me!) have been thinking about adding something fluffy to our family for a while, and we finally decided on adopting a retired racing greyhound. We’ve done tons of research on this breed, and visited a wonderful adoption kennel about an hour west of us called Project Racing Home. On our anniversary weekend, we picked out this handsome, goofy boy, and he’ll be coming home with us tomorrow! One good thing about a dog is, in anticipation of his arrival, we’ve been forced to clean up after ourselves for our in-progress DIY projects. It’s nice to have our living room back (well, mostly…the dog’s crate is rather large!) which is normally our staging area, and all the tools and debris from our bathroom renovation mostly cleared out of our master bedroom!  Here he is!

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