Category Archives: Furniture

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!

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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The Converted Vanity

On Saturday, we picked up our shower pan and shower doors, FINALLY. The biscuit color made the cut and matches pretty perfectly with the tub, so that’s what we went with. The biscuit was about $25 more than the white pan, for some reason, but when the guy did the return of the white one (we bought both colors so we could compare, planning to return the unwanted one), he accidentally returned the biscuit one and refunded me the higher amount. I pointed out his mistake, but clearly he was having that kind of day, so he said don’t worry about it. Not that I’m ever worried about not giving Lowe’s enough of my money.

We got the pan home, and it fits about 95% into the shower spot. The drain is shifted a tad too far over, but we think Lowe’s carries an offset drain that will fix that issue. The rest fits well, and I’m impressed with how sturdy it feels for $200. Despite the sturdiness, the instructions say to “lay the pan in a bed of mortar.” We can’t figure out why this is necessary, but perhaps it is because our pan doesn’t actually get screwed into the studs so the mortar kind of supports it and holds it in place? The amount of mortar to use is vague, so I contacted the company and they recommended going with a ~3/4″ bed towards the edges of the pan, and about 3/8″ bed towards where the drain is. The pan slopes towards the drain, so this makes sense, but that is still a THICK bed of mortar that will be heavy. I pity the next person who tries to renovate this bathroom, because it would take a jackhammer to remove such a thick block of mortar that is hidden under a fiberglass pan, no less. I’ll just say I am eternally thankful the people who installed our previous shower insert didn’t put mortar underneath it.

Laying the mortar will be simple enough, but getting the 40 pound, 36″x48″ pan laid on top of it and kept level, into a space with 3 walls surrounding it will be tricky. We’ll have to tackle this soon, though, hopefully on Saturday. My 30th birthday is also on Saturday (and Nik’s is on Tuesday!) and while installing a shower pan for a milestone birthday activity sounds depressing at best, when I think about the difficult but rewarding renovations I have the privilege of doing beside my mostly-tolerant husband in the house that we are thankful to be building a life in together, there are minimal complaints here!

I’m sure we’ll have pics from the shower pan process, so I’ll save those for once the pan is in. The rest of this post, I’ll show pictures of our converted vanity. I already showed how we removed the bottom of the vanity and mounted it on plywood for a new base:

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Before

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After

The vanity was then measuring about 26 and 3/4″ tall, and our goal height was 34″ (so-called ‘adult’ vanity height). The vanity top is about an inch thick, so we were looking for 6″ legs. We found some we liked a little more than what we went with, but they were only 4.5″, so we would’ve had to find a way to extend them and then cover that extension with trim. Then we found the 6″ ones that we went with. They seemed a little unsubstantial so I had the idea to actually do 4 across the front, one around each set of doors. Here are the feet, and the piece of trim we used to hide the transition:

Nik attached the feet with straight brackets, then installed the trim with wood glue and finishing nails:

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So here’s what the corners looked like finished:

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Next we flipped it and applied a bead of caulk at the trim seam:

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And finally gave it a coat of primer that night, in addition to the drawers and doors:

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I think it looks great, and once there is real paint on it it will look like we bought a new vanity! We puzzled over colors with the new vanity top for some while, and settled on a just-off-white color called Silent White (Clark and Kensington) for the vanity, and a slightly darker, blue-grey tinged color called Paper White (Benjamin Moore) for the walls. We got a sample for the walls before we’ll make the final decision, and we also bought a sample for the vanity paint that should be able to cover the whole thing without buying a larger portion of paint.

For a price breakdown of the vanity upgrade, we used half a sheet of plywood for the base ($11), 7 feet cost $21, the feet brackets were about $16, the trim was $12, and the sample paint was $5. So far the total is $65, but we still need hardware which will probably be about $35. So a “new vanity” base for $100. Not too bad, considering poorly built ones on Wayfair sell for over $900.

This week we’re working on getting the vanity painted and sealed, and like I said, hopefully getting the shower pan in Saturday and finishing up that last bit of tile next to the pan. So maybe we can finally grout the floor on Sunday.

Finished Console

Two posts in one week! Well, I did promise I’d have some pictures up soon of the project we just completed for our good friends Lindsey and Dave, so here it is.

They were looking for a console to hold their TV boxes with some extra storage, and we were looking for a way to thank them for all the help they gave us at our wedding. So we started looking for a piece of furniture that would fit their living room space. We finally found this buffet on Craigslist and I haggled the price down a bit with the seller:

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This piece was big, 48″ wide and about 17″ deep. And it was heavy and solid – after working with it, most likely mahogany. It had a solid piece of wood on the top and the door/drawer fronts and veneer with some damage near the feet on the sides. So we decided we’d keep the solid wood sections stained, and paint the rest of the body. Stripping the old varnish off the wood was first on the list:

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Then came sanding the sections to be painted, and patching the veneer with wood filler.  A lot of filler goes on, then is sanded smooth.

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The drawers and doors also got stripped and sanded, then the stained along with the top. The wood grain was really beautiful:

Then the body got dragged inside (I hope the phrases I use here aren’t searchable or the authorities will certainly be after me) for primer. We needed 2 coats since the redness of this wood soaked right through the first coat of primer – one of the reasons we think it was mahogany. Then finally paint, which i forgot to take a picture of:

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The challenge with this piece ended up being the doors. Lindsey wanted non-solid doors so they could use the remote through them, so we suggested glass or radiator grate as an option. She bought some small pieces of crafting-grade radiator grate though JoAnn Fabrics and tested the remote through it and it worked! So we went with that.

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A router has been passed down to Nik from his father/grandfather, so he learned how to use it and purchased a bit that could make cut outs for the door. He also bought a router jig that helps you to cut straight edges with the router. I still don’t entirely understand how routers function…but from my limited understanding, it’s essentially a fast rotating bit that cuts smoother than a jigsaw, and also allows you to turn corners (because it’s rounded) and, if you buy a bit with a cool profile, can add ornate edges to your cut.

Nik did quite a few practice cuts on scrap wood, then felt confident enough to tackle the doors. They came out great, and he left a small edge for us to butt the grate up against to secure it in place, kind of like when you have a picture frame and the glass butts up against the frame and that holds the glass in place. The radiator grate was thin aluminum that was just trimmed to size with heavy duty scissors.

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After that, we finished staining the newly cut door edges, then sealed up all the stained parts with water based poly, and put all the parts back together. This piece came with cool old handles, but they were very tarnished, so Lindsey and I had fun spray painting the handles a soft silver color, and then the door handles were replaced with some new crystal knobs to add a little glitz.

The inside is basically an open cavern, so we’re working on a little shelf to put in there, but other than that, this project is finally done! The paint color we used was the same color as the little shelves we added to our master bath:

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To be honest, I was not really sure about this color when we finished it and it was sitting in our living room. I thought it should be changed to a cream color. But we decided we’d give it a try in Lindsey and Dave’s living room and see if the lighting there changed our mind, and it definitely did! We all think it looks great in their space. One more funny note, is the door and the drawer stains match 100% – but once they were installed, the vertical grain on the doors reflects light much darker than the horizontal grain on the drawers. Wood is always interesting! So here’s the official before and after:

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A well deserved thank you to Lindsey and Dave for being amazing friends and offering so much help at our wedding to make it a flawless day!

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A New (Old) Light Fixture

We got a lot done this weekend…not particularly things on my list, but progress nonetheless. The garage side deck is officially finished, with new handrails. I got a coat of primer on our friend’s furniture piece that we’re refinishing, we stained the top of the weird dining table project we’ve had stashed in the garage for ages, and we refinished a light fixture for our dining room.

When we moved, my parents gave me an old chandelier from the foyer of our house in NJ – it had sconces, and was kind of a brushed nickel finish. Originally, the pointy flame-shaped light bulbs were in it, with glass sconces around each light.

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It was very traditional looking, so we were having a hard time deciding where it would fit in our house. Originally we were thinking kitchen, but the light location over the kitchen table is not quite centered on the table and a dangling chandelier would emphasize this even more than a flush mount light. So then we thought dining room…but that room is decidedly mid-century themed, and the silver seemed out of place. But, the table is centered on the light:

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I’ve hated that light since the day we moved in. It’s too small, and too close to the ceiling, and too bright. It has made us not want to have meals in this room, so we knew it had to change. Nik had the idea of using the chandelier from my parents, but using Edison light bulbs to give it some vintage character, and spray painting it a new color, since the nickel finish was dingy and dirty and didn’t fit with the room.

We choose oil-rubbed bronze, and hung the light on the bird feeder hook to do the spray painting, which went pretty well.

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Then Nik removed the old light and mounted the new one, which did require a trip to Lowes for a mounting kit since it was incompatible with what was there.

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The wires were all hooked up, and then we started thinking about the bulbs. I kind of liked them by themselves, but we put one sconce on just to see. It’s ok, but in person it looks like too much glass since the bulbs are glassy, and almost touch the sconce edges. Also, the sconces will show dust over time , so we’re thinking of just doing the bulbs:

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Here’s another closeup, and a picture from the living room for perspective. I love how it looks – a huge upgrade from what was there previously (please don’t mind our mess, this is the reality of DIY work. Also, the light is still hanging a little crooked since that one heavier sconce is still on one side of it, which we’re still debating).

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The light that comes from the squirrel cage Edison bulbs is also so pretty, and looks like delicate bursts on the ceiling (camera didn’t do it justice). We got them on Amazon,  $20 for 6.

So that chandelier was  big accomplishment, this little project that has been on the list for a while. I’m going to save pics of the other furniture projects until they’re done, but I did promise to show some pictures of the little guest bedroom side tables so here they are. To sum up this project, these tables were $30 for both on Craigslist, and we stripped the top, added little back boards with pieces of red oak that we rounded by sanding, stained/sealed the tops, then gave the sides a good sanding followed by primer and a warm light gray paint (we reused the extra sample paint from an ex-kitchen cabinet color).

Before:

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And after:

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Cheers to a productive weekend!

 

Spring Update

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve given an update, and we’ve made lots of progress on a few different projects.

Our garden is planted, for the most part, and includes snow peas, a couple jalapeno peppers, eggplants, 2 roma-variety tomatoes and 1 grape tomato, bush zucchini, spaghetti squash, large sized and  pickling sized cucumbers, various herbs, and leeks. We started everything from seed inside about a month ago (except the snow peas, which were planted outside and are now a perfect row of happy little pea plants), so we’ll see how this goes. Doesn’t look like much now!

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We’ve also gotten a number of perennial flowers happily planted in our new flower bed, and everything is really starting to grow with the recent warmer weather.

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We made some mild progress on our balusters, and got them all primed with the paint sprayer a few weeks ago:

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But then the pollen hit and we decided to hold off on doing the final paint coat. No one wants yellow paint on their stairs! So these are still piled in our living room awaiting that fate.

We are almost done with our little side tables for our guest bedroom – they got stained on top, and got a coat of light gray paint (a runner-up color for our kitchen cabinets, when we were still considering painting them gray, so we already had that paint). Another coat of paint and some sealer and they’ll be all done. Here are some photos of this project from the beginning. They are kinda-matching, kinda-not:

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The paint stripper took of multiple layers of gummy, old paint.

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Tops all sanded

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Getting some stain

We’ve also made some progress with the buffet piece we’re refurbishing for our friends…the wooden surfaces we salvaged are all stained now, and the body is waiting for primer and paint. Nik busted out the router this weekend to practice with, since we’ll be attempting to cut out the middle of the solid doors in the front of the piece to put in some radiator grate or glass so they can put their cable box in there and still get a signal through to their remote. I’ll save pictures of this till the end…so it can be a surprise!

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so I dragged all the cut pieces of crown molding out of the garage, gave them a quick sanding and dust-off, and got the paint sprayer out. I’ve never put semi-gloss paint in the sprayer (which is what we use for our trim paint) so I was a little worried about how tacky it might feel – but it worked like a charm! The finish was really nice, and a bit glossy (not as glossy as when painted on with a brush). We had one minor clog in the gun, but running some water through it seemed to fix the issue.

So that took all of 15 minutes to do, once everything was set up. After about an hour of dry time, we decided to just go ahead and mount the pieces since we already had pressure in the air compressor. We started in the dining room and made it most of the way around the living room. There’s a few pieces left to hang but we finally called it quits at dinnertime.

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Everyone knows crown molding is challenging – and we definitely have some wonky corners/edges. I think the challenge is not finding the right angle, but getting the piece perfectly level and lined up in the saw – especially if its a 12′ wobbly piece hanging out the other side of the saw. If it’s not perfectly level, your angle can be a few degrees off. That combined with our walls/ceilings which aren’t remotely straight has left us with some intimidating gaps. We’re just going to have to make really good friends with the caulk gun for this project!

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Before

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After!

Despite my attempt to make organized lists of things to accomplish for the weekend, Nik always manages to go off and start a completely new project – like ripping apart most of our side deck off the garage, and replacing the floor, stair treads, and railing. Granted, this did have to happen at some point since the boards were completely splintering. He used left over wood pieces from the jungle gym – but we need to get a few more boards to finish the stair treads and railing. Before:

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During and after:

Progress-wise, our goal this month is to get the crown molding finished and patched, get somewhere with the stair railings/balusters, get our friends’ buffet piece and our guest bedroom tables finished up, and wrap up refinishing a dining table in the garage that we’ve had for a while that Nik recently unearthed and started working on. And THEN we can start on our bathroom!