When we struggled through the baby’s room remodel, we put off one project that we didn’t have time to tackle before the baby was born. Apparently we didn’t have time to tackle it for another 15 months after he was born either (oops). That project? Built-in storage.
As you can imagine, babies need a lot of storage. They have more toys and equipment than the rest of the family combined. When we originally planned the layout of the baby’s room, we anticipated putting built-in storage in the front of his room, next to the door. We wanted open shelves that perfectly fit storage baskets that would be easy for a small child to use, as he starts to learn how to clean up.
Here’s the final product:
Now here’s how we did it. We found some baskets that we liked and planned out the size of the shelves based on the size of the baskets. We picked baskets from Pottery Barn that match the new baskets in our coat closet, but in a darker color. The baskets are 16″ wide by 13″ deep by 10.5″ high. Using the baskets as a guide, we determined how many cubbies to have – the wall could fit 3 baskets across and two baskets high. Here is a look at the space before we added the shelves:
We ran over to Home Depot to buy supplies. We picked up some MDF (medium-density fiberboard) for the shelving and 2x3s for the frame. MDF does not have any fancy grain like real wood, but we don’t need fancy wood since we’re going to paint it.
As you can tell, we cut the pieces for the supports before we snapped this pic. From the top down, here is what the pieces are:
The descriptions probably aren’t too much help but you’ll understand as you see them in action … read on!
We built the upper shelf’s scaffold by attaching one back support to the four top supports:
We also built the middle and bottom scaffolding (using the intermediate supports instead of the top supports) and painted them all. We placed the right side panel and screwed the three scaffolds into the wall (starting at the bottom and working upward):
We added each shelf as we went up:
You’ll see the cut-outs in the shelf for the front supports. They fit through so that the front of the built-ins are flat.
This was when we discovered a slight glitch in our plan: an outlet was in our way. Okay, to be completely honest, we discovered and fixed the problem before we took the photos above. But first, the problem…
A shelf was slated to go straight across the outlet. Guess what? Time to move an outlet! We turned off the power to the house, cut a new hole in the outlet’s new location, and moved the wires and junction box to the new hole. We also replaced the junction box with a newer, more modern one. We prefer to have new wiring in the room where our baby sleeps.
You’ll notice that the top and bottom scaffolds were installed, but not painted when we moved the outlet. That brings us to our Whoops Moment. We started installing the scaffolds and realized that we forgot to allow space for our right side panel. We had to unscrew the scafffolds and try again.
Anyway, where did we leave off? Oh right… we had the scaffolds up and a shelf.
Then we added the middle shelf:
We fitted the front supports:
We installed the top shelf:
And ran into more problems. The top shelf was level…. but the floor wasn’t. Which meant we had a gap between the front supports and the top shelf:
We fixed it using a door shim we had left over from installing the porch door last year.
We just cut off the end with a jigsaw and continued on our way.
We added the side shelves and some trim. We glued the trim on (in addition to screwing it in) and sanded down the top so the top was very smooth (but messy looking). We like to use glue and screws because the glue creates a really tight seal against the wall. Finally, we loaded them up with stuff!
See those exposed nails? We’ll fill them in. We haven’t done it yet and wanted to celebrate completing the project with you as soon as possible!
So, after thinking about it for nearly two years (and taking a solid 2 months to construct them), we’ve finally got some awesome built-ins in the baby’s room! Let’s look at it one more time (humor us).
Confession: we’re just not that into you, Ikea. Yes, your attractive furniture and low prices make us salivate when we peruse your online catalog, but at the end of the day, you’re just not our style. (Frankly, we’re just too obsessed with products featuring details that cost a bit more, like dovetails and inlay.)
Even though we don’t like Ikea furniture, we do like their low-cost accessories. We’re talking picture frames, planters, kitchen supplies. So, on our second-ever trip to Ikea, we made our first-ever Ikea purchase. Okay, purchaseS. We bought a pitcher and some kid-friendly plates and…..
New art! For $30! We wanted it from the first moment we saw it. (Gigi has always been a fan of Picasso’s dachshund.)
It’s a small change in a room that needs a lot of attention (side table, lamp, bureau, mirror), but it makes us happy. Anyone else make any small improvements that left you with a big smile?
But we’re building a wall to stop it! We are building as fast as possible, but it’s tough to stay ahead of Mother Nature.
It doesn’t look like much, but we’ve been hard at work. We’ve put down the first level of about 70% of the wall. We’ve also built up the middle a bit:
Although if you move out some more, it really looks like a construction zone!
Here’s what we’ve done:
With the stone on top:
And with a little concrete added:
Unfortunately, in the middle of the process, we hit a snag – another huge rainstorm hit. The rain knocked down a few of our half-clay pots (a makeshift retaining wall that predates our ownership of the house) and eroded some of the future retaining wall. It looked like this:
(Sorry for the cell phone picture – we have since resolved our technical issues!)
As you can see, we had a couple of the half-sized clay pots fall and lots of mud fill the trench. Unfortunately, that mud was on top of the screening stone and modified. We dug out as much as we could and replaced some of the stone. And started building as fast as possible to prevent any more problems.
We staked out the straight areas by measuring equal distances from the house and tying a string across. We found that our “straight area” wasn’t so straight when we measured it out, but fortunately we put up the lines before we layed any stone.
We’re also putting the occasional piece vertical, instead of flat, to give the wall a little more interest and size-variety.
Now we just have to keep on trucking. Looks like we’re going to be stacking stone for a while. Oh, but can we just show it to you again? We’re so excited about the progress!
On Tuesday night, our area was hit with some crazy weather. We had a thunderstorm that basically just sat over our house for an hour.
We aren’t talking a plain jane radar with a few yellow cells and a tiny red one that passed overhead. We are talking red for the whole hour with some spots that were darker than red. We didn’t know that radar images had a color darker than red, but they do. We heard a rumor that the hourly rate of rain over the two hours of storms was higher than during hurricane Irene last year. Not surprisingly, we had to do a bit of storm cleanup after work last night and it will continue into the weekend.
First, near the mailbox a slew of large rocks had accumulated. The rainwater must’ve been running with some force to move such big rocks:
It also appears that our front yard turned into a flood plain. All of our nicely growing new grass was buried under a few inches of debris. Once we cleared everything up, we were just left with… mud.
We also lost the retaining wall holding up the banks of our stream. The retaining wall was made from heavy clay half-pots (they literally look like clay pots that have been cut in half). The clay pots washed downstream. The stream itself is now about two feet wider, which means we lost about two feet of the garden on the house-side of the stream. In the picture below, we added a few white gridlines to show where the two feet of garden used to be:
Lastly, but cetainly not least, the storm dumped mud in our retaining-wall trench on our someday patio. We’ll post pictures and more details on cleaning that mess up next week once we see the extent of the damage this weekend. Looks like we have our work cut out for us!
PS: Sorry for the cell phone camera pics, we’re having equipment issues that should be resolved this weekend too. Hopefully.
We got a bit caught up in our retaining wall (and with work!) so we almost missed the azaleas blooming. But we got a great shot of our clematis, which seems to be very happy with all the rain we’ve been getting:
We are hoping to see some big blooms on the rhodedendrons in June, so stay tuned…
What can we say? The weather is nice and we’re addicted to digging. Just kidding.
Seriously though, we are ready to have a patio in place. Beyond ready. The good news is that the first load of materials for the SEVENTY-FIVE foot retaining wall is arriving today! (We had to buy 14 pallets of stone – yikes!)
Before the stone arrived, we dug the trench where the crushed rock will go. Adding crushed rock under the retaining wall helps with drainage and leveling, although it does seem silly to dig a hole and fill it up. (Tangent: Does anyone else read “I’ll Teach My Dog a Lot of Words” to their child? “The first six words I’ll teach my pup are dig a hole and fill it up.”)
We used a slightly different technique to dig the trench than we used on the rest of the area. We broke the soil up with a mattock (like a double-sided ax) instead of a garden pry bar.
This picture shows the depth of the trench a bit better too (and this is in a shallow spot). The depth of the trench ranges from about 8 inches to a foot deep.
Now we’re going to get back to counting down the minutes until we see our stone! YAY!
This post is also known as: “Other Uses for Chalkboard Paint” and “Making a Chalkboard for Our Toddler: Take 2.”
After our chalkboard fail a couple weeks ago (we found lead paint on the old door we planned to turn into a chalkboard, more details here), we solicited your feedback for ideas on alternate ways to use chalkboard paint.
We were overwhelmed by the multitude of ideas you all sent us. A handful of the ideas included adding chalkboard paint to the following surfaces:
Inspiration photos can be found here: (1) Chalkboard Tabletop; (2) Chalkboard Picture Frame ; (3) Chalkboard Mirror; (4) Chalkboard Made from Wood; (5) Chalkboard Platter; (6) Chalkboard Wall, picture courtesy of Remodelista.
At the end of the day, the solution that worked best for us was a a chalkboard door.
We picked a door and applied 3 coats of Rustoleum brand chalkboard paint. (Confession: Kristin’s cousin has reminded us to add a disclaimer that her uncle works for Rustoleum, but we bought the paint at Home Depot like normal people and we decided to use that brand based on resarch, not familial connections.) In accordance with the instructions, we waited 3 days for the paint to fully dry. Then we “conditioned” it (i.e. rubbed chalk over the whole things) and wiped it down with a paper towel. Ta-da, the chalkboard was done!
How do we like it? Well, a picture says a thousand words (and 2 pictures must be worth 2,000 words, right?):
We are always happy when Kasen is happy (and busy drawing on his new chalkboard). Chalkboard paint project is a success!
The time has come for actually buying materials for our patio retaining wall. We are jumping for joy!
As we mentioned here, we set out to a local stoneyard to look at materials for the job. We looked at a couple of different stoneyards and settled on Norristown Brick as our favorite spot. (Just to set the record straight, they do not give us any bennies for mentioning their name on the blog, we just like them and want to share our experiences with you too.) We also checked out Home Depot and a stoneyard in Phoenixville, PA, but Norristown Brick’s customer service was unprecedented. Plus, we love to support local businesses whenever we can.
Let’s back up and talk about what we were looking for. We had outlined a number of options for what materials we would use on the wall and then we looked at the pros and cons of each.
With those options in mind, we drove over to Norristown Brick to see how the different products looked in person. We brought a couple photos of our existing wall so we could get advice from the pros on a good match.
We quickly eliminated mortared stone from our list (we couldn’t find the right type of stone at any local stoneyards and it was going to be too difficult to build) and cement block with a stone veneer (too expensive and too likely to have long-term problems from water). We were pleasantly surprised by how much we liked the EP Henry wall systems. The rep also suggested that we consider stacked stone for the wall. She told us that the stacked stone was in the same price range but might be more in line with the old wall, stylistically speaking.
We revised our options considering what we learned at the stone yard and limited ourselves to:
We got estimates on both options and both options were comparable in price. We decided to be logical about our decision. We figured that if we liked the Diamond Pro blocks (in the middle of the picture below), that we should go with those since they were cheapesst and easiest. To give the wall a unified look, we planned to cap the wall with flagstone like the existing wall.
The next step was to dig a trench for the wall. SPOILER: This is when the plan to use the Diamond Pro blocks totally fell apart. So, trench digging time had come, and we ran back to Norristown Brick to pick up a couple Diamond Pro blocks to use as a guide while we dig our trench. We discovered (1) that the blocks required a trench about a foot deep (too.much.digging) and, even worse, (2) the blocks looked terrible in our backyard (oops, sorry, we were too busy with frustration to take pictures).
Lesson: Always test your wall system before you buy 10 pallets of blocks. (Phew, we narrowly averted disaster.)
Instead of digging, we set out to look at other wall systems. Norristown Brick was closed for the weekend, so we went by the stoneyard in Phoenixville that offered longer hours (and remembered why we love Norristown Brick). The only ones we thought would work in our backyard, after seeing the Diamond Pro blocks back there, required a “geogrid” be placed behind them when building 4 feet tall. Installing a geogrid meant lots more digging, so we ruled that out. Oh, and we also didn’t like the fact that the wall systems that looked prettier cost a small fortune. Back to the drawing board.
We reevaluated the viability of a stacked stone wall, since that was on our short list. Some research revealed that stacked stone was actually pretty strong when you added an “invisible” mortar (i.e. a mortar in the back of the stones that you can’t see from the front of the wall). Not to mention that stacked stone was reasonably priced and would allow water to drain well. We knew it was meant to be one night when we were out for a walk and realized that almost every house in our neighborhood features a stacked stone wall. Our house is one of only a few without that feature… but not for long!
Begin Trip #3 to Norristown Brick. We returned the Diamond Pro blocks we picked up (add “hassle free returns” to the reasons we are becoming obsessed with Norristown Brick) and checked out our options for stacked stone. We quickly settled on a tan-colored stacked stone option in a 3-6 inch size. (Just to be safe, we picked up a small piece of a blue stone too.)
Once we got home and stuck them in the backyard, we knew we made a better choice. The Diamond Pro blocks looked too much like a plain cement block and was too modern for our rustic yard.
The baby, by the way, could’ve spent hours looking at stone:
We’re hoping to get that 75-foot trench under construction in the next week or two. Then we’ll finally get to see the wall come to light!
Yep, that’s a nasty picture of a bug stuck in epoxy on our garage floor. The good news is that we were able to wipe him up (except maybe one leg). Oh, and more good news: our garage floor is finished!
What we used
We ended up using Rustoleum’s EpoxyShield system. We considered Benjamin Moore’s garage floor epoxy as well as U-Coat-It and Epoxy-Coat.com’s coatings. The reviews for all of the products included comments along the lines of “you’re going to have to re-coat your garage floor in 5 years” so we went with the Rustoleum system because it was the least expensive. Well, that and Kristin’s dad used it in his garage and has been quite happy with it.
From the reviews we read, people seemed happiest with their results when they used two coats of the EpoxyShield and two coats of the EpoxyShield clear coat. We also read that the clearcoat makes the floor much stronger (one reviewer noted that he frequently welds in his garage and the clearcoat has stood up to the sparks). We were hoping we could get away with one layer of the EpoxyShield and one layer of EpoxyShield Clear Coat, but as we’ll describe in more detail below, we ended up using two layers of Epoxy Shield and one layer of ClearCoat.
What we did
The simple answer: we followed the instructions in the package. Very very closely.
The long-winded answer: The manufacturer’s instructions includes a full page on situations when you should NOT use the EpoxyShield. (This would be more convenient if you knew in advance, so check out the instruction pamphlet online here.) The instructions are different depending on whether you have bare concrete or a painted floor, so keep in mind that what we did relates to bare concrete. Before we even bought the kit, we patched the cracks in the floor, as we mentioned here.
We brought our leaf blower into the garage and blew out as much junk as we could. It’s amazing how much stuff accumulates the concrete cracks so we did as thorough a job as possible. Every review we read emphasized the importance of preparing the work surface, so we weren’t going to take any chances.
To clean the floor sufficiently for the epoxy to adhere, we had to “etch” the floor. This basically meant that we were supposed to use the chemicals that Rustoleum provided in the kit to get the floor cleaner than merely washing it out. To do this, we picked up a couple of strong bristle brushes from Home Depot and grabbed our houseplant watering can and a 5-gallon bucket. We followed the mixing instructions (stir 2 gallons of water with all of the included chemical). We used our watering can to distribute the etching solution in 4×4 sections of the garage floor. Once the 4×4 section was wet with etching solution, we scrubbed as hard as we could.
We were amazed by how much junk came out of the floor. The water turned brown from mud with white flakes – overspray from painting the walls. We uncovered stains in the floor that dirt had sealed in – we didn’t even know that it was there! Including this, um, sign (?) offering 10% off:
And then, with more scrubbing, the 10% off sign came off too.
After we had scrubbed the living daylights out of the floor (TIP: wear gloves so you don’t get blisters!), we powerwashed it. The instructions had emphasized the importance of getting all of the etching solution off the floor because the etching solution itself could cause the epoxy to peel up. Also, powerwashing after the etching solution was down helped pull up any dirt and grime that the etching solution loosened, but that we didn’t get when we scrubbed the floor.
We waited. And waited. We had to let the floor complete dry out before putting the epoxy down, becuase a damp floor could also make the epoxy peel up. We weren’t taking any chances so we let it dry for a couple days. The instructions outlined a way to test the floor for water (tape some plastic on the floor and see if water beads form on the plastic) but we didn’t want the tape to leave a residue that we would have to etch off again.
This is exactly like painting with sticky glue. This part is pretty straight forward but also easy to mess up. The key is patience!
We used the EpoxyShield sized for a 2.5 car garage. Our garage is 20 ft x 23 ft and the 2.5-car-garage package was just barely enough for the first coat. (The second coat had a significant amount left over, even though we applied a thicker coat.)
Basically, you mix “Part A” with “Part B” and stir for a few minutes. Depending on the temperature outside, you might have to wait 30 minutes or so for the epoxy to activate (it was pretty hot outside so our waiting time was zero minutes). We applied it at about 8:30 p.m., which was not the suggested time, but it seemed to work out pretty well for us. Kristin started painting the edges and then Krister took a roller (1/2 inch nap, with a long extension pole) and filled in the middle. We did not apply the flakes because we didn’t like how they look. We expect that they would help cover up some imperfections in the floor (and any bugs that get stuck in the epoxy while it’s drying).
We learned that the key here is keeping a wet edge. If you don’t have a wet edge, you’re going to get roller marks. It’s really hard to keep a wet edge though, so you have to work fast. As we were going, we noticed pretty early on that it started to look splotchy, so we went back and added a second pass in a few areas. That was a huge mistake – once the whole thing dried, you could clearly see where we went back and added more epoxy. We also read that it was important to not close your garage door for a little while (the epoxy will stick to your garage door and make a mess).
Oh, and don’t forget that you don’t want to block your walkway – make sure you can get back into the house!
You have to be really careful not to touch or walk on the epoxy for 10 hours after application (and don’t drive on it or put heavy materials on it for 4 days). We waited for a full 24 hours to walk on it, just to be safe. We did a careful look of the floor and discovered that there were obvious roller marks and areas where the epoxy was absorbed by our bare concrete at a different rate than other spots. Not everyone has this experience – it is probably not necessary to do two coats if you have a previously painted floor, but use your judgment. We recommend buying two cases and returning one if you don’t need it.
Here’s a picture showing some of the roller marks (or our best attempt at showing you the roller marks):
The second time around, we basically did everything the same as the first time. We used the leaf blower to clear out any debris that came in overnight – we intentionally didn’t use a broom because we were worried that the bristles would leave scratches in the epoxy. We painted at 8:30 p.m., mixing Part A with Part B, etc. We decided not to paint the edges with a paint brush. We knew we wanted to apply a rubber wall base as a trim of sorts, so preventing epoxy from getting on the walls was not necessary. Plus, we knew we had to move fast to prevent roller marks. We both got rollers (again, 1/2 inch nap with extension poles) and got to work. We applied a thicker coat the second time, figuring that this would allow us more time with a wet edge and that it would even out some of the texture naturally occuring in our garage floor.
The next day, when we woke up, we decided that the epoxy coating looked a million times better with the second coat. No roller marks (definitely some bugs got stuck in there, but you can only see them if you look closely.) We did not walk on it or anything because we wanted to give it plenty of time to cure. The surface was smoother, but it still retained some of the natural texture of the concrete. Overall, it looked really good and we were very happy with it.
We waited a full 48 hours before applying the Clear Coat. The Clear Coat works the same way, where you mix Part A and Part B together and roll it onto the floor. You are supposed to use a 3/8 inch roller instead of the 1/2 inch, but otherwise everything is exactly the same. Again, we didn’t use a paint brush on the edges, we just rolled the whole thing out. We were worried about the coverage of a package, but one package covered our entire floor.
The hardest part about applying the Clear Coat was figuring out what areas you have already done. We unquestionably missed some spots. We also applied some of the left overs in areas we thought we missed and, after it hardened, we determined that the second coat would make the floor considerably smoother (but not worth another $100 for our purposes).
(The picture was taken while the Clear Coat was still wet.)
The floor has been down for about 4 days now and looks great and feels great under your feet. We have not started driving on it, although we did move one tool chest into the garage (more on that later). We highly recommend using two coats of the epoxy and at least one coat of the Clear Coat. It makes for a great floor, so far at least!
The last thing we did to really finish out the floor was apply a rubber wall base.
It was pretty easy to do – we just put the wall base adhesive on the back of the wall base and stuck it onto the wall.
Well, really, first we cut of a little bit of the rubber to do some practice corners (both inside and outside corners). We read a very detailed and useful post about how you’re supposed to do rubber wall base here and then we promptly decided to do it our own way.
“Our way” consisted of notching the inside corners and not doing anything for the outside corners.
(Look how pretty the garage floor looks up close!)
Kristin held down some areas that were not sticking as well on their own, due to bumps in the concrete or corners, while Krister worked his way down the walls. Once the adhesive was dry enough that the wall base stuck well, Kristin moved on to hold down the next corner.
Now our garage floor looks Awesome! The rubber wall base has adhered very tightly to the wall. It doesn’t budge even if you pull on it.
Because There is Always Drama….
On the day we installed the rubber wall base, we got some heavy rain. And then, naturally, we got a leak. And then another leak. And a third leak. Our initial inspection suggests that the leaks are coming where the garage roof intersects with the house roof, which makes sense because we are confident that the garage was an addition some time after the house was built. We didn’t discover the leaks until after a large puddle of water oozed behind the wet wall base adhesive. It appears as though the adhesive is still adhering adequately, but we might have to do a little repair to that section.
A random lighting update stuck at the end of this flooring post
You know how we keep saying how bright our garage was? Well, we finally were able to snap a picture showcasing how incredibly bright our garage is. Check it out:
See? Our garage is really bright.
Remember that time it snowed in October and everyone thought it was going to be the snowiest winter ever? And remember how that tree branch fell on our house during that snow storm and busted up our roof? (And when it turned out to be the warmest, least snowy winter in a long while? We’re going to put that in the win category.)
The branch left some holes in the roof. We put a bandaid on the roof (aka: a tarp) for the winter.
Last weekend, when the weather was perfectly beautiful, we repaired the holes. Here’s a step-by-step of how we did it. (Our disclaimer: we’re not advocating that you repair your own roof if you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, make sure you follow all applicable laws and regulations and make sure you’re not going to fall off the roof!)
1. Evaluate the Roof
We looked to figure out whether the branch penetrated through the whole roof, whether the roof was rotting, and generally got a closer look at the area.
We concluded that it looked like we expected from the outside. The branch broke through the shingles, the plastic water barrier, and the plywood underneath.
2. Remove the shingles from the affected area.
3. Cut out the affected plywood.
4. Prepare a piece of plywood that fits into the affected area.
Don’t screw the plywood in yet! Also, make sure that the plywood fits nice and tight. You don’t want any room for leakage.
5. Apply construction adhesive around the edges of the existing plywood.
This isn’t a necessary step, but we like that it creates a more seamless transition between the new plywood and the existing plywood.
6. Screw the plywood into the roof.
7. Cut and apply tar paper under the shingles.
8. Nail in the shingles.
Be sure to check your local regulations on how many nails are required per shingle. Homes in hurricane areas often require more nails. We also had to trim our shingles down, as they were a different length than the older shingles.
You might be wondering about the color of the new shingles, which look more grey than the existing shingles. The color is actually the same; the brown-greenish tint on the other shingles is from wear and moss that grows on the porch roof.
So, repair complete! No more roof-tarp action, thankfully.