Demolition Diaries: A Cat’s Eye View of DIY

It’s official: The humans have gone completely mad, and we’re fed up. As if it weren’t bad enough that they took away all the soft things (and most of the hard things, too!) and shoved us into the smallest room crammed full of what’s left, we’ve had to deal with the WORST…Oh, did we forget to introduce ourselves? Forgive us. In case you haven’t read this page where the humans briefly mention us (before going ON and ON about themselves), we’re Cleopatra and Hermes, the resident felines.IMG_4867

I (Cleo) am the seal point Siamese wisely choosing the soft bed, and Hermes is the flame point Himalayan who prefers the cool concrete. We have our differences but have decided to unite together in a mission to restore order and comfort to our home.  We miss the lazy Saturday mornings spent in the humans’ bed. WE MUST TAKE IT BACK.

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Anyway, we’ve temporarily taken over this machine the people use to communicate with other humans to express our disdain for this incessant need they have to ruin our lives ALL. THE TIME. Okay, so maybe not all of the time–just lately.  Just when things were getting to a semi-normal state around here, we were locked up, and when they let us out again, ALL THE THINGS were gone.  We don’t know why they felt compelled to get rid of all the nice things.  I mean sure, we might have used that thing they call a “loveseat” for a scratching post, and we might have used the table as a runaway/launchpad for sailing onto the bookcase, but we didn’t think the scratch marks were that bad. Clearly they don’t understand the important of nail care and exercise.

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Then, they locked us up AGAIN. When we emerged the second time from our confinement, they had ripped up ALL THE FLOORS. Oh, sure, that carpet was NASTY…in fact we wouldn’t even lie on it, but it sure was fun to shred! Well, except for the edges where those sharp metal teeth were.  Okay, maybe tearing up the floors was a good idea.  I mean, we really got it started for them, so it was probably pretty easy work.

But the NEXT time they locked us up was the worst. Oh, the torture. The agony! There were horrible noises like a thousand metal hyenas howling. We buried our heads in our beds to no avail. The female human stayed with us and covered her ears, too, so the culprit must have been the male. He’s usually the quieter of the two, so we were surprised that he could even make such noises. When he peeked in the door to check on us, he was covered in white dust. We can’t imagine why he would want to be so dirty. Ugh. Completely shameful. Humans clearly do not understand good hygiene.  The dust was everywhere, too, and if the female hadn’t kept us in our room, we would have choked to death.  Maybe the confinement was for our own good….

After that, they locked us up again (starting to understand our frustration yet?), and when we emerged from our third round of imprisonment, half of the house was covered in this weird orange plastic carpet.  Big Foot (Hermes) hasn’t minded it, but I (Cleo) am not really a fan–too hard on my dainty paws.  The only bright spot in all of this has been the fact that the once forbidden guest room has now been made available to us, and we get to gaze wistfully at all the mockingbirds in the front yard.IMG_4966

Recently, they’ve started putting these long, cool planks on top of the orange carpet. They are perfectly sized for one cat to recline on them.  Of course, it is completely annoying that they keep picking them back up and shuffling them around in some places.  Why not put more of them down on the orange stuff? Is it not clear what we prefer?

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Anyway, it’s been two months of this, and we’re sick of it.  We can’t remember the last time we had a fast and furious playtime with the green magic light that moves around or with the jingle balls and rattle mice.  I mean, it’s just not fun to play in a confined area. Seriously, people. What were you thinking? You’ve ruined EVERYTHING.

We don’t like to admit it, but we’ve resorted to some counter tactics to make our voices heard. Hermes, the more athletic of the two of us, easily hurdled their childproof gate, once he realized that he no longer fit between the bars.  Childproof–not cat proof, people.  Seriously.  After the gate breach, they put up some cardboard “doors” to block us from the rest of the house, but we shredded right through those.  Silly humans.  More recently, Hermes has taken to jumping on the keyboard and waking up this computer machine screen at 4:30 a.m. to ruin the people’s sleep. This also ruins my sleep. Kittens. Sheesh.IMG_5005This practice works okay for the male, but the female just rolls over. She is immune to our night assaults.  Trouble is, the male banishes us to the other small room when Hermes does this, which means being relegated to the items they refer to as ‘pet beds’ and ‘cat condos’. Don’t they understand the importance of sharing when it comes to cohabitation? 

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This is a serious problem, and we must think of other ways to retaliate that don’t result in less comfortable quarters.  We’ve tried to play nice, but we are getting desperate, folks.  If you have any ideas, let us know in the comments below!

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Pros and Cons of DIY Flooring

Recently, I’ve noticed some DIYers in the blogosphere handing over jobs they could do themselves (or even have done before) to the ‘pros’.  Perhaps these are the people whose jobs, blogs, and/or side gigs are highly profitable…or people who have had back surgery…or people who have a solid dose of common sense and enough experience to know when doing it yourself just isn’t for the best for whatever reason.  Now that we are waist deep in tile, we are revisiting the pros and cons of DIY tile flooring installation that we weighed prior to starting our project but for which we have a greater appreciation now:

Pros:

  • You save BIG BUCKS not paying for labor.
  • You can work at your own pace and/or work slowly enough to ensure it is not a rush job. No worries about that rush job here. None at all. 
  • Concrete mixing and lifting 50 lb sacks of mortar make you strong.  Chris is definitely in better shape than he has been in years.
  • You learn new skills {including delayed gratification and ways to de-smellify your hands from hours of wearing chemical resistant gloves}.
  • You have the satisfaction of accomplishment when finished, whenever that will be. Probably sometime next year.
  • You can control the quality of the job if you know what you are doing.

Cons:

  • You take on additional supply costs, such as the purchase or rental of things like expensive wet saws, grinders, floor scrapers, etc. to which pro installers already have access, but you, the burgeoning DIYer, may not. Womp, womp.
  • Working at your own pace can be VERRRRRRRRRY SLOOOOOOOOOW, especially if you don’t take time off work. When tiling an entire house, taking one, even two weeks off work isn’t always sufficient…and who wants to spend all of their vacation days laying tile? Not these kids.
  • At the same time, if you rely on a ‘pro’ to do the job, you may not be able to ensure timely completion of the job anyway. Some of our neighbors hired someone to install their wood plank tile who didn’t show up for work for days on end while they were living in a hotel.  When they called his cell phone from their home to find out where he was, they heard his phone ringing on their kitchen counter. Whoopsy.
  • Two words: concrete lung (discussed here).
  • Person with bad knees + hours on knee pads on concrete slab = Sore Limpsalot
  • If you don’t know what you are doing, you are likely going to have to call in the pros sooner or later anyway, negating all previously discussed pros of DIY.
  • If you rely on a ‘pro’ to the the job, you are making assumptions that this person knows more about tiling than you do and cares about doing a quality job. When remodeling their guest bath, my father discovered that the pro who installed the tile in the house my parents purchased had tiled up to the baseboards, rather than removing them.  Seriously!? Who does that?!

RIght now, we still have zero tile set in mortar.  We’ve still been making frequent trips to my grandparents’ house and had friends from the city visit Friday/Saturday, so no real progress made.  Our overnight guests have had to stay at my parents’ house because our house looks  like a warzone (and our furniture is in storage), and now we are going to be stuck renting the storage unit for a third month because we are so far behind on our project.  A mantra worth reciting: People are more important than projects.

We’ve also had three major setbacks specific to the floor work, two of which we’ve shared and the third we’re discussing today:

IMG_4785The Flytrap

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The Dustbowl

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The Flat Fiasco

Flattening the floor has been a nightmare.  We don’t have access to pro products that are ideal for flashing the floor, and and we couldn’t grind down or raise our entire slab up enough to flatten the floors either. Given the risks of a two man crew with rapid set self-leveler, we went the patch and level route.  Patch and level is fine for filling in small holes, but we have MAJOR valleys for which it is insufficient.  When some of our neighbors asked about our progress and we mentioned the slab situation, they told us that they watched the last few houses in the neighborhood get built (our house was one of them) and that the inspectors had stopped coming regularly to check on the quality of the jobs. That explains A LOT.  It is clear that the crew doing our house knew (a) that no one would see how bad the slab was and (b) that forgiving flooring like carpet and vinyl tile were going to hide the atrocities committed. There’s a reputable homebuilder/remodeler in our area that we probably should have used to address this issue rather than continuing on our own, but we’re working on troubleshooting the situation in a more timely fashion than waiting in a builder’s queue (and paying $$$). Right now, the outlook’s pretty grim, but we hope to see sunlight peeking through the dust clouds soon. In the meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek of what’s motivating us to press forward: IMG_4999-1

The cats are going to LOVE it, and so are we. We love the warm brown color even better than the samples we got from a different dye lot, which had more red-orange in them.  This isn’t dry-fitted, it’s just some pieces we were using to play with pattern.  We have earned four paws of approval from Hermes but await Cleo’s verdict.

From Indoor Beach to Dust Bowl

Remember reading about the Dust Bowl in everyone’s favorite Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath? Remember how miserable everyone looked in the old black and white pictures of the Dust Bowl in our history books? Remember when we used books for learning?  Well, we now have a greater appreciation for what it was like during the Dust Bowl because we’ve gone from Indoor Beach (Yay!) to Dust Bowl (Boo!) in a matter of three weeks. Cue the sympathy symphony.

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That picture isn’t blurry.  That’s all the dust. Choke.

Last time we posted about our 40 Days of Flooring project, we had just solved our vinyl adhesive fly-trap-like sticky situation by spreading sand across our floors, resulting in an indoor beach effect. We were planning to hit the cleaning and prepping of the concrete fast and furious when tragedy struck.  My grandfather passed away, so we took a week hiatus from floors to focus on family.  I’m also continuing to travel back and forth across state lines to help take care of my grandmother while my parents tend to my grandfather’s final affairs.  This means our 40 Days of Flooring has turned into 50 Days of Flooring (if we’re lucky).

In the meanwhile, we’ve spent two weeks scrubbing, scraping, grinding, and cleaning the concrete for the underlayment and fighting the concrete dust that is now our constant companion.  Short version? Getting up the vinyl adhesive residue + paint overspray + splotches of wall/ceiling mud + poorly poured self-leveling concrete from who knows how long ago + random unidentified charred-looking black holes everywhere was is NOT. ANY. FUN. AT ALL. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.

Long version for all you detail-oriented folks: Although the stickiness was mitigated by the sand, the adhesive was still strongly adhered to the concrete slab.  Our arsenal consisted of the following materials:

  • Long handled scraper
  • Sponge mop
  • Scrub mop
  • Grout brushes
  • Scrub brushes
  • 3 five gallon buckets (1 for dirty mop wring outs, 1 for clean water, 1 for TSP)
  • TSP
  • warm water
  • Angle grinder with adhesive removal blade
  • Heavy duty tarps and painting tarps
  • Furniture cloths (old sheets is what we used)
  • Painters’ tape
  • Dust Deputy + Shop Vac
  • Long sleeves, closed toe shoes, knee pads, eye protection, ear plugs, legit respirators, and chemical resistant glovesIMG_3816

After doing a lot of research, it became clear that we were going to have to get aggressive if we were going to subdue the adhesive.  We used TSP and our Cinderella power {aka elbow grease} (SO MUCH SCRUBBING. SO MUCH SCRAPING. RINSE. REPEAT.) to clean the formerly carpeted areas of the house. LivingRoom1

We also took the time to demo the tiled fireplace that eats into our living room floorspace. The bottom ledge that costs us in usable square footage was simply tiles laid on cement board laid on concrete block that just required a gentle love tap with a sledge hammer to come loose from the slab. Then we just had to scrape that adhesive off the slab, which turned out to be a much easier and more satisfying task than anything else. The wall tiles didn’t come off so smoothly, so we’ll have to replace that drywall when we finish the fireplace later.

IMG_3845The scrubbing and scraping work was tedious and took its toll on our hands.  I even managed to wear down an annoying palmer wart on my right middle finger that I’ve had for more than five years and was continuing to grow increasingly larger and more painful. It’s gone now, hopefully for good. Don’t want to smell like apple cider vinegar and wear duct tape? Scared of those freeze at home kits or a visit to the dermatologist? No worries. Just hand-scrub paint overspray from your whole house, though I wouldn’t recommend this particular remediation method. Also, don’t work with (or have?) wee, virus-carrying children if you don’t want warts, as I didn’t get them until after I started teaching the infectious little grubbies. 

The adhesive-stricken sections of the house were a different story entirely.  Chris had to use an angle grinder with a coating removal blade in the foyer, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and guest bath (we are doing a major master bath reno in the next couple of years so decided to leave that room’s floor in tact  for now),IMG_3722especially in places where the original construction crew poured self-leveler to patch dips in the floor. resulting in (a) hills instead of flattened valleys and (b) a cement version of a poorly frosted cupcake. Gorgeous, no?

IMG_3844With our extremely open floor plan, this was profoundly problematic, so we bought GINORMOUS heavy duty tarps to seal off the work zone from everything else in attempt to confine the dust to the extent possible {key word: ATTEMPT}.

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We also purchased a Dust Deputy from Ace Hardware to minimize the dustiness from the grinding: IMG_3696

The Dust Deputy connects to your shop vac and filters 95% of the dust before it enters your shop vac so that the shop vac exhaust doesn’t deposit that dust back into your home.  We bought a pool vac hose (note the blue hose going into the house) so that we could put the shop vac and dust deputy OUTSIDE to minimize dust in the house even further. We have a newer shop vac but chose to use our old one so that all the concrete dust wouldn’t ‘ruin’ our new one.

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During the grinding, we were fairly certain the neighbors were going to call the Fire Department, as we set off the fire alarm and had mad crazy dust clouds billowing out the door, but they didn’t.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, really….Meanwhile, I cowered in the farthest away room with the cats.  Apparently I cannot breathe through a respirator, so I was not much help during this phase.

Despite sealing all visible cracks and covering everything with old sheets and protective tarps, the dust found its way into every nook and cranny of everything we own.  EVERYTHING. All our books are now dusty tomes (including my old high school copy of The Grapes of Wrath), and everything in the kitchen has needed washing multiple times, thanks to dust continuing to settle. Suffice it to say, our house is officially a living (but not breathing) diorama of the Dust Bowl, minus the abandoned farm equipment and clapboard siding.

Chris gets husby points for (a) doing all the grinding and (b) admitting that we should have done the floor demo, prep, and clean BEFORE MOVING IN like I originally wanted to do.  No glory in “I told you so” here, though.  I am suffering severe respiratory issues from all the concrete dust and probably have concrete lung {if that’s a thing, and if it isn’t, it should be}.  Chris only sneezes occasionally, and the cats seem to be doing okay, too, other than going bonkers from being kept in a confined space far from the madding crowd grind zone.

Now on to the underlayment and tile! Sneak peek:

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Out of the Fly Trap and onto the Beach

Life at the beach means accepting the certainty that sand will find its way into every nook and cranny of your house.  Well, we’ve taken that to a whole new level:

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We’ve brought the beach inside in a big way.  Yesterday, we were bemoaning the giant fly trap that was our house and preparing for a long war with the adhesive, armed with an angle grinder.  Today, we are dancing a jig (my inner Irish) on our new sandy floors.  We had seen someone on the web recommend using sand to mitigate the stickiness of vinyl adhesive, but we typically don’t take web-based advice that isn’t corroborated by someone else we know and trust.  Enter my dad.  When he saw the situation, he suggested the sand.  Fortunately, we had an extra bag in the garage from the front porch paver project we did last year, so without further ado, we spread the sand in the kitchen, the stickiest spot, as a test. SO. MUCH. BETTER.  Oh my goodness. We used a dustpan to distribute the sand and then worked the sand into the adhesive with our shoes  Then we used a push broom to move the sand to the next section of floor and repeated.  MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, FOLKS.  Now, does the sand remove the adhesive? No, but we can actually walk on it now, which means we can actually cook in our kitchen tonight and not have to wear work boots to the bathroom.  PROBLEM SOLVED.

A Sticky Situation: The Giant Fly Trap That Is Our House

This time last week, we were eagerly preparing to begin the laborious task of floor prep for our new tile.  Here’s the recap of what we accomplished through Sunday:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO stripper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • purchasing  DITRA 
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)

IMG_4778Note that the HD PRO stripper we rented did not get up the glue and paint as hoped (and advertised…MAJOR WOMP WOMP), so we applied natural, nontoxic solvents and even resorted to Goo Gone, plus a lot of elbow grease, to try to get the sticky up, but to no avail. Oh sure, we knew the 20 year old vinyl tile and its adhesive would be a chore to remove, but man-oh-man.  Arduous doesn’t even begin to describe it. The stripper did get some of the glue up, but whoever originally installed the vinyl tile before applied so much glue that the stripper couldn’t get deep enough in the sticky mire to strip down to the concrete.IMG_4785 The glue was also pulling up chunks of concrete with it, so we are wondering if whoever did the concrete slab didn’t use enough water, resulting in a crumbly crust, which we like on some things (apple crisp?) but not on our foundation.  Good thing we were already planning on patching holes and flashing the floor.  As it stands right now, our house is officially a giant fly trap.  Seriously.  Stand in one place for more than 1 second and your shoes are stuck fast.  Try to walk, and you’ll walk out of your stuck shoes onto the most disgusting flooring ever.  If you are building or remodeling your own home, please do not use horrible products like vinyl and vinyl adhesive in your house if at all possible.  Bad all around.  At least ours didn’t contain asbestos…and it was picked up within 2 hours of being hauled to the curb….

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You may be wondering why we decided to get rid of these super stuck floors in the first place if they were so “well done” initially.  If we had sheet vinyl, maybe we would have kept it as is for a longer time and eventually tiled over it.  However, these delaminating vinyl tiles were installed with little faux grout lines over a slab that clearly has significant enough hills and valleys to merit concern about tiling over without flattening. Dirt collects in the faux grout lines that then sticks to the adhesive spread underneath, rendering it impossible to vacuum, sweep, mop, etc., and the hills and valleys mean that eventually any tile we would install over it would buckle and crack.

In DIY land, Big Orange and Big Blue are helpful to a certain extent, but they have their limitations.  We know there are more potent (and also flammable, noxious) solvents for remediating our sticky situation, but we were trying to avoid this at all costs.  When seeking other possible methods, the flooring “specialist” with whom we spoke at Big Blue wondered (a) why we didn’t want to keep the vinyl tile (erm, what tha what?) and (b) now that we had already stripped the tile, why didn’t we just tile over the adhesive despite the hills and valleys (there. are. no. words.).  This goes against EVERY recommendation from tile installation experts and every instinct I have, based on the tiling I’ve done in the past.  I’m not one to call people dolts, and we normally love Lowe’s.  BUT COME ON, PEOPLE.  Clearly this guy knows zilch about tile installation and should not be in charge of the flooring department.  We walked away empty-handed and fairly disgruntled, especially because he shouted, rather aggressively, “Don’t walk away from me,” as we were walking away.  He was rude, patronizing, unknowledgeable, and a bully, at best.  In sharp contrast, the flooring lady at Big Orange recommended using a concrete grinder with a wheel of blades designed to scrape up the adhesive and paint after she and her husband ran into the same issue in their home.  He painstakingly ground away at the gunk from 3 layers of vinyl (Three! The Horror!) using a handheld angle grinder on their own concrete slab and did such a good job that they were able to polish the concrete. Pretty amazing. Even though she was delivering somewhat discouraging news about what it would take to solve our problem, her willingness to help and gracious, understanding attitude scored Home Depot a purchase of an angle grinder and coating removal wheel of terror.

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Now that we are going to be meticulously grinding away the grime in each room, I’ve had to make a more detailed plan of attack.  The layout of our home is just open and juuuuust closed enough to be problematic for floor work in sections in the limited time we have together after work while still having access to an entry/exit, a bathroom, and room for furniture that we cannot store in the interim anywhere else because we refuse to pay to move it AGAIN {read: baby grand}.  Here’s the breakdown of what’s next on the 40 Days to the Floors We Love list:

  1. Mon: Amy paints guest hall (GH), laundry room (LAR), and master hall (MH) while Chris takes out shoe mouldings + baseboards (we didn’t have time to do this as planned prior to stripping)
  2. Tues: Amy paints second coat in BR2 and BR3 while Chris grinds LAR + MH
  3. Wed: Amy patches LAR concrete  while Chris grinds BR2 + BR3 + GH
  4. Thurs: Amy patches BR2 + BR3 + GH concrete while Chris grinds foyer (F) and living room (LR)
  5. Fri: Flash BR2 + BR3 + GH; demo fireplace tile
  6. Sat: Amy patches F + LR concrete while Chris grinds kitchen (K) and dining room (DR)
  7. Sun: A + C go to tile school at HD (refresher for Amy, first time for Chris)
  8. Mon: Flash F + LR (except for study nook = path to backdoor from MBR)
  9. Tues: Move life to guest suite, clear MBR
  10. Wed: Amy patches K + DR concrete while Chris grinds MBR
  11. Thurs: Patch MBR + MH concrete
  12. Fri: Flash MBR + MH
  13. Sat: Flash DR + Study Nook of LR
  14. Sun: Rest
  15. Mon: Ditra LAR + MBR + M. Hall
  16. Tues: Mark + Dry-fit LR Tile
  17. Wed: Mark + Tile Laundry
  18. Thurs: Mark + Tile MBR
  19. Fri: Grout Laundry
  20. Sat: Grout MBR
  21. Sun: Rest
  22. Mon: Mark + Tile Master Hall
  23. Tues: Ditra DR + Study Nook
  24. Wed: Grout Master Hall
  25. Thurs: Mark + Tile DR + Study Nook
  26. Fri: Ditra BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  27. Sat: Grout DR + Study Nook
  28. Sun: Rest + move life back to master suite
  29. Mon: Mark + Tile BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  30. Tues: Ditra BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  31. Wed: Grout BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  32. Thurs: Mark + Tile BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  33. Fri: Ditra Music Nook
  34. Sat: Grout BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  35. Sun: Rest
  36. Mon: Mark + Tile Music Nook
  37. Tues: Ditra Living Room + Foyer
  38. Wed: Grout Music Nook
  39. Thurs: Mark + Tile Living Room + Foyer
  40. Fri: Grout Living Room + Foyer

Even if we don’t stick to the 40 day plan, we will definitely be knocking out the floor project in this order.  Goodbye, sanity; hello, blisters!

Prepare to be Floored

Last Thursday we made our most expensive home improvement purchase yet {gulp}….We finally ordered flooring for our whole house!  We talked about the porcelain wood plank tile we chose, Spice in the American Heritage Series by Marazzi (#3 in the pic), here.

IMG_4472We have a couple of weeks between now and the delivery date, so we will be spending that time prepping the rest of our house for flooring. This involves the following exciting (and overwhelming) activities, some of which we started last year, here,  

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and the rest that we will be tackling this week:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • removing baseboards and shoe moulding (carefully) (Fri)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO scraper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • patching holes and cracks in concrete, sanding, cleaning, and flattening where needed
  • purchasing and installing DITRA (maybe/maybe not) Update: We are definitely going with DITRA!
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)
  • snapping chalk lines to form grid and dry-fitting tile
  • purchasing a commercial wet saw (none for rent in our area are large enough to rip 36″ tile) [if needed, based on our dry-fit]
  • pre-cutting tile

Fun times, right? Or crazy times.  Getting ALLLLLL this done in two weeks while working should be interesting. Oh, and we have a fence to finish, too. If you want to track our progress in more real time, check us out on Instagram: @kazoopartyoftwo

Here goes nothing!

Fauxtography in the Family Room

Having a smartphone with a decent camera has increased the frequency of pictures we KaZoos take, but not necessarily the quality.  Unfortunately, time and other, more pressing issues, usually rob us of time to break out our old film cameras for photography.  We also never, and I really mean never, print the pics we do take, which is why our frames have nine year old wedding pictures in them. And pictures of our cats. Confessions of the childless.  We are in the process of trying to remedy that situation, and last summer I bought some 12 x 12 square frames from Michaels at one of their BOGo sales (plus coupon!) to use to create a gallery wall in our house for all the new, fun photos we would be taking of our new life at the beach.  Flash forward a year, and those frames have languished in our foyer, empty…until now.

After painting the living/family room, and rearranging the furniture, I knew I wanted to have a gallery wall around the TV.  Since we only have one main living area in the ‘Zoo, and a small one at that, there is only one room for communal TV viewing, and the TV dominates the wall space.  We painted the wall a dark gray so that the TV would blend into the wall more, and the bookshelves flanking the media stand have improved things tremendously.  There was just one thing missing–art.  We debated between a gallery wall, photo ledges, or shelves but ultimately decided a gallery wall was the way to go.  After examining our collection of wall IMG_4589art and frames, we elected to go with a uniform grouping in a rectilinear arrangement around the TV, using the 12 x 12 square frames.  For a couple of weeks, the frames sat empty (again), but the blankness in the well-used living room bothered me more than it had in the foyer, where no one really spends a lot of time.  With no photos or photography of our own that was sized appropriately for these frames (yet), I pondered what to use instead.

Inspiration hit when I realized (after how long?!) that scrapbook pages were the perfect fit for the frames! I took some pages leftover from one of those tear-out scrapbook page collections that were photography. I had mined its best contents years before but managed to scrounge enough decent pages to fill the frames. IMG_4745I played with the arrangement a bit until I was satisfied with the balance of color, pattern, texture, etc.  Now our wall is much happier, and so are we.  Plus, I realized that I can easily swap the contents for different scrapbook pages for seasonal or holiday themes as desired, and I won’t feel bad about ‘replacing’ someone’s picture.

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive and fast way to create some wall art, this is definitely an excellent option.  This strategy would work well in rooms like kitchens and baths where you don’t want to use real photos or original artwork for fear of moisture damage but still want some bright and cheery art.  I could also see this being useful for staging your home to sell when you need to depersonalize yet still have attractive (but affordable!) art to appeal to buyers or for furnishing a rental/income property with art.  A key thing is to make sure the frames have nice mats, otherwise your photo scrapbook pages will look very much like scrapbook pages and less like real photos. The mats dress things up a bit, I think.

PS: We don’t stage our bookshelves.  Although the carefully planned arrangements of whatnots and collectibles tossed in with a few books harvested IMG_4748-1for their bindings (and not their contents) may be visually appealing, we use bookcases to do real work storing lots of books.  We are unapologetic bibliophiles, including the cats.  Cats and books go well together.  With a cup of tea.  And perhaps a cozy quilt, too.  Happy Friday!

Furniture Fridays: Back in Black!

We’re back in black, baby.  Or rather, the bookcase is.  About a month ago, we mentioned the idea of painting this antique bookcase with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, here:

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At the time, we had no idea whether or not the current  coat of black lacquer contained lead, which was problematic because it was chipping…and our cats like to scratch against it (and recline on the top, looking down on all of us lesser mortals with disdain, pity, or something).  Our plan was to check for lead, and if we had lead, proceed with abatement and painting ASAP since we will be moving the furniture for floor demo and installation anyway.

Recently, at Sherwin Williams’ 40% off sale in April, I picked up a lead paint test kit. After both of us returned from our various work-related travels that have consumed most of May, we tested our bookcase for lead.  With our kit, you were supposed to squeeze and crush a vial containing a reagent that when rubbed against the potentially lead containing surface for 30 seconds would turn pink/red for lead.  The kit also included a false negative test patch so that if you had a negative result you could double check that the vial was not faulty.  Of course, the test patch has to contain lead for the false negative test to be valid, so following all precautions was essential to minimize exposure to hazardous materials. Chris performed the test, while I hovered over him to make sure he did it correctly observed at a safe distance.

We are excited to report that we are lead-free, baby! Now we don’t have to worry about fur babies ingesting lead from the chipping paint and can take our time deciding what to do paint-wise. We also now have the possibility of being able to strip the bookcase down and restore it to its original beauty, which we are also considering.  Another decision delayed, at least for a little while.  Plus, we won’t have to start another DIY project while trying to fence, paint, and tear up floors. Whew! For now, our bookcase is going to stay black, and we’re okay with that.

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Happy Friday, folks!

The Great Backyard Party Part 2: Back Patio

I love indoor/outdoor rugs for their practicality, but the available patterns and colors these days make them even more irresistible.  For a few years now, we’ve been planning to get an outdoor rug but decided to wait until we knew what size we needed for the ‘Zoo…and also because we could not find one that we both liked well enough.  Well, the search is finally over!

As part of our backyard party makeover, we decided to spice things up on our back patio.  We took advantage of a 20% sale and purchased the Improvements’ Tangiers outdoor rug in Spice {see what I did there…spiced it up?}, available here, to anchor the space (and hide the unsightly concrete cracks!).  We chose Spice (orange) to provide contrast to the green lawn, but we also like how the warmth of the rug coordinates with the other warm colors in our existing patio furniture.

TangiersRugimage from improvementscatalog.com

They have a variety of different sizes, including a 7’10” x 10’10”, which was absolutely perfect for our 10′ x 12′ patio.  The size fits the patio seating area nicely while keeping the grill off to the side on the concrete so that there is less mess.  Of course, one of the best things about this rug is that you can just hose it down, and after tracking dirt and grass clippings on it, we can attest to the fact that it sweeps and washes right off with minimal effort.

Cautionary note: I took these pics at high noon because I wanted to show how the rug looks in both shade and bright sunlight. Thankfully we have two umbrellas that made it a bit easier on the eyes and didn’t wash out the pics!

In case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t afraid of bright, bold color, and the Tangiers comes in a number of colors we liked.  In fact, we bought a smaller version in Green for the kitchen!IMG_4608My husband accidentally sprayed it with greasy water when he was washing our cast iron skillet {#baconlovers}, and I promptly blotted the stains with a clean paper towel, applied dish soap to the spots, allowed it to sit for 15 minutes, gently scrubbed with a soft toothbrush in the direction of the fibers {the cleaning instructions say no scrubbing because it may damage fibers, but the blotting/soaking wasn’t doing the trick}, hosed it off until no more soap suds appeared, and then left it to dry in the sun.  No more spots, and the fibers seem to be okay! We’re not sure if this would have worked on an older stain, but we are very satisfied with how easy the Tangiers rugs are to clean! I took this pic after cleaning up the grease incident!

Now back to the patio. We’ve gone from blah…

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to ahh, that’s more like it. So much better.  IMG_4610

 

Plus, the cats love lounging on it, and it feels fantastic to be able to walk out on the patio barefoot. It’s a fiesta for the eyes and the feet! Call me crazy, but I just might go back for thirdsies and get one of these rugs for the living room. Total game changer! The bistro set is from Target; the red umbrella and the red and green chairs are from Sam’s Club, all bought a few years ago in the city. #studentsalary

We also bought these cheap Adirondack chairs from Big Blue and Big Orange (same price but different color options available at different stores meant trips to both to get the colors we wanted).  We wanted to have additional seating outside since our patio only seats four people right now.  Eventually we hope to add a fire pit to this grouping of chairs that are circled up around, well, nothing.

IMG_4611Like I said before, we like it bright. If you’re looking carefully, you’ll note we have an unusual “sod” stack in the back corner, which is our repository for grass dug up from the yard to make room for the garden we planted (note the cedar beds in the background).  Details on that to come!

Back on the back patio, we also added a storm door because we kept having water pool in our kitchen after heavy rains. Now we have no more surprise puddles in the middle of our floor, and the baseboards aren’t getting soggy anymore either. Very good indeed.IMG_4609

Overall, we’re feeling pretty happy with the way the backyard is shaping up, but especially the patio.  We may never make it to Tangiers, but having a little bit of it here in Florida sure is nice. 🙂

Gray Skies Outside, Gray Walls Inside

Last weekend, outdoor progress was put on hold, thanks to the on/off rain on Saturday and being gone until late Sunday.  Dreary weather didn’t stop us from making tracks on some indoor projects, though!  #operationpaintbrush is back!

The last time you saw our living room, it looked meh:

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In January, we did a test paint of an accent wall in the living room.  We painted it Sherwin Williams Retreat and loved it…IMG_4579until we painted the accent wall in the kitchen/dining area Drizzle. We also played with swapping some furniture around in the living room, foyer, and master bedroom, resulting in the antique buffet landing here for awhile.  It looked great on this wall and especially nice with the Retreat color. Originally, the kitchen/dining accent wall was going to be a color from the same swatch as Retreat, Comfort Gray, and Sea Salt (all colors in the main living space) so that everything would coordinate nicely.  Except it didn’t.  Oyster Bay, the color that henceforth shall be The-Color-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, was a no go for us.  As we said here, we could see it being pretty in someone’s home–just not ours [It also clashed horribly with Retreat, in case you were wondering]. We loved both the Drizzle and Retreat walls, just not in the same visual area.

This led to the decision that the moody green-blueness of the Retreat was going to be a keeper in our house but not in the living room.  We ultimately decided to paint our master bedroom Retreat and move the buffet to the bedroom with it (haven’t painted the master yet, so we’ll see how this goes!) and to choose a different paint color for the living room.  We love gray and intended for the main living spaces of our home to be gray, but the pale blue-green grays we selected (Sea Salt and Comfort Gray) look like blue-green with a gray undertone, rather than gray with a blue-green undertone that you see elsewhere on the Interwebs.  We like it, but it definitely took our house in a decidedly more coastal direction, which we are trying not to overdo.

This time we decided to get as close to a true gray as we could.  Enter Attitude Gray. A dark, modern gray with undertones that are truly undertones.  In the day it looks like a green undertone, at night a blue undertone. Sherwin Williams recent had a 40% off sale, so we grabbed up one of those $ off paint coupons that comes in the Pottery Barn catalog and headed to the sale for more paint.  For most of our house, we have bought the Harmony line to help get rid of the funky smell we mentioned here, but this time we chose the Emerald line for the paint-and-primer combo that would hopefully cover the Retreat (a dark base) more readily than just another regular coat of paint.IMG_4587

When we started painting, we were a tad concerned about the coverage.  I was using the brush and Chris the roller, and both of us could see streaks where we were cutting in or blending roller passes and it was actually taking paint off where we had just put paint down.  Talk about frustration.  We did not have this issue with the Harmony line and have never had this issue with any Sherwin Williams product before.  It also went on very light green-looking, and the Retreat was showing through, making it look like a camouflage wall. Chris was quite dubious at this point, but we pressed forward.  I had painted my mom’s kitchen and den with the Emerald paint line (a different color, though) and although it looked like a very thin coat going on, the coverage was great, even with just a single coat…so I remained cautiously hopeful that the same phenomenon would magically happen for us.

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As it turned out, the Retreat wall only needed one coat, but the remaining walls that were sprayed renter-white at some point prior to our purchase of the ‘Zoo, needed a second coat.  We did a second coat on the Retreat wall just for good measure. Chris thinks that the quality of the Sherwin Williams paint on the Retreat wall made it easier to paint, compared to the cheapo stuff on the other walls from who knows where.IMG_4583

The Attitude Gray looks much better with the Drizzle wall–you can see a bit of the Drizzle in the background in the above picture.

We also did some furniture rearrangement, resulting in a new TV placement on an espresso stained media stand my parents gave us, flanked by the two legs of the Pottery Barn project desk that function like regular bookcases when not holding the removable desk top (currently stored under our master bed).  We’ve struggled to find space for this desk monster in this house that doesn’t break up sight lines/walkways and finally gave up hope (until we add square footage down the road). If you are doubting the smallness of our living room, it’s a 12′ x 14′ space with a fireplace on the angle that juts out into the room, making it more of a 10′ x 10′ space, which is quite small, compared to the living rooms of most 3 BR/2BA homes with only one main living space.IMG_4589

We are in the process of Craigslisting most, if not all, of the upholstered furniture in here, as we really need smaller pieces to fit the room, but right now, we have surprisingly plenty of seating yet room enough for Kinect gaming and workouts. Not bad. The ‘comfy chair’ on the smallest wall has already sold since I took this picture yesterday, and we have someone coming to see our sofa Saturday {fingers crossed}!

IMG_4592If you’ve seen some of our previous whole-house posts in the past, you may have noticed that our area rug has been taken up; it is headed to the master bedroom, as it barely fit this space anyway. Of course, now this means you can see the dingy carpet, but not for long!  Part of the rush to get the rest of the house painted is because we are going to be doing an entire-house flooring project in June that we talked about here.

Now, all that’s left to be painted is the guest hallway, the laundry room, and the master bedroom.  #operationpaintbrush soon to be complete!