Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tree Trimmin

So many things to do, so little time...

Our trees needed trimming. Bad. 

Maybe it doesn't look so bad to you but we had a few problems with the situation. The limbs over the driveway were pretty low. Our moving truck didn't even have a foot to spare when we moved in. The limbs over the house were also very low. In various areas limbs had been trimmed, but they weren't taken all the way back to the branch collar (the spot where the branch splits from its parent branch or the trunk), leaving us with rotted stubs. Finally, the right side of the front and side was so overgrown that it was like a dark little forest cave. In the back we had similar low limb problems over the shop and shed.

It was just bad news bears to have that many low limbs over the house and sheds with all the hurricanes we have around here. We knew this would be a big job but we were up for the task. With three large oak trees, tall palm trees, and a few other miscellaneous trees up high in the sky, we decided that renting a man lift was the way to go. I'll tell you up front...totally worth the money!!!

We hit a good rhythm with the front oak and were getting things done just as planned. We only ran into one minor whoops. The limb over the driveway was by far the biggest limb we took down.We went along in sections so we didn't kill our driveway, made sure the lift was properly positioned, and were using ropes to direct falls. Unfortunately, we had a 'flop' as I like to call it. This huge piece hit the ground just fine and flopped toward the driveway. That was all well and good, but it was a few inches to long and caught the edge of the driveway and smooshed a bit of the concrete.  

Didn't see it? Yeaaahhh, its only about two inches, but it made me so sad because we were on track for a perfect record! Trust me, I'm beyond thankful that we got the job done safely and that no one got hurt :)

I suppose we had another casualty because if you glance at the background of the picture up there with the large limbs in it, you will notice that the big one in the back crushed some of our plants in front of the oak. Oops, they will bounce back!

We completely finished the front yard on day one!

Epic difference! And yes, I just said that. And no, our tree isn't dead. It is just the last oak tree to the 'lets drop all of our leaves and grow new leaves' party. Its just now sprouting new leaves while our neighbors trees are full and lush. Slow and steady, buddy, slow and steady. 

We tackled the back yard on day two and it also went really well. Some highlights: 

The Engineer stretching the legs of the lift and trimming above our beloved light post. What are the chances we can get that removed? One of the oddities of our home haha!

The before and after of the shop:

This one is a little difficult to tell because of the rough lighting in the before picture. If you remember from this post The Engineer had already trimmed a few low branches the day we worked on that corner of the yard. 

The before and after of the shed:

The area above the shed opened up very nicely, much better than the pictures portray. We also removed that bush tree thing to the left of the shed. It was a mean thorn infested plant covered in a thorn infested vine. Seriously. It looks and feels so much better now. 

The removal of the dead tree trunk:

The awesome mulch pile that is now where that trunk used to be:

The next weekend we rented a wood chipper because we had SO much on the ground. 

So so much, the pile practically covered the backyard. It was worth it though to get the chipper to not only get rid of all our branches and small limbs but now we don't have to buy mulch when we get around to out bed areas. Win! 

Trimming the trees made such a big difference and it was a big item to check off the list. I'm so glad we got it done before the hot summer months and before the hurricanes rolled. in. We are starting to love our yard now. We really can't wait until we get sod in. :) 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cabinet Upcycle!

On New Year’s Day this year (before we moved out of the apartment and into the house) I told The Engineer I wanted to do something productive and fun and I suggested that we redo this cabinet (it also has a matching armoire that we will do something with in the future). 

We figured we were going to put this piece in the dining room and use it to nicely store/display some overflow kitchen items. We wanted to roughly match the paint color to the kitchen island and cut the inlays out of the doors and replace with glass inlays. Thus, we made a plan.

To Do:
1   1.  Remove inlay from doors.
2   2. Strip stain from top.
3   3. Sand remainder of cabinet.
4   4. Cut quarter round to frame the windows in the doors and install.
5   5. Cut thin piece of backing to cover side inlays and install.
6   6. Prime/paint cabinet (excluding top, which will be stained).
7   7. Cut and install Plexiglas in the inlays of doors.
8   8. Spray paint hardware.
9   9. Stain top.
    10.  Seal.

The demo was pretty hysterical. The Engineer got a Sawzall for his birthday and that was our tool of choice to cut out the door inlays…in the kitchen. Yup. We’re pretty excited to have an actual shop at the house and to feel justified in buying the tools we need. Back at the apartment we just didn't have the space for that kind of stuff. 

Cutting the inlays out was easy and straight forward but since they were literal inlays we then pulled the remaining part of the inlay out of the slot it was nested into with plyers.

We bought a cheap sheet of backing from Home Depot and had them cut it to the size we needed for the side inlays. We felt no need to remove the original inlay which made this step a little easier. The piece we found was in the scrap bin and was about 1/8" thick. Since the pieces were already cit to size it just took a little sanding to get them to fit in snugly. We secured them with wood glue and a few brad nails. It was at this point that we realized we liked the color contrast and opted to buy two blue colors instead of just one. 

We bought quarter round for the doors and in addition, a miter box since we don’t have a miter saw and weren't ready to make that investment. The Engineer cut the quarter round at 45 degree angles at the corners and made sure they fit will in the doors.  We just used wood glue to attach the quarter round since they were wedged in the doors tightly. Since we didn't own enough clamps to hold all the pieces down, we got creative and tied them with left over string from the wedding. We have more clamps now :)

At this point everything was ready for sanding and painting. We tested sanding the top by hand and knew immediately that we would be investing in an electric sander. We decided on the Ryobi electric pad sander and it. is. awesome. It feels like we already got our money out of it on this project and have used it for more! Needless to say, that made sanding the top a breeze. The next morning I sanded the remainder of the cabinet, with the electric sander where I could and by hand everywhere else (on the balcony and not in the kitchen this time!) and gave it a good wipe down before I primed it. It took me a good 1.5 hours to prime everything by myself while The Engineer was at his flight lesson.  I know that sounds like a lot but there were a lot of little nooks to get into!

When he got back we both started painting the cabinet. We had decided on the Behr color Coastal Mist to paint the entire cabinet with, but after seeing the lighter inlay on the side the previous night we opted for two colors, which was a great audible. We matched the darker blue to the blue on the new kitchen island (as best as we could from pictures). We knew it won’t be perfect, but it doesn't have to be. They aren't right next to each other but when you have them both in your view you see some continuity. We also pulled another audible when we were purchasing the second paint color and decided to stain the top light to match the kitchen island as opposed to dark to match the kitchen table as originally planned. We had really started to enjoy the natural wood on there, so we kept it!

Painting was straight forward, I just had to go back and do some touch up where the painters tape failed us. 

We glued the Plexiglas (after cutting it to size via scoring and snapping method) to the back side of the quarter round and were pretty excited with how well it turned out. I then went overboard taping the hardware for the spray paint but I was terrified of getting any over-spray on the newly installed Plexiglas. 

We stained the top with our natural stain and sealed it after we moved to the new house.

We are really happy with how it turned out and I love love love the way it looks in the new dining room!!!

The two colors make the inlay cover up on the side look more intentional and the windows in the doors let me display pretty serving items from the kitchen while storing them at the same time which is a double win with the limited kitchen storage here. 

In case you forgot where we started...

I'm excited to re-purpose the matching armoire! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Closet Door Upgrade

I love a lot of things about having a house built in 1950. I love the original wood floors. I love the original windows (that desperately need to be refurbished, but that’s another day…ok…another many days), old door knobs, a front porch with steps and a railing. What I do not love are old sliding closet doors.

These are in our master bedroom and leave much to be desired...for me at least. I knew from our first viewing of the house that I would redo those doors if we bought it. I scoured Pinterest for ideas and knew that any upgrade other than a simple paint job would be difficult because whatever I did had to be less than ¼” thick to still allow for the doors to slide past each other. I then saw an idea to do a mock inlay using paintable wall paper.

Before you cringe more than you already are, let me defend myself here. I am not a wall paper fan. I have never put it up and have suffered through taking it down. Yes, it is cool that you can get a pattern or texture on the wall via the paper, but if you ever want to change it, taking it down is a nightmare. So then why you ask, have I decided to put wall paper up in my new house?

This door treatment had to be flat, which wall paper is. The wall paper had depth to it, which made it cooler than just paint. It would give the inlay look to a door that I otherwise couldn't build out to look like that. It was also going to be a small amount of paper on two doors so at the end of the day if I hated it, it wouldn't be an entire wall I had to rip down. I decided to go for it and dove right in.

I first needed to sand the doors to get a coat of primer to stick (which is recommend to paint before you put up wall paper). It turns out that the last two times someone painted those doors they didn't sand at all and just painted on top of the previous coat of paint. This resulted in sheets of paint peeling off and scraping/sanding through all those paint coats down to the wood to make sure we wouldn't have wall paper slumping off our doors in a few years. The Engineer was amazing enough to put some elbow grease onto the doors to get all that stuff off!

While The Engineer was attacking the doors, I took the hardware that I had previously removed outside to give it a fresh coat of black spray paint since they were pretty worn. Ever tried to paint screw heads but couldn't get them to sit upright? Here’s a good little trick to take care of that problem: lay out newspaper on a dirt or short grass surface and just poke the screws into the ground and they’ll stand with up! With the newspaper between them and the ground, you won’t lose them either J

Don’t forget to read the comics before you spray paint over them either ;-)

I also cut my wall paper to size while The Engineer was still teaching those doors who was boss. Fun fact about wall paper: Home Depot does not sell wall paper of any kind. They directed me to the contact paper when I asked L. Lowes does have the paintable wall paper I was looking for, though they don’t have many options…maybe 6 different patterns. That was fine with me, there was a bead board looking one that I loved so I was sold. With that and my glue I was set! When I was cutting the paper to size  I kept in mind that I would want to cut the sheets skinny enough to fit between the door handles when the hardware was put back on.

I had also been thinking that I wanted to be able to frame the wall paper to make it look more finished but I had to think of something that would fit between the doors. That ruled out just about everything! I accidentally came across the perfect solution at Michaels while looking for something else. I found this thin sheet of balsa wood that was 4” x 36” which meant I could cut it into four 1” x 36” strips. Two of these were the exact height of the wall paper panel (72”) and the rest would finish framing the top and bottom. I cut those and the wall paper using an x-acto knife on cardboard with a level as my guide.

With all the prep work done I got to priming. Priming the doors wasn't bad, but painting the inside was a little cramped. If you are wondering by now, we did try to take the doors off, but they are hung in such a way that you would have to take the molding off to get the doors off. We didn't want to do that so we left them hanging and just dealt with it. I did get some primer on the molding, but that seems like a good excuse to go ahead and give it the fresh coat of white paint it is screaming for! I finished that and let it dry overnight. 

My mom helped me hang the wall paper which was easier than I had anticipated. The glue I bought was a little odd because it was a bottle with a built in foam roller. The only problem was that squeezing the glue onto the roller created a lot of drippage because the little built in tray wasn't big enough, or shaped properly, or something along those lines. Long story short, I didn't want to buy a big bottle of glue and this was the only small option. Make sure you use a drop cloth either way!! Once the glue was applied we lined the paper up with lines I had drawn on the door with a level before hand to make sure we hung it straight in the right spot. I smoothed it flat with a wood paint stir (classy, I know) and it worked great! The paper even had a few crinkles in it from moving around and they came right out. I couldn't even guess where they were now. I wiped up excess glue around the wall paper and called it a night!

My next step was to glue on the balsa wood frame. I wasn't sure how this would go even though it seemed pretty straight forward. You never want to underestimate a task! I started with the top piece to make sure I had a good base to run the sides to the floor from. I thought about pre-cutting it before I glued it on the door but decided against that. My main reason for going about it this way was that I knew that the door wasn't level/square and that my theoretical 18” width might not be exactly 18” on the top and/or bottom! So I let it live on the edge for a while. 

I simply applied wood glue to the back of each balsa piece and used a level when I placed it on the door, overlapping the wall paper by ¼” or less.  On the first door I cut the pieces on the door, and on the second door I pre-cut. I definitely liked the second method better. It was faster and easier even with the measure twice cut once method.

I let the wood glue I used dry overnight and then painted. The painting actually spanned a few days because I painted in sections due to the fact that the balsa wood brushed the top portion of the door ever so slightly. I also painted the surrounding trim. A few days later I had white doors with subtle detail! I put the hardware back on and we were in business!!

It’s not a big change, but the white paint compared to the dull cream/eggshell color and new textures make a big difference!