Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home Improvement. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Project Week...

My dad is in town for what has become his annual spring visit - lending his helping hand in moving our projects forward (because that's what makes sense when you're as pregnant as I am!). Today's project: wrapping the patio posts. We have traditional turned posts that once complimented the victorian style of the house.
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But, part of the landscape renovation was updating the look of the house just a bit. Years ago we removed the gingerbread and white picket railing. Now, we're covering the posts; much more economical than replacing them all together. As with most of projects - there was a strong learning curve on this process. Fortunately, we have seven posts, so we're becoming more efficient with each one. We got over half of them done today and we'll be back at it tomorrow.
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Once they're wrapped we'll move on to trimming them out. And once that's mind swirls with what project to tackle next!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Front yard progress...

Slowly but surely we're inching away on the front yard makeover.

With all of our removal of trees, bushes and everything else we seemed to get rid of - we had to bring in dirt. Not to mention we had a whole side yard that has always sat 9" below our patio which we wanted to raise considerably. I did my calculations and figured we needed 17 yards of dirt.
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I greatly underestimated just how much that dirt would compact with a tractor grading it and we ended up having another 13 yards delivered which was just the right amount.

With the dirt delivered and with it properly graded - Steve and I got to take a little break. A much needed break.

We hired out the sprinklers (that way we have someone to blame besides ourselves when we end up with dry spots!) and they've been working on them this week.
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Marking utilities, planning, trenching, new valve box, etc. And while we were at we decided to go ahead and replace the main waterline coming into the house and make it sit more than a couple inches deep - we're lucky we've never damaged it with how shallow it was!

I'm really grateful at this point that we opted to hire this task out!

Unfortunately, the minute they're done, the responsibility turns back over to us and our Saturdays are filled once again. We'll enjoy one more weekend yard work free.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekend warrior...

You know when you get knee deep in a project and you start to second guess whether you should have ever started?! Steve's there on the front yard makeover. We have spent the last several Saturdays and more time before Christmas working outside...for hours and hours. It's a family experience and we're all out there together and at the end of each working day we're exhausted.

Steve was extra exhausted this weekend. We rented a powerful rototiller and Steve tilled the earth (a painful process when your soil is mostly clay) - but it looks and feels so much better!
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We need to regrade our property after all of our demolition and this was one step in the process. Steve had to manage this 560lb piece of equipment (that we rented) for three hours straight. He has blisters to prove just how rough this was. I give Steve a lot of credit; we hesitated whether we even needed this step, but he owned it and tackled the whole front yard without any complaints. I didn't do a whole lot more than help the kids remove rocks from the soil we turned up and even that was tiring.

Looking on the bright side - we're doing this in January and not July. It could be much worse. We have to keep telling each other - eventually, this will be worth it!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Front yard progress....

The front yard is becoming one of those projects where every Saturday we go out and work - yet at the end of a long laborious day it's hard to see much improvement. That's been our last couple weekends. I'm happy to report the patio is finally done with a new paver walkway and we're ready to move on to all the other things on the landscape re-haul list! This weekend's progress was the removal of a light post and mailbox - as well as removing more rock. I did not realize how much rock we had until we started relocating it!

We were hoping to have dirt delivered this last week to start the leveling process but it rained every single day, which is highly unusual for our area and season. Our front yard looked like a swimming pool most the week which meant we needed to let things dry out before moving forward. Instead of leveling, we removed rock. Moving it from our old planter beds to an area that needs to be raised (where we won't be planting anything). It's tiring to say the least and Steve killed it for several hours.

Luckily, removing rock is a task that even the youngest of our children can help with and they've all been out there every Saturday earning their wages in Gatorade.
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Here's how it sits now.
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We've got plenty still left on the to-do list:
Have dirt delivered
Regrade the yard
Run all new sprinkler lines
Run low voltage wires for pathway lights
Lay edging around new planter areas
Build new mailbox tower
Wrap posts to make them less decorative
Install gate
Install new patio lights
Plant new plants/trees
Plant new grass

We've got our work cut out for us!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yard demolition...again...

After our exhaustion from Saturday's demolition extravaganza started to wear off we were able to walk through the next steps we needed to take in this landscape overhaul. We were set to have our pavers delivered this week and we were ready to move forward. And then Steve says, "I think I want the other three trees removed before the pavers go down so we make sure not to damage them." We had planned to remove the trees in January but Steve made a good point, I just didn't think there was a way to get it done without postponing the delivery of the pavers.

On Tuesday morning, Steve talked to our neighbor who knocked down the other two trees and asked if he could get three more out. The guy was skeptical about our timing and told us it would tough to get them knocked down and hauled away before the area had to be cleared on Thursday.

But sure enough that neighbor showed up that evening and at dusk knocked three more trees down and then laughed as he drove away and said, "You've got your work cut out for you tomorrow to get this lot cleared." We knew he was right!

We looked into having someone dispose of them for us and we were quoted some astronomical numbers - so we set out to do it. We borrowed a dump truck from a friend, rented a chainsaw and somehow roped Steve's brother into helping us.

Here was the view our neighbors got this morning as they headed off to work (and this is only two of the three):
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We wasted no time getting after it and we worked out a decent system. Steve's brother manned the chainsaw the majority of the time - I took the smaller cut up branches and handed them off to Steve who was in the dump truck continually stomping down the branches making room for as much as possible. (Steve was very conscious the entire day to monitor what I could and could not be doing in my condition!)
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Shortly after lunch we finished up with the trees and we were left to the clean-up stage. The larger pieces of wood were put into a pile and the neighbors gathered what they wanted for firewood and the roots were dumped into the truck using the bobcat. By the time the kids came home from school we were ready for their help in collecting hundreds of oranges that had scattered across our now dirt yard.
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By dusk we were dirty and exhausted and we had three trees removed from our property. I think we surprised most the neighborhood (including our friend who knocked down the trees) by getting it all done by the time they made their commute home from work.

Having those trees down completely opens up our house. In fact, it feels a little naked now! It was hidden behind those trees for so long, most forgot what it looked like. But we're in the business of home improvements and this house is proving to be a never ending project! (which I not-so-secretly love!)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Front yard demolition...

I'm not entirely sure how it happened but somehow our legitimate need to have the sprinkler system reworked has become so much more. And oddly enough - I wasn't the one pushing this project. Our lawn guy...aka my husband...was tired of dealing with a subpar sprinkler system. So naturally we started looking at options to have our system redone so it would water properly.

Which would require us digging up our lawn and trenching new pipe. And then the innocent thought bubbles up...if we're digging up the lawn and running new pipe, are we entirely happy with how our landscape is currently laid out? When that answer was a resounding "no", we started working to create a new landscape plan we would be happy with (which included Steve's request of ripping out 5 of our orange trees, we have too many oranges and he's tired of the maintenance.)

With a plan in place we looked at our current lawn and knew we just needed to start over. We decided to have some pavers installed by a guy in the neighborhood and we were in charge of the demolition and prepping the area. Steve and I figured we could take a couple weeks and start the process. Ripping out brick edging, removing plants and bushes, removing at least two of the trees (we could remove the other three a little later) and removing rock. We figured we'd leave the sidewalk demolition to them.

Bright and early Saturday morning we went outside with the kids and started the process.
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Steve removed the brick edging and the kids picked them up and moved them to the driveway area. We started tackling one of the trees before Steve went to help someone move. Just after Steve left our neighbor (who's helping us with the pavers) showed up with a bobcat and asked if we wanted some help. Of course we used his help.
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And before long our sidewalk was removed, our tree was laying flat in the neighbors yard (uprooting some of their sprinkler system) and nine 10ft bushes had also been pushed into the neighbor's yard. This is about the time that Steve returned home and wondered what in the world I had done while he was away for one short hour!
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We worked our tails off the rest of the day trying to calm the chaos that had become our yard. Someone in the neighborhood saw the tree down and came to cut a lot of firewood. The rest we cut into manageable sizes and put them in trailers. We made two trips to the dump and delivered 5 tons of stuff and we have two more trailers in front of our house ready to go.
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We fixed the neighbor's sprinkler system and made sure that was back up and running and then we picked up more oranges than I could count.
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We ended up getting far more done than we ever anticipated but it was a long day full of a lot of hard work - and now our yard looks a little sad and very unwelcoming with our nice uneven dirt path leading to the front door. And my guess is it will look even worse before it gets better!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

4 year anniversary...

It's hard to believe we're only celebrating our four year anniversary of living in this house. It was just days before Thanksgiving when we first unloaded the truck (of stuff we hadn't seen in 10 months) and the overwhelming part of unpacking started to set in.
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I still remember the first time we walked in and Steve didn't get as far as the living room when he made the statement, "There's no way."
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I suppose the wall to wall mauve carpet (with sections of fake wood set in) was a little hard to look past. As well as the orange oak and 80's brass fixtures around every corner. It was due for some love and attention and I just knew I could give it the love it needed. Although Steve was skeptical and could not see my vision - he had faith that we could make it our home. And we have.
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It's home and it's comfortable and I love it. We've come a long ways in four years which is a little disheartening when I think of all we have left to update and fix. But there's no rush; we slowly chip away at our to-do list as money and time allows. My hope is by our 10 year anniversary of living here we might get it to where we both want it. Baby steps!

If I was handing out trophies to our home, they would be as follows:

Biggest visual improvement: Hardwood floors

Biggest stretch of my abilities: The entertainment Center

Most Prep Work: The staircase

Most admired by visitors: The green barn door

Most dreamed about project: A kitchen update

Most Maintenance: Our 13 orange trees (Which is why Steve is antsy to rip out half of them!)

Hardest place to keep clean and organized: The garage wins by a landslide!

It feels good to be home.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Heritage gallery wall...

Most of my projects require me at some point to sit at the computer and make my plan. I use Illustrator to draw things to scale so I get a good idea of what the end product will look like. This comes in handy when I'm hanging anything on my walls. I'm not sure why, but hanging stuff is paralyzing for me. As if once it is hung it can never be removed. I'll have things stacked against the wall for months before having the courage to hang them. And I only hang them after I've measured the wall and drawn everything out. It's a process.

Even after drawing it out on the computer, I often take one more step: Trace all my elements on paper and cut them out and hang them.

You can see on my "heritage wall" below I have my computer version (white paper) taped to the stairs and then all my cutouts in their place. (as you can see this picture was taken before we made some major updates) I even marked where the hook (to hang the frame) was located on the paper so I could nail straight through the paper and get the right placement each time - without multiple wounds to my wall.
Heritage Wall - creating a gallery wall

This is a process where a little upfront effort goes a long way!
Heritage Wall - creating a gallery wall
It was an awkward space before - on a small wall - and now it houses some of my very favorite pictures of our ancestors. It's our heritage wall and it's always a conversation starter for people visiting our home. It's good to know where you come from.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

DIY Barn Lights...

Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Hunter's room is a work in progress and it's been in progress since...we moved in. Even after painting and decorating it (with stuff from his old bedroom) I just never loved it. But rearranging his room, planking the wall and hanging these lights are making me love his room.

Lighting makes a space and it always seems to be the budget breaker as well. I had my heart set on some beautiful, kelly green barn lights from an online store. They were also ridiculously overpriced at $340 a piece. I was determined to get the look for less.

Here’s how I did it. I found some outdoor lights at Lowes for $40 a piece. The lights were meant to be hard-wired – but I didn’t want permanent wires ran to these lights. So I opted to convert them to plug-in lights after talking with an electrician. Before painting, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the lights using a metal drill bit.

Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
I could’ve painted the entire light green, but I wanted to preserve some of the aluminum color. I used painters tape to mask off the areas I didn’t want painted and sprayed it with Rustoleum glossy paint.
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
With the paint dry – I converted it to a plug-in light. I purchased a wire kit and connected it to the hard-wired wires found in the light.
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
I used the bracket that came with the light and modified it slightly so it would hang on my wall and in no time I had two lights hanging above his two beds in the room.
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
Life with Fingerprints: DIY Barn Light using outdoor lights from Lowes
They were just what I was hoping for and they didn’t break the bank. No need to pay for high-end, create your own cheap custom barn lights!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


One week after we bought our house our skylight started leaking. (It's hard to believe those seller home reports when they say there's no known leaking - yet the drywall clearly had severe water damage that the inspection pointed out!)

We've had our fair share of problems with it - many refuse to even put skylights in because how hard it is to keep them sealed.

Earlier this year we had serious leaking and I was panicking as I saw it dripping down through our ceiling drywall. That's when I came up with the brilliant solution of a tarp, sandbags and 2x4s. It was a creative solution only to get us by until someone could really come fix it. And wouldn't you know it I called multiple roofers to come take a look and not one followed through with his promise to come check it out or even call me back.

And then we kind of pushed it out of our minds because we had temporarily stopped the leaking. Multiple rainstorms and we were dry as a bone. It bought us another four months! But monsoon season can be brutal and we don't want to stress or worry about it any longer.

The day after we got back from Idaho we had the skylight replaced (one of the three that we have).

I banned the kids from the living room and watched as things slowly fell from above.
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We are promised that we will have at least 10 years of a leak-free skylight. I've got a feeling now that we have a handle on this one, one of the other two will start leaking!

Could Steve have possibly been right when he labeled this house the money pit from the start??!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Move that shed...

We had an old shed in the corner of our yard. We never liked the placement of this shed, it didn't function how we needed it to and it needed some serious TLC. I opted to build a new shed with the help of my dad which meant the old shed was rendered useless. Steve was on a yard work kick several weeks back and he was ready to rip down the eyesore we called a shed. We always planned on tearing it down and scrapping it but once it was time to do it, I couldn't do it. I was sure it still had plenty of life left - just not in our yard.

I posted it on craigslist and I had a couple people interested. One guy was ready to hand over some cash he just needed us to move it. I laughed at him because I figured the only way the shed would leave our yard would be dismantled and if I was dismantling it I didn't want to take the time to make sure it could be put back together again!

Another guy showed up with a trailer - thinking he could just pick it up and put it on the trailer that day. I laughed at him to - its a big, heavy shed. But he was determined. He paid me the money and told me he would come back a few days later.

He came back prepared for a battle.
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He worked and worked to move this shed.
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He had a jack, he set up a roller system with heavy piping to roll it, he jacked it up again, he rolled. It was a process. He had to remove our large fence.
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Even after he moved it a significant amount I thought there was no way he would actually get it on the trailer.
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He proved me wrong - he was determined and it paid off.

Now I'm looking at the empty corner in our yard and think it's about time we pull out the shovels to start digging a hole for the trampoline!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

More paint...

I'm forging forward with home projects slowly but surely - hoping to get done before our warm weather is here to stay and the kids are home from school for the summer.

I've replaced all the trim upstairs except in Bennett's room and hopefully I'll get to his in the next couple weeks.

I painted Hunter's room a couple weeks back - here's the before:
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His beds were against the window wall and I thought it would be cool to plank the wall in wood. With my plan in place I set out to paint his room and I thought I was so smart when I realized I didn't need to spend the time painting the soon-to-be planked wall because it would soon be covered. Sure it would look a little goofy for a little bit but it would be worth the time and paint saved.

So it looked like this and I was okay with it. I just kindly explained to the visitors staying in that room my vision!
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As I started to move the furniture back, I tried the beds on the other wall, and I liked it better. And with the beds on a different wall, that meant I wanted to plank a different wall - the wall that I spent time painting two coats of paint on!

I hate when I waste time on silly mistakes like this. I put off painting it until this week. But its done.

Since paint supplies were out, I went to town on the loft this week (or week and a half) as well.

We removed a cabinet a year ago and as you can see they had painted around it. I laughed every time someone new came to our house and they would point to the wall wondering what interior designer was helping me out. On top of that, I've been testing paint samples for at least two weeks.
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This room quite possibly took the longest of any room I've painted and it's not that big. It was stretched over a week and a half and it seemed to drag on. But with more company arriving tonight I finished it up and moved everything back in place. And if it weren't for the smell of paint you would never know it was on my to-do list today!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Replacing door at a time...

This project has been a long time in coming and I'm finally getting around to it: replacing the trim upstairs. We moved the doorway for the bathroom when we remodeled which meant we tore off trim and never replaced it. When we removed the massive oak cabinet last summer before the carpet was replaced, it left a wall with no trim.

On top of that that it has to be the most detailed baseboard I've ever seen which is impossible to clean. It's been painted a couple times over the years and because it's difficult to paint trim up against carpet the mauve carpet stuck to the wet paint and even when we ripped out the carpet, there was a strip of mauve still attached to the baseboards. It's been on my to-do list for a while!. Once the shed was up and my dad was gone, I started ripping out and replacing trim. Its a process, especially when it's sandwiched in-between carpool for tennis, snack time and making dinner.

I'm spraying the moulding outside (using my Graco TruCoat Plus II) 10-12 pieces at a time. My backyard has looked like this for the last three weeks:
Life with Fingerprints: Replacing our trim work

Tearing off and prepping (getting the old caulk off, repairing any damages) took much longer than expected and I think I averaged two doors a day for a week; our loft alone had 8 doors to trim. Each door doesn't take much time, but it's about all the time I could give.
Life with Fingerprints: Replacing our trim work

After the loft was finished I was ready to clear my patio of sawdust and my lawn of drop cloths. But knowing we had company coming this week, I decided to kick it into gear to get two more bedrooms done. Of course, Hunter's trim replacement prompted a quick painting of the whole room which set me back just a bit!

People often ask how I'm able to get projects like this done with life swirling around me. This is how I roll:

I have to make a list of every little task and in this case a timeline to make sure I could get it done in time (before guests arrive). Let me remind you, I allocated about an hour to an hour and a half per day that I assigned myself a task so it didn't disrupt life too much. This could be done during nap time (tasks not requiring the loud air compressor), late afternoon while the kids were outside playing or after the kids went to bed for the night, which is what I prefer but once again the compressor! Here's my task list that I created last week

Pick up paint - Mon am
Tear off Hunter's moulding - Mon pm
Paint Hunter's room - Tues
Spray Moulding - Tues pm
Install Hunter's moulding - Wed & Thurs
Caulk/Putty/Touch up - Fri
Remove Guest room moulding - Sat am
Spray trim for Guest - Sat pm
Install guest trim - Mon & Tues
Caulk/Putty/Touch up - Wed
Guests arrive - Thurs

It's Monday and I'm on time and on-budget...there's a first time for everything!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Paint therapy...

I had a pretty crappy morning. I got the kids off to school and as I picked up the house I came across an atrocious smell coming from the bathroom. I'll spare the details - but a certain toddler with loose stool was doing his best to be independent in the bathroom and it all went awfully wrong. It was bad - I think it's the worst I've seen and it was all done in an effort to clean up after himself. After an hour of disinfecting the bathroom I was ready to do something fun.

I was already planning on going to the paint store to pick up paint for our trim and I made the decision to buy another gallon to paint Hunter's room. No test samples, no swatches, I just pulled the trigger. (Luckily I have seen the color in someone else's house) It had been on my distant to-do list since the color was just not working for me. I had pulled off the baseboards to replace them and thought now was as good of time as any, and I needed a little paint therapy. (much more effective for me than retail therapy)

I cleared my afternoon (kids napping) schedule and went to work.

Goodbye English Tan.
Paint Therapy
Paint Therapy
After pics to come soon.

I've got to get this room back in livable condition soon, we've got company coming next week. I'll need to be speedy on my trim work!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Leaky skylights...

We have three skylights in our house and within 1 month of moving in two of them were leaking.

We had them repaired. They were good for almost a year and sure enough they started leaking. I'm not talking a little water. I'm talking water coming in the skylight, leaking through the roof, running down the trusses and puddling and then coming through our living room ceiling drywall. It's been like this for awhile.

We had it repaired again. That lasted for 8 months and monsoon season rolled around and all the sudden we had water coming through the drywall again. The first thought is to remove them all together but they offer a lot of light. Each roofer we have is convinced they can fix it. So they patch it and then the patch dries and cracks and water comes through again. A couple weeks ago we had a bad storm and it was coming through the ceiling like never before. I called so many roofers to come and help but of course no one could make it out that day. So I watched as water continued to come in. I went into the attic to check it out and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Then a brilliant idea popped in my head. I could use sand bags and a tarp to cover the skylight to ease the amount of water coming through. But I needed sand bags asap and my kids were napping. Steve was at work and in meetings...I called in reinforcements: My brother-in-law. Not only did he go and pick up sand bags for me, but he then proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes on the roof with me as we did our best to cover the light. He deserves an award because carrying up 50lb bags on a steep slick roof (and it was still raining) was a little scary! I was so grateful. Steve was so grateful. Once we got it covered, not a drop came through the ceiling.
Life with Fingerprings: Temporarily fixing the leaky skylight

Why does this story from a few weeks ago come to mind? Because I just saw the forecast and we're slated for rain tomorrow and it was when I saw the forecast that I was reminded that the roofer that I got a hold of to come check it out never came by. Which means my roof still has sandbags and a tarp and I'm hoping it's enough to get us through yet another storm before someone can come in and switch them out for solar tubes. Time will tell.
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