Tag Archives | DIY

Finished framing

We’ve made some serious progress on our deck over the past week!! So much so that there hasn’t been time to post about it. We’ve done much more than just framing, but I can’t share a million pictures in one post, so let’s talk frame. Last time I posted it looked like this.


Andrew had already installed the new ledger board in the house, but we hadn’t gotten around to building the frame for the addition part. Building the frame and installing joists was the next step in the long process.

This part of the deck won’t have supports directly in the corners because of the red block wall, but we positioned the concrete footings as close to the edge as we could. There’s still about one foot of overhang.


Once we decided the angle we wanted for the front edge of the deck, it was just a matter of making a few mitered cuts, ensuring everything was level, and bolting the pieces together and to the 4×4 supports.

Then we installed our joist pieces about every foot. They’re notched on the back to sit on the ledger/hanger pieces in the house (and screwed in to keep them in place) and then screwed into the front side of the deck.


We installed 2 joists about 5.5″ apart from each other (the width of a piece of deck planking) between the new part of the deck and the original part because we will have one deck plank that runs the opposite way. This will create a seam between the two parts of the deck so we can use full length pieces on each side instead of having to offset the planking.


In order to support that piece, we had to run tiny little pieces the opposite way between those two joists. Again, these are every foot.


As you can see from the picture above, we decided to paint the frame. We used our old deck planks to create the support structure (they had used 2×6 s for everything instead of deck planking), but any piece that had previously been a plank was painted red.


Even though we were planning to butt our new planks up against each other as tightly as we could, we knew there’d still be gaps and we didn’t want red showing through. We got lucky and found a greyish exterior latex mess-up paint at Lowe’s for $5 the first time we went to look for one! We were super excited that we didn’t have buy a gallon at full price or keep waiting till a mess up was available!


Spoiler alert: We’ve already installed the planking (Eek! Be excited!), and as expected there are some gaps, so we’re really glad we did this extra step and don’t have any bright red showing through! The grey doesn’t emphasize the gaps like the red would have!


We were also struggling with what screw color to choose. Composite decking screws come in tons of colors, but coated wood deck screws only come in a standard tan and green at Lowe’s and HD (Andrew didn’t want to use galvanized because they don’t last as long, or stainless steel because they’re pretty pricey!). The same company makes other colors, but you have to order them in larger batches, pay shipping, and wait who knows how long to get them. Boo.

We got tan first and tried it out next to our stain. It was way too obvious for me, but I really didn’t think I wanted green, either! After a ton of deliberation and calling a million hardware stores to see if they sold brown (which they did not, except one that had one 25 lb bucket for $100, which sold the next day anyway), we tested out the green and decided to go with it.


As I said before, our deck planking is already on (stay tuned for pictures!!!) and I definitely think we chose right! Andrew chose a box of green that didn’t look quite as vibrant, and now that they’re in the deck they look very neutral! Hopefully, I’ll like them once the deck is stained! But we’ve encountered a small problem with that, too…but at this point all we can do is laugh.

I think this is the first project where we’ve really taken everything in stride and remembered the two most important rules of DIY:

1. Nothing ever goes quite as planned.


2. Everything takes longer than you expect!

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Deck preparations

We are finally beginning to prepare for our new deck! I can’t express how excited we are to be at this point. Let me give a little history, because after 2 years even the most loyal reader (aka my Grandma) would have forgotten the sequence of events. Our deck used to look like this.

First, we had a group of friends help us take off the planks (in April of 2012!). We thought we would just remove the planks so we could regrade underneath, and then sand, repaint and reinstall them. Hahahaha, oh, how wrong we were… (gotta laugh so I don’t cry).

But then we realized the structure had been severely compromised by termites. The deck always felt really sturdy, so we were surprised. But also surprised that our deck was still standing! All the supports looked like this, or worse. Eek!

That’s what you get when you put wood directly in the ground! So we took the whole thing down! Fast forward two years later, and we still have no deck! We weren’t necessarily being lazy, we just couldn’t figure out how to solve our water and drainage issues, and we had to make room in the budget for these fixes (especially the new gutters!). But yesterday I shared about the drainage trench we dug and some other steps we took to help solve the water problems.

The next step was to protect our crawl space from any water or dirt getting in during a heavy rain. In order to start the re-grading, we had come up with this temporary solution since we had to raise the grade against the house, making the level of the dirt slightly higher than the crawl space vents.


Not exactly the appropriate fix, but it worked for a while. Due to some re-configuring that we’re going to do of our deck, this vent on the left will be under the deck, so we had to do this step first. We found these crawl space vent covers at Lowe’s.


They’re pretty heavy duty metal and exactly the right size, so even though they’re a painful $20 a piece, we had to do it. Not the most fun $60 purchase ever. (We bought 3, 2 for vents near the deck and 1 for a vent in the back of our addition.) Andrew caulked the inside edges, and we’ll secure them using concrete screws.


Another issue we had to solve was how to retain the dirt on the other side of the deck. Our whole yard is in levels, and this middle level is the path. We want it to be tall enough that there’s only one small step down from the deck. Previously, this was retained with a railroad tie. Super cute, huh?

But just like our deck supports, the railroad ties were rotted and an invitation for termites and roaches to live in our backyard. We got rid of all of them (cost us $40 to dump them since they’re “toxic waste”), and settled on a small concrete block wall using extra red blocks we already had. Much more durable than wood!


Typically each row of a retaining wall is offset from the previous row, but these are hard to break where you want them, so we figured it wouldn’t matter on such a small wall. Once the deck is up, we’ll figure out what to do with the gap on the right.

We also had to build a wall on the other side. There was a very similar wall here before (thought not nearly as neatly done), but it had to move so we could dig our trench (which is directly under it.)


My awesome hubby had this wall done on Saturday before I even got out of bed! Waking up to this was a great surprise! Maybe next I’ll wake up to find a deck?! Lol, just kidding, Andrew.

As you can see, the frame for the deck is up, though! We did that before this second retaining wall so we could be sure to start the wall in the right place. We did that a few weekends ago, and oh my gosh, what a terrible phase of the project!


The first step was figuring out where the two corner support posts and cinder blocks needed to be. This is way easier said than done. We spent a whole Saturday just getting that part of the deck put back together! We’ve had these cinder blocks in place for a long time (They also replaced railroad ties. Again, we wanted to go with durable, long-lasting options!), and we thought they were in about the right spot to slip the corner 4×4 supports into the first hole on each end…and they were, about. Just not exactly.

So we picked them up, dug out behind them, and moved them back a tiny bit. Remeasured. Dug some more and moved the block again. Remeasured. And so on. In the sun and the heat. Miserable! Once we had the end cinder blocks exactly where we needed them for the 4×4 supports (we used the old joist pieces as a guide for where they needed to be), we moved the rest of the block wall to be exactly in line with them.


Next, we filled in the two corner holes with cement and positioned our corner pieces in the holes. The support on the left of the picture below didn’t need to be straight, because we’ll be cutting it off below the deck planks. The other one, though, is the only piece that is both a deck support AND a railing support, so I leveled it about 100 times as the cement was setting.


Once the corner posts were set, Andrew mortared between the rest of the blocks. After letting that dry, we filled the holes with rocks, pea gravel, and then cement over the top. We don’t want them to be a den for spiders or other nasty critters!


The next step (which, spoiler alert, we’ve already started!) is getting the joist pieces installed in the middle and installing the other three 4 x 4s for the railing.

Now let’s talk fun stuff, like colors and design! Originally our deck was a 10 x 12 rectangle…like so.

Fullscreen capture 6252014 30800 PM

How do you like my awesome floor plan, complete with blue and white checkered tile? Haha. Must.Destroy.Tile.

It’s not the smallest deck in the world, but by no means large. The space wasn’t super functional since the door took up almost one entire end, so we wanted to extend it a little to gain as much space as we could. Here’s the plan for our new deck. We’ll extend the deck to the edge of our house, and then angle the front end of the new part of the deck along the pathway (it will actually cover some of the red block wall).

Floorplanner - Midland - Google Chrome 6252014 31155 PM

We also wanted to keep the deck from feeling too closed in, so we’re only going to do a railing along the left side and part of the end. In front of the railing, I’m planning to do an L-shaped bench (the railing will be along where the bench is in the diagram below).

Floorplanner - Midland - Google Chrome 6252014 32741 PM

As far as colors go, we were planning to paint our deck because the boards were already painted and not in great shape. We were hoping to use Behr Deckover (a really heavy duty paint formula designed for damaged wood), but we’d have to buy new wood for the extension anyway. Plus, our previous “deck planks” are actually 2 x 6s, not deck planking (which is thinner, and therefore cheaper.)

I also forgot to think about the fact that our deck boards have been sitting on the ground in the elements for an additional 2 years (in an easement behind our house). I hadn’t seen them since, and for whatever stupid reason, assumed they’d be in the same condition as when we put them there. Yeah, not. We could NOT have painted over them! The paint was in such bad shape! (That red piece in the picture below was previously a plank. See all the peeling paint?)


So instead we’re using those pieces for some of the additional supporting pieces we need (they’re still very sturdy, just not pretty), and we’re going to replace all the planks with new deck planking!

This means we have the option to STAIN!! Woot! We picked up some Behr samples the other day and tested them out. The first three from the left are semi-transparent stains (Pewter, Valise, and Cordovan Brown), and the last is just a regular walnut stain.


At this point we’re leaning towards a semi-transparent. It covers more flaws while still allowing the grain to show through, and it’s also supposed to last about two years longer than the transparent stain. We’re loving the dark Cordovan Brown!

Oh boy! It’s finally starting to feel real! With each step, the projects seem to come together more and more quickly! Hopefully, before you know it, we’ll have a deck!!

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A perfect pair

I’ve been wanting some new lamps for our guest bedroom for a long time now. Before, we had two small lamps that we found at garage sales. They were a little short and not exactly the style we were going for (one had a really ugly beaded shade that I had never intended to use.)


I’ve been looking for a while, but couldn’t find the right ones. Am I the only one that thinks lamps are outrageously expensive for what they are? We had set a budget of $30 per lamp, which I thought was reasonable until I started looking.  Boo hiss. They also seem to be either way too big or too small for a bedside table. Large lamps definitely make a statement, but I’m not one to forgo function. I want our guests to have room to use the end tables for their things, too.

So I had decided I wanted skinny, “candlestick” style lamps that were fairly tall but would still look ok with a medium sized shade. I saw a few at garage sales and thrift stores, but was afraid to buy one on its own for fear that I’d never fine one similar enough. And then lo and behold, I saw this sadly mismatched pair at a garage sale.


For $1 each. Andrew didn’t quite see it at first, but I knew they could work together since they’re the same height and similar shapes. Another bonus, they have relatively new wiring. I’m all about buying used stuff, but not lamps with old wires!

First, I scraped off the chipping paint on the top of the white lamp. Then I taped the cords and electrical components. We had tried scuff sanding them but without much success, so we primed them using Kilz Original spray primer. It’s an oil, so it should adhere fairly well anyway.


After allowing the primer to dry for 24 hours and sanding it lightly, I sprayed them using a DIY chalk paint made from a sample of Sherwin Williams Intense White. I used my HVLP gun to give them a smooth, brush free finish. I didn’t want to use a spray paint because I wanted them to be matte.


Using chalk paint in a sprayer leaves kind of a rough texture, though, so I sanded them lightly after the final coat. I wanted to wax them, too, so they would feel a bit smoother. I haven’t really had an issue with Minwax discoloring white finishes (it has a slight orange tint), but I’ve heard some people do, so I wanted to try SC Johnson’s Paste wax which is clear.


I finally found SC Johnson Paste Wax at Home Depot, despite an employee telling me that they didn’t have it and that it probably wasn’t actually branded as an “SC Johnson” product. Well, guess what? It is. And he was wrong. So for anyone looking for this, look in the section with floor cleaners and waxes, not in the paint and stain section. It’s also one of the cheapest wax options at about $7.


I use cheesecloth to apply waxes. It’s a very easy process! Get some wax on the cloth, rub into the paint, let it sit for a few minutes, and then buff it with a clean part of the cloth. On large pieces, be sure to work in small sections. I really liked this wax. It’s definitely clear like people say, and it has a softer consistency that makes it easy to apply and rub out. It doesn’t seem to buff to as shiny of a finish as Minwax, but that was fine for this application. I’m definitely excited to try it again and to try mixing it with my dark wax!

Anyway, after that I just needed the shades! After waiting for several weeks for Target to restock their lighting department after “back to school”, we found these pleated fabric shades for $14.99 each. It was a little more than I’d hoped, but since the lamps were only $1 we were still well under budget.


I wanted to stick with a neutral color palette for the lamps. I want to bring in color and contrast with artwork, new pillows (after we get new bedding), and a natural wood headboard, so I didn’t want these to stick out too much. They also coordinate well with our off-white/linen colored curtains.


I love that they add some height and frame the bed, but still leave plenty of room on the end table for a glass of water, a book, etc.


They also cozy up the room a lot and make it feel warmer and more homey, especially with the overhead light turned off.


Just like I hoped, they coordinate really well with each other now that they’re the same color. And they stand out a lot better against our black bedside tables than the previous black lamps.



And if I ever get tired of the white bases, they’ll be really easy to repaint! Another happy accident is that these lamps have the kind of switch that you just push to turn on and off. I prefer those to the kind you have to turn cause they’re so much easier to use when you’re tired and laying in bed!


We also had to buy a lamp kit (not the entire wiring kit, just the top piece) because the part the shade sits on was missing on one of the lamps. It was $5, so in total we spent just under $40 for the pair. Not exactly a steal, but it sure beats spending $40 or $50  a piece AND we were still under our $60 budget.

We certainly could have done it for less with cheaper shades, but these turned out to be exactly what I was wanting, not just a temporary solution to get us by. It was definitely worth it, and I love them!! I want to curl up in that room and read a book! Now we just need to get some stuff on those bare walls!

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Some new old decor

Yeah, I know, we just keep buying old stuff. We can’t help it! We prefer old furniture! And we love going to garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets which naturally leads to us buying more stuff. A few weeks ago, we ventured into the Flying Dog Vintage Mall in Fayetteville with some friends visiting from out of town. If you’ve never been there and live in the area, check it out. It’s a bit strange and might give you a scare (hint: a bloody life-sized figurine hiding around a corner), but there are definitely some treasures to be found!

We found this little guy for $19.


No, not the cat. The chair. Although they might have a store cat, too? We happened upon this mid-century style office chair in one of the booths and immediately thought of it for our home office…whenever we get around to redoing that, of course. We’re not sure that it was technically made in the “mid-century”, but maybe in the 70’s. It did have this tag, but unfortunately no date.


It’s in great condition and after looking up stuff online, we realized this chair is more common with black…pleather? We’re so glad we found a brown colored one. It has so much more character! I think we’ll leave the wooden arms and cushions just as they are (since they’re in good shape), but we might paint the metal frame. Haven’t decided yet or figured out what color.

For now, the chair’s hanging out in our bedroom with the settee.


Eventually, we want a comfy upholstered chair here (and maybe a rug and table, too), but for now we didn’t want the bedroom to look so empty, and we didn’t want to keep adding pieces of furniture to our already random office “decor.” Really it looks more like a slightly empty storage unit at the moment…

Chaucer loved the chair, probably because he thought it brought out the color of his eyes and made him feel like he was on the set of Mad Men.


He always has to be right at the center of whatever I’m doing! Generally he’s laying on whatever I’m trying to clean, put away, work on, etc. What a helpful fluff.


I even brought in our funky little mid-century footstool. They kind of go together!


Haha, too much? Probably. We also added another piece of decor recently. Andrew made this stump “side table” from the remains of a huge, dead tree our neighbors cut down.


He cut it to size with a chain saw, and then used a belt sander to smooth out and level the ends.


It sort of blends in with our floor, but I think when it’s in the office up against a darker paint color (and maybe with a rug) it will stand out a little better.


I think it has two center points because this was cut just under where two branches connected, also causing the stump to get bigger at the top.


We’ve toyed around with the idea of staining or painting and lacquering the top, but for now we love the beauty of the natural grain. Coasters will just be a necessity!

And still more of the fluffy Chaucer. He’s just too fluffy and orange!


Now that we’re starting to get pieces of furniture and some decor items for the office, I really want to do it now, but we have so many other unfinished projects that have to be completed first! But c’mon, wouldn’t you want to get your hands on it right away, too, if your office looked like this?


Sigh…it will be your turn someday, mister office.

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