Thursday, June 30, 2011

Like a Rock

As you can see from our last post we replaced the countertops in our kitchen. What a difference it makes. I will never forget when we saw the house for the first time that was one of my biggest complaints about the house – the gross white laminate counters with gashes and knife marks on the surface.

We always knew we wanted granite. I thought for a while that I wanted marble but then quickly realized we are not wealthy – and not in Italy. Maybe someday when we buy an Italian villa I will be able to fill it with marble staircases and floor to ceiling marble, right, in my dreams.
When shopping for granite we did a lot of online research learning all about the benefits and pitfalls of granite.
· Durability - hello its made from rock
· you can put hot pots right on them without damage
· they are nice to look at and easy to clean
· don’t house bacteria like other surfaces
· Expensive
· I am sure there are others but this is really what comes to mind (cha-ching)

First thing we did is measure how much square footage we would need and in our heads set a budget. We’ve never bought granite before so we really only had an idea based on our own calculations and advertised square footage prices. As with all major home improvement projects we wanted to get 3 quotes and go with what we felt was the “best” one; not necessarily the cheapest.

We started at Home Depot just because we were there and figured they would be a good benchmark. They frequently run specials on certain types of granite and price ranges from $39-$50 per square foot. There are of course higher grades of granite but we liked the ones that were less expensive (thank goodness for that). What we did not factor into our budget was installation – which can run more than the granite itself. We had also decided we wanted a 4 inch granite backsplash that would extend up the wall (more square footage).

Next stop was a local granite shop that had an advertisement in the newspaper. They specialize in kitchens and had a wall with samples of about 100 types of granite. Their square footage price ran $50 and up for the types that we liked. I think at this I realized how many different types of granite there were. Thankfully for us we knew what colors and wood tones we were already working with and knew we wanted to get something that coordinated with our yellow walls and that helped narrow down the choices. I highly recommend doing this because there really are hundreds (probably thousands) of different types of granite.

Third and final stop was another local kitchen remodeling granite mecca warehouse. We walked in and they had all these little made up kitchens with granite countertops and sinks with a few staging items thrown in for good measure. We were greeted by a salesman and after we talked about what we wanted he showed us back to their granite yard. I wish I would have taken a picture of this because it was truly incredible to see all these slabs of granite organized by color scheme; which I liked since I could ignore the areas that did not fall into ours. I also recommend this method because you can see what the granite will look like overall and not just on a small sample. Our kitchen isn’t big so we didn’t want the granite to be too “busy”. We asked for the pricing on the two slabs we liked the best and the salesman informed us that one of the slabs was on “special” this week so we took it as a sign that it was the one for us. We also managed to negotiate a new sink to be included and installed with the granite. This was kind of the deal-maker for me since our old sink was all scratched up and I was not a huge fan of the configuration.

We then scheduled for their installation team to come out and measure – they come out with a high-tech machine that digitally measures the countertops and properly calculates them (even if you have an uneven wall which we had).

We also asked them if we could keep the granite that they were going to cut out of the slab for the sink hole. We use it as a cutting board now (and it is heavy) so I put some felt feet on it so I can slide it around the countertops without scratching them.

That granite makes me want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking up a gourmet meal – I’m sure HB appreciates that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To the Walls

If you now have Lil Jon's smash hit in your are welcome.

We are back to our Kitchen re-do. After we had removed the tile backsplash in the kitchen we realized that the drywall that was behind the tiles was not salvageable. In order to get the tiles off, much of the drywall came with it. We went back and forth on installing a new tile backsplash or replacing the drywall and painting it. We ended up liking the look of a 4” granite backsplash that extended upward from the countertops. Once we realized that we could not paint over the damaged drywall we figured brand-new drywall needeed to be installed. While we do enjoy DIY projects and saving money by doing our own labor, this was something we would not be able to tackle on our own. We enlisted the help of our friend “Craig” to find a contractor who would remove the damaged drywall and install the new drywall for us. The contractor told us he would reduce the price if we bought our own drywall and had it on site when he arrived. So of course since he said the magic words “reduce the price” we did just that.
I watch a LOT of HGTV and I am pretty good at picking up some of the tricks of the trade. So when it came time to pick up the drywall I made the comment “they always use 5/8” fireproof drywall on TV” so we picked some up and when it did not fit into our SUV with the seats down we had some guy help us tie it to the roof. After driving home slowly we were happy to have all pieces intact.

As soon as the contractor arrived he was quick to inform us that the drywall we had purchased was too thick. So while I stayed home with the Contractor, HB went back the hardware store to exchange the drywall and bring home the 1/2" drywall. For a trip that should only take 20 minutes, HB was still not back after 30 minutes…that’s because after he purchased round 2 and tied them onto the roof himself they flew off while he was driving home. Yep, we were “those people”. Finally an hour later and two trips to the store, HB arrived home and the contractors got to work.

It only took the contractor 2 hours to remove the old drywall and install/mud the new drywall. Once we had our drywall up and running we painted away and were ready for our new countertops.

Couldn't resist an action shot of HB painting

· Communicate with your contractor if you are not sure what materials you need to buy
· Let people at the hardware store help you tie on items that are too big to fit inside the car
· Sometimes it might save a lot of time/effort to let the contractor bring the materials instead of you providing them – but by providing materials you could save money. It’s just one of those decisions.
· If you let contractors move appliances on your newly re-finished floors you should protect the floors - clearly this is something I wish I would have done

Monday, June 20, 2011

Check Out My Drawers

When we first moved into our house I still had many of those plastic Rubbermaid drawers that are perfect for moving from place to place in college. Those drawers are so durable that they lasted through a cross-country move and then finally to our home. They housed old t shirts and swimsuits in the guestroom until I decided that the guest room needed a grown-up makeover. Drawers are really expensive and so after consulting the internet I realized I could buy a used dresser and then dress it up to my own preferences. I picked up this dresser for $30and I had plans for it before I even saw it. HB thought I was out of my mind when I brought it home.

I did a ton of research on how to paint furniture and was finally ready to start my project. I removed the knobs from the front of the drawers, and then used an orbital sander to eliminate the black coat of paint. I was surprised to find that under the black paint was an olive-green coat of paint followed by a coat of white paint. I kept wondering what this dresser’s “story” was. After I removed as much of the old paint as I could I was finally ready to give it a new life. I also made sure to wipe down the drawers to make sure there was no dust left over from the sanding process. Leaving the dust might give it a less-than-perfect finish. I then painted all surfaces with 2 coats of oil based primer. I used a paint brush and if I did it again I would probably use a roller because you can still see some of the paint brush lines – but not too terribly. I know they are there but it is because I am crazy like that.

After applying the oil based primer and letting it dry for a few hours I was ready to paint the dresser its new color. I chose a deep chocolate brown color that coordinated with the bedding that was already there. I used a semi-gloss interior latex paint that I picked up at the hardware store. After I finished painting it was starting to get dark so I left them outside to dry overnight. It wasn’t going to rain and I didn’t want to bring the paint fumes into the house. This is where I should have listened to my instinct…the next morning the dresser and its drawers were COVERED in pollen and the plastic tarp I was using was now stuck to one of the drawers.

In order to get back to a smooth, pollen-free surface I lightly sanded (120 grit sandpaper) the surfaces and applied another coat of paint. This time I brought them into the basement to dry. I let them dry for a whole week before I brought the dresser up to its new home and put in the drawers. I wanted to make sure that the paint was totally dry because I was worried that the drawers might get stuck closed if the paint was still a little tacky. For the knobs I found some really great ones at Anthropology; they bring some extra interest to the dresser and I just love the teal color. After living with it for a few weeks I am thinking of adding a stenciled image in teal to the drawers or sides – I just haven’t decided yet. All in all, a pretty easy upgrade to the guest room.

Tools used:
· Random Orbital Sander: I started with 60 grit and finished with 120 grit sandpaper
· Oil Based Primer: I used Kilz
· Latex Semi-Gloss Paint: Semi-gloss gives it a little bit of sheen
· Paint Brush

Lessons Learned:
· Even if you do thin coats with a paintbrush there might be a little bit of “paintbrush line” when finished
· If you are painting outside and there is a tree near-by you might just get leaves/pollen stuck to your project so be careful to monitor how your project is drying
· A little bit of paint and new hardware can really change the look of furniture and in turn change the look of a room.
· Let the furniture dry for as long as you can stand – you don’t want it sticking to anything when its brought into the house
· Oil based primer does not come off easily. To remove oil based primer from brushes use mineral spirits (very smelly stuff) or use a brush you dont care about and toss it after. I hear that olive oil will also take the oil based primer off skin.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have always had a ceiling fan in my room and like falling asleep to the sound of circulating air so when our home did not come with a ceiling fan in any of the bedrooms I panicked a little. I compromised with an oscillating fan in our bedroom – the sound wasn’t the same and the air circulation was not up to my expectations either. Not to mention, people were tripping all over the place because of the fan’s location. Not ideal.

I had always thought it was strange that there was a ceiling fan in our kitchen, I mean, who wants dust falling from the fan into dinner? Then one day we had the brilliant idea to move the fan from the kitchen to the bedroom upstairs while replacing the fan with a chandelier over the kitchen table. It was a huge “light bulb” moment. Considering that there was neither a light fixture nor a hole to install the fan in the ceiling of the bedroom my “light bulb moment” quickly dimmed…until it got really hot and everyone was so over late-night tripping.

We knew that messing with electricity was not something that we were really into. The idea of being juiced by electricity is just not pleasant. Again, we consulted our friend “Craig” for an electrician. We had some other electricity issues around the house such as light switches not connected to any outlets, outlets that were too big for plugs and outlets that were not even; hiring someone to help us out was the perfect solution. To help save time and money (since we were paying this guy by the hour) we disassembled the ceiling fan and made it ready for re-location. We also asked the electrician what kind of supplies we would need – again save time and money. He came over and helped us out with the electrical outlets first and we showed him our fan situation. He suggested that we go out and buy a new fan – I tried explaining that the whole point was to use what we had and he countered that if I truly desired the air circulation that I dreamed of we would need a bigger fan. Electrician: 1 ME: 0.

Off to the hardware store we went in search of a fan – HB wanted to buy the cheapest option but I went with the whole “would you rather lay in bed looking at this ugly builder grade fan or this fancy dark wood with a pretty light fixture schpeel”. Of course we got the fancy one – it was only $20 more than the builder grade one since it was on sale. So now here you have it… We have a ceiling fan in our bedroom (finally) and a nice chandelier in our kitchen. ME:1 Electrician: still 1.

Lessons Learned:
There are lots of great contractors out there who are looking for extra projects, our friend “Craig” knows a lot of them
Installing a ceiling fan really is worth every penny and I am thankful for it especially on really hot days

Kitchen Before and After

Bedroom Ceiling Fan Before and After

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

We're Floored!

As mentioned in our first post our home was covered in the lowest grade, ugliest blue, “elementary school” carpet. We were happy to find that underneath the gross carpet were perfectly good hardwood floors. Albeit with scratches (more like gauges) and stains but they were there and perfect candidates for refinishing. We also took this as an opportunity to have them stained a little darker – there is just something so luxe about dark hardwoods. We also wanted to extend the hardwoods into the kitchen area that was covered in cracked ceramic tile. You can see here that the food prep area was of ceramic tile. NOTE: We discovered there was laminate underneath the ceramic tile installed by the previous owners. If you place ceramic tile over laminate your ceramic tiles will crack.

We decided this was something we wanted to leave to the pros to complete since neither of us had ANY experience with that kind of stuff and we figured with all the headaches it would be completely worth it. We received MANY recommendations to use Arlandria Floors a local flooring shop not far from where we live and they were comparable to big box stores. We were not sorry that we went with Arlandria Floors – they did such an amazing job and their customer service was top notch. They also used a sandless machine which was a plus since it would reduce (not eliminate) the dust that resulted from the sanding.

We were a little concerned that the REALLY deep scratches would be too deep to get out. It was obvious that when the renters moved their furniture out they took no care in making sure they did not scratch the floors in the dining area. You cannot even tell where the deep scratches are anymore.

They were able to add in the kitchen portion and it looks much better and is exactly what we were hoping for. The other flooring areas look more polished darker and they coordinate with our funiture better than the blonder looking wood.