Stair Struck

Chalk it up to our little bout of confidence from our newel experience, but we got kinda ballsy around here and decided to also DIY the banister. Now, normally when I say DIY I mean that we go out and buy pre-made said thing and then install it. Like, I would consider our bathrooms DIY’ed, but ya know, we didn’t make the marble tiles – we just installed them ourselves. But ladies and gentlemen, we’re just little carpenters over here and we keep busting out our wood related projects. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Alas, there are a few reasons for this. Like newel posts, it turns out banisters are cray cray expensive. Like $325 for the wood we’d need for our little rinky dink number. So I had to say goodbye to my dreams of a banister that looks like this …

Dark Wood Hand Railing

And say hello to an all white painted banister. Not a bad thing, especially when it’s saving you mucho dollares.

So here is the back story. For our banister, we needed approximately 17 linear feet of railing. When we went to Home Depot to price everything out, it was going to cost us just north of $300 for the railing and the spindles and really, that just felt like too much for me to handle. So once again, I gave the hubster the sly eye and said – by George – let’s build it!

Although the banister turned out a-ok, I have to confess, this little DIY project was a bit harder than our newel experience. Mainly since we had to kind of make it up as we went along vs. having an exact image of what we knew we wanted, like we did with the newel.

After we ripped out the old, we were left with this. Am I the only one that gets sweaty palms taking that view in. Eeek!!

How to build a stair rail

Next step was to pop in our newel posts so that we had a clear idea of the distance we needed to cover for each railing. Since we will be installing carpet in the next few weeks up here, we just got some l-brackets for the posts and screwed them in directly to the floor. Easy peasy. The less easier part – constructing the stair rail.

We knew that we’d need a base and a top and some slats down the middle, and with some improvising, we finally found the right combo to get the look we wanted. We purchased a 5″ piece (cut in half for the base and top) , a 3″ piece (cut in half for the edges) and a 1″ piece (for the spindles)

How to build staircase banister

After some trial and error on the sizing that we wanted, we landed up with 1.5 inches for all sides of both the base and the top. Here is Jay putting together our first piece. The top section, where he is resting his hand, is where the spindles go.

How to Build Banister

After we got the first side panel installed, we flipped it over and came back through to screw in each of the spindles. Since we knew we would need some space to get the screwdriver in there, we decided to wait until after the spindles were installed to attach the other side.

You can see Jay coming back through with the nail gun for some extra reinforcement along the top as well. To keep things simple, we just followed the exact same dimensions for both the top and bottom railing.

DIY Stair Case Banister

After we got the spindles in (they are spaced at 5.5″ apart on center, with a 4″ interior gap), we came back through and attached the second side panel so that we could pop on the top railing.

DIY Stair Railing

Since we were just figuring out the process the first evening, everything took a bit longer and we only finished the front, smaller section. By night two, we had our game faces on though and we were ready to rumble, so things went quite a bit faster.

We pre-cut everything to size and got moving! Here are all the spindles lined up and ready for their day in the sun.

How to Build Stair Case

As we started to connect the railings to the newel posts, we were very careful to make sure that everything was level and that the banister was hitting at the same height on each post.

How to Build Stair Railing

Once we got everything level and screwed into the newel posts, we popped on our top railing piece and called it a day.Β Got ready to sand, caulk, prime and paint this bad boy. One downside of our less expensive banister was that we had to come through and do a decent amount of prep work before we could grab our paint brushes.

DIY Stair Railing

Problem areas like this had to be filled in with wood putty.

Dent in stair railing

And problem areas like this had to get sanded. Umm – yeah – ya think, a bit fuzzy πŸ™‚

Sanding Stair Spindle

Here is a breakdown of all the supplies we purchased and our total cost.

  • (3) 5″ wood planks cut in half for the tops of the bases where the spindles attached – $4.48 each
  • (5) 3″ planks cut in half for the side panels for the base $3.48 each
  • (3) 3″ planks trimmed to 2.5″ for the top railing $3.48 each
  • A box of screws $6
  • Total: $47.28

Vs. $325 for the pre-fab banister options at Home Depot!! Hello money in my pocket. The picture below provides a visual graphic of the dimensions we used for each of the stair banister components.

How to build stair railing

Sans the top of one newel post (got lost in the shuffle and we still have to go back and grab one from the hardware store), we now have this for our stair case after one coat of paint!

How to build stair banister

Now when you add in the savings from our DIY newel posts, we saved around $650 by tackling this bad boy ourselves. That, makes me a very happy little lady πŸ˜€

Nifty Newel

Newel posts. I’ve always had a soft spot for these chunky chunks of goodness. On our last house, we had dinky little 80’s style posts at the end of our steps (like this) and I always wanted to demo that bad boy and put in a beefy newel post in it’s place. And then we moved. Story of my life … ya just can’t hold me down.

But when I went to the hardware store to start pricing out our stairwell, I was in utter dismay when I saw the price they wanted for one of my big bertha’s. $100 – a pop – and I needed (4). OUCH. So I stood there in the aisle for a while and started to ponder about the possibilities of slapping one of these little beauties together ourselves. For one, I could tell it was basically a glorified 4×4, more or less. So I smiled nice at my husband, told him how easy it would be (pep talk) and we were off to the races!

And ya know what? The project was actually pretty darn easy! Like I said, it’s basically a glorified 4×4. πŸ˜€

For your viewing pleasure, here is what we had in place of a newel before we started. An ugly half wall. Oh, and pink carpet πŸ˜‰

Stair Railing Wall

So I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and with an inspiration photo in hand, we picked up the necessary goodies and got crackin. The whole shebang centered around this beauty. Ask me how much it cost πŸ˜€ $6 per newel – BAMMM! Ok, yes, there are some other things that get added to said post, but a few Georgie Washingtons is a real good place to start.

You can see in the photo below that Jay is hacking this guy right in half, since the 4×4 we purchased was 8′ total, we knew we’d be able to divide and conquer to get two newell posts from each piece of wood.

How to Build a newell post

Based on the photo’s I’ve seen of other newel posts I liked, I knew we’d have to add some extra mdf around the base to make the bottom third section a bit beefier. Jay was able to use his new table saw (worth it’s weight in gold, not sure how we ever lived without it) to cut a mitered corner, so the mdf would essentially wrap right around the base of the post.

How to use miter cut on table saw

We just used the nail gun to get each piece nice and snug to the side of the post and wrapped the mdf around the base like so.

How to Build a newell post

Another detail I knew we’d need to add was some type of trim to help smooth the transition between the new piece of mdf we cut around the base, and the 4×4 post. Lucky for us, I found some trim at Home Depot that perfectly fit the bill. Added bonus, it was under $5 for 10 feet of it, which was more than enough for each newel post. Can ya tell I’m feeling pretty good about all the moolah we saved?

I think it worked perfectly for what we needed! It’s a bit gappy around the edges, but we knew that once we caulked and painted everything, you wouldn’t be able to see these seams.

How to build Newell Post

After that first base piece is installed, the rest is really up to your imagination. I had a general idea of what I was looking for, but I think you can kind of make the newell your own by just arranging the trim on there however you like. We decided to follow a more traditional newel post pattern, with an additional chunk of trim a bit further up, and then a cap on top.

DIY Newell Post

For the cap, we improvised just a bit in order to save ourselves the extra trouble of creating something with a lip in it. We found these pieces of trim that were $3 each (no idea what they even are for!), and figured we could press two together to get the look our hearts desired. At $7 for both of them, this was the most expensive part of each newell post! Huzza!!

DIY Newell Post

Not too bad, huh? So for those trying to recreate exactly what we did at home, here is the source list and price breakdown. For each newel, we used:

  • (2) caps (above) $7
  • (1) 4×4 post, $6
  • (4) feet of trim $2 (we purchased a 10′ piece for $5)
  • MDF for base $6

If you’re counting, that’s a grand slam total of $21 per newel, vs. $100 for the pre-made option. What, what!! Both are solid wood, and this was pretty darn easy, in complete honesty. Here is a visual break down of each post.

Parts for a newell post

One learning experience for us on the newel post was that the 4×4 posts have a tendency to be a bit warped. Do yourself a favor and really look at each piece before you commit to it and bring it home. We landed up not doing that and had a few trouble spots result from the jankiness.

And – drum roll please … Here is the final newell post with a coat of paint! For $20, I’m thrilled with how they turned out!

DIY Newel Post Tutorial


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Stored Away

Closets in an old house, they’re a commodity what can I tell you. Overall, I’d give our house a B+ on storage since we actually do have a decent amount of storage with a large garage and ample space in the basement for schlepping our stuff away. What our house is missing though is enough closet space in any one bedroom for both Jay and I to put all our goods away in a neat and orderly fashion. A 10×10 bedroom only has so much wall space for said closets.

So, we took this attic expansion as a superb opportunity to add some much needed his and hers closet space. Modernize this joint. This is what we started with. See, it’s already storing all our extra goodies to the tune of a yet installed toilet. Classy.

How to Add Closets to Knee Wall

If you remember, when we were framing everything out, we took the opportunity to utilize all our extra knee wall space as prime storage opportunities. We had a similar set up in our last house, so we had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for come reno time. We’d never really built closets like this before though, so we had a few wrinkles along the way. Taking it in stride, my friends.

We knew we would need some type of mount to install the closet doors onto, so that was our first step.

Installing Spacer for Closet

Jay took a scrap piece of wood to do some investigative work in order to find the right angle for our initial piece, which landed up being right around 45 degrees. We just measured the length of the closet opening and cut it to size. Like so.

Adding Closet to Knee Wall

When we were measuring for the correct angle, we also used our handy little level to make sure everything would be consistent across the entire closet opening. If things were not level, it could lead to doors not opening correctly, etc. Things you always try to avoid. πŸ˜‰

How to Install Closets in Knee Wall

Now, speaking of levelness, as we started to move along on our closet journey’s, we noticed some trouble up ahead as we started to edge toward our final wall. So … remember how I’ve mentioned a few times now that our drywall was kinda whack? Here is another instance.

Adjusting for Uneven Ceiling

See that hella-licous gap action? Not good, my friends. In order to keep everything level and consistent across the opening, we realized that we would have to shim our wood piece, creating a big old gap where there definitely shouldn’t be one. Whomp, whomp. We’ve got some plans to get creative with the trim on these closets and we’ll just have to add something beefier there to take care of the 1″ discrepancy.

To save ourselves some time and money, we decided the best strategy for the doors themselves would be to buy a pre-fabricated option, and just cut it down to size for the dimensions that we needed (we got this one). Since the doors were hollow though, we had to actually re-install the trim pieces as we went along, so that there would not be a visible hole down the front of the door.

Working with Hollow Doors

After we got the doors reconfigured, we went ahead and started the install process. Luckily, the doors came with the hardware necessary to mount them, so we just installed the hardware along the floor boards and popped those doors right on in.

How to install bi-fold Door

Well, kinda… The first two (again) were easy. It was the second set that gave us problems. After we put in the bottom bracket, shown above, we had to pop in the door to the top glider. For some reason the very last door (go figure) would just not adjust correctly to be the same height as all the others. Even after messing with it and adjusting everything, we were left with this.

Adjusting Bi-fold door

Grumble, grumble. One of these things is not like the other. We finally got the door to settle just a bit better, but there is still a noticeable bump up on the final door that we will have to continue to work on, or disguise somehow with trim, etc.

You can see the bump from this angle, as well, where the final door jimmy’s out a bit more than the rest. In all honesty, by this point in the project we were both getting pretty tired and resolved to pick up where we left off with it on another day.

Adding Closets to Attic Knee Wall

For now, I’d say this wall is SO MUCH more functional than it was pre attic demo, a la this photo. πŸ˜€ Ok – now I feel better. Danng just look at that pink carpet, I’m telling ya! πŸ˜€

Master Suite Attic Conversion


Batting Eyelashes at Our New Board & Batten

Every once and a while, I come across a new project that I know will be a back pocket move for ever and eternity. Like your favorite song or your Mumzie’s meatloaf, there are some things that are ok to come back to time after time. This board and batten project falls into that category. Thanks to our nail gun (purchased last spring) and our spankin’ brand new table saw (best. tool. ever), this project was super fast, super easy and super cheap. Like $20 cheap. Whoaaaaa nelly.

Here is the wall we started out with in the attic.

Accent Wall in Bedroom

We had a few ulterior motives for boarding and battening the heck outta this room. Mainly, a lot of the seams were a wee crooked. Remember when I said that the first drywall installer was kinda crappy? Well, let’s just say it was a wee obvious once we finished priming. In the end, it didn’t land up being a big deal, since we were able to essentially use the top trim piece to cover up our drywallers boo boo. Like my elementary art school teacher use to say – when you mess up – just make it look intentional and make something out of it. Advice heeded.

First, I’d like to start out by introducing you to my new best friend. The Ryobi Table saw. Lurrve it.

Ryobi Table Saw

This bad boy set us back $120, but it’s almost paid for itself in savings from the first project alone. We priced out the cost to buy trim (vs. cut it ourselves) and right there we were pretty much cost neutral.

One caveat. Table saws are hella dangerous. It scared the bejesus out of me just helping my main squeeze with this thing – so word to the wise – watch your fingers ever so closely when using this beast.

How to use table saw

Our first step in this project was to take the plywood boards we purchased ($20 each at Home Depot) and cut out a bunch of 3″ strips. We knew that we wanted to make a square board and batten pattern (like this), and 3″ seemed like a reasonable width for each piece. For our wall, which is 16′ x 5′, we only needed on 8×4 board, cut into strips.

This is what your strips should look like after you’re done. Nice and long and lean. πŸ˜€

DIY Board and Batten

Our first step after cutting was to add trim pieces along the top and the bottom. We knew we’d need this border no matter what, so it provided an easier first step where we didn’t have to worry quite yet about what size we wanted to make the square, etc.

Adding Board and Batten

Once we had the top and the bottom boards up, we had an executive decision to make. How big to make those squares. Now, you’ve got some obvious limitations on height, so we just took the straight forward route on that one and split the difference between the top and bottom trim piece.

To get our horizontal dimension, we measured across the length of the wall and then we had to do some math. Ugghh. Since each strip added 3″ to each section, we had to account for that as well. After we had a rough idea of the number of squares we’d be looking at, we took a pen to the wall and jotted a line where each vertical strip would go. Since this measurement was a bit more complicated, it definitely took a bit longer on this step, but well worth it to avoid any snafus as we went along.

Adding Casing to Wall

We also pulled out our trusty level to assist with the installation of the middle section. We had the floor and ceiling to help guide the install of the top and bottom border, but with this section, we had to use the level to help guide our placement.

Voila – fancy pants.

How to install board and batten

After this baby was up, we were ready to finally add our vertical lines and complete our board and batten squares. Now, as a reference point, we installed a similar board and batten trim in our basement entry, and I have to tell you that this one was SO much easier with our handy nail gun. Plus, everything looks so much better since you don’t have to worry about a hammer dinging up your trim.

DIY Board and Batten

Here is how it looked after we had all the boards up. Can you see where these is headed? Bootiful.

Square Board and Batten

And after a coat of paint, things are looking mighty classy in this joint. I’ve basically told the hubster that we’re hearby installing this in every single house we ever live in until eternity. Just can’t beat the class act punch you get for the moolah. I’d say it’s $20 well spent. πŸ˜€

Square Board and Batten

And a few more close up shots, since I can’t get enough of this stuff πŸ™‚

Twenty Dollar Board and Batten

We also popped some up in our bathroom! Love the detail it adds to this tiny little space! We’re working on laying the tile tonight, so I’ll have some shots of that action later this week.

Board and Batten in small bathroom

Anyone else out there tackled board and batten? It’s definitely my new favorite project!

Picking La Paint

Jump, jump around. Jump up, jump down and touch da ground. Dance with me people – cause we’ve got some paint happening over here. WOOOOOOTTTTT. Yeah – you could say I’m excited. πŸ˜€

So y’all know we’ve been busting our big old booties over here to get some of the rough work done in our attic so we can finally paint. I can’t even put into words how happy it made me to grab my paint brush this weekend and start cranking it out. But weeks ago actually, I took a trip to the local Benjamin Moore to see all the pretties lining the wall and to start sleuthing out my favorite colors. Here are some of the beauties I came back with.

Benjamin Moore Greige Colors

I decided to get a bit more scientific about my paint hunt this time, and slapped some of the color contenders down on paper so I could move them around the room a bit easier and see the colors in different light. Here are the main colors I was considering for the room, this is a shot of them in natural light, with no overhead lights on.

Best Greige Colors

I also did the same thing in our bathroom. We tested out Kendall Charcoal and Revere Pewter.

Best Greige Paint Colors

In the end, I really, REALLY wanted to go with the Kendall Charcoal and make the space moody but my hubby told me to go with Revere Pewter. I totally blame it on him πŸ˜€ Although I do like the Revere Pewter, as I started to slap that paint up on the wall I kept thinking nostalgically about the paint that got away. One of these days, Kendall Charcoal is going to make its debut and it’s going to be epic.

Since our bathroom is so teeny tiny (4×5) we opted to paint this room first. Sometimes it’s best to go for the low hanging fruit.

Walls Primed for Painting

Per the usual, I edged everything out while Jay did the roller (we pretty much had to paint in shifts in this room since it’s so small), but within a half hour, we had this!

Revere Pewter Benjamin Moore

Notice only half of it’s painted …. ? We’ve got some big plans for the bottom half that I can’t wait to show you. We got cracking on it this weekend, but it’s not quite finished yet, so I’ll have to hold off on the final reveal. It looks might fine though, mighty fine. πŸ˜€

Things were going along swimmingly, when I suggested that we pop in our beautiful lights since I wanted to see how they’d spiff up our space. And it was getting kinda dark in there, too. πŸ™‚ Par for the renovation course, we hit a few kinks here. First, the lights we ordered were actually too tall for where we mounted the circuit boxes, so I had to go with a runner-up option instead. I’m not as in love with them as the first pair I ordered (these ones), but they’re considerably cheaper (half the price) and they were in stock at our local Home Depot, so we could install them right away.

Here is a close up of the first one installed.

Whitford Polished Nickel Sconce

And then, we hit our second kink. Jay forgot a wire in the second junction box. We went the hook up the sconce and it just wasn’t there. Whoops. So, sad day, we had to cut into our newly laid drywall and go on a wire searching hunt. Noooooo!!! Needless to say, both of us were pretty bummed about it. No fun. No fun at all.

Also, notice the chunks missing around the side of the first light? Well our drywall guy only put mud there (no drywall) and it cracked through. We’ll have to patch that up along with the section we had to cut out to get to the electrical. One step forward, two steps back. πŸ˜‰

This is what our little light situation looked like after we gave the wall it’s exploratory surgery.

How to patch drywall

Luckily, it only sets us back a day or so in finishing the space, but still, pretty sad. πŸ™

For the main room, we decided to go with Edgecomb Gray. The main thing this paint color had going for it, was the fact that we had 3/4 of a can sitting in our basement from when we painted the Kitchen and Living space. Although I liked Ballet White just a hair more, the pragmatist in my won out in the end. Free > Run to store, spend money, maybe like other color better in the end.

Here is the color up close in action (mind you, it’s still drying and it’s 10pm at night = bad, bad lighting)

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

Can I get a heeeellllll yeah on the fact that there is paint up in this joint. It’s a long time coming, but by George, it’s here.

For reference, here’s what the same color looks like in our dining room, with better lighting. I know – a bit boring to go with the same color – but hey, when it’s right there for the grabbing sitting in your basement …

Sisal Rug in Dining Room

Now our list for the attic Master Suite conversion looks like this:

  • Tile bathroom
  • Add trim in bathroom
  • Add door to bathroom
  • Install toilet and sink
  • Install closet doors and add trim
  • Install banister
  • Install carpet

Getting so. much. closer!



Sometimes You Just Gotta Do It Yourself

Drywall, it’s starting to feel like our insulation. The project that never ends … or at least goes WAY longer than my little heart would desire πŸ˜€ We had a pretty gosh darn exciting weekend around here and I’m so very happy to report that there is now paint on the walls – PAINT. Since we’ve been working on this project since, ya know, August, it feels purty darn good to finally be moving on to the fun stuff.

But before we got to my favorite step (painting), we had some more grunt work to do. Even though we hired not one, but two drywall installers to come by our little home to work on the attic, we actually had a fair amount of work to do after they left. Oye. When we waived adios to our drywalling dudes, our upstairs looked like this. Looks done, right?

Drywalling Attic

Nope! We still had a solid 2-days of grunt work ahead of us. Namely, our drywall needed a final coat of sanding before we could put on our painting pants and start adding the finishing touches. Look how thrilled Jay looks about it πŸ˜€

How To Sand Drywall

The night before we got to the sanding, we had to get rid of fuzz left on the wall from the contractors initial pass over with sand paper. Like this.

Getting Rid of Drywall Fuzz

It basically looks like dust left over from sanding (I wish), but in reality, it’s spots on the drywall where the sandman got a little over zealous. A little too much mojo gave us spots on our wall looking like a Georgia Peach, which once we paint, would be difficult to get ride of.

So, before we could even get to our final coat of sanding, we had to come through and skim coat a few of the problem areas to make sure that they’d be looking their Sunday best once we pop our paint and primer over it. The night after we paid our drywall installer the big bucks, we were upstairs doing this. Not how I was initially envisioning spending my evening, but ya can’t win them all. πŸ™‚

Skimming Drywall

In complete honesty, it really wasn’t that bad. It saved us another day or two of $22.50 an hour in labor, so to us, we kinda just decided to suck it up and feel good that we were saving our last bit of moola. We divided and conquered on this task. I was the little detective that went sleuthing around the room looking for problem spots, and my trusty man came back through and skimmed out the areas in need of extra attention.

We let the mud dry for a day, and then came back through for the fun part. Sanding. πŸ˜€ Here were the tools of the trade that we used.

Tools for Sanding Drywall

There were two immediate issues for me with the sanding. 1) I have a sensory problem with anything on my hands. Anytime I feel something dry, or dusty on my hands I want to lick them. I’m seriously not kidding. It’s kinda gross, I know πŸ˜‰ 2) I have a sensory problem with the sound of drywall getting sanded, it sounds a little too chalk boardy to me. So needless to say, I was a bit twitchy up there helping Jay. πŸ˜€

One of the biggest issues was coming through and sanding over all the high spots where everything was not quite smooth yet. This was especially tricky since it required a whole lotta laser eyes looking for any trouble spots. Everything kinda starts to blur together when you’re looking at a white wall for hours on end. While Jay was coming through with the larger hand sander, I was on the look-out for smaller trouble spots with my hand sponge.

How to Sand Drywall

Spots like this, for instance. These spots were my call to action πŸ˜€

Sanding High Spots on Drywall

After getting some brief instructions from our final drywall dude, I was off to the races. Whenever I saw a spot like this, I’d just grab my hand sponge and lightly sand in a circle to get rid of the textured bump between the wall and the mud. Kinda wax-on wax-off style from Karate Kid (and why yes, I DID have very, very sore armsΒ everything the next day).

How to Sand High Spots

Here is how that same spot looks after. Bam. Looks better! The real test is to run your hand over after you sand. If everything feels like the same (smooth) texture, then you are good to go. If not, you probably need to sand it down a bit more.

Sanding Drywall

As soon as we were done with our sanding gig, we wiped down the walls with a broom and got to priming. As an fyi to anyone else trying this project at home, I tried using a damp rag first, but this wiped off too much of the mud, so we decided the broom was the better bet.

Priming the walls was the point in the project I starting doing karate chops and jumping jacks and asking/telling Jay every 10 seconds how GREAT everything looked. High as a kite, cause we all know what comes after primer. Paint, Paint baby.

Here is how our attic was looking by the end of our dirty, dusty weekend. Wootie, wootie, tootie frutie.

It kinda, sorta, looks like a ROOM!

How to prime drywall

Drinking Up Some Drywall

Man alive, amigos. This drywall shabang has been a lot more painful than initially anticipated. Overall moral of this story and hard lesson learned? Never, ever, go with your lowest bidder. Care to hear my sad tale? Sit down, it might take a while πŸ˜€

So …. flash back a few weeks ago, and we were going through our normal looking for someone to assist us routine via craigslist. Although we do almost all the work in this joint ourselves, every once and a while you just have to call in the support troops. Drywall happens to fall into that category for us. We got (3) quotes. at .70 a square foot, $1 a square foot and $22.50 an hour. We went with .70 a square foot, and landed up paying $22.50 an hour. Do you hear that, it’s me, wailing in the corner. Loudly.

After a few days of drywalling (with the first guy), our attic was looking like this.

Adding Drywall To Attic

The status of the room didn’t change much after oh, day 3, cause the dude just stopped coming. Like I don’t know if he’s in jail, or hates our guts or moved to Tahiti but this guy seriously went awol. We tried contacting him for 3 days straight, and when we only heard crickets talking back to us, we bite the bullet and had to hire another guy to come in and finish the gig. Β Go figure, the only guy available was the one that charges $22.50 an hour. Ouch. He also (kinda smugly) informed us, it would take 4 days of labor to do the job, when we’d already PAID the first guy who disappeared on us. Nope, sorry, I don’t have another $700 sitting around that I can burn hand over to you. GAH.

On top of the crap sandwhich of a reality that the first guy just up and left us, he also did the poopiest job possible on the initial work. POOP. The new guy also (kinda smugly) informed us of this reality and kept telling us how we should have hired him first. Thanks for the memo, Sherlock.

That being said, there is finally a light at the end of this tunnel. Although we paid up the nose for it, we finally got a guy in that can actually help fix our little situation. We’ve got one more day of sanding ahead of us, but right now our space is looking like this.

Drywalling Attic

Some of the problem areas for the first installer included our ceiling joints. He used WAY too much mud on them and basically just tried to fix all his bad hanging skills by slapping on tons of mud. We had (3) full buckets of drywall dust from the first pass.

Too Much Mud on Drywall

Overall, I think that the ceiling will be able to be moderately camouflaged since it will all be the same, matte white color. So although the seems are not perfect, they’ll at least be under some cover with the paint job.

You can see our wee little bathroom bump out, too. This room is going to be small, but ya know what, it’s still a bathroom so that’s a value add to an old house like this where you typically only find one bath.

Half Bath Attic Knee Wall

Speaking of bathroom’s lookie what landed on our doorstep this week. Color me PUMPED to get this beauty upstairs! It’s my new motivation – just get this babe of a vanity upstairs where it belongs πŸ˜€

Marble Vanity

Moving on to some areas I love … check out these skylights. The corners look nice and crisp, and they add so much light into the space, too.

Skylights in Attic

You can also see how nice the closets look now that they have a drywall surround as well.

Adding Closets to Knee Wall

Everything is starting to feel much, much closer to being done now. In all honesty, I’m just really excited to be at a point in the reno where we don’t have to depend on someone else to do the work for us.

Overall, hiring out has been such a pain for a control fa-reak like me. I can’t manage any of the timeline, how much it will cost me, anything. After our super awful experience with this first craigslist dude. we’re feeling a bit sour about the whole shabang of an experience. Especially when they come through and leave messes like this throughout your house, kinda adds salt to the wound (umm – drop clothes, ya heard of them?)

Contractors Leaving Mess

For reference, our total cost with supplies will be around $1,400 for the drywall. Way WAY more than we had initially anticipated largely due to our little mishap with the installer. At the end of the day, it was a valuable lesson for us and being so dang tired from the entire process, I think we’re just glad to finally see light at the end of this tunnel.

Has anyone else had a bad experience with a contractor? Any good hints or tricks to keep these things from happening? Bestow your knowledge!!

House Hunting with Mary: Vol 2

House Hunting with Mary

Y’all ready for week #2 of House Hunting with Mary? Can you tell I’m sticking with a Southern theme here πŸ˜€ As far as real estate goes, I’m pretty partial to the oldies but goodies. Some of that is due to the details in older houses, but more than anything, I love, love, love the look and feel of an established urban neighborhood with 200 year old trees and 100+ year old houses and lovely little brick paver paths with flowers and ivy creeping up along the side. You picking up what I’m putting down?

Well now that we’ve visited lovely homes in both Raleigh and Asheville, I thought we could move a few miles further north up to Durhum. Home to Duke University, this city has lots of lovely neighborhoods where I’d consider setting down roots and staying for a bit. And amazingly homes. Like this one.

Durham Real Estate

Come to Mama. Lurrrvvve it. Whenever I find a house in my browsing that I really, really love, I immediately grab the hubster and tell him that I found our next house. When that fails to get his attention, I make my voice a bit more stern and tell him that I’ve actually really found our next house and if he doesn’t scoot his booty over here to see it, I’m going to march down to NC and just buy it myself. With imaginary money that grows on trees … πŸ˜‰

I mean, any house that starts out with a porch this lovely, is a house I have to own.

Porch with Wood Flooring

What I love the most about this house, is you can absolutely see a family going about their day in it. Hanging out on the front porch sipping on a glass of wine as the neighbors walk their dog by. Or in this kitchen, a whole group of bambinos hanging out with their papa bear cooking (this mama bear does not cook) πŸ˜€

White Kitchen with Oak Floors

That’s a heart to my home if I ever saw one. I’m dying over here – isn’t it gorg? I just want to kiss those counter tops and chest bump the cabinets. Mine, mine, I want it to be alll miiinnneee.

Here is another view of the kitchen, you can see a perfect little mudroom/laundry room off to the side.

Kitchen with attached Laundry

I love how the dining space opens right up into that gorgeous kitchen. Perfect for entertaining!

Red Walls in Dining Room

At the front of the house, you have a few different living areas. I love the den, which has built-in bookcases along one wall. Gorg.

Built-in Bookcase in Study

There is also a formal living space to the right as you walk in, immediately across from the Den. Complete with a lovely little fireplace.

Living Room with Fireplace

Upstairs, the house has wood floors throughout with fireplaces in some of the bedrooms.

Is that a life long dream for anyone else? A fireplace in the bedroom?Β Yes, please.

Bedroom with Light Oak Floors

Even the closets are super cute and chic!

Plank Walls in Closet

Tell me, which room is your favorite? Got a soft spot for the kitchen like me? πŸ˜€

House Hunting with Mary

We’ve all got hobbies that take up a little bitΒ too much of our free time. You kinda enter the big fat black abyss when ya start and then when you look up an hour’s passed, and you really don’t have that much to show for it. My all time favorite hobby (time suck/obsession/can’t reign me in cause I’m gonnnee…) is searching for my next abode on trulia. And by next abode, I mean houses I will never, ever own. Houses that I just choose to pretend I’m moving into. πŸ˜€ Sounds fun, doesn’t it?!

Since I know many of you are as obsessed as me when it comes to scanning out all the real estate on this fine green earth, I thought I’d start a blog series where we can all drool over the goodies together. Y’all excited?!

House Hunting with Mary

For our first official installment, let’s head on down to the land of the pines, shall we? Asheville, Raleigh, I’ve got a soft spot for all of them. Especially when the streets are lined with homes like this.

Brick Colonial in Raleigh

Swoon. That’s some legit gorgeousness, right? Here is a tour of the rest of the joint. You enter right in to a grand foyer, with a double decker staircase.

Β  Grand Foyer

To the right of the entry, you enter into the formal dining space. Since our home only has an eat in kitchen, I always stop in my tracks and drool when I see a nice formal dining space.

Red Formal Dining Room

To the other side of the entry, there is a nice cozy living space complete with big (beautiful!) windows and another fireplace. I think the only rooms without fireplaces in this house are the bathrooms. No that is my kinda house! πŸ˜€

Traditional Living Room

One of my favorite things about this house is the tradition touches you see throughout the entire place. These pocket doors are so lovely, mostly because they haven’t been painted over and still have their original beauty and luster. I like the contrast of the dark wood doors with the lighter trim and floors – it really makes them stand out.

Antique Pocket Doors

Venturing further in the downstairs, you’ll find a gorgeous study. In it’s current form, this room can also flex into being a bedroom, but I think it would be super fun to add some floor to ceiling built-in bookcases and perhaps a darker, more masculine color on the walls?

Study with Persian Rug

The kitchen has a lot of original features as well, with beautiful cabinetry that goes all the way up to the ceiling. So. much. storage.

Vintage Kitchen

Heading to the upstairs, this wall of built-in closets caught my attention. What a great use of space in this hallway.

Wall of Built-ins

And capping off our tour, how about this cozy looking bedroom? I love the dark blue color they used in this space, it’s perfect!

Dark Blue Master Suite

Pretty little thing, isn’t it? Which room is your favorite?

Raise the Roof

So THIS, is what our attic looks like right now. Hella messy, but hella on. it’s. way. to being a legit room.

Adding Drywall To Attic

Since our attic has been looking like the photo below for the past oh, ya know, 4-months, it makes me want to do a flippin’ air bound somersault when I realize that the next attic projects will consist of fun things like painting, and carpet installation and bed linens – and not – oh, insulation! πŸ˜€

Raising Ceiling in Attic

But, I’ve had a few people emailing me asking about how we insulated the top portion of the attic (above the ceiling), so I wanted to show y’all a comprehensive play by play to help anyone that might be looking to try the same type of project. I know, yet another post about insulating yo timbers. Due to the amount of emails I’ve been getting on this one though, I’d venture to say that we’re not the only household trying to tackle making their space a bit more cozy.

The awesome part about all of this, is that we’re actually able to exceed the code regulated insulation value for our ceiling, which means our space should be deliciously toasty for our frigid Michigan winter’s. When your future forecast looks like this, extra insulation makes me extra happy.

Weather in Ann Arbor

After insulating all of the walls and roof deck, we were still left with the top triangle of our ceiling, which is where the most heat escapes from (hot air rises…). Since our rafters are only a few inches deep, we really thought we’d never be able to get anywhere close to code unless we used spray foam. We were pleasantly surprised though to see that with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of time and patience, we were able to get the desired level of insulation for our zone. Sweetness.

Insulation for Zone 5

Each step of the insulation process got a bit easier, and this one was really just a matter of creating a base for the fiberglass to sit on, and loading the insulation up onto the landing we created. Since we had extra foam around from our wall insulation process, we used that as the bottom section for the fiberglass to rest on.

For the pot lights we had scattered throughout our ceiling, we had to cut out a small opening for the foam to fit snugly on top of each light.

Insulating around a pot light

Once we would get the foam pieces up, we had a good floor for all of the fiberglass to sit on top of. Since we had enough room to accommodate it, we purchased R-30 fiberglass to sit on top of the R-5 foam – with the walls, that brings our R-value up to at least R-52 and up to R-54 in some sections. Holla holla give me a dolla.

You can see Jay in the photo below, putting some of the R-30 fiberglass up into the cavity above the foam board.

How to Insulate Around Pot Light

One VERY important thing to note when insulating around pot lights, is that you may have to build a structure around the light, in order to prevent the risk of fire. Pot lights get hot, foam is flammable, not a good combo.

Since we had extra drywall around, and didn’t want to let any scrapes go to waste, we opted to build a box to go around our lights in order to prevent anything that might be prone to catching fire from touching the light boxes. The boxes we built were about 8″ square – just large enough to pop right over the top of the pot light fixture.

Insulating Around Pot Light

This is how the box looked after it was installed above the pot light. Nothing fancy, but you can see that it definitely provides a barrier that prevents anything flammable from touching a light that could potentially get too hot, and cause a fire.

How to Insulate Attic

After we came back through to close the other side up with foam, this is what our ceiling looked like pre-drywall.

How to Insulate Around Pot Lights

Overall, we are SO happy that we were able to get as much insulation as we did in the space. Our last house also had a finished attic, but the amount of insulation was in no way sufficient and we were freezing our badonkadonks off morning noon and night. We don’t even have the heat pumping up there yet, and I can already tell that the insulation we added is going to make a huge difference.

Here is a side view shot of how each layer of insulation looked before we added our drywall. Nice and toasty my friends.

How to property insulate attic

For all you newer blog readers, you can read about our other insulating adventuresΒ hereΒ (andΒ here).