The Saga of the Backyard Dirt

MANY, MANY months ago we created big huge mounds of dirt in our backyard

Created from drainage projects and digging out part of the foundation for the garage

Our backyard looked like a DISASTER

(thank god it doesn't look this terrible anymore)

After MONTHS of posting "FREE DIRT" on craigslist and people slowly taking little bits and little bits and little bits away, we were finally freed from the dirt stronghold! But because the dirt had stayed so long, our grass wasn't looking too hot (in addition to the fact that we weren't watering it), and there was still chunkier bits of dirt in some places

So I got out the pickaxe and started breaking up the thick chunks, separating them, and trying to spread things out to make our yard as level and even as possible

For the most part the backyard is pretty level now, and thankfully we don't have a 10ft long and 4 ft high pile of dirt. But because the dirt had been there for so long it was REALLY hard and most of the grass around it had died. While using the pickaxe I tried to break it up as much as possible, but as you can see above, there are still lots of chunky dirt balls. Hopefully, with us walking on it and the occasional pickaxe swing to it, more of it will get broken up.

It's already starting to look a little better 2 weeks later

We've even got some bits of grass popping through

Eventually we'll re-seed (no sod for us), but the backyard landscaping projects aren't on the to do list till (at least) next year. So for now, I'm just glad our backyard doesn't look like this anymore


The Tiling has Started!

We had a busy weekend: work at my dad's, an art supply garage sale at my mom's, and mucho running (our Hana relay is only 2 weeks away!!!!)

But when I got home on Saturday night I found THIS on our bathroom floor

Chris got started laying the tile! The marble basketweave is just a LITTLE difficult to work with, so cutting all the edges has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but I am IN LOVE with it

It's going to be quite the task going around the curved corner of the tub and doing all the edges against the wall, but it is looking amazing so far!


A New Member of the Family

No, we're not pregnant (PUH-LEEZ, you obviously don't know us) or haven't adopted any pets (in a year or so, I'm telling you, I'm wearing Chris down damnit).

BUT, Chris did buy some new and exciting tools, and they come in a brightly colored case

Enter, The Makita Lithium Ion Compact Impact Driver

And her friend, The Drill (her other friends The Work Light and The Battery Charger are not pictured)

You see, we're Milwaukee people, and so far our Milwaukee tools have held up well (2 impact drivers, drill, work light, and VARIOUS others). But we've heard people blab and blab about how AMAZING the Makita drills and impact drivers are, and they're pretty much contractor standards now.

Chris has been looking forward to getting them for a while, but the Milwaukees were still doing their job, so he felt like he couldn't quite do it yet. One day a few weeks ago he got really pissed off at (I think it was) the impact driver and threw it on the ground, sort of hoping it would break so that he would have an excuse to buy the Makita (I know, real mature, sounds like something I would do). But the Milwaukee held up, and Chris was surprisingly impressed.

Not for long apparently. I have to say, I'm still loyal to the Milwaukees. Sure, they're heavier and more bulky, but they also have more POWER, plus, their battery life is a LOT longer.

We shall see how things go

Don't let me down Big Red!

(Insert awesome sound effects and comic book "POW" , "BOOM" , "CHOMP")

Laying the Kerdi

The wonderboard is down on the floor and walls where tile will go, but it's not a 100% waterproof surface. Because it's made out of concrete, it's porous, and therefor needs a waterproof barrier. We could have gone with craft paper, or felt paper, but we went the Mike Holmes route (ie - a bit overkill) and bought Kerdi paper, a 100% waterproof barrier (that's a bit pricey).

But at least we know we'll be waterproof, no more rot like this

First, you need to CLEAN the floor (or whatever surface you're putting it on) so there is no debris, dust, or dirt

Next, measure out the space, roll out the kerdi, and cut your sheets

We clearly cut ours big - to be safe of course.

Next, apply a thin layer of thinset

And lay the kerdi down on top

It's important after you've laid it down to really work at smoothing it all out, getting the bubbles out and other imperfections so it's all nice and flat. Otherwise, your when you lay your tile it'll look like crap.

We had our pieces run up onto the wall a bit as well (you can see on the left in the above pic), just to make sure that water didn't collect in the corners (an often forgotten about place, but VERY important).

Then it's just a matter of lather, rinse, repeat till you've got all your surfaces covered (you only need to cover surfaces that water may hit - for us, the floor and shower area)

Now that we're waterproof, tile is next!


Labeling the Electrical Panel

I hate when we do electrical work at our house because whenever I have to figure out what breaker needs to be turned off, I never can (what the hell does "DNG RM W WL NK" mean?)

I labeled this a LONG time ago, but because I'd used so many abbreviations, I can never quite tell what the hell I'm talking about. Whoops.

Now, we have this sheet tucked into the panel

But I always have to count down all the breakers till I get to the one the text is talking about. There needed to be an end to this maddness.

So I got out my label maker and started making some labels

There isn't enough room to put the label of what outlets, lights, etc. are attached to that breaker, so instead I numbered the breakers

Then I formated the sheet that we had all the text of what the hell was attached to each breaker so that it could be taped nicely to the panel (instead of flying off whenever we walk by, or open the panel, which is what happened when it was just tucked in before)

Ahhhh, order and sensibility

I hate that the stupid sharpie is behind the labels, but when American Electrical ran our new service, they have to label the panel by code (or something like that), so I really can't fault them.
Eventually I'll put the text on the upper part of the inside of the panel door so it's out of sight, but for now it stays here as we've got more changes that will be made and I just want it to be convenient at this point.

Renovating = convenience and ease. Then when we're done (in 3 years, sigh.....) we can think about aesthetics.


Bison Beige

We've finally started making tangible progress in the bathroom, and next up on the list was PAINT!

First, I went over all the great texture Chris applied to gently sand down any rough and bulbous areas. Next, and VERY importantly, I went over all the walls and the ceilings with a very lightly damp sponge to remove any leftover dust or particles from the joint compound. If you don't do this step, the dust will make the primer have trouble making a bond with the walls. Make sure the sponge is only lightly damp though

And it was a good thing I did, look at how dirty those walls were

Next, I got to priming

After that, it was time to pick the color. If you remember, our bathroom wall tile is a light blue/green/aqua color. I went through the fan deck and picked out some similar shades - light grays with a hint of blue or light greeny/blue shades. But they just didn't feel too exciting. I decided 2 colors would be contrasting compliments: a yellow and a brown.

Armed with my samples...

...I tested out some colors

In the first pic: the shade on the left I love (very light blue), but it's too too close to the color of the tile and thus makes the room look really boring. Very monochromatic. The yellow in the middle, combined with the blue/green tile makes for nursery colors. No. The shade on the right (kind of a dirty light gray), I really liked and thought it made for a nice contrast with the tile, but Chris wasn't too fond of it.

The second pic: the shade on the left (4) we both liked on the wall, but with the tile next to it, it looked bland. Sooooo, we were left with 1, BISON BEIGE, and, interestingly, we both really liked it! Chris and I were both nervous about using a darker brown in such a small space, but we really liked the color and loved the contrast with the tile and how well it will go with all the fixtures and how great the white trim pops against it.

A paint color picked on the first round!? My, I've never heard of such a thing :) (at least in this house). So we bought a gallon of Bison Beige, and on spare evenings and afternoons between various jobs we got the color on the walls

(and the light on the ceiling! Like it? I love the pattern the light makes on the ceiling).

As you can see, we also ended up installing a fan (above the toilet area), something we thought we were too lazy to do before. Chris also installed a fancy timer for it

So, do you like the wall color? I love the contrast it provides with the trim

Now I can't WAIT to get the tile on the walls!


Renovation Realities: The Phillips Job

In honor of my last post about all the home renovation television shows we watch and love at our house, I thought I'd share an interesting project we did on my dad and Wendy's over the weekend that would DEFINITELY qualify us for a Renovation Realities episode.

My dad and Wendy bought a pretty awesome fancy pants Miele coffee/cappuccino/espresso/bunch of other stuff machine and wanted me and Chris to build a cubby and install it in the pass through of their kitchen. So last time we were there we got started on it...

...and yesterday we finished it up.

First, as you can see, we cut into the wall (from the pantry) to assess the situation and figure out what we were up against. It turned out there was an electrical line in the way (easy, we could just rerout that) and some blocking (a bit annoying, but not structural so we just had to get rid of it).

Once we figured all that out, we started cutting into the wall from inside the kitchen to get to work

See that electrical line? That's what we had to move. There was an outlet in line with the hole we cut out right at the baseboards. I won't go into the LONG discussion and discovery about what it took to figure out what breaker this outlet belonged to, but it was a fucking LONG discussion and discovery.

We were finally SURE we had figured out where it belonged. We turned the breaker off, tested the outlet (it wasn't hot), so we were good to go. We planned to cut the wire right above the blocking, run it ABOVE the hole we had cut and create the new outlet for the fancy pants coffee maker just above it and INSIDE the pantry. Chris was inside the pantry figuring things out, and my dad said, "Here Meryl, I'm going to pull the wire as hard as I can to get some extra slack and you cut it right above the blocking." Sure thing, so I grabbed the wire cutters and this is what happened

That's right, FRIED blocking, FRIED wire, FRIED WIRE CUTTERS (that fried so much they burned a hole in the fucking metal).

As you can guess, apparently that wire did NOT go to the outlet right below it. We tested and tested and tested, turned breakers off, used the wire tester, all sorts of shit and we THOUGHT we had it all figured out. As you can see, very obviously, we didn't.

I don't remember QUITE what happened because it all happened within about 1/64 of a second, but I squeezed the RUBBER HANDLED clippers (thank GOD they were rubber handled) with both hands (a no-no, you shouldn't make a through current that the electricity can pass through your heart - that's why people say to put the other hand in your pocket), and cut. The next thing I knew, there were a lot of sparks, a loud pop, and my body reacted quicker than I knew what was happening and I threw the clippers from my hands and into the room next to us.

Chris, my dad, and now Wendy all looked around and were like, "What the fuck?!?!?!" I think Wendy screamed, I yelled, "Ow!" and we were all very confused. I actually didn't get shocked, but I did get some sort of STRONG vibration or something like that because my hands and forearms felt really weird - kinda numb and very hot all over.

Me and my dad were very lucky that neither of us got shocked because it REALLY could have hurt us, or possibly killed us (which was my response to the wire cutters, "that could have happened to my BRAIN?!")

Suffice it to say, I was NOT working on installing the coffee maker the rest of the day. Just LOOKING at the wire freaked me out, my hands still felt a bit funny, and my heart was pound pound pounding for a good hour or more.

Moral of the story: make sure you've REALLY checked that your WIRE isn't hot anymore.

So my dad and Chris finished installing the coffee maker while I worked on other projects

Doesn't it look great though! My dad and Chris really did a good job. And I'm glad we all survived :)

Even writing about it gives me the willies a bit, but it did become a funny story by the end of the day. My dad even said, "well, you are really weird, and you just got some electro-shock therapy, so maybe you'll go back to normal now," to which we all laughed and laughed. I still haven't gone back to normal yet though :) I must need some more :)